Community is Key for Customer Success
Customer communities reduce costly, repetitive customer success tasks, and free up customer success managers to be more strategic and proactive.
Companies and customer success teams are increasingly being asked to operate with fewer people and smaller budgets. At the same time, they’re also being asked to maintain their revenue streams. Acquiring new customers is costly, which is why many have shifted focus to preserving the ones they already have. In fact, improving customer retention by 5% can increase profits over 25%. Plus, customers spend more with brands when they feel a sense of loyalty and connection.
With this in mind, how can you sustainably keep customers satisfied with limited resources? Using a proactive, scaled customer success model allows you to strategically apply your customer success manager (CSM) resources and deliver a consistent customer experience without needing to exponentially add CSMs as you grow.
Community is a Powerful Tool for Scaled Customer Success
Though communities are often thought of as an extension of your support team (and, certainly, their benefits in that arena cannot be understated), an online community’s impact can and should extend across multiple departments, including customer success programs (plus product management, marketing, sales, and implementation).
Customer communities help you reduce costly, repetitive customer success tasks by giving you the tools to scale and giving your customers a way to answer their own questions. This frees up your time to be proactive and to apply a personal touch when it’s really needed.
And, perhaps most importantly, customers are looking for community: Gartner’s 2022 Market Guide for B2B Customer Community Platforms documented a 30% jump in client inquiries about customer communities in recent years. Today’s customers expect self-serve support and enablement, so having a community is a service differentiator that helps you stand out from your competition.
So let’s talk about how community can help your customer success teams…
Drive Product Adoption
Increase Customer Satisfaction
Reduce Customer Churn
Make Time to Be Strategic
Drive Product Adoption
Customers are looking for fast time-to-value. As most customer emotional journey maps show, your customers come into your organization hopeful and excited – you need to ensure your product addresses their pain points quickly to turn that excitement into satisfaction and prevent buyer’s remorse. A key part of this is helping your customer company’s onboarding managers get their users up to speed. Facilitating user product adoption ensures that your customer sees results and derives ongoing value, which safeguards customer retention.
Save customer onboarding managers time
Set a clear onboarding/training timeline and incentivize progress with rewards. This will help drive users to engage with and learn how to use your products. You can also fuel that engagement with gamification tactics including badges, ranks, and leaderboards to celebrate completed steps and participation.
Personalize the experience for users
Segment your customer organizations and funnel them into cohorts based on similar values and journeys to customize your onboarding, communication, and engagement approach. This ensures your communication is relevant and effective and equips you to efficiently direct users to the features that will matter most to them.
Provide a centralized, searchable hub of resources
Build a knowledge base of all your help articles, documentation, best practices and troubleshooting guides. Share product release notes. Facilitate users helping other users by inviting community members to share tips and tricks. Within Higher Logic Vanilla, federated search ensures customers can find relevant results throughout the community and knowledge base.
Host events through your community
Offer users the opportunity to connect with others and learn. A regular, recurring onboarding session, for example – where you invite customer advocates and power users to join and share their experience – not only helps you reduce the staff time you dedicate to individual onboarding, it also helps users meet their peers. You can also host product roadmap sessions to show customers the latest tools you offer.
Monitor and collect data
Track user activity to identify and reach out to individuals who might not be making the progress you’d hope to see. Use analytics to spot the areas where people need the most help. Higher Logic Vanilla offers customizable dashboards and dozens of ready-made reports to showcase trends and customer contributions.
Increase Customer Satisfaction
You aren’t the only one cutting budgets, your customers are too, which means they are critically evaluating their vendors and the value they offer. Whether it’s proving ROI or creating enriching digital experiences, companies and their CSMs need to be regularly engaging with their customers and serving as a strategic advisor who shares the best practices needed to succeed.
Your customer community becomes indispensable for sharing thought leadership, driving engagement, and maintaining satisfaction:
- Networking and Learning: Within your community, customers connect, share use cases, and learn from each other. You become not just a vendor, but a source of peer-to-peer collaboration, industry advice, and best practices.
- Centralize, Streamline, and Personalize Communication: Multiple internal teams can communicate with your customers (sharing product updates, billing notices, or enablement tips) without overwhelming them with email. Community also helps you personalize messaging so customers get what they need, when they need it.
- Product Tips and Use Cases: 43% of customer success teams are tasked with building customer case studies. Community gives your customers a place to share their own stories and allows you to showcase their amazing work. Invite customers to threads where they can exchange tips and learn from each other’s successes and innovations.
- Preemptive Problem Solving: Collect intel from your community, proactively address customer concerns, and catch at-risk customers before they churn. Create a transparent, helpful atmosphere using Q&A functionality to collect and answer customer questions in a searchable forum that benefits multiple customers at once.
- Customer Advocacy and Brand Ambassadors: Use engagement reports to find and celebrate brand ambassadors. Recognize their contributions with badges and leverage their enthusiasm in a way that doesn’t burn them out.
- Fast Customer Support (and Support Deflection): A robust knowledge base helps customer users take ownership and get the most out of your product. A self-serve approach saves them (and you) time because they don’t have to wait for answers, they can often find what they’re looking for without even having to submit a support ticket.
- Product Ideation: Engage customers in product ideation threads. Solicit product feature requests and allow users to vote and comment on ideas. This helps you deliver the features customers want and makes them feel invested in your growth. (Plus, CSMs and product teams are positioned to collaborate).
- Highlight Growth Opportunities: Observe successful customers and get ideas for how to help other customers grow. Instead of blatantly upselling, you’re instead able to help customers achieve their expansion goals by sharing examples.
REDUCE CUSTOMER CHURN
When it’s time for your customer to renew (whether you offer annual or monthly contracts or something in between), they should already know the essential ROI your product provides. Community helps you ensure a great customer experience and gives you the tools to make sure they see that value on a regular basis.
Include guides in your knowledge base walking customers through the impacts they can track and the measurements of success they can use to determine your product’s ROI. When you check in with customers, make sure your CS team includes conversations about measurable results – the results your customers are getting from your product, and their awareness of these results, are a huge churn vs. retention indicator.
Use your community to talk with your customers and observe what they talk about with their peers. This will give you a sense of what they care about and why they need your product, equipping you to share these benefits with other customers as you onboard or guide customers who aren’t getting optimal return from the product.
Share tips for how your brand champions can make the case for renewal to their executive leadership. The customer who’s in your community every day might not be the same person who holds budgetary authority, so make it easier for them to get executive buy-in.
Identify and engage with at-risk customers or customers running into those “small” issues that build up over time. Community gives you insights that will help your customer success team know which users to prioritize and when to escalate support based on behavior – whether they’re sharing their unhappiness in community threads or not engaging at all. In fact, one of the reasons you should keep an eye on churn markers is that it’s often those customers who aren’t answering your NPS surveys and aren’t engaging that have a higher churn rate.
More Time to Be Strategic
All in all, customer communities help customer success teams maximize their impact at scale by saving them time on repetitive or overly one-to-one efforts. Allowing customers to self-serve where appropriate makes them more immersed in your product and takes the pressure of CSMs so they can divert their effort elsewhere – to focus on things like relationship building, supporting upsells, and proactively addressing hot topics.
It’s simply not sustainable to give every customer white-glove service (even if customer success managers would like to), so community is key to getting customers answers, solving their problems, and scaling customer success. Instead of personally responding to every complaint or manually sending out product updates, customer success teams have time to be more strategic and connect with customers on a higher level to maximize the results they see from your product. When they’re achieving those outcomes, that’s when you see satisfaction and retention.