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I'm eager to hear how the beta is progressing since this was posted. I went to take a look at the community but realized it's entirely behind a login still.
As for the time allotment question, it's a very good one. I'm actually interested to hear from one of my colleagues, who works within our own professional services team, on how she approaches time spent on community. Jennifer Kelley, figured this is probably something that's come up here and with others over the years.
From my perspective on this topic, I think it's a lot more about focusing expertise on the different areas of the community (ie: Jenn and I focus on the strategy and education side of Jive-x, while others are technical wizards). With good topic based organization, certain PS members can follows areas they might contribute the most to. But that doesn't mean they need to jump into every thread, with the obvious intention of most sites encouraging the peer-to-peer aspect instead, unless it makes sense to chime in or add key assets to. A thriving community can't really ever be broken down by set amount of hours or work flows, it's much more fluid than that. But I do agree that it will be important for your team to more directly tie time spent on the community (however much that may be) with value driven for end users and their own projects.
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Saranya, I am a long-time member of our Professional Services team here at Jive, so beyond sharing general adoption insights can also empathize and share some personal thoughts as well!
Before I dive in, I wanted to say that you've touched on something all external community managers need to consider - internal stakeholder engagement is so critical to the success of an external community. It's easy to look past as you're focused on this as a customer engagement endeavor and think mostly about how you onboard, enable and engage them. In our Jive-x consulting I try to focus just as much on internal stakeholder onboarding and adoption as a key to success, as you're going to need them to engage your customers successfully.
First, some GENERAL rules of thumb that help with adoption / internal stakeholder engagement, regardless of job function/department... and here I'd echo the very solid advice Toby Metcalf already shared...
- UTILITY is probably the most important driver of adoption. Do your stakeholders understand how this channel / platform helps them do their job or accomplish things they care about? Sometimes the disconnect is in creating the utility and sometimes it's more just an awareness / understanding problem and connecting the dots for them.
- People are incredibly literal and time-constrained. Show, don't tell, make it really easy for them to picture themselves being successful in this model. This is where a strong advocate strategy and peer models helps so much. You might consider a pilot to show how one account team or project was much improved via the community. Answer the (implicit) question, "what's in it for them?"
- Executive engagement is critical. Actual participation is great, but at the least having an executive speak to how this aligns strategically to company goals and why this matters and will benefit everyone helps a lot.
- Be mindful of the degree of change you are asking of your stakeholders. Is it to engage in a whole new way (change management) or a more modest shift of a familiar process to a new platform/toolset (transition planning)? Make sure to offer training and support accordingly.
- Leverage the principles and tools of gamification. Here I do not mean just the feature set of Jive or Bunchball, but the concepts of recognizing and rewarding "ideal" behaviors and top performers.
Second, some thoughts specific to Professional Services and billable people -
- Stay focused on proven use cases and aligning to business processes and outcomes they identify with. So avoid open-ended, general collaboration. Set a model around specific account and/or project collaboration down to granular elements they understand like shifting meeting notes and status updates or project coordination. Create a pilot case study if you can - identify a team who wants to set the model and help evangelize?
- Help them align this to their performance metrics or at least avoid anything perceived as punitive for participating in your community. This could take the form of telling them to bill for customer engagement time within the community just as you would in other channels or, where warranted, some place they can bill time related to preferred participation in the community, etc.
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Good day Saranya,
Finding hours in the day is tough not matter department.
Why I need you:
1. Your are a trusted knowledge source
2. I really need your help
3. Customers value our interaction
4. Educated customers open fewer cases and use the product more
What I need:
1. 3 hours a week
2. I may send you up to 4 discussions / questions to review and respond to
3. Here are best practices for participating
1. How much time can you contribute per week?
2. What are you worried about regarding participating?
Hope that is helpful.
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Saranya, I know this post is a few months old, but this is a great topic and something I struggle with as well. Our community is just over a year old, is a closed, customer community, and we are working to increase adoption and engagement.
Unlike you, our professional services (Client Success) team is pretty engaged in our community, however, engagement from other divisions of our internal team is limited. My best advice is to start small and make engaging easy for them. They are the customer facing product experts in our company, so their engagement is critical to the success of our community, but they do have billable hours and packed schedules so I have to keep that in mind and not expect too much. Having buy in and support from the team lead is very important, so if you're still struggling, I would work on getting that person on board first.
The agreement I have with the Client Success team is this:
- We have an Insiders blog and our I have scheduled blog posts with each of our consultants so that one new blog post on a technical topic of interest to our customers is posted once per week. I rotate through the group so they are only committed to writing one blog post every 2 months. They are welcome to write more if they are interested and have time. I have a spreadsheet with the schedule for the year that I share with them and update regularly with the topics they choose to write about or topics that we need to have covered, and I share this with the team via Google Docs so everyone knows the expectations and schedule. I also sent calendar reminders to each person on the team so their blog posts are on their calendar and there is no excuse for them not to participate. When a consultant does not meet the deadline for their scheduled post, I follow up with them and Cc the team lead. My biggest message to the team is that fresh, relevant content is what drives engagement with our customers and I rely on them to help provide that, as they're the subject matter experts in our company.
- We also have an "Ask the Experts" space that acts as an alternative to calling product support. We have really great response times in this space and are noticing customers using it more and more. In addition to onboarding new customers and doing customer training / engagements, our consultants also have support desk shifts. The person scheduled for support duty is responsible for monitoring this space for questions and responding.
I recognize contributions by the team by thanking them and highlighting their blog posts in our client newsletter.
Our community is a work in progress, but these are some ideas that have been successful for us. My next step is to get more engagement from other departments in the company, which is what I'm working on building a plan for now.
Best of luck to you and I'd be curious to hear an update from you on how things are going.