Are you looking to improve engagement and increase the amount of repeat visitors on your community site? The key to gaining and retaining your customer base is to build a healthy customer community.

Your community is a critical component of your customer support and success strategy. It is a gathering place for your customers to engage with one another and find the answers they are looking for. A vibrant community becomes the hub for your customers to post reviews, discuss problems that they may be having, and share product ideas. Building a strong community for self-service and support will enable you to please your customers by empowering them to solve issues on their own. This will dramatically impact your company’s bottom line by allowing you to drive down support costs.

Ready for a quick health check? Here are 6 ways to ensure a strong customer community:

Have an easy-to-use and intuitive user interface

Empower your customers to self serve with a simple user interface that is:

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Responsive
  • Consistent from one device to another.

These best practices encourage them to engage with your content and boost satisfaction. Arguably the most important part of the user interface and community, but often times undermined, is the search experience. The search box is the first thing customers want to use when landing on a community site, it’s their go-to for finding answers. They don’t want to have to navigate through your different product sections to get to the information they need. Displaying a prominent search bar and offering filtering options and facets will help your customers get to the exact content they need, faster. Remember, your user interface reflects your company as a whole.

Listen to what your data is telling you

All this great work will be done in vain if you don’t analyse your data. Your usage analytics identifies trends and patterns of your customer’s journey on your site. With it you will learn where they are getting stuck, where they are dropping off, and when they are successful. Tracking how they engage within your community, through usage analytics, will provide valuable insight on how to enhance their experience.

Provide Relevant Search Results

Providing relevant results opens the digital dialogue between you and your customers. You can communicate with them through the information you make accessible, and they reciprocate by engaging with it. Every engagement is part of the conversation and allows you to learn a little more about them, what their needs are, and how you can satisfy them.

In order to learn through your customers’ content interactions at scale, you need to leverage the power of machine learning. Through AI-powered search, your community is able to automatically learn what users are searching for, what is making them successful, and continuously improve results for future visitors. In other words, what has made other customers with similar queries successful will impact the success of new users.

In the event your customers are authenticated when visiting your site, you likely have information about who they are, what products they are using, and their history within your company. Use that information to make their interactions more relevant by tuning the results to reflect their profile.

Providing those relevant, contextual and personalized experiences helps your community to find exactly what they’re looking for with minimal effort. This shortens their support journey and gives you the opportunity to recommend other products, allowing you to efficiently upsell and cross-sell.

Keep Your Customers Engaged

Your customers have high expectations for the brands they engage with, and it’s crucial that you meet and exceed them, because if you don’t – your competitors will. Sometimes, your customer will come to you not even knowing what they are searching for. It is your job, however, to figure it out.

Allowing your customers to engage with each other creates a vibrant community and brand loyalty. Your customers can bring you great inspiration and possibly spark ideas for new and improved products. Enable them to interact with your content and fellow customers by making sure they can find relevant discussions, posts and knowledge. Make sure the collective knowledge of your customers and employees is being made accessible from your community, it is your one-stop-shop for everything self-service.

Media guru Charles Leadbeater explains that “You are no longer creating for consumers and then testing it with them. You are creating it with them. Their thinking, needs and desires are expressed in every detail”.

Fill Content Gaps

Content gaps are places in the customer journey where content doesn’t presently exist – or at least it can’t be found. If a customer is searching for something that doesn’t exist, or that’s not being surfaced based on the query they performed, self-service becomes nearly impossible and they will begin to look elsewhere for answers. When content is missing, you will notice higher bounce rates, lower engagement, more cases being created, and a dip in conversions. This can be avoided by looking through your search usage analytics to understand what those gaps are and filling them with new material. You might also find that you’re spending a ton of time and resources on types of content that are not being used. Adjust your strategy based on these findings.

Measure Your Results

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Measuring your results helps you see where the strengths of your self-service strategy are and where there might be shortcomings and areas for improvement. This insight will allow you to develop an appropriate action plan to turn your community into an engagement and case deflection engine.

Some useful KPIs to assess self-service success and engagement on your community are:

  • Click through rate: How many people are performing a search and clicking on one of the results?
  • Click rank: What’s the rank of the item that gets clicked on in the results list?
  • Cases deflected: How many people start to create a support case on your site but abort the process because they were recommended the right answer along the way?
  • Repeat visits: Do your customers come back to your site to engage with more material?
  • Engagement: What are your customers engaging with?
  • Community growth rate: You can measure the amount of customer reviews, new Facebook followers, email subscribers, etc.

These metrics will provide insight to what is and isn’t working within your self-service strategy.

To assess how your community scores on the best practices we just discussed, we invite you to take our Salesforce Community Health Check. This tool will provide you with a lightweight assessment of the search and self-service experiences you deliver to your customers in order to help you identify areas for improvement.