Making Customer Communities Work

Ann All

Last week I wrote about a Deloitte report that found plenty of unrealized potential in the customer communities hosted by companies in an effort to boost customer loyalty and interest in their products. Most communities had fewer than 500 members, found Deloitte's study, and many companies find it difficult to engage these customers.

Yet the success of communities like Dell's IdeaStorm, which helped the company reverse negative customer perceptions of its brand, plus the popularity of communities created by customers themselves for brands like IKEA and Harley-Davidson, will surely inspire more companies to launch communities.

ZDNet's Dion Hinchcliffe offers a list of a dozen best practices that should improve the odds that such communities will succeed. A few of my favorites:

  • The technology should take care of itself, thanks to the number of solid tech platforms from which companies can choose, Hinchcliffe points out. The biggest challenges, and thus the areas where companies should direct the most effort, involve the social architecture of the community and other cultural issues.
  • Companies must be willing to hand over a great deal of control to members of the community.
  • Involving business users from throughout the company -- not just marketing types -- can help create momentum for fledgling communities.
  • To achieve the maximum benefit from customer communities, tie them to other aspects of CRM strategy, such as customer service and lead generation.

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