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3 Posts authored by: Bobby Kaighn

Acquiring new customers is an important part and huge focus for most businesses. But retaining existing customers is equally important. According to the Harvard Business Review, a five percent increase in customer retention can increase business profits by 25 percent. That’s a return to pay attention to.

 

But the value of increasing customer retention goes well beyond keeping your most loyal and satisfied customers placated. It means new opportunities for upselling and cross selling products to an already engaged audience and reducing painful costs associated with attrition. Plus, it’s an opportunity to create a pool of advocates who will support your products and services with their own social and professional networks.

 

So how does an online community and your SugarCRM translate into increased customer retention?

 

1. Help Customers Help Themselves

According to Forrester Research, 80 percent of businesses think they deliver ‘superior customer service’ while only eight percent of customers agree. Clearly there’s a gap between perception and reality.

 

An online community has the potential to decrease that gap and keep customers from fleeing. How? An online community allows customers to ask questions and receive crowdsourced answers from fellow customers, any time of day, anywhere in the world. Customers can post questions to your forum and/or search the library or previous discussions to find helpful information. This streamlines problem solving for many customers and reduces recidivism for your customer success team who now have more time to work on harder problems.

 

2. Let Customers Network

Giving your customers a space to talk about solving specific problems is critical, but giving them a way to actually connect and talk to each other is also valuable. Your online community allows this authentic connection to happen through user groups, mentoring, ambassador programs or any other number of ways. When your customers foster deep connections with each other and with your organization, the online community becomes about something bigger than just your organization—it truly goes from being simply a platform to an actual community.

 

3. Create a Cohesive Customer Experience

Customers crave a cohesive experience when they interact with companies. In fact, according to research done by Google, 62 percent of customers expect brands to deliver a consistent experience. But what does that mean? This same research showed that only 42 percent of customers think most brands do, actually, provide consistent experiences. Clearly there is a gap between what customers want and what they receive.

 

This is where you have the chance to really impress customers and give them what so few other companies can. Use your community data, combined with data from SugarCRM and your marketing automation platform, to create an accurate, 360-degree view of all your customers. Instead of having some data in one spot, and more data in another spot, by integrating all your data into one place, like SugarCRM, you can work towards providing that seamless, cohesive customer experience people want.

 

Customer Retention Helps the Entire Organization 

Increasing customer retention doesn’t just bring more value to your online community—it has the potential to bring more value to all parts of your organization—from customer satisfaction to business growth. Spend time making your community the best that it can be—and your entire organization will thank you.

Want to learn more? Check us out at SugarCon! This year we'll be on the show floor and ready to show you how #HigherLogic will help you increase your customer retention! And don't forget to check our our SugarExchange listing as well: Higher Logic Community Platform.

 

How much effort does your company put into customer success?

 

The answer varies, but companies are starting to realize just how valuable customer success is. Done well, customer success can grow your business by improving customer satisfaction, retention, and recurring revenue. It can even reduce pressure on your customer support team.

 

But because customer success is such a broad arena, it can be difficult to make headway no matter how much time and effort you invest. How do you effectively bring sales, marketing, support, and training together to ensure that every customer you win is successful and has a long, happy relationship with your company?

 

There are a few proven systems that can help you create an effective customer success program, starting with your CRM and online community. These systems collect the information you need to launch customer success initiatives that work for your audience. Here’s how you can use SugarCRM and an online community to increase customer success and grow your business.

 

Step 1. Collect the Three Main Types of Customer Data

Customer success is heavily dependent on the customers involved. What helps one company’s customers may not help yours. So get to know your customers by collecting the three main types of customer data:

  • Demographic Data
  • Transactional Data
  • Activity Data

 

Demographic and transactional data are traditionally collected and analyzed to understand who your customers are and what they typically purchase. SugarCRM is an excellent tool for gathering and organizing this information.

 

Activity data is a newer type of data that usually comes from your website and online community. Activity data tells you how customers behave and helps you understand their interests, concerns, and priorities. A few types include page views, blogs read, and discussion posts published.

 

It’s important to collect all three types of customer data. If you’re missing even one, you won’t have a complete view of your customers and could miss a crucial component that helps customers be more successful with your product and, ultimately, increase the value and satisfaction they experience.

 

Step 2. Combine Data in a Single Location

Once you know you’re collecting the right information on your customers, you need get it in one place. This is important because data silos lead to fragmented views of customers and make understanding the big picture difficult.

 

Combine customer data from your CRM and online community, as well as any other systems that contain useful information, in one system. Many companies use their CRM as their central data repository, but third-party analytics or business intelligence tools can also be helpful.

 

When your data is in one place you can analyze it to get a complete view of your customers. You can match the products customers are discussing in your online community with their purchases, for instance. You’ll also be able to spot topics of interests as well as areas where customers may be struggling.

 

Step 3. Create and Implement a Customer Success Program

Based on your data, draft a customer success program that fits your customers’ needs. Your program may include:

  • Guidelines for managing customer expectations during the initial sales process as well as during upsell and upgrade conversations
  • An onboarding program that sets customers up for success from the moment they make a purchase
  • Ongoing training resources that address pain points and help customers user more product features more efficiently
  • Regular check-ins to head off any potential problems
  • Consistently updated content to help customers learn and get more value from your products over time

 

Each of these elements should be tailored for your customers and can be delivered using the tools in your online community and SugarCRM. You could create follow-up notes and reminders in SugarCRM and distribute content and training material in your online community, for example.

 

Bonus Tip: Keep your program flexible even after implementation. Continue collecting data and update your program when you spot new trends or changes in customer needs. The best customer success programs pivot with customers.

