Having the long-term support of your customers is absolutely essential these days.
Now that business has so heavily moved online, people have so many options for getting the products and services they need, and getting their attention can be brutally difficult. If you can retain the customers you win — even forming a community around your brand — then you can thrive.
This isn’t easy, though. There will always be a lurking temptation to look elsewhere: to consider alternative value propositions and embrace new businesses (most people welcome novelty). To get customers to stick around and provide your company with steady support, you must provide an outstanding level of customer service.
In this post, we’re going to run through a few tips for enhancing your customer service, looking specifically towards the goal of building and maintaining a strong customer community.
Provide rich and relevant educational materials
Not all customer service is about directly fielding customer queries. In fact, great customer service is often about circumventing the need for that kind of interaction by enabling those in need of assistance to find the answers they’re looking for. The way to do this is though writing informative content to cover the most frequently-asked questions (and anticipate others).
It’s often useful to learn from companies that exist solely to dole out high-value information. You won’t need to go quite so far, but look at how they structure their articles and build everything around what the readers want. Consider a site like OnlineCasinos.co.uk, which covers just about everything you’d want to know about online casinos (specific sites and the industry in general). Carry out keyword research to glean the issues most worth addressing in your niche and create educational materials with the same attention to detail.
Engage with customers through social media
Though it can be quite dreadful, social media is inarguably exceptional for shaping communities when handled delicately. The bigger your brand grows, the more people will choose to talk about it online, and the more mentions it’ll get through Twitter and Facebook. You can’t ignore those mentions. If you do, you’ll come across as ignorant or apathetic.
When people talk about you positively, get involved to thank them. When they talk about you negatively, find ways to address their concerns and complaints (Buffer.com has a handy handbook to help with this). If you can make an identified problem go away, it’ll leave your business looking markedly better (after all, other social media users will be watching, and will come to appreciate that you actually care).
Thank loyal buyers with worthwhile rewards
Communities are all about lasting investment: the longer customers stick around, the more opportunities they’ll have to get to know one another and become more firmly entrenched. That means you need to keep discerning customers around — and the way to do that is by finding suitable ways in which to reward their extended patronage.
Ecommerce companies turn to advanced loyalty programs that keep track of buyer activity and grant them discounts and other incentives when they stick around (see some examples at Sleeknote.com). You can take a manual approach if you’d prefer: just pick out the customers most active in your brand community and send them some messages and gifts.
Create suitably-segmented customer forums
Having an informal community meaning the loose collection of all your customers is often good enough, but you don’t need to stop there. You can actually establish a formal community, and the best way to do that at the moment is to create and maintain some segmented forums. That way, anyone who wants to discuss your products or services can join the relevant areas.
It’s easy enough to create such a community (Freshdesk.com provides a variety of options, for instance), though be mindful that the challenge lies in upkeep, updating, and moderation. Forums inevitably fill up with spam and inappropriate or irrelevant content, and allowing things to get out of control will end up making your brand look worse.