If you typed in “What is customer community,” there is a good chance that you recently became aware of its importance.
In today's digital-first world, brands with a strong online customer community are winning big time.
And numbers don’t lie. If you look at the statistics, 27% of customers expressed that online communities influenced their buying decision process.
Customer communities have single-handedly built up loyal customers that became brand evangelists. There are thousands of instances of how a good customer community can work wonders for your business.
Yours can be the next success story.
This article aims to demystify what a customer community is, whether having one is good for your business, and how to build your own.
What Is a Customer Community?
Customer communities are moderated and focused groups where your customers can freely ask questions, help each other out and provide you with feedback. Additionally, they can share stories about how they use your product or service.
By participating in these discussion boards and fostering an ongoing dialogue with your customers, you will be able to quickly react to their needs and help them in ways that directly relate to the success of your business.
With over 1,300 Community Groups across 90 countries, Salesforce’s Trailblazer Community is an excellent example of a customer community.
These types of communities allow you to connect directly with customers who have already tried your product and hear their thoughts and potential suggestions. They also give you a place to boost your customer's trust, customer satisfaction, customer engagement, and customer retention.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Customer Community?
Customer community building is essential to improved customer experience, loyalty, and faster growth.
Let’s learn about the benefits of customer community in more detail.
1. Customer community can help you provide customer support and enhance customer experience
The idea behind building your own customer community is that you help customers get answers to questions they have while also becoming a trusted resource for them.
They reach out to you and trust that you have the answers they need or can point them in the right direction.
And the best part is that customer communities offer support to customers in multiple ways, including:
- Customers can browse previous self-help articles available in the community
- They can seek help from fellow customers who might have experienced a similar issue
- Your customers can write to you and expect a timely response
With quick access to community members and self-help material, customers don’t have to rely on calling, back and forth emails, and vague articles.
2. Customer community can help you get customer feedback and insights
A customer community encourages your clients to leave comments on your products and services. By doing this, you’re allowing your clients to express their opinions about your subscription products, services, policies, and procedures.
This is important because getting feedback from the people you are offering your product or service to will lead to a better understanding of what needs improvement.
LEGO’s customer community is an excellent example of leveraging customer insights for the best.
LEGO was on the verge of collapse in 2000 but did a remarkable volte-face in 2008.
One of the biggest reasons behind this turnaround is the company’s acknowledgment of customer interaction. LEGO took great strides in enhancing customer experience and established the LEGO Ideas platform.
The LEGO Ideas platform enables fans to submit their ideas for building kits. The community can then vote on their favorites, and the most popular ideas become eligible for production.
We love the spirit of this platform – it asks people to dream up imaginative sets and collectibles around their favorite themes. The team also walks the talk and, to date, has turned 23 ideas from the platform into a reality. The fan designers receive 1% of royalty.
3. Customer community enables customers to help each other
A customer community is a place where customers can help each other and interact with their peers. The information users add is authentic because it comes from their personal experiences. This means the tips usually spot the pain points a customer has and fix them at the same time.
And when customers are already doing god’s work, it relieves you from lots of customer support expenses.
It’s a win-win situation for small businesses. You fuel customer interaction, their problems are getting solved, and you’re saving money at that.
Sephora’s Beauty Board is a perfect example.
The community allows beauty lovers to share, discover and ask questions about Sephora products as well as other beauty products sold around the world, beauty trends, and techniques.
It gives a whole new meaning to customer support and fuels an immersive shopping experience.
Salesforce Trailblazer Community is another example of support coming from fellow customers themselves.
The Salesforce Trailblazer Community is a global network of connected developers, innovators, and users that share their knowledge and expertise. Salesforce uses its customer base as assets to enhance customer experience and grow its brand.
The best part? Salesforce rewards the members for contributing to the community, encouraging them to share their experiences and solutions to common issues. A lucrative situation for all parties involved.
4. Customer community can help you gain a loyal fanbase and brand advocates
Customer communities are a great way to turn customers into your brand advocates. Having customers talk about and share their experiences with your company helps generate leads and build brand loyalty.
