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by John Carione
Call centers, chat sessions, direct emails. These are effective methods of supporting developer communities. The advantages of replacing them with the social support of online communities, though, is a matter of simple math. In addition to lowering the costs of supporting developers, studies have shown that leveraging online communities also has the benefit of increasing customer satisfaction. After all, who better to troubleshoot your issue? A developer who dealt with the same issue a week ago, or someone either struggling to find the answer in a training manual or trying to dredge up second-hand knowledge from an internal training session?
There are 3 key areas where social support in communities can drive value:
- Cost Reduction and Operational Efficiency: Cost reduction can be realized in a number of ways: Resolving a call on the first pickup, a reduction in escalations to additional service professionals, or a reduction in the handling time for calls. Finding answers before community members need to pick up the phone or initiate a chat session is another way that social support acts to improve efficiencies.
- Smoothing out the capacity model: How often have you picked up the phone and heard that your wait time will be 30+ minutes? There can be many reasons for these delays: weather, new product launch, poor coverage. Instead, supporting the customer through online community reduces costs per customer, as well as customer wait times. By offering support 24x7x365 in a community that helps in effect add capacity at critical moments customer sat goes up along with those other key metrics. You can even get your product and engineering teams to participate in the community.
- Deeper understanding of how customers derive value from your offerings: Customers often use products and services in many different ways than the business originally planned for. Understanding where and how the value is derived is critical embedding back into the product development process and scaling out answers to critical support tickets and issues and crowd sourcing this knowledge can be one of the most effective ways to drive revenue.
The positive reviews and rating that come along with getting high quality support can help grow your business. The downside is that the opposite is also true. With the surge in social media, negative reviews can cripple a business. The collaborative knowledge sharing of an online support community can help ensure a positive experience for users.
As an example of the growing recognition of the value of online support, Drupal Commons has been adopted by a number of Fortune 200 companies to drive self-service support. One Drupal Commons customer, a high tech company, was faced with the challenge of customizing and integrating hundreds of product communities -- for both internal and external stakeholders -- into a single platform. Content management capabilities and integration to all the company’s service APIs also were requirements of the online community platform. The company had a very aggressive timeline that required setup and initial implementation to happen on the order of weeks rather than months.
The company chose to migrate away from Jive, a proprietary platform, and onto Drupal Commons. Drupal Commons, an open source solution, was chosen because it could provide a flexible, branded support community that could easily grow with the company’s needs. Most importantly, it is flexible enough to make the continuous, incremental changes required to meet the diverse and changing needs of customers, employees, partners, and developers. The reduced call center burden -- fewer support calls and chats -- is anticipated to result in a strong ROI, with potentially millions in savings over the previous proprietary model that commands license fees for the software.
And the future is ripe for these solutions to continue to evolve, helping to build stronger and more effective support communities. Adding metrics, like Acquia Analytics for example, provides valuable insights, including identifying experts in particular topics. And robust search capabilities can help surface the community members who offer the best answers to specific support questions.