It can be expensive for a company to support its customers– companies spend billions to run their telephone support centers (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pf 157). To reduce costs, companies started doing several things. First, they recognized they were able to post all their information up on their website and then direct their customers to their website instead of calling in for technical support. This was known as the web self service revolution. Next, outsourcing became popular. Outsourcing is when support call centers are moved overseas. This became a popular choice for many companies because it was significantly cheaper to pay individuals living in countries like India or the Philipines to do the same job as someone in America. Despite what companies may think, these changes only helped themselves and not the frustrated customers. In fact, customers have started to turn to each other for help and are more than willing to help.
Supporting With a Community
Li and Bernoff offer five practical suggestions for building an online community for an organization’s customers (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 174-176).
- Start small, but plan for a larger presence.
A company, especially one with multiple products, should start small and see what their customers like and what they respond best to for one product before expanding their presence onto the others.
- Reach out to your most active customers.
Companies should figure out who are their most loyal customers are and ask them how they would like/prefer to participate in the community. It is important to involve these customers because they would “become important leaders in your [sic] online community” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 175).
- Plan to drive traffic to your community.
No one will know your community exists unless you advertise it. It is important to make sure your website is search engine optimized so that when there are updates or activities on the community it will appear on the top of Google searches.
- Build in a reputation system.
It is important to allow users of the community to build up their reputation because it encourages users to actively participate as well as abide by the rules. Some communities reward participants with points to increase their ranks while others will create their community to include “game like mechanics” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg 175).
- Let your customers lead you.
As for feedback and opinions from your community members. Your customers voice matters and should not be forgotten or ignored.
As mentioned in my last blog entry, ELLE Magazine communicates with their readers through their private community, ELLE Inner Circle. This private community is still relatively small with only 5000 members but it is growing every day. Moreover, this community consists of some of ELLE’s most loyal customers and provides a platform for these like-minded, fashion forward, fashion and beauty conscious individuals to come together and talk about pop culture, fashion, beauty, and et cetera.
As an incentive to join and be a part of the Inner Circle, new members are usually entered to draw prizes such as e-vouchers, discount codes, products, and et cetera. In addition to incentives for signing up, members are further incentivized to participate by offering extremely active members to exclusive prizes such as beauty boxes, products to sample, and birthday gifts. While this private community has many perks for its members, it also provides insights that “not only help ELLE better understand their consumer and inspire initiatives but also allows them to generate meaningful data for advertiser” (ELLE Case Study, 2015). This community is not very well known though because it is not advertised. I believe ELLE chooses to not advertise because they want to maintain exclusivity. Their most loyal readers/customers would find out about the community by checking their website or learn about it in the magazines.
Interacting with your customers through a community will help you connect to them and figure out what they desire and value so that they can help create better products and serve them better.
Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, USA: Forrester Research Inc.
ELLE Case Study. (2015). Retrieved February 11, 2017, from https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/232329/Case_Studies/2015_Case_Studies/2015_ELLE_Case_Study.pdf