“Amazingly, people are willing to spend lots of time helping each other, if you just get out of the way”

Without even realizing, your customers actually save you a lot of money. Crazy, right? Just by simply reaching out and helping one another solve problems instead of spending hours on hours trying to either get through to a call center or receive a call back from the Joe you were speaking to about your issue with the product and somehow your issue gets lost in translation and you’ve got to start alllll over again..Sounds like a headache, doesn’t it? Well luckily, your customers are able to help the groundswell support itself. Because oddly enough, people are willing to help complete strangers. And with that power, you’re not only bringing your customer base together, but essentially saving your company a lot of time and money.

As stated in the chapter this week, “supporting customers is a burden” (Li & Bernoff, 2008). So before you look into outsourcing your company to call centers, think again. Do these calls really help your customers? When you think of call centers, do you dread doing it before dialing that number? Of course you do. It isn’t about whether the person on the other end is from Ireland or India; its whether he or she can actually help you. So after the hit and miss calls, you as the customer starts to question the company, right? Have you instead looked at what other customers have said about potentially the same issue? Of course. And why? Because you trust what they’re saying considering they’ve had the same issue as you. This creates a support system in the groundswell and you’ll be able to see that people are willing to spend time to help one another, whether it be for gratitude, validation, or belonging to a community. “Caterina Fake, co-funder of the photo-sharing site Flickr, called it “the culture of generosity.” We call it the search for physic-income” (Li & Bernoff, 2008). Psychic income is free – paid in love, not money.

For example, take TripAdvisor; it is literally a online forum website dedicated to customers writing reviews on places of travel, vacation packages, etc. Anyone has access to it and can help another customer choose where and when and who to book with. Boom. An online forum that works in favor for all. Not only do the hotels, trip advisers and more get feedback, but the consumer is able to be helped by other consumers. And although I’m making it seem like a walk in the park, online forums take a lot of effort on your part before they can get rolling. There are three main questions that need to be asked and further examined before you can implement a forum in your business. So, should you tap into the search for psychic income? Ask these questions beforehand…

  1. What problem is your support activity trying to solve? Why will people participate? -“Psychic income is a lot more powerful when you tap into the problems people like to talk about most. So if you sell electric guitars, maybe you’d be better off with a support forum about the challenges of making it as a musician, not about whammy bars and wah-wah pedals” (Li & Bernoff, 2008).
  2. Groundswell support needs your participation – Support communities need activity – few will go to a forum that’s not buzzing with activity. Activity creates content, which creates traffic and links, which boosts  search engine placement, which drives more traffic, and so on. A great example would be Apple. They have an official forum where users of the Apple brand are able to solve one another’s problems, and if you own any Apple product, you know there is always activity on this site because of the popularity of the products.
  3. Why build it if you can join it? – You should check whether there is an existing community for your customers or create one. Customers are wanting to hear from the company. Posts by your company will attract a lot of attention, so you must consider joining your online community, sponsoring it, or forming a relationship with it so you can help your customers support themselves.

Here is an image about the benefits behind an online forum. It shows how factors such as marketing, competition, sales and development all come into play into why online communities matter to your business. online-community-impact-640x9481432916736

So, if your business decides to go forward with building a community for support, here are some great suggestions that will benefit you in the long-run:

  • Start small, but plan for a larger presence. Looking at past blogs about the groundswell, it is best to start off small in any situation. If you have multiple products, start by building up around one of them to test the waters and see if the online community will flourish.
  • Reach out to your most active customers. Your most active customers are essentially going to be your most important tools in the building process. Find out how they’d like to participate, because keeping them satisfied is whats going to keep your online community alive. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
  • Plan to drive traffic to your community. When you first open your doors to the community, the likeliness of people flooding in to get their opinions and answers, is zero to none. And that’s just because no one really knows you exist yet, and that’s okay. So advertise on places your customers shop, drive a little attention and with the more activity there is, the higher your community is going to show up in search engines.
  • Build in a reputation system. Looking back at psychic income, some of your users and there to give themselves a little ego boost with their knowledge, so let them. Allowing them to build up a reputation is beneficial to the both of you. “Users will spend hours a day building their reputations in a community. A well-built reputation system encourages users to participate and behave in the right manner” (Li & Bernoff, 2008).
  • Let your customers lead you. Communities are going to be made up of very different customers, and with that, comes a lot of different opinions on EVERYTHING. Not only will they tell you what features need to be added, changed, or removed but they’re going to tell you what’s right and wrong about even the forum itself. So be sure to include a thread for “improving the community,” and pay close attention.

So take the plunge into the online forum world and let your customers support each other. But also, be prepared for how your business is going to change. Your forum is going to be a laboratory where your customers are going to talk about everything. From sales tactics, to competition, to even your logo and advertisements. This can be the ultimate opportunity to advance your business, so embrace it. You’ll be able to collaborate with your customers to create even better services and products. So, what are you waiting for??

See y’all next week,

Beverley Small 🙂

 

References:

6 Benefits of Branded Forums and Online Communities. (2015, June 5). Retrieved November 21, 2015, from http://blog.proofhq.com/6-benefits-of-branded-forums-and-online-communities-007555/
Apple Support Communities. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2015, from https://discussions.apple.com/welcome

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2008). Goundswell, Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. Boston, Massuchusetts: Harvard Business School Publishing.

TripAdvisor: Read Reviews, Compare Prices & Book. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2015, from http://www.tripadvisor.ca/

 

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