Building Internal Support for Customers

CommunityRoundtable_memberDemographics I just contributed a short write up for The Community Roundtable state of community management report for 2011.

Once the report is available, I will let you know where you can download it — Jim Storer and Rachel Happe tell me this year it will be even bigger than last.

It has been a big year for the role of community manager.

One of the struggles for community managers last year was how to communicate and build support for their strategies – not in building the strategy itself.

From last year's report: Proving business results and understanding the cost/results of community initiatives is part and parcel of building internal support.

This analysis has gotten easier as more companies have shared their experiences, but it can still often be a chicken and egg exercise, particularly because communities typically require a lot of investment before results start to accrue.

In customer support situations, you can measure:

  • call avoidance
  • reduced average support costs per customer
  • increased customer satisfaction
  • reduced investment in support documentation and training
  • reduction in customer attrition

However, the biggest difference you can make is in gaining internal support for customers. To drive social effectively, you need to be social inside your organization. This is an opportunity for community managers to partner with customer support and also operations people.

Select lessons learned by Community Roundtable members last year are (in the 2010 report):

  • If you are having difficulty getting others to buy-in to using tools to help you create content, use the tools on them first. For instance, interview them with Flip cams and use the content internally. This is safe, fun and evangelizes the concept.
  • The three most important business tools for social tool management are listening, analytics and account management.
  • Sentiment analysis tools should be used as a filter, not for precision or direct response. They improve over time as they are ‘trained’, but are never 100% accurate.
  • Examples of companies that are doing a good job of generating fan-only content on Facebook vs. company-created content are Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Vitamin Water, HP and Dell.

I found that the best way to gain support for customers is by making all customer-facing groups accountable for reporting and measurement, and then creating a master dashboard to share internally. I've seen some really good ones from CPG companies.

What you want to track are:

  1. inbound calls — volume as well as qualitative information about the reason why people call. In a past company, we found that customers were calling to learn about additional services, compare your costs with customer retention programs
  2. community activity on your own sites and in outposts — did you implement a chat service on your site? That might save you from a Twitter discussion, for example, keep things running smoothly
  3. ratings and reviews — you should consider enabling those directly on your Web properties rather than having customers spread them on retailer sites, for example
  4. community forums where customers can help each other — and you will need to monitor Get Satisfaction as well [Best Buy example links]
  5. internal communities for signs of employee dissatisfaction, which will impact customer attrition — and you will see those signs also on external sites like Glassdoor

Reviews, ratings, forums, communities, and third party sites will give you a general sense of the conversations about your company and the sentiment. If there isn't a lot of conversation, you will need to exclude neutral sentiment and highlight the ratio between negative and positive in initial reports.

A regular report with annotations about significant changes — maybe the top three important take aways from the data, along with qualitative information, will get you started on building internal support for customer-facing communications and on your way to helping make operational changes where needed. Because you will be able to justify the costs of not investing.

Customers need a voice inside the organization, and community managers have the opportunity to give them one.

[chart form the 2010 Community Roundtable report]


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