High-tech B2B firm Extreme Networks recently launched a customer community. Its goals: to foster innovation, generate content, and drive customer service and support, according to Extreme Networks CMO Vala Afshar.
What led the company down this path, and what has it learned thus far that could be helpful to other marketers? Ashfar shared five pieces of insight with Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction, which powers the community.
1. Best practices about cultivating a loyal customer base: Many companies want to be customer-first and scale their service and support teams thinking that’s the best way to reach the customer and gain loyalty. But in an age where customers have multiple access and entry points into a business, companies need to be prepared to engage with the customer anytime, anywhere.
With this in mind, we empower employees at all levels—from our leadership team to our frontline employees—across all departments to provide the best customer service in the market. This is the secret sauce of successful customer-centric businesses—aligning all employees, regardless of title or role, to deliver exceptional customer service. Customer centricity is achievable only if there’s a deep culture of knowledge-sharing and collaboration across the company, a breakdown of organizational silos, and a companywide sense of responsibility for driving better customer relationships.
At the same time, however, with the reality of limited resources we realize we can’t address every customer question or respond to feedback as quickly as we’d like. That’s why we’re leveraging the customer community. It provides a centralized hub for customers to voice their opinions and share feedback with our product and marketing teams, while expanding the knowledge pool of people who can respond to service and support questions.
2. Why Extreme adopted a community platform: In today’s competitive business landscape, customers expect near immediate service and support. We want to provide this experience, but the reality is that companies have finite resources—limited hours and employees. As such, if we limit our customer experience to what we as an individual company can provide, we won’t be able to provide the excellent experience our customers have come to expect.
Luckily, our community is an always-on resource where customers, prospects and employees alike can engage, ask and answer questions and share feedback in real-time. Our customer community allows us to more effectively maintain our high level of excellence in customer service and support, while also helping us get closer to our customers and prospects, understand their needs, and leverage their voice across our company.
3. How Extreme will leverage the community across its business: We can leverage the community across our entire business—from capturing customer conversations to use for authentic marketing content, to generating targeted sales leads from prospects within our community. At Extreme Networks, however, our current community strategy is primarily focused on customer service, content creation, and product innovation.
Our service strategy incorporates peer-to-peer support to ensure that customers get their questions or concerns answered immediately. We can do this efficiently because we involve the community and our customer champions to help answer questions and share feedback, ensuring questions get answered as quickly as possible. And by focusing on customer and prospect interactions within the community, we can better understand what topics resonate with our customers and evolve our content strategy accordingly.
We’re also excited about collaborating with customers in the community to get immediate feedback on product releases and to gain insights into fresh product ideas.
4. Who on Extreme’s team is leading the customer community effort: Everyone in the company is responsible for driving customer centricity in their business processes—from marketing and support to product management and sales. You can’t offer great service if customer interactions are siloed within one department. As the CMO, the coordinated effort sits within my group, but all groups are equally responsible for driving their parts.
5. The expected response from customers: In today’s hyperconnected world, customer expectations have evolved. Customers now expect to personally connect with the companies they choose to do business with and want to have deeper involvement with the products they are consuming. The most effective way to achieve this level of customer engagement is via the community, and we expect that our customers will embrace it as a way to amplify and extend their voice.