According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, 89 percent of consumers will spend more with companies that allow them to find answers to their questions online. And 70 percent expect businesses to give them the ability to do so.
One of the best ways to empower customers to independently discover information about your product, service, or brand? Set up a community forum with community software, a tool specifically designed for creating digital gathering spaces. It enables users to discover solutions without having to contact customer support (while also reducing agents’ workload). Pick the right community software, and you’ll be set to grow a following of loyal fans.
What is community software?
Community software is a platform that allows people to interact and share information online. In a customer support context, this type of software enables support managers to build a space where customers can get answers to their questions from other users. Companies can also add employees to the community, so they’re able to provide solutions and advice when customers can’t.
Community software vs. forum software: What’s the difference?
Sometimes, people use the terms forum software and community software interchangeably because they share some of the same features. The most significant similarity is that customers can start discussions and respond to existing ones in both types of tools.
But there are a few differences. Forum software helps you create online “bulletin boards” where members can post questions or issues about your product and get replies from other customers. Community software does so much more—it also lets you:
- Track posts and view analytics so you can make data-driven decisions to improve the customer experience.
- Create a branded experience (i.e., use your logos, colors, fonts, etc.) to customize the look and feel of your community forum.
- Organize discussions and posts according to product platforms, customer segments, and level of support required.
- Integrate with your knowledge base, ticketing system, or CRM to consolidate user data.
Add content formats—such as audio, video, polls, and surveys—to your posts.
While both tools are useful, community software offers more robust features than forum software when it comes to engaging and understanding customers.
Features of community software
The best community software will offer user roles, notifications, and content categories right out of the box. After that, look for the following features in your community software:
Many companies offer multilingual support to their international customers who don’t speak English. If that’s the case with your business, you’ll want software that supports various languages to simplify navigation and content creation in your community. That way, you won’t spend extra time and money on building custom software to support additional languages.
Your community software should sync with most of the other tools you use for customer support. At the very least, it should integrate with your knowledge base and ticketing system. That way, a moderator can quickly point customers in the right direction if your knowledge base has answers. Alternatively, the post can be turned into a ticket so agents can promptly follow up when the community can’t deliver solutions.
Built-in analytics are available in some community software. But you may need to integrate the software with an advanced analytics tool (like Google Analytics) to gain deeper insights into your community’s performance.
Choose software that allows customization. This enables you to add your company’s logo, art, and general design preferences to your customer community. Keep in mind that you may need to buy a domain or subdomain or upgrade your plan to unlock these customization options with certain community software.
Default community software URLs typically look like this: [company name].[community software].com. When you buy a subdomain, you can change it to support.[company name].com.
Incorporate your brand’s colors, fonts, graphics, or anything else to make it feel and look like an extension of your website. A customer community with your existing user interface will look trustworthy to incoming members and give credence to the authenticity and legitimacy of your community.
Content and moderation options
Third-party integrations or embeds should permit members to post the content they desire in your community. However, some community software limits the content that users can post, so read the fine print carefully before you buy.
Moderators help thriving communities run smoothly. Look for software that provides your community managers with the moderation options they need to successfully run the community. Good community software gives moderators the necessary permissions so that members don’t flout community rules and engagement guidelines.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Make it easy for customers to find the information they’re seeking by picking software with SEO features. If you’re using SEO-driven software, users will be more likely to find your community’s answers on search engine results pages (SERPs) when they’re trying to troubleshoot issues. Ranking high on SERPs will help you control the narrative around your product or service and drive relevant traffic to your site, not third-party sites.
You can get a sense of a solution’s SEO capabilities by reviewing the content formatting options. Properly formatted header tags—H1, H2, and H3—are one sign that your community posts can be properly formatted for search engines. It’s also ideal to buy community software that uses artificial intelligence to detect and remove duplicate content. This helps you avoid content cannibalization and ensures that relevant pages stand a chance of ranking.
Why you should invest in community software
First and foremost, a strong community will benefit your customers who want to find answers and information on their own. They’ll get the experience they want, so they’ll be more likely to stick with your brand.
Along with customer loyalty, you’ll enjoy numerous other benefits by investing in community software.
Gain customer insights
Companies can now get customer feedback in many ways. Social platforms, email, SMS, and online review sites allow consumers to express their opinions about a product, service, or business. But these channels can be noisy. Think of how many posts you see on your social feed or how many emails you get in a day, and it’s easy to see why collecting feedback can be complex.
Supplement those channels by asking for input through your community. You can run polls or surveys or dive into your community’s analytics to see what customers are saying about you. This community-based feedback can help you uncover product features, brand messaging, and support policies that create better customer experiences and boost retention.
Improve the customer experience
According to our CX Trends Report, more than 60 percent of shoppers have higher customer service standards now than they did before the pandemic. Consumers want fast response times and empathetic agents on their preferred channels.
Keep your customers happy by setting up your community to provide quick resolutions. When customers ask questions that other community members can’t answer, a moderator or community manager should be on hand to provide a solution or route the customer to a support agent. Some community software also allows agents to see customers’ profiles, giving them the context they need to respond promptly and deliver a positive experience.
Easily manage customer data
Brands can build communities on social media, but they won’t entirely control their customer data. Social platforms can sell customer data to third parties—some of whom might be your competitors—without your knowledge. Or worse, they can shut down or change policies at any moment.
When you use community software, you own and manage all your customer data. This reduces or eliminates the risk of data misuse and enables you to personalize experiences based on customer information.
Deliver excellent customer experiences with community software
Community software will empower your customers to find answers on their own and prompt them to connect with fellow users. Aside from providing better customer service experiences, it will also help you control the narrative around your brand and products and encourage buyers to return to your site.
Zendesk’s community management software can help you worry less and focus more on building a valuable, thriving community. You’ll be able to gather relevant insights, turn posts into tickets, and create meaningful customer experiences that foster loyalty.