With a growing selection of tools that enable an increasingly mobile workforce, most modern business is conducted outside of a traditional office environment. Professionals are now working in transit, in co-working spaces and at home. To maintain a sense of community, promote engagement among remote workers and ensure business success, companies need to make informed decisions about the technology offered to employees. And although every business should use its resources wisely, startups and small businesses need to pay careful attention to how these tools will increase their bottom line. Before deploying any form of social business technology, such as online communities, companies need to evaluate the below aspects of any solution.
Deployment process – How easy will it be to go from a formulated plan to an up-and-running community? It depends on you – very often you may have an idea of what you want your community to be, but may not know where to start. Many social business software vendors have a plethora of experience with internal and external community scenarios, and it is important to utilize both. Based on which use case fits your organization, look for pre-configured tools, such as templates or starter kits, to get your online community up and running faster and decrease your IT costs as the community becomes integrated into your existing business processes. Templates and wizard-driven starter kits are great resources to ensure you’re leveraging your social business platform properly and comprehensively. Organizations who take advantage of pre-built templates are putting their communities and users on the fast track to increased engagement through an accelerated community build and a smoother launch. In the end, your organization will benefit from a community design that enhances customer experience or employee engagement and takes full advantage of your social technology investment.
Mobile-first approach – As a result of the mobile-first era, tools to support users on the go are in high demand and organizations must take note. To truly reach the edges of your target audience, internally or externally, you must understand that mobile is no longer an add-on and consider how mobile access will impact your community. Social platforms need to be compatible with a variety of mobile browsers, and must offer brandable native app options as well. By focusing on the mobile experience and leveraging responsive design, the user experience across devices, browsers, and screen sizes becomes smooth, familiar and effective. From rich desktop applications to tablets and smartphones, it is important that you provide a community that supports customers and employees whenever, wherever.
Engagement benefits – Social business software needs to facilitate work and productivity in a way that lets remote workers connect with groups and manage projects as efficiently as they would in a traditional office setting. Features like real-time chat, which is presence aware, becomes vital in helping teams connect across time zones. The ability to continue conversations and maintain context regardless of a user’s online status is a critical and frequently overlooked feature. Just because Suzy isn’t online doesn’t mean Jeff should abandon his critical project status update. They should be able to communicate without forcing Jeff to use another tool or Suzy to check a different queue. Engagement also helps to break down geographical, organizational and departmental barriers.
Support savings – Perhaps the most important consideration is how any new technology will increase your bottom line. By using online communities for customer support and enabling users to share product insight and build a comprehensive bank of knowledge, businesses can reduce their support tickets and costs, and provide hard evidence of the technology’s value with faster time to resolution and lower call volume. A great example is the Dell TechCenter, Dell’s online community that connects its employees and enterprise IT customers to share knowledge, best practices and information about its products and installations. As a result of the Dell TechCenter, Dell was able to expand customer engagement and increase sales. In addition, Dell was able to scale customer education from a global audience, which directly improved the customer experience while enabling more efficient sales support processes. Its customers were also able to access beta products and provide feedback in the community, resulting in improved research and development processes. Dell saw direct benefits and real results from its community, and it is not alone – a multitude of other companies have experienced similar benefits from their online communities as well.
Take a look at the social business technology your organization plans to deploy. What can you do to help mobilize your workforce and enhance employee engagement and customer support at your organization?
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