Customer forum is a prominent feature offered by many help desk software providers within their self-service portals. It allows businesses to build communities with their audience, enhance their self-service offerings and increase user engagement by enabling customers to collaborate on topics of mutual interest. Since today’s consumers have become highly self-reliant and expect to be able to find information and resolve issues on their own terms and time frame, they may greatly appreciate the opportunity to participate in a forum, engage with other peers and learn from them.
A forum is an online discussion board that allows users to run conversations in the form of posted messages. A customer forum, a user forum or a community forum is basically a place where a company’s customers can interact with each other, seek relevant information, ask and answer each other’s questions, share their knowledge, helpful tips and tricks, insights, best practices, use cases and personal experiences with a company’s products or services.
Since many help desk software vendors include community forums as a part of their customer self-service portals, there is no need to look for separate tools. Enabling a customer forum feature usually takes a couple of simple steps and doesn’t require any tech skills or special knowledge.
To set up a customer community forum in the LiveAgent’s customer self-service portal, you need to choose a category in your knowledge base under which the forum will be placed, enter a title, decide whether it’s an internal or public forum, provide a description, include the relevant keywords for better SEO optimization and select the department that will be responsible for handling forum entries.
Internal forums are intended for the company’s employees, while public forums are visible to everyone, however users have to sign in to ask or answer questions. Customers registered in your customer portal will be able to see the suggested forums right in the main page. Once they open the forum, they can either join the discussion or ask a new question.
Every forum entry – whether it’s a new question asked or any topic commented – is automatically transformed into a ticket and will appear in the agent panel among other tickets. Whenever necessary and appropriate, the agents can participate and offer timely assistance by providing helpful information and answering the questions that other forum users were not able to answer.
Choosing a particular department to manage and moderate the forum means that the tickets will be assigned to the right employees who have the most relevant knowledge, experience and expertise to answer customers’ questions, if needed. It ensures the correct information is being shared and responded to in a timely and efficient manner.
Customer community forum is more than just a logical extension of your self-service offering. While having a customer forum is still generally thought of as a ‘nice to have’ feature rather than a necessity, with thoughtful management, it can have a positive impact on user engagement, customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and even drive product innovation. Hare some of the key benefits of implementing a branded customer community forum within your self-service portal:
If customer engagement is an important part of your strategy, having a community forum can be a powerful facilitator as it provides customers with an engaging venue for sharing their experiences not only with your company, but also with other community members. Enabling customers to raise topics and run discussions with other users gives them the sense of involvement and empowerment.
Besides, if your product is highly configurable, flexible and customizable, customers will definitely value the ability to browse through a forum and see how others are using it. It can actually help them discover solutions that may not have seemed obvious at fist and find more efficient ways of achieving a better outcome with your product.
When your support agents or customers answer common questions in a community forum, it literally creates a user-generated knowledge base full of information that can assist others - especially new customers who are just getting started with your products. Some of your long-term loyal customers might even enjoy becoming regular forum contributors and share their own best practices and tips on the topics they are experts in, creating a lasting helpful resource for many customers at once. That can also help you save your support agents’ time.
Monitoring what customers are discussing in a community forum can give businesses a more in-depth understanding of customer problems and concerns and presents a great opportunity to enhance the existing content by covering the topics customers are most interested in. Additionally, if customers keep asking questions and talk about the issues that are already covered in your knowledge articles, it means the content doesn’t provide full and comprehensible information, and needs to be improved and adjusted accordingly.
By keeping an eye on customer conversations in a community forum businesses may find lots of ideas and invaluable data not only for their customer support department but for their product teams as well. When discussing a company’s products or services, sharing their ideas, perspectives, use cases and experiences, customers are basically providing an indirect feedback. It can help businesses gain an insight into the product development and improvement their customers would like to see in future.
One way or another, customers are talking about brands and their products online. Not all businesses however are able to effectively monitor and respond to those mentions – whether it’s on social media, third-party forums or other places that are harder or even impossible to discover. Providing customers with a community forum where they can have these discussions allows businesses to easier keep track of what customers are saying, engage in those conversations and offer timely help or advice when it’s required.
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