Social customer service is all about connecting your customers (and prospective customers) with people and information so that they can get help and make better decisions. The foundation, or principle objective, of social customer service is peer-to-peer support – making it possible for customers to help one another. The value proposition is simple; your customers get faster response times and access to a network of their peers and experts, while your organization benefits from lower costs and higher efficiency. But what part do online communities play?
A community is an online hub where people with shared interests can communicate, get support, build relationships and be recognized using today’s most popular social media applications. And a great example of a company that understands the impact of community is Kaseya; its community is focused on providing social support. But why choose community? Kaseya’s Director of Social Media and Community, Brendan Cosgrove, noted that Kaseya “needed to deliver level one support in a way that was more effective than the existing forum and knowledge base. Kaseya customers work in IT; in this industry, the collective ability and willingness to help is very high. We knew that if we could mobilize customers into one area to collaborate, we would create a win for everyone.”
Kaseya and many of our other customers use social media applications in their support communities. For those just starting out and looking to learn the basics, let’s take a look at how to use some of these social media applications in a support context.
The two most common types of forums are discussion and Q&A. Discussion forums encourage community members to post general content which isn’t necessarily seeking a definitive answer. In a support context, discussion forums are typically used for people to publish their ideas and get feedback or share their thoughts on a particular topic. Examples include: submitting new product ideas, requesting enhancements and discussing industry trends. Here’s a sample discussion thread:
Promethean Planet’s use of discussion threads is a great engagement method in the community. Promethean’s Head of Planet Development, Gillian Lycett, stated that “our members are delighted with Promethean Planet. They rave about the opportunity to engage with fellow educators, get product support, exchange resources and share teaching tips in one central place.”
In contrast to discussion forums, Q&A forums enable people to ask questions, suggest answers and verify a particular answer as being correct. Typical uses for Q&A forums include problem resolution, how-to guidance as well as product inquiries used to make purchasing decisions. Here’s a sample Q&A thread:
Wikis are collaborative documents that help people create content with text, images and video. They are often used in a support context for product documentation, FAQs or knowledge base articles. Here’s an example of a wiki that’s being used as a knowledge base article:
Because wikis can have multiple authors, versions of wiki articles are tracked, as well as a history of changes, for future reference. Here’s the same article with the version history shown:
Quick Tip: As your community grows, you may find that you need to reorganize some of your content to make it more accessible to members. For example, you may find that a recurring issue or question appears in your forums, but has been answered multiple times, so you want to capture that forum thread to a wiki. Telligent allows you to capture a forum thread - along with the people who contributed to the answer - with a single click. It’s a quick and simple way to build a knowledge base that will benefit both your customers and your customer service reps.
Blogs are public announcements that are made to a wide audience, kind of like a keynote speech at a conference or a headline news article. One or more authors can create a blog with text, images or videos, and readers can comment on or rate the blog entry.
In online communities for customer service, typical uses for blogs include: product announcements, maintenance notifications, tips and tricks, industry news, subject matter articles written by experts, etc. Below is an example of a product announcement blog which includes social sharing features that make is easy for people to share the article with their networks on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more.
File galleries, or media galleries, contain media files uploaded to your community site. Media generally refers to any type of media posted to the community such as graphics, video, documents, and any other form of media that might get posted or embedded. Common uses for media galleries in online support communities include: video tutorials, product guides, picture slideshows from user groups, software downloads, etc. Here’s an example of a media gallery that features how-to videos:
Forums, wikis, blogs and media galleries all share a common purpose – they are vehicles for people to create and share content. Do you have an online community for customer service and support? Tell us how you use social media applications for content sharing. We’d love to hear your stories.
[Web 2.0 image source:] Big Stock Photo
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