Customer Communities: The Centerpiece of CXM

Recently, a customer service interaction at Netflix went viral. The exchange began routinely enough. A subscriber contacted a Netflix customer service representative to fix a technical issue, but then a subtle Star Trek reference prompted both parties to adopt Star Trek personas through the entire interaction—resulting in a fun, memorable customer experience. Shortly after, the user—undoubtedly now a loyal customer—posted the conversation thread online. It was covered in major publications and social media sites from Reddit to The Huffington Post and garnered tens of thousands of social shares.

How did a routine customer service exchange turn into a playful, newsworthy experience? By listening to and addressing the customer as a human and offering a personal experience, the Netflix rep showed the company’s willingness to partner with the customer to quickly (and amusingly) resolve what could have been a long, tedious, and disappointing experience. Unfortunately, though, this is the exception rather than the rule. The thought of having to deal with customer service tends to evoke grimaces and clenched fists in most consumers.

But customer service doesn’t have to be the frustrating experience we’ve come to expect. Exceptional experience is the result of a two-pronged approach, in which  customers and companies engage in a reciprocal, mutually beneficial dynamic. Value in this relationship is created from the inside-out for customers—as employees help resolve issues, provide support, and answer questions—but also from the outside-in for businesses—where users and prospects share feedback and suggestions for product and service improvement. It sounds simple enough, but without the right platform, tools, and training, this dialogue cannot occur. How can you foster this type of customer-company conversation that results in exceptional experiences? The answer lies in a customer community.

How can you leverage the customer community as the centerpiece for customer experience? Follow the six steps below:

Meet customers where they are, across multiple touchpoints. Despite the numerous ways a customer interfaces with your brand (tablet, computer, mobile, etc.), the goal is always the same—finding resolution for the issue at hand. No matter the entry point, make your community the central hub for all customer queries. 

Deliver consistent customer experiences and always-on customer service.

Sporadically successful customer service means that for every satisfied customer, there are several who are dissatisfied. And dissatisfied customers are often the most vocal. Instead of trying to block these customers from the community, hear them out and engage them—after all, if one person is having problems with your product or service, others are likely running into similar issues. Even if you can’t resolve all of their problems, such engagement tells the community that you’re serious about genuine dialogue with every type of customer.  

Empower employees across the business to engage with customers and prospects. Maintaining the old-school customer “pass-off’” system across multiple departments becomes a logistical nightmare. Furthermore, the metrics for success are misleading—even if the companies’ internal numbers state that customer experience management hums smoothly, the individual customer who gets passed from department to department experiences diminishing satisfaction. Ensure the community manager has a point person from every team in the organization, so they can provide customers with function-specific answers and updates.  

Don’t just listen—act on customer feedback and suggestions (then close the loop and let customers know). Your customers are full of ideas and insights. Their feedback provides an invaluable opportunity for companies to show that they’re truly listening and acting on what their customers have to say. For instance, TechSmith reported that since establishing a customer community in 2010, it has been readily turning to its customers for relevant feedback, enhancing its relationships with them and fueling its product innovation process.

Offer personalized and human experiences. You’d be surprised how differently a customer acts once he or she finds out that there’s someone listening to her concerns (or praise). It’s important for customers to know that their questions and feedback aren’t falling on deaf ears. Take a lesson from Netflix and remember—customer service doesn’t have to be boring!

Let the personalities of the people who represent your company shine through. Many companies are so terrified of saying the wrong thing that their interactions with the public come off as scripted, awkward, and far from human. It’s okay for your company representative to be an actual human being with actual feelings. Just make sure you hire and train your community representatives accordingly! 

By following these six steps, you’ll show your customers that you care enough to invest in delivering the best experience possible. In order to truly do this, you have to hire the right people, remove processes that hinder nimble action, and actively embrace your community. But as Netflix proved, it’s an investment worth making. Your customers will notice and in turn show their loyalty, and loyal customers are a company’s best asset.

Scott Hirsch is the vice president of product and content marketing at Get Satisfaction.

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