(Guest post written by Mary Greening a Customer Experience Advisor, Social Business Strategist & Community Manager who is passionate about using new technology to improve the customer/user experience.)

Remember the old TV sitcom Cheers!?  Sam Malone ran a bar in Boston where several regulars came together to drink and solve each other’s problems.  Norm would walk into the bar and everyone would yell “Norm!”  It was a place where everyone knew your name, or at least the theme song said so.   Bar patrons felt like they were part of a community, part of something bigger than themselves. It was safe and familiar. Sam and his staff were providing a great customer experience that kept the bar patrons coming back for more…that and beer.

cheers

The value to the community

Online user communities centered on a product, mission or company can also provide this sense of value, familiarity and experience.   Effective online communities allow customers to:

  • find answers to their questions
  • mingle with likeminded users
  • submit and vote on product ideas
  • chat with a product manager, product developer or support engineer
  • share or download code snippets
  • consume technical tips and expert content
  • attend events that help them with the everyday use of their product
  • participate in the product life cycle instead an being an afterthought in it?

The value to your company

The experience with the product (and the company that makes it) is so much better with groups of users working together towards the same goal.  There is a sense of familiarity, unity, connectedness and loyalty.   By joining and participating in communities users are more likely to get more value out of their product and feel like they are part of something bigger, not a lone user in their cube.  Naturally this shows up on NPS relationship surveys where community members are more likely to recommend the surveyed product or company to their colleagues. And companies that earn peer recommendations also enjoy stronger word of mouth (WOM) marketing benefits.

Keys to a well-run community

  • High-value activity – Ensure someone from your organization monitors community activity, regularly posts high value content, answers open questions and promotes dialogue and engagement. Healthy and active communities provide value to the members and help them meet their goals.
  • Encourage participation – Well-run communities also invite their employees to participate by sharing their knowledge in the form of content and solutions.
  • Deliver value – Plan events such as webcasts and Q&A sessions where members can learn more about their products and solutions.
  • Be appreciative – Acknowledge your members. Think of Norm entering Cheers! Give a shout out when you can. Their experience plays a big role in the success of your community and in the long run, the success of your products and company.

Have you incorporated communities into your 2015 customer experience plan?  If not, add them now and use the recommendations above to ensure your customers (and your company) get value from the activity.

Community: Where everyone knows your name
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