Maybe you just launched your community a few months ago. Perhaps you've been up and running for a while. Either way, now is a good time to ask yourself “How is my community doing?”

How you answer this question depends on your business objectives for online community. One of the exercises that I like to walk our customers through is strategic value mapping, the process of aligning business benefits with a company’s stakeholders. Consider the following example for an online customer support community:

The Strategic Value Map for a Sample Customer Support Community

Read this map from bottom to top – you want to come away with how you can learn from the community and use it as a vehicle to increase shareholder value.

Learning

Simply stated, an online community for social customer service should deliver insights that fall into these categories:

  1. Current Customers – What do your customers need from your products and services?
  2. Prospective Customers – What do your future customers need from you?
  3. Integration – What opportunities exist for you to integrate your products and services in order to enhance your value proposition?

Internal

An online community for customer support will help you gain a better understanding for how to best position your products and services with current and prospective customers, but only if your internal constituents are hearing what the community is telling them.

When your employees, across all departments, have access to the data coming from community, you can achieve the following benefits:

  1. Scalability – You can scale the delivery of customer support.
  2. Education – You can better educate customers on products and services.
  3. Engagement – You can increase the amount of customer engagement.
  4. Knowledge – You can more broadly share employee knowledge.
  5. Reputation – You can build and protect your brand reputation.

Community Members

You have to give value in order to receive value. The success of any community, whether it’s for social support, social marketing or social commerce, depends on your ability to engage members by delivering information that they cannot find anywhere else. Online customer support communities help you help your customers by:

  1. Increasing their knowledge of how to use your products and services.
  2. Giving them access to information for how to use your products and services in unconventional ways.
  3. Learning best practices from other customers with shared experiences.
  4. Providing customers with a format for demonstrating their expertise.
  5. Engaging in roadmap conversations that allow them to influence the future of your products and services.

Financial

Positive financial outcomes are the proverbial cherries on top of the sundae. You have the customer insight, your employees are informed, and your community members are enjoying an exceptional level of customer experience, BUT how do you quantify how community influences your bottom line?

Here’s how customer support communities impact your business in monetary terms:

  1. Customers upgrade
  2. Customers buy more
  3. You attract more customers
  4. You curb the cost of managing growth

Look at each of these categories in your own business and tell me what you find. I’ll be covering the process of strategic value mapping in my “Vital Signs” strategy workshop at The Big Social user group conference in September. Hope to see you there.

[Thumbnail strategy image source:] Big Stock Photo