In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, businesses are compelled to adapt and diversify to ensure that they remain fully operational. With the majority of us not experiencing something like this before, it can become an overwhelming and disheartening time. In times like this, we must rely on social technology to ensure that we can remain in touch with our customers and employees.
Many organizations are being forced into remote working conditions and our communication channels are being challenged. Nevertheless, in times of uncertainty and worry about the future, this can be a great time to review and identify opportunities for your business to excel. And as most employees are now working from home as part of the ‘new norm’, there are multiple areas that companies must consider in order to survive, and even thrive:
- Supporting new ways to manage remote working conditions
- Balancing costs and customer satisfaction
- Improving collaboration and access to information for customers and employees
One crucial aspect of ensuring remote working doesn’t create complications for organizations is communication, being able to clearly communicate to both customers and employees is key for how your organization comes out on the other side of this. As mentioned, with workforces operating away from our offices, we are no longer able to simply ask a fellow employee a question from across the office, we are now going online to ask for help or self-serving to find the answers to questions and solutions to problems.
While certain businesses have actually flourished with workforces working remotely, many are struggling. Companies that relied on in-person, assisted service to provide a great customer experience, are now finding it difficult to meet service expectations. Despite this, well before the pandemic, businesses turned to branded online communities as a solution to allow both customers and employees to go online to ask questions, get answers and find solutions to problems with little to no assisted-service interaction. Before we get into the benefits of what an online community can do for your organization, let’s get a common understanding of what an online community is.
What is an online community?
An online community is an online place for customers to ask questions, get answers, and self-serve with highly contextual conversational and curated knowledge 24-7. Conversational knowledge is created naturally through the process of asking questions and getting answers in the community forums. Curated knowledge is created through editing or perfecting answers and resources in the context of need for faster recall and easier consumption.
Through building an online community – with a community platform – you are creating a corporate-owned environment with interactive social applications that allow your organization to connect customers to share information, empowering both your customers and employees. Ultimately, a question that is asked in a community gets answered and the questions and answers are then available for reuse. Once a question has been answered, it can be reused as is, or it can be marked as verified by an authorized specialist or expert so other customers can easily identify trusted answers as they self-serve. Using the deployed forum software, self-serving customers can provide feedback on the helpfulness or unhelpfulness of this answer for consideration to be incorporated into an edited or curated version later.
So, with the basic understanding of what an online community is, we can dive into the benefits it can bring to your organization, and how a community can allow your business to adapt to the ever-changing market conditions.
1. Improve customer experience and customer service while reducing costs
Many employees are working from home in less than optimal working conditions. Organizations are doing what they can to accommodate with flexible work schedules so employees can manage the new home life challenges brought on by the pandemic, such as in-home childcare and remote schooling. This makes it challenging for businesses to operate at full capacity to serve customers. Flexible work schedules and fewer employees available during peak service periods can negatively impact the customer experience.
Customers don’t like to wait. So why make a customer wait on hold when there is a solution which cuts this out while providing an enhanced customer experience? With 90% of customer interactions about a brands’ products and services happening outside the contact center, there is no surprise that organizations are turning to online communities and web self-service as a tactic to improve the customer experience and reduce support costs. A web self-service community allows customers to self-serve or interact with other product experts quickly and effectively.
2. Improve scale to meet increasing service demands
Online communities and web self-service helps bridge the gap between your resource constraints and your customers’ service expectations. Through building a community that allows customers to self-serve, they have unlimited access to meaningful content that has been expertly approved with a simple search or a click of a button, further reducing the need for assisted service requests. This allows your organization to improve its scale to meet increasing service demands.
3. Generate meaningful and reusable content quickly
Meaningful content is content that is highly relevant, highly contextual, useful and/or actionable and of course, answers a question or provides a solution to problem. But where does this content come from exactly? Only a fraction of meaningful content comes from contact center interactions.
Having an online community and self-service channel allows customers to interact and access expert knowledge effectively on their own terms. With a community and web self-service strategy, organizations have the ability to create meaningful content quickly for reuse, connect customers to others for peer-to-peer support, and if necessary, provide an option for customers to escalate their need for assistance in real time. Not only does community and web self-service empower your customers to seek answers on their own and self-serve, but it empowers your workforce by deflecting easy calls and so they can focus on the more complex issues that are best handled through assisted service.
4. Expand knowledge and insights beyond assisted service
By enabling your customers to self-serve in an online community and web self-service channel, you are expanding knowledge and insights well beyond an assisted service model. Companies with just assisted service are limited to creating reusable knowledge and gaining insights based on contact-center interactions. The amount of reusable knowledge created and the insights available is directly related to the amount of assisted service requests received and the staffing available to handle the volume. In contrast, with a community and web self-service channel, you are leveraging the customer and crowd interactions. Their queries and questions asked in the community are likely to be highly relevant to that of another customer or employee, generating a valuable source of knowledge at a lower cost and faster rate.
Once a customer has been provided a solution to their problem, it doesn’t end there. The solution is then verified by an authorized expert, whether the expert be a peer expert or a company-assigned expert, and you end up with an expanding hub of prized knowledge for both your customers and employees. This hub of knowledge is then accessible to all, which can be re-used throughout your business, providing you with an ever-expanding pool of knowledge and insights.
A take away from what an online community and web self-service can bring to your organisation
Remote working is here to stay, so it’s good to start thinking about how you can adapt so that your business is well equipped to deal not only with this pandemic but beyond for the long term. Adapting to the ‘new normal’ is key to surviving these unprecedented times and ensuring that customers and employees can get what they need, when they need it. Working from home was feared by many, with the concern that customer service would suffer and employee engagement would be hindered, but online communities have proven to lessen those fears by letting customers self-serve and keep employees engaged.
Through an online, web self-service community, a company can dramatically improve its ability to serve its customers, reduce support costs by deflecting more contact center calls than ever, enable self-servicing customers to ask for guidance or support from a private network of product experts – both peer experts and company subject matter experts. This is all done while simultaneously generating meaningful content at scale and relevancy superior to traditional ways.