 

Step 4. Collect (and Use) Product Feedback

Your customer success program isn’t the only thing that needs consistently updates, your products and services do too. They’re not perfect, and with the rapidly changing landscape we live in, they never will be. You need to consistently improve your offers to make it as easy as possible for your customers to be successful.

 

One of the best ways to do this is through customer feedback. Use your online community to create a dedicated space for feedback, then ask your customers to weigh in on products and services. What would make them better? How could common user experience problems be solved? Let other customers’ comment or up-vote suggestions from their peers so you know how popular each piece of feedback is. The more positive attention a suggestion gets, the more likely it is that that making a change is that area will increase customer success.

 

And don’t forget to let your customers know when their comments lead to a change. It demonstrates just how much you care about their opinions – a key ingredient in any successful relationship.

 

Customer Success is a Long-Term, Company-Wide Investment

Using SugarCRM and an online community to collect and analyze data over time will help you spot trends in customer behavior and shift your strategies and products to fit customer needs.

 

The most effective companies also have organization-wide buy-in. Everyone, from executives to marketers and customer service representatives, makes customer success a priority. This attitude trickles down through tasks, teamwork, and technology to create an atmosphere that prioritizes the customer. Customers pick up on that, making it just a little easier for them to feel comfortable putting their trust in your business over the long haul.

 

Want to learn more? Contact us or check out listing on SugarExchange to learn what our solution can provide for you.

Do you want to make customer support a better experience for your customers and save your organization money?

 

It may sound like searching for a needle in a haystack, but there are solutions in the world that focus on achieving both those goals simultaneously. And online customer communities, pared with data from your CRM, are a great way of increasing customer satisfaction and helping your organization win. By working together, the two platforms create a seamless customer support experience for any type of customer, solving a myriad of problems.

 

Today’s world is more competitive than ever, making customer retention vital for organizations. That means customer care and support are crucial - and it’s important that you have a system that integrates all the tools necessary to create a frictionless experience. Let’s dig into how combining your CRM and customer community can help you achieve these goals.

1. Faster response times and better answers

Any extra minute of customer frustration is bad for your organization - so the faster you can solve issues, the better. But what happens if crisis strikes a customer when your support team is off the clock?

 

Unlike individual people, your customer support community never sleeps, especially if it has users across time zones. Just because it’s after hours or your support team is overwhelmed by other cases doesn’t mean your customers can’t ask each other questions and collaborate online.

 

But it doesn’t stop there. Over time, as customers work together to solve problems, they essentially build a searchable, ever-updating manual that any user can access. So, even if a user doesn’t get a response right away, chances are someone else has already asked a similar question and they can simply search the community for the answer.

 

This kind of collaboration is extremely helpful for current customers who are using your product every day, but it’s also incredibly illuminating for prospects. Imagine if you’re a prospect and you see this type of transparency and help. It doesn’t matter how good your sales team is - your community and your current customers also can help sell your product. All of this information automatically writes back to your CRM, ensuring you always have the clearest picture of your customers.

 

You also learn who your biggest advocates are. By observing your community and tracking engagement, you learn which customers are your product champions. Don’t let this knowledge go to waste - cultivate your organization’s relationship with them by creating customer advocacy programs and gamification. When you have a new product, ask these people for feedback, or include them in the welcoming process for new customers.

2. Integrated with support systems

Unfortunately, customers can’t always help other customers. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Customer communities are great at helping people figure out smaller problems, which leaves more time for your support team to work on larger issues.

 

Many community platforms integrate with ticketing and support systems, in addition to integrating with your CRM. That means customers can easily create a support ticket with the click of a button - and the support team can see the entire discussion thread. That way they can get to the meat of the issue rather than rehashing suggestions the customer already got from fellow customers on the community.

 

Some people worry that communities will make customer support teams obsolete, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Instead, it’s important to see the community and the support team as partners, tag-teaming to give customers the best experience possible.

 

By integrating your customer community with a support system, you become more than ‘just a support system.’ You also create a more data intelligent environment regarding how your customers use your product. That data is valuable product feedback and can help improve the overall customer experience. It’s a chance to recognize and help customer advocates and champions succeed, which in turn helps new and not-as-involved customers get help and shine, too.

 

You don’t need to be a data scientist or have someone on staff to make sense of the numbers and find value in them - even tracking basic metrics, such as discussion activity and comments, can help your organization make important business decisions.

 

Communities give you both excellent qualitative data and a glimpse into your customer’s thoughts, but they also give you excellent quantitative data, especially when you integrate your community with complimentary platforms and software. Unlike free platforms, like Facebook Groups or LinkedIn, when you integrate your private customer community with your CRM or support system, you own that data and know exactly what’s going on.

3. Learn what to fix and where to expand

Beyond creating a better in-the-moment customer experience, communities give your organization something very valuable - a ton of data - especially if it’s integrated with your existing CRM.

 

First, you can learn a lot about your customers, by seeing who participates. Second, you can learn a lot about how they use your product and services by seeing how they participate and watching discussions. How do they solve problems? Is there a process that continually stumps people, or a feature that’s constantly being requested?

4. Leverage data to its full extent

Communities help your customers solve problems and connect with one another. But they also help customers connect with you and interact in a space that writes data back to your CRM, giving you the clearest picture possible of your current customers.

 

Data is powerful - it allows you to make informed business decisions and steer your company in a positive direction. What better way is there to get data about your customers than from a platform they go to for help and collaboration?

 

Want to learn more? Contact us or check out listing on SugarExchange to learn what our solution can provide for you.