Photo source: Dell Photos on flickr.
Recently, Barry Levine published a CMSWire article titled “3 Basic Business Values of Customer Communities.” In the article, Forrester analyst Zachary Reiss-Davis points out how communities are valuable for lead generation and for converting leads or prospects into sales. Levine goes on to say, “Essentially, your customers are hanging out – synchronously or not – with others who value your products, a discussion area near your main store.”
Create a Home for Customer Conversations
Photo source: Bob Jagendorf on flickr.
Instead of having conversations “near your main store,” these conversations should be taking place within your store. Conversations are taking place all over the web. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for you to listen to all of them.
Keeping up with all the different channels can be staggering. While you can look to software solutions (e.g. social media listening tools), I strongly encourage you to consider online communities. An online community provides a “home base” for customer conversations.
As IDC’s Vanessa Thompson notes in the same article, customer communities enable you to gain feedback from your most engaged customers. According to Thompson, the feedback garnered from customer communities “can be extremely useful in guiding marketing campaigns, developing successor products or helping a company reinforce its marketing messages.”
Introduce Customers to their “New Home”
Before the web, customers shared their feedback by filling out comment card that they dropped into in a box. Today, a customer simply opens their smartphone and tells the world about their experience.
As a business today, you need to make it clear to your customers that you value their feedback, good or bad. After every transaction invite your customer to share their feedback. Make sure the customer can easily access your online community where they can interact with other customers. Promote this “home base” to your customers. Let them know that their opinions matter and reward customer for providing them.
Acknowledge and Reward Participation
It doesn’t matter if your customers are having conversations on your website, Facebook page or Twitter, your customers have to believe that you are listening. But listening is the easy part. Making sure your customers know you are listening takes effort. This could be as simple as providing the customer with a thank you for providing a review.
You may need to acknowledge a problem with customer service or an issue with a product. Either way, you have to let your customers know that their feedback isn’t just words on a screen. Even if it takes time to resolve the problem, it is important to acknowledge the issue. For a business, the same rules that they would apply to providing high quality customer support over the phone should also apply to their on-line conversations.
Building a community takes time, but can be very rewarding. Provide your customers with a home base, so that they can be heard and your business can easily listen. Make your presence known by soliciting feedback, interacting with others and taking the proper actions. By planting the right seeds and cultivating relationships, your community can grow into a very valuable tool for your business.
Our Solution for Customer Communities
We provide a solution for building and managing a customer community. It’s called Evoq Social and you can sign up for a free trial here: http://www.dnnsoftware.com/evoq-social-free-trial