The evolution of choice in e-commerce has naturally resulted in a revolution in customer care. In an increasingly connected and competitive global market, brands must compete for the attention and loyalty of customers who have more options and choices than ever before. This competition extends to customer care providers—and customer service professionals are finding forward-thinking and creative ways to meet these expectations, including the creation of brand communities to support customer care.
Whether you’re a burgeoning startup with a ten-member team, or a blue-chip corporation with millions of customers all over the world, brand communities are a crucial part of a business strategy that prioritizes customer loyalty, product and service knowledge, and research and development. A brand community is a space unique to your brand where customers can interact, share knowledge and experience, and become a part of the brand beyond their purchase. Brand communities allow supporters to dive deeper into the ethos behind their favorite brands, ingest behind-the-scenes stories, and gain insider knowledge from their peers and from internal brand thought leaders.
Every competitive brand should be researching the various aspects of building a brand community and the importance of a community moderator. Think of a community moderator as a sherpa: guiding the vision of the group toward the height of its stated ideals, helping avoid any treacherous interpretations of the brand map, listening to members and pulling them back onto the grand but narrow path toward the brand vision, while improving the vision along the way. A moderator is more than a supervisor: they should be a teacher-amongst-peers. A study group leader. A confident companion along an adventurous path.
Community moderators accomplish this task in several ways. For example, by presenting the community with a question or a topic discussion, they can create a space to hear valuable insight on their product or service offering while giving community members a chance to build relationships. By flagging, reporting, or removing inappropriate behavior and language, a community moderator can help protect the community and maintain the brand deals.
All of this results in brand community members having a place to be heard, a place to field and receive questions and concerns, and a way to build relationships with the brand and with like-minded brand supporters. A good way to think about branding is like language: a good brand can speak its language directly to you. A great brand provides language for you to speak back. But an elite brand creates an ethos and an environment for brand supporters to speak the language among themselves. A community moderator, then, is like a foreign language instructor, monitoring conversation and providing translation when necessary.
While brand communities have provided space for customers to solve problems with their peers, some customers prefer a more attentive, hands-on, or guided customer experience. For these supporters, customer service agents are critical. Living in the age of data means that your brand has more information than ever on prospective and existing customers. Detailed personal information is available to any company looking to target their advertising and nurture their relationship with their most likely prospective consumers.
Today’s customer service agents differ from agents in the past because the old service model of one-size-fits-all is no longer competitive. Data-native customers expect a personalized customer service experience, and the companies who get it right are certainly reaping the rewards.
To get an idea of the profitability of customer service agents, look no further than Apple. The tech leader’s attention to customer service can be observed throughout the buyer journey, from the attentive in-store associates who help identify the best solution for your needs and budget to the Apple Care specialists who are only a phone call away with your device’s serial number and Apple ID to the Apple Geniuses who diagnose and fix your device (hopefully). Apple even optimizes its customer service through tech and content by providing software and hardware tutorials in their many Apple retail locations and engaging chatbots to answer questions and point Apple users to relevant articles in the rare instances when Apple specialists are unavailable by phone. All of these customer service facets create a brand that drew profits of nearly $60 billion in 2018, making it the second most profitable company on earth.
As you adjust and update your customer service strategy, consider investing in brand communities as a way to drive customer service innovation. While every brand community or customer service agent model may not be for you, the right customer experience management platform and the right strategy will improve sales and drive customer loyalty, reduce cost, and improve your product and brand image.
For more information on how to update your customer service strategy, contact us.
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