Customer Engagement Model - Community

Today I’m wrapping up my blog series on the customer engagement model I introduced a few weeks ago.   This model is designed to help you identify where your company is in terms of customer engagement, and which programs you should consider introducing or improving.  This week I’ll review the peak of the pyramid - Stage 4: Community.  Companies that reach this level have figured out how to encourage their customers to engage each other to drive retention, adoption and expansion.  

If you're new to this series, here's a quick recap.  Links to my other 3 related posts are provided at the end.

How the Model Works

The 4 stages on the pyramid are different areas where customers engage.  

  • Product = your company’s offering. 
  • Success Team =  customer-facing parts of your organization.  
  • Company = your organization and brand as a whole.  
  • Community = group of your customers or users.

If your customers are engaged they should be able to make the statements on the right about each stage. 

COMMUNITY

This stage is at the peak of the pyramid for two reasons.  First, because a strong community creates some of the most engaged and active brand advocates a company will ever have.  Amazing, right?  So why isn't every company at this stage?  Because of the second reason - it is the toughest to implement.  At this stage you need to successfully influence both people within your company (marketing team, data team) and people outside of your company (customers, industry leaders) in order to achieve results.  

Because this is the most challenging stage to reach, and because there are so many parties involved, successful strategies and tactics will vary from company to company.  Community is something that can't be forced, so as a customer success leader your focus should be on working to build programs that enable a strong community to form on it's own. Below are some thoughts and ideas I hope will help you identify what might work best for your organization.   

“Your Community is active and inclusive.”

Active - If you think about it in the broad sense, having an active customer community just means that your customers are talking to each other.  This is really the first step toward having a community that improves customer engagement.  So, how do you get the conversation started?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where do your customers engage with you?  For example, if you get a lot of comments on your blog, you might consider starting a discussion there.  If, instead, your customers like to hang out on your customer portal, consider starting a forum.
  • How do your customers like to engage?  Do you have customers who prefer to connect in person?  An event might be a great option.  Are your customers all online?  Think about hosting an online discussion board.
  • Which topics might spur a discussion?  If your clients think you have all the answers, they aren't likely to jump in and engage.  On the other hand, if you ask questions or bring up topics you know are somewhat controversial, clients will be more likely to speak up.

Inclusive - Nothing turns people off faster than feeling like they are on the outside looking in.  No matter which programs you introduce to help drive community, make sure there is someone from your organization moderating.  It is normal for sub-groups of your most active customers to develop.  Make sure they are welcoming to those who are new to the community, and that they don't dominate the conversation.  

“Your Community enables opportunities for collaboration.”

Collaboration is working with other people to improve things.  Basically, two (or three or a thousand) heads are better than one.  In a perfect world, your customers would be doing this on their own without any prompting (think about the last time you recommended a useful mobile app to a friend).  In reality, most organizations need to facilitate collaboration to some degree.  Here are a few ways that companies provide opportunities for their customers to collaborate:

  • Sponsor a Hackathon - this could really be any event that brings customers together and encourages them to get creative with your product or service.
  • Build a User Group - user groups give customers a place to go to ask questions and share best practices.
  • Host a Meetup - I mentioned this in my last post as well:  Meetups tie the Company and Community stages together nicely!  Two birds, one stone.

A note about internal collaboration:  When I first designed this model I called out internal and external collaboration separately.  I think it's worth noting that B2B companies often have many customers or users within a single organization.  Brands can improve customer engagement by encouraging internal collaboration and sometimes find that an easier goal to start with.

“Your Community provides benchmarking data on my company and job.”

Since most of you will be reading this on LinkedIn, I'll use that brand as an example.  I'm sure you've noticed that when you set up your profile, you see a gauge off to the side that tells you how complete your profile is compared to those of other users.  LinkedIn also allows you to see how many people have viewed your profile, and how your level of profile views compares to others in your company or a similar field.  LinkedIn has done a great job of automating this type of data and presenting it in useful ways within their customer experience.

Even if it doesn't make sense for your company to automate benchmarking data, you can still provide this kind of information to clients.  Analyst studies are a great tool for organizations who don't have enough customer data, or who haven't done a good job of collecting it.  That said, don't be afraid to provide your clients with whatever you do have, even if you're still an early stage company.  Customers like transparency, and even just your willingness to share your data can be engaging.

I hope you've found this blog series helpful as you consider how to create engaged customers, and I'd love to hear about what you and your team are doing to drive engagement.  Here are links to the other 3 posts:

The Success League is a consulting firm that specializes in building and developing customer success teams.  If you need help identifying ways to improve your customer engagement, contact us!  www.TheSuccessLeague.io