by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 12 April 2012
Customers rarely praise a product through message boards or Facebook feeds. Instead, online communities often double-up as support forums, with the discussion moderator working with support teams to resolve customer issues.
Why, then, do we need to bother with an online community?
This week, we will look at a solution that makes online community building worthwhile.
We will review Get Satisfaction: an online community software that solves problems, highlights customer feedback and drives business.
We will look at its features, interface, and see how it can be of use to you.
Building An Online Community
The benefits of building online communities are well known: They decrease support costs, help identify your most passionate brand advocates, and convert users into product evangelists (in the process, decreasing your sales costs). Because it is so closely related to support activities, online community building was often bundled only as such.
That is, until Get Satisfaction happened.
According to Douglas Wright, a marketing manager for the company, community building is all about the conversation. Customers communicate with companies, with the ability for companies to manage those conversations and respond. "In our case, we provide invaluable customer to company contact, as well as the advantage of consumer to consumer contact," he explains.
What, then, is the difference between customer-to-company contact and consumer-to-consumer contact?
Wright explains the difference with the example of a gaming solution.
"These communities drive a lot of traffic and questions," he says. "In such a scenario, it becomes difficult for companies to justify hiring additional community managers to moderate discussions," he says.
Thus, it makes sense to promote enthusiastic and knowledgeable customers from within the online community into moderators. Besides saving on costs, the exercise promotes trust among community members, as they are more likely to listen to their peers versus marketing spiel. "As a company, valuable feedback can be gained through conversations in communities, but it all begins with trust," says Wright.
Get Satisfaction differs from other, similar solutions in the market because they focus on the relationship between customer and company. "We provide community solutions for small business all the way up to large enterprise," he says. The scalable nature of Get Satisfaction is great because it enables small businesses to access features vetted and proposed by large enterprises. Finally, the company has also signed a customer company pact that guarantees great and, more importantly, honest customer service.
Constructing A Satisfying Community Building Experience
Building an online community on Get Satisfaction is a simple three-step process. The first step is adding your product and service. The second step consists of adding feedback widgets. The third and final step consists of configuring administrators and other users.
The solution has two views for users.
The first view is the community view. You can use this view to configure details for employees, users, products and services, and moderate discussions. Employees are identified by an employee badge on their avatar. Similarly, you can assign badges to customers, automatically creating incentives for participation in discussion.
Asking questions, which form the basis of discussion modules, is open to customers, company employees, and administrators. It is a relatively painless three-step process during which you assign a title, insert text (in plain text or HTML format), upload images, and hit the Post button. Once they have been posted, questions can be shared across social media networks including Facebook and Twitter. Thus, you can use Get Satisfaction to drive traffic to and from social media networks. Wright gives the example of retailing giant Walmart, which prefers to drive traffic from its Facebook page to Get Satisfaction. The following link provides more information on how to drive traffic to your community page from social media networks:
You can also share company updates or announcements through this system. The updates are transmitted across multiple discussions or can be customized for specific discussions.
The discussion moderator approves questions and, also, provides solutions from other, similar discussion groups. For example, the moderator can merge topic threads between discussions to streamline discussions and find solutions.
The management view shows you parameters related to your community administration module. These options include support topics, visitors, sentiment indicators, and employee participation. Using a simple click, you can view analytics relating to each category. For example, you can view new, returning and total visitors under the visitors' box. In case you are wondering, sentiment indicators consist of happy, silly, indifferent, and sad emoticons. Each view can be customized using criteria specified in filters.
Given the wealth of data and conversations contained in the solution, I asked Wright if Get Satisfaction could be used as a support tool. "Our positioning is that we don't offer a ticketing system," he says. "We believe in the power of community." Instead, the solution has chosen to partner with major ticket management and CRM tools such as JIRA, Zendesk, and Salesforce.com. The benefit of this integration is that your community is automatically included in the product development process. Thus, you can import problems and ideas, reply to topic discussions, resolve and update topic statuses from within your CRM support tools.
On the anvil for Get Satisfaction are a slew of features including a major overhaul of their widgets capabilities, allowing you to, "be where your customers are, anywhere and everywhere." In addition, the solution's developers are working to develop an Android app of the software.
But, those are technical details about the software. I found the philosophy behind the software pretty appealing.
Much like conversations in real-life and social networks, the discussions on Get Satisfaction are chaotic and undisciplined. In this, they resemble real-life interactions with customer representatives. Online community building has, so far, largely been a private, personal, and opaque affair. Reading through customer comments on Get Satisfaction, was like reading through a Facebook feed. Criticisms, opinions, and kudos melded into a single feed. I would say this is the greatest unique selling point for the solution.
The Basics: What Does It Look Like?
In its choice of interface, the solution resembles major social networks. This means that all discussions and questions are displayed in a feed format. Comments are looped around feeds. So, administrators can add, revise or delete comments for particular posts. Configuring parameters within the system is also a relatively easy task since the solution's developers had thoughtfully added wizards for each task.
Is It For You?
I like the fact that Get Satisfaction takes a different perspective of customer support. Besides the fact that it gives you an unvarnished view of your customers, it is a novel and interesting way to engage customers and listen in on their conversations. At the risk of sounding trite, I would venture that reviewing Get Satisfaction was, indeed, a satisfying experience.