Growing a "Sense of Community" in Customer Service Communities

(Roisin Kirby) #1

Page 49 (Strategy Chapter) of ‘Buzzing Communities’ by @richard_millington

“It’s important to track your members’ sense of community. A community can have a good level of growth and high levels of engagement but fail to develop relationships between members. This is the case for many customer-service based communities

I manage a SaaS company’s Customer Service community. We’re not even a year old yet but have seen great success in addressing the business’s support needs, by 2018 vision however is to foster a Community of users who connect on Sales/Marketing best practices (our software is for these professionals).

Anyone have tips for how Customer Service community managers can grow sense of community in support environments?

P.S. I will of course be reading on / exploring this Community to help answer my question.

(Sarah Hawk) #2

I feel like this is a discussion that is raising its head more and more lately and if I was to play devil’s advocate I’d ask why would you want to?

Do people visit support communities to satisfy their need for relatedness or are you better off focusing on the other motivators (probably education)? It’s almost as if we’re trying to create hybrid support/CoPs because we have it so programmed into us that in order to boost our (vanity) engagement stats we need to connect people.

If your strategic goal is to reduce support costs (or similar) then is building a sense of community necessary?

We discussed the same thing here last week – it’s an interesting read.

(Jason Hill) #3

I’m with Hawk. I previously managed a support community for an online accounting software company and while we had superusers who spent a lot of time on the forum helping others, it was never going to be a place where they socialised at felt at home. It’s just a transactional place. People get want they want and leave. And there’s nothing wrong with that.


(Mark Williams) #4

That is just such an interesting thread. I like the way the conversation is really digging into the UX and larger CM issues. I need to drop into meta more often.

(Sarah Hawk) #6

I agree. It’s just a very big change in thinking for CMs. I’m struggling on a daily basis NOT to try and stimulate conversation in the wider community. For so many years I’ve chased retention metrics so to accept that it’s not always necessary is a change in mindset.

It’s a new direction that we’re taking at Meta since I’m there now. Seeing how it rolls.

(Richard Millington) #7

Hi @roisinkirby thanks for reading the book.

My answer is generally going to be in line with those above. When I wrote the book (and even today), I didn’t tend to consider most customer support communities as ‘communities’. Most people don’t want to be there, they have to be there to get their question answered.

You can build a sense of community among the top members perhaps, but for the overwhelming majority of people the metrics you need are going to be more about speed of response, # questions that have an accepted answer, and satisfaction of members with that answer.

(Mark Williams) #8

I’ve been considering this more from the concept of ‘community everywhere’ - what if your community was deeply embedded into your product and there from moment one instead of just when you needed help? How does this change the community dynamic? This probably only works in SAAS companies, but I think it could be interesting to see.

(Nick Emmett) #9

I think for me it depends on how you handle it and how you see your role and, I guess, how you apply your role. I tend to try and bring in people that I think may be able to help, @ mentioning customers that I think might have a suggestion or opinion. In time I see these people connecting and tagging each other when they post, even just posting on people’s profiles with general posts.

Something that i think is also important in furthering that and helping to build that sense of community is to make sure to factor in some offline events too - we have User Group meetings and hold an annual customer conference, one in London and one in Las Vegas, where our customers, and community members have a great opportunity to meet for reals, face to face. At this years events I loved seeing those connections and watching people just hanging out.