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A Guide To Support Communities

06.29.2013
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Looking back on my blog, Riding the Social Wave: Social Support Part 2, I realized there is room to provide more direction on a critical area: how to effectively use a customer-facing community in a business-to-business scenario. At Jive, every customer receives a private space in our customer-facing community (the Jive Community) to discuss sensitive topics. Any customer at Jive can also create a discussion in a public space or group in the Jive Community. Anyone can join the Jive Community, browse the public spaces and groups to learn about our product offerings, and hear from other customers. For business-to-business companies, setting up private and public groups is essential. Here are some tips:

Create Private Spaces

If you are a Jive customer, your private group consists of only your own employees and Jive's customer service representatives to ensure privacy. Creating private spaces and groups in your support community:

  • Create a private space for each of your customers. This is critical to avoid privacy concerns and allow for open conversation between your customers and your employees.
  • Create problem-specific groups in customer spaces.  In the customer space, you can also create customer groups to address issues specific to your customer.  This is an incredibly resourceful way of organizing your company documentation about your Support Communities.

Create Public Spaces

Unlike other social platforms, you can customize your customer support community and make it quick and easy. Additionally, you're able to create a community of customers that can help their peers. Creating public spaces and groups in your support community:

  • Create spaces for your different product or service offerings.
  • Provide common Q&A information in each of public spaces.
  • Link to these spaces on the homepage of your support community. Make it easy for customers to navigate to these different groups from the homepage of your customer community.
  • Regularly share plans and pertinent information to build loyalty. Give people a reason to visit the community. This is the best place to talk up your achievements, plans, and highlight customer success.

Create an engagement process for your gatekeepers/staff

  • Use gatekeepers (community managers or support staff) to control content-flow between customers and employees, keeping your company voice.

  OR

  • Have individual staff respond to inquiries and coordinate internally.

This process in practice is illustrated below. Starting on the left, you have your customers and their options for finding information in your customer community.  Then comes the role of your gatekeepers or individual staff, controlling the flow of information from internal resources to the customers. And last, your social intranet, where answers are being determined to respond to customer questions and concerns, product release schedules, etc.

Customer+Support+Communities.png

The Jive Support Space is a good example of this:  Support Space.  Inside this space we have a variety of other links to important areas of information, such as Social Business Space, our highly successful Developer Space, and our essential Website Information & Feedback Space where we regularly get feedback from customers.  We then have spaces on our social intranet where Jive employees collaborate on responses to inquiries through those spaces in the Jive Community.

Be sure to organize all your spaces and content in a manner that can grow and evolve. For more information on creating a successful customer community, download this resource kit.

How have set up your customer community? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories!

Published at DZone with permission of Jive Community, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)