Social Communities May Be the Ticket to Winning Customer Satisfaction

<< back Page 2 of 2

peer, become a great option to answer a lot of generic questions that have usually already been answered. It frees up agents to support more complex issues."

Another benefit of communities is the chance to provide brand content and blend it with customer service in a subdued manner, rather than an in-your-face marketing campaign. Since community members tend to trust their peers or community leaders, companies are finding this a more subtle strategy to reach consumers.

"I love this shift from community sales and propaganda to thought leadership and service," says Sarah Stealey Reed, former content director and senior analyst at ICMI, who is currently the senior manager for Deloitte's CallCenter. "Communities are perfect places to share industry insight, research statistics, and company updates alongside user-generated content. If the relationship between community leaders and internal customer service is strong, then the content will not appear forced. Companies cannot overshadow the user commentary; rather they need to align and balance it."

Are You Getting It Right?

Several customer service analysts agree that while more companies have embraced communities to serve consumers, far fewer have properly put them to action, especially in considering who oversees things, Reed says.

Two years ago, Gartner predicted that by 2014, organizations that integrated communities into customer support could realize cost reductions of up to 50 percent. "What I don't think they highlighted enough though was that the research showed that companies that didn't supply community moderation or administration were likely to see customer satisfaction drop so significantly that it caused customer attrition," Reed says. "In order to truly see call deflection, customer satisfaction scores, and first-contact-resolution gains, you need community leaders and ambassadors that know your business, support your customers, and protect your brand."

Another issue is when a company or brand overshadows community leaders or members, such as when they step in to answer questions that could have been answered by members. This can stifle community interactions, Carroll says.

"This reduces engagement and makes the community more of a brand-customer Q & A site rather than a peer-to-peer site," she says. "When customers are empowered to answer other customers' questions, they start to feel a sense of ownership for the community, and the back-and-forth flow between members becomes healthy and helpful."

So, will customer service communities see greater adoption down the road? Yes, say industry analysts, but don't throw in the towel if you don't see results overnight. "I think that some organizations have tried communities, and when they don't take off the way they were hoping in a short amount of time, oftentimes things are abandoned or companies don't have the effectiveness that they would normally have," says Carroll.

"As communities are becoming more strategic for the customer experience, [companies] should realize that it usually takes a few years for the community to mature," says Jenny Sussin, principal research analyst at Gartner. "You will see results, but not to the point where you'd see decreased calls in the contact center, because communities don't reach full speed until a couple of years later."

<< back Page 2 of 2