Since customers and companies use many different channels to communicate with each other, it’s often difficult for front-line managers and executives to follow the full thread of customer interactions across multiple touchpoints.
Enabling this end-to-end connection is critical. Companies that are able to conduct seamless and relevant omnichannel customer interactions have been shown to consistently outperform their peers. In fact, a 2013 study conducted by Aberdeen Group reveals that companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies (top 20 percent of companies evaluated) retain 89 percent of their customers on average compared with just 33 percent for other companies.
Collaboration centers provide a central source of knowledge management, establish a source to uncover rich insights, and reduce customer effort. These “hubs” allow companies to engage with their customers across a variety of channels, including social, CRM, voice, email, chat, mobile, and online communities all from one central command center. A cloud-based hub can be used to integrate customer interactions from across a variety of digital channels into a centralized location.
Creating a customer collaboration hub makes sense on a number of levels. By unifying the various touchpoints that customers and employees use to communicate with each other, front-line staffers can obtain a more proactive, comprehensive view of each customer to guide relevant messaging for the next interaction. Using customer analytics and intelligence in the channel of the customer’s choice, representatives can provide additional information about products of interest, or even offer loyalty-based rewards to customers.
Repeatedly refine to continually engage
Building a customer collaboration hub isn’t a one-and-done exercise. Customer experience leaders must avoid static models that offer little incentive for customers to return and interact. Collaboration hubs should be continuously refined and adjusted to adapt to customers’ changing behaviors and interests. Some strategies include the incorporation or expansion of support for preferred channels, as well as the creation and promotion of topic discussions of interest (e.g., best practices among fellow customers for troubleshooting technical challenges with Product X).
An effective way to keep participation rates high is to design and promote collaboration hubs as “go-to” destinations, allowing customers to interact regularly with each other as well as with company officials about popular topics such as new product developments. Successful engagement-building techniques include directly responding to customer suggestions, as demonstrated by Starbucks’ “My Starbucks Idea.”
Another company that has successfully tapped into the passion and excitement of its customers is LEGO Group. As LEGO executives became increasingly aware of the innovations that their customers were sharing with one another via the Internet, they saw an opportunity to create an online community. LEGO created the LEGO Ambassador Program made up of representatives from LEGO user groups around the world. The community, which is represented by 100 members from more than 30 countries who communicate on behalf of their respective user groups, allows adult fans to share ideas with both the company and one another while helping LEGO keep up with user-driven activities going on across various LEGO user groups globally. LEGO’s efforts demonstrate how drawing on customer ideas and feedback can be used to identify potential innovations and new product offerings through a closed-loop communications mechanism. It’s also an effective way of strengthening interest and engagement by making the customer a visible part of company R&D efforts.
In order for collaboration hubs to remain vibrant, it’s important for companies to regularly communicate updates and new discussion threads taking place in the hubs to help keep participants actively engaged. A “build it and they will come” approach doesn’t work if customers aren’t regularly notified about new discussion forums and other types of content they may find engaging.
Collaboration hubs also must provide customers with value. To do so, companies must interact with subject matter experts offering timely, appropriate feedback and guidance. Dynamic collaboration hubs offering a variety of content types such as discussion forums, webinars, and videos, work to generate participants’ engagement and excitement about exchanging ideas…and keep them coming back for more.
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