12 Replies Latest reply: Jun 18, 2012 5:43 AM by RyanSe RSS

    Advice for using Community as customer support channel

    Nicole Fusz

      Hi All,

       

      We've recently started thinking about how to open our non-customer support community up to take on customer support questions.  I'm curious how everyone else manages this on their communities?

       

      At a high level I want the customer support team to sign up for email alerts on the customer support space we have on our community so when a question comes through they can jump in and respond.  How do you manage your community customer support teams?  What features do you use to help make sure all your customer questions are being answered?  Are there any pitfalls you ran into and how did you mitigate?  We seem to have a handle on how to manage support via our social media channels like Twitter, Facebook using HootSuite, but is there such a tool for Communities?

       

      Bonus points for advice from those who have advice for managing teams in multiple regions of the world!

       

      Thanks!

      Nicole

        • Re: Advice for using Community as customer support channel
          mnevill

          I will be interested to see other responses, but in general what we do is have designated SMEs (subject matter experts) for each space. A list of SME responsibilities and options for notifications is below.  They split their time between our community and our normal CRM system used to take customer support tickets.  We are a young community and do not have an unmanageable load of posts yet, so for now we look at each one to make sure an answer was provided. Then sometime after our first response we follow up to mark as assumed answered and prod the customer to select any “Correct” or “Helpful” answers if they exist.

           

          getting started

          • read and become familiar with our Terms and Conditions and Community Code
          • fill out hobbies and interests, certifications, bio, etc in your profile
          • upload a profile pic and choose an avatar


          general duties

          • have a good "pulse" for how things are going
          • what type of conversations belong here vs other places
          • move posts that do not belong to the appropriate place and let the user know with a comment
          • branch (copies to another section while keeping original where it is) vs move (relocates the original thread)
          • take note of repeat questions:
            • if a question has already been answered respond to the post with a link to the other discussion
            • maybe a sign that you need to add tags to original thread
            • mark as featured content
            • maybe a candidate to be converted into a document
            • make sure it is in an appropriate category
          • flag questions as assumed answered on behalf of the user if a viable solution was provided and they have had enough time to respond
          • place posts in relevant categories (if they exist) and add appropriate tags

           

          options to monitor your space

          • RSS reader with http://<community-URL>/community/feeds/unansweredthreads?community=<space ID>
          • receive e-mail notifications for your spaces or track in communications
          • unanswered questions e-mail list (Admin Console > Spaces > Settings > Discussion Settings)
          • watch unanswered questions in your space: Space > Discussions > Open Questions
          • unanswered questions widget for your space

           

          Thanks,

          Matt

          • Re: Advice for using Community as customer support channel
            JasonLax

            SAP Community Network has been doing this for years.  There are tremendous benefits for letting users help users in a self-service format.

             

            Overall, being able to offload some of the support into a community setting reduces demand for traditional support channels (eMail, phone).  Community members benefit from faster response times and gain additional insight from other users worldwide. Furthermore, the interaction between users and company employees, such as developers and product managers, becomes a source for innovation and product improvements since real life experiences are being captured in an accessible and  central way.

             

            The level and type of interactions is something personal: some like getting eMails, others prefer to log on a view what's happening in communications. Newsletters are great.

             

            SCN has a points scheme that rewards users for their interaction.  We call it the Reputation Program and having a good reputation is good measure of a users knowledge of the topic, which might increase their career prospects.  Working worldwide, our moderators are the real heroes of the community: these are employees and non-employees who volunteer to moderate our spaces around the clock. We also, like Matt, have SMEs that 'own' the spaces.  These are usually product managers and have the expert knowledge required to assist moderators when needed.

             

            Maintaining quality and dealing with point hunters are just some of the challenges.  There's also the case where the same questions get asked over and over again because someone didn't look for a similar post beforehand.  Again, the moderators are key here keeping things running smoothly.

             

            Jason

              • Re: Advice for using Community as customer support channel
                RyanSe

                A big +1 to you Jason!

                 

                I totally agree with your points. Having moderators (both types) is key to keeping things running smoothly.

                 

                As long as you can stay on top of the volume things will be great. I see you already stay on top of social media so the same principles are involved.

                 

                And now to address your questions:

                How do you manage your community customer support teams?

                 

                Our teams that watch social media are also responsible for watching related spaces within our external support site. They follow the spaces they support to monitor for discussions, chiming in on discussions that go unanswered. If they don't know the answer, they work with our various subject matter experts to get the info and then reply.

                  What features do you use to help make sure all your customer questions are being answered?  Are there any pitfalls you ran into and how did you mitigate? 

                In addition to the normal day/day activities described above we also do a weekly report that tracks how many unanswered questions there are by space. Where it can get tricky is if users mark as a discussion and not question meaning there isn't a formal "answer". I find that as long as the team is responsive in staying on top of questions, customers will chime in if they are still unhappy thus giving another opportunity to engage in conversation.

                 

                We seem to have a handle on how to manage support via our social media channels like Twitter, Facebook using HootSuite, but is there such a tool for Communities?

                 

                I am not aware of anything specifically designed for Jive Communities.

                 

                Bonus points for advice from those who have advice for managing teams in multiple regions of the world!