An active community builds trust among customers, providing a slew of benefits for your company and ultimately increasing your brand’s reach. Preconceptions about your industry or customers will be dispelled (and you’ll get to do some myth-busting!)
Seems like Apple understood this very well.
Apple’s Support Community offers its customers and lifelong fans a place to hold discourses about the product, share their experiences and solve each other’s queries.
They also encourage users to post content, provide feedback, and actively contribute to the space by offering gamification-based incentives.
No wonder Apple has a legion of fanboys and fangirls behind it, queuing to buy all its latest products. Sure, a lot of it should be attributed to their product quality, but the way they leveraged their customer community is also a big reason.
5. Customer community works as social proof
Customer communities offer a chance for you to bring together an active, involved community that can provide feedback, ideas, and — most importantly — social proof.
People have always been using word of mouth to make purchases. In the internet era, word of mouth and reviews work even better.
You can use customer communities as you’re building your business because they offer proof to anyone who sees them that you have real customers that actually like what you are doing.
How to Build Your Customer Community?
Benefits are aplenty, but building a community takes a lot of time and effort. Here are some quick tips on starting your own community:
1. Determine why you want to build a customer community
Online customer communities can be powerful tools for small businesses. But too often, these tools are a black hole for time and energy. If you're going to make building a community part of your marketing strategy, you need to have a well-defined purpose in mind.
There are several reasons you should build a customer community, and it’s essential to decide which fits best with your business goals.
2. Ask your customers
When you’ve decided to embark on customer care activities, it’s best to determine the type of community your customers want. Make sure to run a customer survey or poll to determine:
- What would they want to achieve by engaging in a customer community?
- Do they want to receive immediate answers to their questions or just seek someone’s expertise?
- What are some things they hate doing when shopping for your products?
These are some of the things worth finding out before building your customer community. After all, you’re building a community to cater to your customers, so it must align with their requirements.
You can also run Reddit AMAs and virtual or even in-person meetups with your customers to identify their preferences.
3. Use third-party customer community platforms
We've discussed how customer communities can help you communicate with your customers, engage with them, and much more. But building your own customer community takes a lot of work.
Fortunately, there’s now an easier way for marketers to create and manage their customer communities; by using customer community platforms.
Take the Verint customer community platform, for instance.
The platform uses AI-based features to help you create a customer community with ease. It also comes with additional features, including adding gamification functions to the community, built-in calendars, private messages, and more.
Such tools make your customer community more interactive and easier to manage.
You can also use social media platforms and build your brand’s community via LinkedIn groups or Facebook groups. Third-party communication platforms like Slack and Discord are also great options.
4. Host a virtual event to announce your online community
Hosting a virtual event is a great way to showcase your new online community. When you host an event, you’re not only getting exposure for your brand, but you’re also building stronger relationships with potential community members.
You can host a webinar and talk about your community, what made you launch it, and everything customers can expect from the space. You can even get viewers’ suggestions on how they want the community to shape up.
5. Be active and provide quick responses to customer’s queries
Customers won’t just flood to contribute to your community right after you build it. You have to initially take charge of the conversion to turn it into a successful online community.
Being proactive, helpful, and engaged with your customers is a good way to start conversations and put the word out about your newly launched forum.
This can entail responding quickly to their questions, writing complete answers, sending links, leaving a comment, answering in a detailed manner, and other customer service-related duties. Make sure to assign tasks to moderators and community managers to ward off miscreants and answer questions actively.
Customers will appreciate the communication, and hopefully, it’ll give you more engagement with people talking about similar issues.
That’s a Wrap!
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. Their success with your product is crucial to the success of your company. You are likely to miss out on a massive opportunity for growth unless you build your customer community and fuel one-to-one interaction.
If you don’t already have a customer community, you need to build one. If you do have one, then you need to make sure it is developed and maintained. To do this, it is always good to look at third-party customer community platforms designed for creating and managing customer communities and forums.