4 CX Leaders on How to Build a Community

All of us are in the expectations business now, and with customer expectations reaching an all-time high, it’s up to companies to re-invent the wheel to stay relevant and engaged. But how do you identify the right channels to engage with your customers and how do you nail it the first time? That is always the burning question!

To give you the right mix of vision, strategy and execution behind building a community of engaged customers, we reached out to the top 4 industry leaders in Customer Experience and picked their brains on the topic – How to build a community.

Before we jump into the meaty content, first let us introduce our industry leaders:

How to Build a Community influencer intoductions


What is a Customer Community?

An online club, tribe, clan, or engagement platform; call it what you want -the essence behind a customer community is to bring together your customers, potential customers, ex-customers, partners and influencers in one place.

“Online customer communities are more prevalent now than ever before, and customers are turning to other customers for assistance with common and not-so-common issues. There are both what I’ll call “sanctioned” and “non-sanctioned” online communities, where the former is created, moderated, and owned by the brand, and the latter is stood up by fans of the brand or others who are simply willing to help their fellow customer.” – Annette Franz

And for the larger part of our discussion here we’ll be focusing on the sanctioned type.

Elaborating on the thought Shep Hyken said, “Customer community is beyond individual-individual interaction. In other words, we’re taking a collective group of people that are either buying from us or interested in what we do and pulling them together. It’s bringing people who have a common interest and actually enjoy doing business with you together to get more out of the relationship.”

Why is Community Building Important?

“The biggest benefit of a customer community is engagement. Creating a community around a topic or around the product itself can be incredibly powerful in staying top of mind with customers. It can also provide you with valuable customer intel and make sure you are part of some of the conversations about your brand.” – Adam Toporek

Adrian Swinscoe also pointed out that customer communities, if built properly and nurtured, can offer a range of benefits including

  • Being a source of peer to peer help and support
  • A self-service resource
  • Significantly lowering a firm’s cost to serve
  • Being a great source of advocacy and feedback
  • Useful for testing out new ideas and for sourcing new and innovative ideas.

When we asked this question to Shep, he offered a unique perspective towards the value of the relationship between companies and customers. He said, “The idea behind running the community is to provide value beyond a sales pitch. And that’s what will endear the customer or prospect to the company even more so is that it’s truly about value and relationships, not just about selling and promoting.”

Gathering feedback ft. Annette Franz

“Gathering feedback, about products, about other parts of the customer experience, and customer service as a whole; when the community text is mined and analyzed, rich insights can and will be uncovered” – Annette Franz

Click the image to tweet.


When and Where to Build a Community?

Everyone unanimously agreed that the best time and place to build a community was right here and right now. The possibility of a customer community begins as soon as you have more than one customer, and it can be hosted anywhere – it could be a dedicated portal, WhatsApp group, a LinkedIn group, a slack channel, even a discord server isn’t a bad move!

The idea is to start early and scale as you grow, the best approach to hosting a community is on your own website/ portal, in that way it would be easier to manage members, threads and information over time and would be easily scalable.

How do You Build a Customer Community?

Setting up a community once you have all the above points figured out is a much simpler task, but let us give you a 5 point list to put things into perspective:

  1. Identify your audience – for brands, to start with, it would most likely be your customers and potential customers. You can bring in partners and influencers as you grow and scale.
  2. Select a space to host your community – most ideal is your own website If that doesn’t work, then it could be a message board, a closed group on social media or even an offline session at your nearest coffee shop would do. The idea is to bring them together.
  3. Seed the conversations – Once you have the community up and running, take the responsibility to break the ice, seed relevant information about your product, brand, and support. This will instigate conversations and create a snowball effect.
  4. Provide value to your community – Listen to their problems, take their feedback and act on it, empower them with recognition and rewards, provide a sense of belonging by personalizing interactions and bring them together to network and share ideas.
  5. Never abuse the power of privilege –  Having a strong community is a great privilege, never take advantage of the forum to exploit your relationships. Grow your business when working individually with these members.

Satisfied customer Vs Loyal Customer ft. Shep Hyken

“A satisfied customer may come back because it’s just momentum, it’s easier, it’s more convenient, which by the way, is a good reason. But true loyalty is an emotional connection! And loyal customers that come back will not only spend more than average purchase. But also, they’ll talk positively about you and the result is, they’ll trust you more and become your advocate. And a customer community is one of the best ways to spark loyalty.” – Shep Hyken

Shey Hyken on loyal customers for how to build a custoemr community
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What Are the Challenges of Building a Customer Community?

Well, challenges can vary across multiple implementations and different experiences, according to our experts. Here, they highlight a couple of stumbling blocks, as well as quick fixes to keep you on track to building a truly valuable community:

Providing value through your community ft. Adam Toporek

Adam Toporek on providing value to customers through community
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  • Attracting community members and getting them to stick around and to contribute is the hardest part. In my experience, that’s where the initial generation of content and the role of community managers are crucial. – Adrian
  • The biggest challenge in building a customer community is having enough interest and offering enough value to make being active in it worthwhile. The community has to be very focused on the customer’s needs and offer something of specific value. For example, if you are targeting runners, generally, you will have a hard time competing with existing communities. If you are targeting runners in a specific area of a specific city, you have a better chance. – Adam
  • Communities don’t become successful just by setting them up and having people ask and participate. There must be a concerted effort to ensure this doesn’t become an avenue where customers can be disappointed. – Annette
  • The challenge is sustainability, because this is not a one and done and walk away thing. If it’s going to be ongoing, then the community will have to be part of the process and part of the culture of the company, what they do, not just internally but externally as well. – Shep


Moderation of communities ft. Adrian Swinscoe

I believe that the best communities are actively managed and nurtured by moderators that are either community appointed and/or reps of the organisation that the community is associated with. That management should be light touch and guided by a set of agreed community guidelines.

Adrian Swinscoe on how to moderate your customer community
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Game-Changing Examples of the Impact of Building Customer Communities

Harley Davidson brand embraced communities and transformed the brand as we know it today.

One of our personal favourites of a modern-day brand embracing communities is OnePlus, the phone company. They kept community at the heart of the company and engaged with them even before they had started building a product.