                Not multiple regions of the world but we do have multiple teams spread throughout the US so if you just mean "how do you get geographically separated teams to work together" then see above

              • Re: Advice for using Community as customer support channel
                Brice Jewell

                How do you manage your community customer support teams?  What features do you use to help make sure all your customer questions are being answered?

                Management of them is shared by our support organization and our software development organization, primarily the product owners for the solutions. Monitoring and responding to questions in the support communities are just part of their day jobs. For example, the support organization is still answering phone calls and help desk tickets, but they are also answering questions in the community, pointing people to resources, or creating new resources (like a video on how to grab log files and ftp them to us) that ultimately will mitigate future support calls.Our formal support channel (for things that are truly critical) is still through the help desk ticket system, so there are no "guarantees" on the support community like making sure all customer questions are answered in X time frame. Those who follow the community track on unanswered questions just by browsing and by using the unanswered questions widget.

                 

                Are there any pitfalls you ran into and how did you mitigate? 

                Early on, we didn't do enough to set expectations on what kind of response time you should expect from the support communities and the role it played alongside the formal help desk ticket system. We had to do some messaging to clear that up.

                 

                Not a pitfall, but just something to be continuously diligent about, is monitoring responses from the crowd to ensure they are accurate or correcting them when necessary.

                  • Re: Advice for using Community as customer support channel
                    abernard@ashworthcollege.edu

                    Does anyone have recommendations on how to quantify and categorize customer support questions?  Unlike ticketing systems with pre-defined options that make reporting easy, customer support communities are much more free form.  Things aren't always marked as questions, and the same question can be asked in a variety of ways.  I'd like to make a case for the efficiency of social customer support, but it's a challenge gathering the data!  We're thinking about developing a list of tags based on our most frequent customer service issues and applying those to discussions as they're handled by our team, or when they see community members offering peer support.  Any other suggestions?

                      • Re: Advice for using Community as customer support channel
                        mnevill

                        One thing that worked well for us was to structure our spaces based around our products, which our existing support ticketing system (and main website) matches. 

                          • Re: Advice for using Community as customer support channel
                            RyanSe

                            We have taken a similar approach by grouping based on product/service and then doing reporting based on the activity within those spaces. This approach works fairly well for providing us a 30k ft view of what's going on but with hundreds of supported products/services it doesn't give us deep granular reporting and understanding.

                             

                            Here are three approaches we have also used to get data:

                             

                            1. Support teams use a tracker - Spreadsheets, Sharepoint lists, CRM systems and the like....used them all in one form or fashion. Basically the idea is the support individual tracks every interaction they have with customers using both standard categorizations and a free form "tag" field to track additional details that a structured taxonomy wouldn't provide us. Drawbacks: 1) If they didn't have an interaction, we are blind to the data 2) Adds a bit of overhead to their process (15 seconds or so).
                            2. Tagging the content - As mentioned above, having the support folks tag content with specific words then aggregating the data to extract value can be useful as well. Drawback: You need to be careful about the words chosen for tags since customers could incorrectly apply them on their own, potentially skewing your data.
                            3. Audit or statistical sampling - When tracking every interaction in real-time proves difficult, you can always fall back on a focused audit or identify an appropriate sample size then just dig in to review. I've used this approach to prove/disprove a a random hypothesis or folklore that often gets spread around. Drawback: Only gives you an understanding of that snapshot in time, trends can change.

                             

                            So those are a few approaches we have used over the years to get data points. I've found that the more granular you need the data, the more overhead it will generate procedurally so you just need to find the appropriate balance for your specific situation and audience.

                      • Re: Advice for using Community as customer support channel
                        James Chong

                        Hi Nicole,

                        We also run a non-customer support community but it’s inevitable that customers will come to us with customer support related issues. We have a process in place where customer support related issues are escalated internally to our social web support team who will utilize existing processes to route the customer to the appropriate support, whether it’s escalating a question to an SME for a response or connecting the customer on the back-end to traditional customer service groups for account specific assistance. The social web support team acts as a dispatch in this way, in routing customers to the appropriate help. 

                         

                        Thanks,

                        James

                          • Re: Advice for using Community as customer support channel
                            Nicole Fusz

                            Hi James,

                            Thanks for your input - we have a similar approach - the customer posts>our support team gets the post as an email alert to a mailbox we've set up>then they will post back to the Community with the answer typically.   I've realized when the volume starts getting heavy customer questions are lost in the mix - is there anything you do to make sure you don't lose track of a customer's post/question?  Also, how do you track the volume of people they are helping - a lot of our customer support center is measured by the number of "tickets" they close so was wondering if you have integrated any kind of measurement systems to track the work they do?

                             

                            Thanks for your post and input!

                            Nicole

                              • Re: Advice for using Community as customer support channel
                                RyanSe

                                Hi Nicole,

                                 

                                To keep an eye in real time on unanswered questions, you can use the Unanswered Questions widget to see which ones have yet to be marked as answered.

                                 

                                If you have access to the dmp files, I have a few queries you could use to track unanswered questions at a community wide level.

                                 

                                We have also used the same queries to track who is answering the questions so if your process is to have your support folks answer a question then mark their post as "correct" you could use the queries to track their answer productivity including how long the question was "open".  Additionally, we also track the number of messages our support members are posting to track other interactions. This is just for discussions/questions, we do a lot of other tracking for other content types as well.