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How A Thriving Community Drives Business Success
Regular community engagement leads to peer support, which lightens the load on the support teams. Support personnel are freed from having to answer repeat questions and can focus on more critical issues, boosting efficiency and delivering qualitative support
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"The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing." ~ John Russell- former President, Harley Davidson.
Several factors, such as the quality of a product or service, the technology leveraged in the products, and highly responsive sales and support teams drive business success. When it comes to sustenance and growth, the most determining factor is user loyalty. Users provide repeat business and spread the word not only when they are happy, but when their ideals align with the ideals of the business. Loyalty is earned by fostering a culture where businesses stay engaged with customers at all the stages of their association with the company and brand. Below, we'll look at some of the challenges a business faces in building a thriving community, and why it is important to overcome them.
Challenges in building a loyal user base
Technology has enabled consumers of most IT services or solutions to compare wares from multiple vendors and choose products based on functionality, affordability, usability, and scalability. The bar is now raised for vendors because users weigh their decisions based on the transparency and credibility of a business as well. Vendors are at their wit's end trying to position their solutions for the right audience, generate more leads, and close sales deals.
While enterprises face these challenges, users, on the other hand, are at a great advantage. Customers look for reasons more persuasive than price or functionality, selecting products that appeal to them emotionally. The ability to make or break a brand empowers users to vet their options and take their time deciding on a product.
What these challenges mean for a technology business
Increasingly, like with any other businesses, technology businesses are driven by consumers. Users no longer just go by what a website says or the promises marketing and sales teams make. Customers influence each other by sharing their experiences virtually. With this knowledge and information at their finger tips, users connect with peers, read others' experiences, and seek validation for their own purchasing decisions. And this means that for a company to be in the reckoning, it must encourage and nurture an ecosystem where it lets users connect and engage.
How communities hold the key to overcome challenges
Communities, the ecosystem where users network, are becoming a mandatory item on companies' to-do lists. Interestingly, communities are the superset of pre- and post-sales support, and businesses' marketing practices. That said, users have as much to gain from communities as do the vendors hosting them.
How community as a culture benefits businesses
Bringing together users, vendors, and their channel partners, communities are a great collective feedback medium as opposed to emails or phone calls. Communities increase user retention, repeat business, and customer loyalty as they establish the transparency and credibility of a business. With open conversations, users are free to report issues, mention competitors, expose vulnerabilities, and request features or changes. Transparency is crucial to nurture and sustain a loyal user base.
Regular community engagement leads to peer support, which lightens the load on the support teams. Support personnel are freed from having to answer repeat questions and can focus on more critical issues, boosting efficiency and delivering qualitative support.
It is easy to identify a community's core user group and power users. The core group serves as an extension of the company and participates in helpful activities, such as beta testing. With support from the core group, vendors catch critical bugs early on in the validation cycle, especially environment-specific issues. The power users influence other users and serve as ready references to prospects. They are more than willing to testify not just about the product, but about the company and its people, too.
Users also help companies prioritise product changes by collectively voting feature developments and bug fixes up or down. Insights gained from community discussions help companies understand what problems users are trying to solve, and what hurdles they face at various stages of their interaction with the brand. These insights enable companies to line up help and knowledge resources such as videos, tutorials, best practices guides, and tips and tricks.
How users gain from community
Online communities let users wear an invisibility cloak, so to speak. Instead of shying away from asking a question, sharing a concern, or reporting a problem, communities enable users to sports avatars and ask away. Communities also demonstrate to users that they are not alone and that there are several others who face similar issues while trying to solve similar problems. It provides a sense of belonging and ensures users are heard.
For users that are interested in helping their peers, communities also provide a sense of gratification. In most communities, users form virtual groups to find more friends among like-minded peers and provide support. Users use communities to seek validation for their buying decisions, issues, or ideas. Over time, these virtual groups may network offline to share their experiences.
On top of all this, users wield great power over the general product direction, release cycles, quality, and prioritisation. Users sway the decisions of their peers and possibly even the product roadmaps!
What it takes to build a great community
Create a community and it becomes the place where users love to hang around and learn. Enlist users in your plan for growth and expansion. For instance, you can involve users in alpha and beta testing, solicit feedback from time to time, and set up spaces for engagements in other languages. Start small and nurture a core group. Treat them as a part of your company. Reward and recognise contributions to make users feel valued. Allow users to vent their frustrations and disappointment openly in your community. Addressing users' concerns with empathy can eventually pave the way for positive testimonies, and convert happy users to loyal users in no time. If you find users coming back to your community and lending support to their peers, you have cracked the community code!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.