Empowering your customers is an excellent way to build brand loyalty. And brand loyalty? That’s an excellent way to grow your business. 

Ideally, customer empowerment should run through the course of your buying cycle, from educational marketing content to a service-oriented sales approach. But what about after the deal closes? Beyond hiring an ace support team, is there anything else you can do to empower your existing customers?

For many companies, the answer comes in the form of an online community. Online communities can take the form of portals, help forums, support sites and other external-facing tools, and can be easily configured and deployed using Salesforce Community Cloud. Unlike a number of other Salesforce solutions, then, Community Cloud isn’t primarily a way for users to harness data to better serve their audiences — it’s a way to enable and engage those audiences. Instead of making your team more efficient at helping other people with their problems, the idea is to give those people a way to help themselves.

This is great for your bottom line in multiple ways. First, it helps you cut costs, since it takes a lot more time (and therefore money) to loop in a service rep than it does to provide access to free resources. Second, it can even boost revenue because self-service is what customers actually want. According to one study, “web self-service use increased from 67 percent in 2012 to 76 percent in 2014,” and that number has no doubt continued to grow.

So if you’re looking for ways to use Community Cloud to better empower your customers, here are four ideas to get you started.

3 Critical Steps to Becoming Customer Centric

Knowledge Articles

Knowledge articles are exactly what they sound like: Documents containing valuable information. As Salesforce notes, “articles can include information on process, like how to reset your product to its defaults, or frequently asked questions, like how much storage your product supports.” With Salesforce Community Cloud, you can easily make these articles available to your customers. And again, this is what customers want. According to research cited by Help Scout, “of all self-service channels, customers make the most frequent use of knowledge bases.” Even if your company offers world-class phone support, a quick search on the web is probably a more convenient option for the customer.

And while it’s true that you’ll have to set aside some time and money for the creation of your company’s knowledge articles, each piece is a one-time investment that can continue to pay dividends.

Discussion Forums

No matter how many knowledge articles your team writes, however, they’ll never cover the answers to every question a customer might ask. That’s why providing a digital space where customers can ask each other questions is such a valuable thing: Those in need can seek help for granular issues without having to pick up the phone. And it’s not as if a forum can only be used for the kinds of things that qualify as “issues.” Customers might ask one another for advice on how to make the most out of a recent purchase, or suggestions for a potential upgrade. In many cases, these kinds of interactions can engender a transfer of enthusiasm between customers, eventually leading to increased sales.

Research also shows that there are plenty of questions consumers just don’t want to ask a company directly. According to one survey, “84 percent [of brand advocates] say they receive personal questions that shoppers would never consider asking a live sales associate.” Peer-to-peer forums solve this problem perfectly.

Live Chat

Of course, there are also times when a customer does want to speak to a live service agent — just without having to talk on the phone. As Inc. reports, “42% of consumers say that they prefer live chat functions because they don't have to wait on hold.” Fair enough — nobody likes waiting.

By providing a live chat feature via a Salesforce customer community — which you can do pretty easily using a widget called Snap-ins — you’re giving customers a way to communicate that better aligns with their preferences. At a time when providing a great customer experience is so crucially important, this will help separate your company from the competition.

And, yes, this one does demand time and attention from your employees. But unlike handling questions over the phone, live chat enables reps to tackle multiple queries at once, making them much more efficient.

Account Access

If your products require that customers have an account with your company, you really should provide online access to each account holder’s personalized information. A place where they can pay bills, file claims, make appointments and more. It’s 2018: Most customers expect it.

The question, then, isn’t “if” — it’s “how.” The advantage of using Community Cloud to create an online portal is that you can keep customer data in one place without having to integrate Salesforce with other systems. This makes things easier on your end and better ensures that your customers will have a streamlined experience.

When deployed strategically, Community Cloud has the power to reduce your company’s case volume and bring you a significant return on investment. According to research from Forrester, the platform can lead to 50% fewer cases and a 246% ROI — pretty significant numbers. If you’ve got questions about how your organization could be using Community Cloud, let us know! We’d love to help you weigh your options.

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Strategy, Tech

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