Access to an online community is often a full service in itself. The moment attention to customer service slackens, the whole operation collapses. Building and maintaining an effective online community provides its own set of unique challenges, but it also has numerous advantages. The rubber fully meets the road when you’re able to use your community to provide a service and use it to address the individual concerns of your consumers.
Business technology is changing by the minute. In a marketplace that continues to grow in sophistication and scope you may ask yourself, “How do I build a community and use it to provide service?” Why not take a peek over the fence to see how your neighbor is doing business? Let us help you with a sneak peak at four very different working professionals and how they employ their online communities in providing on-demand customer service.
Encourage Organic Growth
Gregg Weisstein, Co-Founder and COO of BloomNation, operates a floral marketplace to provide flower delivery services in nearly 3,000 cities, drawing from over 2,000 local florists. As you might guess, building an online community for such an endeavor was essential.
If you ask Weisstein how he does it, he'll tell you that it's all about injecting both transparency and incentive. By aligning your interests with those of your online community, the growth will be organic and the benefits will be prolific.
"BloomNation is a marketplace for local florists. We rely entirely on our community of local florists to be our customer service. When you purchase an arrangement through us, there is 100% transparency between the florist and the customer. They both get each other’s contact information and are encouraged to work together on any questions or issues. Because the customer knows the name of the florist that they ordered from, the florist is incentivized to do the best possible job in hopes of retaining a repeat customer. Although the customer is shopping on BloomNation, our community of florists who are supplying the arrangements are obtaining new customers, not just fulfilling new orders.
We are competing against massive incumbents that spend tens of millions of dollars monthly on advertising. We are unable to compete on the same scale and rely heavily on our online community to spread the word. We have thousands of boots on the ground across the country providing us a cheap and effective grassroots marketing campaign. Local florists are proud to be a part of BloomNation, and marketing themselves as a member distinguishes them as a premier artisan florist."
Employing Effective Interactivity
Mentors Guild is a service that makes it easy for businesses to find and engage with leading management consultants and executive coaches directly. When catering to such a vast client pool, CEO Iqbal Ashraf will be the first to tell you that fostering an online community will pay huge dividends in the customer service department. To get started you have to give potential clients a reason to seek you out. He advises that interactivity works better than stiff unactionable content.
"Management Consulting typically starts with a free initial consultation, where the consultant tries to understand the business's needs and the scope the project, and then starts discussing a contract. Almost all advice is paid advice. We are trying to change that via our offering, 'Ask An Expert,' where business executives can ask questions on complex topics for free, anonymously!
By implementing this configuration, our potential clients can directly interact with our consultants. We have an online community which is almost on auto-pilot, and meets a real need, instead of just having a high-volume of meaningless posts."
Making Introductions: Customer, Meet Service Provider
Nikel Nirmel, founder and CEO of Lawdingo Inc., knows all about using an online community to create customer service. Nirmel feels that if you focus on acting as an effective liaison between your consumers’ desires and your online community's skills, the needs of both parties will be met.
"Lawdingo has built a community of lawyers and consumers who connect online for initial legal consultations. It's like a dating site, except people hope to find a lawyer, not a romantic partner. We wouldn't have any customers without our community because consumers and lawyers both use Lawdingo almost entirely to connect with one another.
Without our community of users seeking legal help, our lawyers would leave. Without our growing community of lawyers across the US, our users wouldn't use Lawdingo. But we're not seeing lawyers defecting or consumers’ needs going unmet. The network effects of a growing user base in communications based business are very clearly making it easier to acquire and retain each additional user."
Making Win-Win Scenarios
Nicholas Conley, a 27-year-old pharmacy student from North Carolina, has always had a passion for helping the community and those around him. He founded Healing Arts Club, which not only helps its consumers, but also makes use of an online community to do so. Conley's experience speaks to the idea that growth is inevitable if you build a solid community. Healing Arts Club is able to service its customers through the use of memberships. The perks of those memberships are offered by an online community which is more than happy to participate, because they get customers out of the deal.
"The Healing Arts Club is an online community that brings healthy minded individuals together where they can share healthy tips and encourage one another to participate in a healing art activity. The club provides exclusive discounts and promotional pricing to members to help make the healing arts more affordable and more readably available.
I've been getting a huge amount of support from the community. Each individual clinic has been extremely thankful for the opportunity to be involved and in doing so has expanded my reach across 18+ healing art providers in the area. This has helped me grow my business to reach several cities across the area with the promise to expand across the state by the end of the year."
Big Value in Big Ideas
Here at Badgeville, we believe that a key goal in building a successful online community is to provide an environment that encourages ongoing, long-term engagement, and one very effective way to achieve that ongoing engagement is through gamification. Creating value for both the consumer and the service provider are also sure building blocks for success. Doing business online has become a great equalizer in the marketplace. Expensive tools and resources are no longer the most important assets to a business. They are being replaced by the communal sharing of new ideas. As the business owners in this post have demonstrated, it behooves you to make sure you and your business are on the forefront of community building.