Community Management as Customer Support

Community managers often hold the responsibility of being the face of a company. They are sometimes seen as being very different from customer support personnel, but what exactly is the separation, if any? Social media has become a forum for customers to seek resolution with their issues and leave feedback after dealing with a company. Social media interaction has become an extension of customer support and needs to be dealt with as such. Support has traditionally come from a dedicated support forum or customer service system but that is changing with the times.

How the Community Manager Has Evolved

There is no longer a strong divide between community managers and customer support agents. It's important for companies to have strictly defined roles for each instead of grouping the two together and having one department do it all. Community managers are responsible for creating strategies for listening to and responding to customers as well as getting feedback and handling customer support across different channels such as social media. Community Management has a role that extends across the company to the very core of a business' branding. Customer service skills are required for a community management position and its important for staff to be in touch with customers and what they want from your company. As this role continues to evolve, it's easy to see a clear shift toward community and customer service working in tandem. Here are some of the similar tasks that both community and customer service managers are faced with:

  • Nurturing online communities
  • Responding rapidly to customers
  • Demonstrating transparency and authenticity
  • Using social media metrics to improve customer care
  • Reducing costs of support
  • Building brand exposure via social media
  • Managing public crisis situations
  • Keeping track of conversations about company brand
  • Promoting valuable content to customers

Building a Community Management + Customer Support Strategy

As companies are orienting themselves further in the direction of building a unilateral approach to community management and customer support, it's important to come up with a strategy. Using service as a tool to keep and build your customer base is a huge opportunity, but first it's important to outline responsibilities and set goals.

Define Job Roles

Define which team members will be online and responding to customers during certain time periods. Over time you will gain a better understanding of which customers are retained and which are lost and why.

Identify Customers

It's important to identify who your customers are, which ones are most important and how you can go about deepening those relationships.

Key Metrics

Which metrics are you recording? It's important to pay attention to response time, sentiment and the overall number of customer issues that are reported and resolved.

Setting Goals

Policies, procedures and goals should be clearly set with employees. This includes your specific company etiquette, engagement and response times on social media. Each customer is a specific case and should be treated as such with a dedicated status and owner.

Track Progress

Make sure that the staff is aware of exactly what their responsibilities are and how they can best stay on schedule. They should know precisely what the company goals are and how they can best meet them.

Reactive vs. Proactive

Customer support is traditionally reactive while community management is proactive. Now that these roles are blurring together, it's important to measure success by both how quickly and efficiently you are responding to your community as well as how efficiently you are reaching out and starting conversations. The tactics and skills for each look something like this:

Support

  • Metrics: Response time, customer satisfaction, time to resolve issue
  • Tactics: Help desk, FAQs, support personnel, social media
  • Tools: CRM, support forums, social media networks

Community

  • Metrics: User activity, engagement, retention, customer satisfaction
  • Tactics: Social Media, events, content, advertising
  • Tools: forums, social media networks

It's easy to see that there is quite a bit of overlap between the two. There will always be a need for a dedicated support team, but it's also time for community management to evolve to the next level and work cross-functionally with support.

Michael Buenaventura

July 22, 2015