Community Engagement Driving Force Behind Great Customer Experience – V3B: Marketing and Social Media Agency

Competitive pricing, a slew of innovative features and benefits, nailing customer service-the list of methods for getting ahead in today’s competitive marketplace is stacked with valid tactics like these. At the top of that list, though? Easy: prioritizing customer experience (CX)-a make-it or break-it factor for many brands. Wondering what that process looks like in action? The answer might not be as complex as you’d think-in fact, the concept is simple: a growing number of companies are turning their loyal customer bases into engaged communities to boost CX. Let’s take a deep dive into why community engagement is gaining momentum as a driving force behind great CX (and what it looks like for today’s organizations).

Customer Experience vs Customer Engagement vs Community Engagement

Whoa, talk about similar-sounding terms, right? Before I dive into all the specific ways customer engagement is enabled by community engagement, ultimately bolstering CX, let me take a moment to define each term:

  • Customer experience (CX). According to Hootsuite, CX is “built throughout the customer journey, and includes every step within that journey, from the first moment awareness to the end of the relationship with the brand.” Basically, CX is everything-ignore it at your own peril.
  • Customer engagement. Customer engagement simply describes a customer’s interaction with a brand, whether digitally or at a physical location.
  • Community engagement. Community engagement takes customer engagement and adds value by allowing customers to engage with one another-not just with brand representatives-in self-serve, consumer-driven online forums or other communities.

The above definitions don’t matter as much as the big picture point: Each of the three contributes in some way to the other two-and they’re all necessary. Now, let’s focus on community engagement and why it’s such a pivotal method of reaching and empowering today’s increasingly digital group of consumers.

Why Community Engagement?

There are hundreds of suggestions for “surefire” ways to improve CX, but community engagement stands out for many reasons. Today, companies are starting to build communities around their businesses to improve support, and it’s a concept that’s quickly taken off. Here’s why:

It builds trust. Customer engagement on social media channels is a great thing-in fact, as I’ve said before in Forbes, social media is both a customer experience and a marketing channel. Having a community ups the ante, though, because consumers can get and give feedback in a structured manner. It’s not just what they get, though-it’s who they can get it from. Communities provide what customers view as the two most trusted resources for brand, product, and service information: (1) a technical expert and (2) a ‘person like me.’ Data shows that trust can positively impact a brand’s bottom line and even empower consumers to defend that brand against criticism (for nothing in return)-a setup that sounds a lot like brand advocacy, the Holy Grail of marketing achievements.

Getting there is worth it: 84 percent of brand advocates say they receive questions buyers would not ask company representatives, showcasing their ability to not only influence individual sales but also the future of the companies they evangelize. Communities empower both brand advocates and company representatives to communicate with consumers and answer their questions, building trust and covering every base.

It makes knowledge accessible anywhere, anytime. Forget hold music or sending an email to a support address and hoping to get a response sometime that day-communities provide real-time (or close to it) feedback anytime, anywhere. In our always-on society, accessibility is king.

It helps brands gauge the opinions and questions of actual customers. An online community is a place for consumers to find answers, but it’s also a place for brands to gauge opinions on existing products and get ideas for new ones-all invaluable feedback in today’s fast-paced world.

It houses company content. Yes, your website can and should hold information for your customers. Posting blogs, videos, and other resources in an online portal, though, increases the utility and reach of your content marketing efforts. Why? When a person views an online community, they’re looking for an answer or for some form of engagement-in short, they’re already checked-in and want to hear what you have to say. It’s the opposite of a cold call, and smart brands are taking advantage of that fact by giving consumers access to the information they’re after.

The Value of Online Communities

Customer communities are becoming extensions of companies, and people are noticing. A whopping 90 percent of respondents to Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report, for example, said they expect a brand to half an online customer self-service portal, and 79 percent of those who reported using them in the past said they could quickly find the information they were looking for. Not surprisingly, 66 percent of global respondents indicated they had a favorable view of a brand that offered a mobile-responsive portal, at that.

And remember, self-serve support communities do not replace traditional customer service-instead, they make it better and engage customers in the process.

What’s Next?

Just as companies are using influencers to help with marketing, communities are helping with customer experience. It’s a safe bet one of two interactions has happened to you: Either your business has an online community for your customers, or you’ve interacted with an online community as a consumer yourself. What has been your experience? Tell me in the comments.

Additional Resources on This Topic

The Relationship Between Customer Engagement, Loyalty and Revenue
Competing on Customer Experience: Your Best Bet for the Win
How Should You Measure your Community’s Engagement and Satisfaction?

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