Freitag, 12. Oktober 2012

best practice guidelines for implementing profitable service-community

This professional post aims to provide some practical guidelines & recommendations for integrating a community solution over varied social media channels. It is based on our real-world experience with a variety of clients in Germany.

Social media by itself is no fun for business. It’s a world with zero structure, no rules and no real identities. With that, the massive adoption of social networks has changed forever people’s expectation of service and availability. Your customer expects you to be there for them and by fact would work with businesses that are accessible directly from their social circles. Even clients of most conservative businesses are spending considerable amount of time on social networks; exchanging thoughts, ideas, experiences and suggestions.

The buzz of social media and community oriented websites has created a false illusion that things are going to work in the speed of “LIKE” but reality shows a totally different picture. In fact, most businesses that chose to follow the social-shortcuts failed to show improvement on the most important measurements: availability, service quality, SEO, brand building and profitability.

With this post we would try to share our ideas & recommendations for successful community integration.

About Hiogi GMBH
Hiogi GMBH is a German based company that has invented one of the world’s most intelligent  client Interaction platforms, we call it “Service-community”. It is a safe, simple and cost-effective way to promote businesses  with better client service, self-expanding SEO and brand advocacy.

Our Products
Hiogi’s products are fully customizable and are based on solid work-flow to connect your business securely with clients over any social media channel. Our Service-Community can work as a service or locally at the client side as a complete white-label solution. The platform itself supports external modules integration, single sign-on, multi-level moderator and all the common social media features. The platform can work across varied social media channels and consolidate the content on the go.

Business Targets:
All our recommendations below are aimed to help our clients with achieving the following business targets:
1. Increase revenues and profitability of the e-commerce portals
2. Improve pre-sale, on-site and post-sale client experience with community integration
3. Improve service quality and availability while reducing related costs
4. Strengthening brands and corporate image for wider target group over new social channels
5. Capitalize on genuine user-generated content with service-as-marketing and self expandable SEO
6. Maintain security, control and corporate reputation

Suggestions and ideas

Especially in the rapidly changing era of social media, it is important not to confuse the art of the possible with the art of the profitable!

Below are some tips and recommendations we gathered while integrating service-community solutions with our clients:
1. The core infrastructure should be applied to all social media channels regardless of the underline platform (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Etc.). The channels should be centrally managed and the content should flow through the optimization engine to be reused as an self expandable SEO promotion. Further, the system should support solid work-flow and priority. It is not a question of how many admin / moderator are allowed, it is how they can make the content work-flow effective, simple to use and supportive for the client.
2. The content funnel: the content funnel concept is based on the idea that any interaction with the client (pre-sale, post-sale and promotion) has sustainable value. When for example, people are calling or sending emails, the second the service person answers the clients question, the value will disappear. In the offered concept, the content will be automatically optimized, structured and reused to promote your business objectives in a given stage of the shopping process.
3. On site experience (pre-sale / sale process):  the idea at this stage is not only to get the user to complete his purchasing but also to strengthen the brand, increase repeated sales, create an exciting shopping experience and build client loyalty. This can be achieved by a combination of several components and based on the practice of giving the client tangible value and sticky experience. There are several elements we experience GOOD results with our clients:
3.1:  Shopper club: The shopper club should be carefully integrated to the community and should offer exciting value for the client, but at the same time promotes the business objectives. Some examples include getting VIP support , discount, special birthday deals and Etc. The shopper club should be based on a virtual currency (like the miles collection with airlines). Those miles should have good value for the client; promote client loyalty and repeated purchasing. The value and special offers should be dynamically connected to the user s profile and shopping habits.
3.2: Contextual widgets: the contextual widgets should automatically display questions and answers related to the current and specific user location. Example: when a user is looking on a specific product or area, the system should display the thoughts and ideas that other members who had purchased the product before shared. The widgets works on a page level and are good for the client and for the page ranking.
3.3 Product community rating: When this mechanism is well managed it shows a high value for clients. Example: when users built a nice combination of clothes and save it as a specific style, by the product – the system can display the ideas from other users. Many times, good ideas, will lead to purchase. Further – user questions and comments about this product.
3.4 Community favorite products and discussions: use the interlinks between the community members (follow me and “like” functionality) to offer relevant products. Sometimes users would follow members they like and adopt some of their shopping habits.
3.5 Questions & Answers: at any point of time, the user should be able to ask the community a question and get a fast answer from real people. Static Q&A are a fun killer and users need the personal touch, even in a virtual world. These questions should go through moderated channels and with priority triggers.
4. Post-sale & customer service: the direct target of this stage is to improve service quality, reduce cost related to client service (and overload on call centers) and increase availability of the company to its client over new social-media channels. This can be achieved with a well deployed service-community. Below are some recommendations:
4.1 Supports should be available for clients 24/7 from their social channels. Clienst should be able to ask the community directly from facebook, from their email, from their web and Etc. The first golden rule is: make it easier than picking up the phone and calling.
4.2 Client helping client concept:  Allow premium members to moderate the sessions and answers clients. Offer them virtual mileage for their help.  Allow users to comment, but introduce a 2-way-handshake mechanism to ensure the quality of the reply.
4.3 The community moderator should be notified about trends in real time. In the longer term, this moderator could be a part of the community and save a lot of money for the call centers and identify problems with specific products.
4.4 Powerful results: it is critical to offer the user answers to similar questions as he clicks. Our experience shows that this feature helps to reduce the pressure of the support center. In our postbank service-community deployment, this feature shows great results. The golden rule: make it easier on the client to find answers than to call.
4.5 Content management and indexing: all correspondences should be collected and automatically organized. Similar questions and answers should be merged and indexed together.
5. Dynamic FAQ module: this module is important to optimize the value / appearance and indexing of the content. As the community presents many interactions over specific topics, it is important to generate best practice / FAQ. The system should automatically identify the most common questions and answers and allow the moderator to merge it and generate a single instance of best answer! This could be as PDF or as a dynamic FAQ on the website. It is GREAT for the user and wonderful for SEO as well. These Q&A should have higher priority when displayed to the client.
6. Marketing community / Campaign manager module: with this module, you can promote specific product / marketing campaign. The idea is to post pre-defined and well tuned questions and answers as a user generated content. This method shows GREAT SEO results when it balances well  with the community interactions.
7. Thematic communities: as many clients  deals with a variety of products, it would be recommended to create topic based communities. The keywords and tags should be managed as a tree structure, and with separated optimization. It is important to isolate the users from the underline differences and allow them to be active in their community of interest with a single sign on. In some cases, users can be invited to write blogs and ideas about specific products. These should be posted on the thematic communities. Every community should have a static (optimized) part and a dynamic  one – based on user generated content.
The guideline, tips and recommendation above are based on our experience with service-community integration. Hiogi GMBH has over 5 years of hand-on experience with building successful service communities to clients in Germany. We focus on make social-media profitable for our clients.
We would be happy to provide more information per request, and help your business  with the successful deployment of such an important project.