And reduce your support costs?
Well, we’ll let you in on customer support’s best-kept secret: your own customers.
Your customers are a wealth of knowledge about your product or service. They ask your support team questions that other customers may have already asked and gotten answers to. So why not create a space where they can search for answers and share knowledge, instead of sending them straight to a support ticket queue?
The benefits of connecting your customers in an online community are vast and varied. You might see improved brand awareness or customer loyalty. You will gain valuable insight into your product.
But one area where communities are particularly effective is reducing customer support costs.
Aberdeen found that firms using an online community platform improve (decrease) support costs by 32.9% year-over-year, whereas those without it observe 2.7% worsening (increase).
How exactly does this work?
Let’s look at 4 ways to reduce your support costs by deflecting support tickets and making your customer support processes more efficient.
1. Reduce Support Tickets
In addition to posting new questions, customers can begin by searching the community for someone who’s had a similar problem. It’s likely other customers have asked and answered the same question. This is key to reducing support tickets, not to mention enabling customer success and improving customer satisfaction.
Over the past two years, Jama Software’s support ticket volume decreased by 28 percent. Jama can attribute much of this to their community, because their customers go to the community with questions before submitting support tickets. Jama’s Manager of Technical Support, Kristina King, mentioned that many of the tickets the support team does receive begin with the words, “I searched in the community, but couldn’t find the answer.”
Kristina noted this implies “an untold number of tickets that are never submitted because customers are trained so well to search the community first.”
As customers ask questions and discuss with each other, they build a huge store of information and resources. Even when customers do create a formal ticket, 73 percent of Jama’s responding staff have found many inquiries can be solved easily by linking a customer directly to the best resource on the community.
2. Connect Customers with Customer Advocates
Customer-to-customer interactions are powerful. Without an online community, your customers don’t have much exposure to your advocates. But when they can easily connect, your brand advocates can jump in to answer questions and share their enthusiasm for your product.
Your power-users or advocates can also answer questions from a user’s perspective. Customers can strike up conversations with those ambassadors, even reaching out to specific people who frequently post about certain topics.
The benefits? Your customer advocates feel empowered and important, other customers’ questions are answered, and your support team can focus on escalated tickets. (Bonus: More customer sales.)
Your customer support team is vital, so help them prioritize the most important tickets by giving your brand advocates a way to help.
3. Integrate with Ticketing Systems
Just because customers can answer each other’s questions doesn’t mean your customer support team becomes obsolete. Sure, communities can do a lot for customer support, but what if a customer can’t find the answer?
Many community platforms integrate with ticketing and support systems, which is the perfect way to segue them into a traditionally structured support system. With the push of a button, a customer can create a support ticket, sending an entire thread to a support representative. The support team can see the complete online history of the customer’s problem. Rather than having to retell the whole story, your support team starts the conversation already knowing the backstory, suggestions, and comments from the thread.
More time saved? Boom. More efficient processes? Boom.
Community doesn’t detract from customer support, and customer support doesn’t detract from community. Instead, they’re partners, tag-teaming to give customers the best experience possible.
4. Keep Customers Updated
Here’s another reason to connect online community activity with support tickets. If your support team receives the same thread ten times in a week, they can post an update: “Several customers have had this problem, and here’s the answer,” or “We’re working on finding a solution.”
Communities allow you to be proactive and admit when there’s a problem. If the solution is easy, or if it’s something you’re working to resolve, you’ll save your support team time and money by posting an update explaining what’s going on.
Will an Online Community Reduce Your Support Costs?
How do you know when it’s time to create an online community for your company?
First, look at all the tickets, inquiries, or calls you receive in a month. How many of them are the same or similar? How many of them are easy answers? And how many hours/dollars are being spent to answer all those easy, redundant questions?
An online community can’t answer every question or solve every case, but community can help decrease a significant portion of your support ticket volume (to the tune of 28 percent or more). Rather than putting customers into a support queue as soon as they have a problem, improve your customer satisfaction and give them a way to help each other.
For more ideas on how to improve customer support and reduce support costs, visit our Customer Support Success Kit. (It's free - no need to fill out a form to access it.)
Editor's note: This post was originally published by Molly Talbert in March 2016 and has since been refreshed to make sure we're bringing you the latest and greatest.