Customer communities help companies build relationships with customers, listen to their needs, and gather valuable customer insights. When multiple customers feel that they are a part of something bigger, your organization becomes a force to be reckoned with.
According to a study by Aberdeen, businesses with customer communities achieve:
- 3.75 times greater annual increase in overall sales quotas.
- 8.5% shorter year-over-year sales cycles.
- 32.9% decrease in year-over-year customer support costs.
- 76% greater marketing ROI.
- 5.4 times greater annual increase in customer satisfaction rates.
- 41% greater average customer profit margin.
Research by Gartner has revealed that 91% of customers who engage in community programs feel that they are valued more by the provider’s business.
There are multiple ways to build a customer community (through your website, social media, online and offline events, etc.), but the best way is to build what we call an "insight community" where you can create a consistent flow of deep customer insights so you can make decisions with your customers, not for them. You can turn customer truths—like motivations, preferences, and beliefs—into action to improve customer experience.
Here are six ways insight communities improve the customer experience.
1. Increase Customer Engagement
One of the main purposes of a customer community is customer engagement. As an organization, your goal is to provide an easily accessible and robust framework for your customers to interact directly with your brand and with one another.
Feedback is a gift. It's important to keep an open and welcome all feedback. We believe there is no ugly truth—only opportunities to improve. Knowing the truth about your customers—even the parts that are hard to hear—will help your business. Putting that truth into action will power extraordinary customer experiences to transform your business.
For instance, if customers complain, make it constructive and turn it into action. And don't forget to share back with your customers how their feedback was implemented. It's important you demonstrate value in return. If customers praise you, show them that you highly value their opinion. If the output of the engagement is guidance from one customer to another, take part in it, expand on the discussion, and encourage it.
2. Gather Valuable Customer Insights
If you want to prioritize customer-centricity and build a loyal customer base, you need to treat your customers as real people, not numbers in a database tied to revenue. Customer communities are an excellent way to do this since they allow you to interact directly with the very real people who use your product or service.
Imagine having ongoing access to a community of your most engaged customers where you can gather first-hand customer insights, right from the people who are using your product. The more you know what your customers think, the better you will understand them, and the better you can respond to their needs. These communities are a critical part of learning about and improving your organization's CX.
When your customers have the opportunity to give their feedback on changes and improvements that you have made to your products, customer service, etc., and know you are going to implement that feedback, you will be able to continuously iterate with them, validating enhancements along the way. Do this on a consistent basis and you’ll have a steady supply of actionable customer insights to inform product updates, marketing initiatives, and customer experience.
3. Guide Customer Journeys
Buyer journeys and customer journeys are no longer linear. With so many channels available to consumers now, brands have much less control over the path to purchase. A prospective customer will engage across multiple channels on multiple devices, whatever suits them best, and will chart their own path to that decision point.
While this certainly complicates things for sales and marketing, what brands can do is provide as much advice and assistance as possible at every touchpoint to help guide people on their unique journeys. This is where customer insights, behavioral data, and customer feedback come into play, and customer communities are an excellent way to get all of this straight from the source.
4. Augment Customer Support
There is something very rewarding about being a member of a community and having an outlet to share your thoughts and feedback about a brand you love or product you use. Your power user customers who have become experts on how to use your product, may turn out to be a great resource to your other customers who are just getting started. Customer communities can act as an extension of your customer support, where people help others with problems they have encountered and solved before. It's a place where they can ask about best practices, get inspiration, and learn about new features.
These discussions boost product acceptance, create a sense of belonging, and increase customer satisfaction. Gradually, new customers will become more experienced, post their own reviews, suggestions, and advice, and ultimately become your newest brand advocates.
5. Create Brand Advocates
Arguably, the most powerful sales tool is a happy customer who is seeing real value and is keen to share it with others. Digital insight communities help create brand advocates who will promote your business to others and answer their questions on your behalf. This ultimately boosts brand awareness, generates demand, assists during the sales process, ultimately driving customer acquisition.
6. Drive Efficiencies Across Your Organization
Customer communities have the power to help solve several common business challenges. By continuously engaging your customers, gathering their feedback, translating it into actionable insights, and creating brand advocates, you will in turn be helping your organization accelerate innovation, improve customer experience, improve brand loyalty, and reduce customer churn.
To conclude, it's important to note that customers are more empowered than ever, brands have become more customer-centric, and customer experience (CX) has become the top priority for the C-suite. Innovations and advancements in customer feedback methods have greatly increased the tools available to you. Navigating the waters of customer feedback may seem daunting, but with the right approach, you’ll be able to build a thriving digital insight community and keep the voice of the customer front and center for your organization.