This Fine Tuning session is about launching your help center community, including:
To find more Fine Tuning articles, see Fine tuning resources.
We all belong to communities. Whether they’re small and intimate like a family, or broad and all-encompassing like LinkedIn, forums for human-to-human connections will always be a critical communication channel.
Zendesk Gather enables you to offer a community within your Help Center to host these human conversations, and it could be the best place to listen in on the customer experience.
Setting up your community can be done quickly, or you may want to roll this out strategically and with careful planning. Let's look at launching in two ways:
- MVP approach - if you want to launch Community ASAP, as a Minimum Viable Product
- Rollout approach - if you need time to process your customers’ needs and plan for long-term impact
Part 1: Know thy community
Every good relationship starts with understanding one another. Begin by asking yourself and your team - Who belongs to our community? Who are we here to serve?
MVP approach - Start today and get Zendesk swag!
Whether you ask informal questions of your coworkers or customers, or you analyze system data, you should identify, research, and briefly define who your Community will affect.
Use these prompts to build your community personas:
- As a customer, I need/want [x]. I find it [here]. I’ll use the Community to [do, discuss, ask].
- As a Community Manager, ___
- As a Zendesk agent, ___
- As a manager, ___
- As a CEO, ___
Choose an option below and share your findings in the comments.
- Option 1: Walk around your office and ask three coworkers from different departments what their customers ask or request that they wish a Community could answer.
- Option 2: Assess data points from Zendesk Reports, Google Analytics, or social media. Ex: increasing or decreasing tag usage, search trends, page views, likes, and comments.
Rollout approach - Kick off your implementation plan
If you have time, consider the following opportunities to dive deep into preparing a solid Community launch.
Research your audience:
If you have time, collect qualitative and quantitative evidence to prepare your Community for success. Ask what value can be added using Community, how customers will most likely engage, what topics continually arise but are not addressed, or what goals your audience has.
Here are some research techniques we recommend:
- Poll customers - use SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to ask what your customers want and need
- Use Zendesk - reporting trends, tag usage, article views/comments
- Track online activity - social media, Google Analytics, website activity
- Use a SWOT analysis to determine opportunities
Prepare with Zendesk:
Once you have Gather, there’s no use in waiting! Dive right in and get comfortable creating your community.
- Start checking out the community features available today.
If your Help Center is live and you’d prefer to play in a safe space, you can spin up a 30 day trial to test the functionality.
- Get started with Gather.
- Read more in our Gather resources. Be sure to check out:
- Demo to internal stakeholders and collect feedback
Staff your team:
- Your Community Manager should be passionate, organized, and able to respond or direct posts in a timely manner. They should also have a solid background in your product or service to build trust from day one. Depending on your company size, this can be a full time role or a function of a broader owner.
- A Project Manager and/or Business Analyst can help connect you to the right internal teams, assist with research, and organize a task list or project timeline.
Part 2: Build a foundation
When you understand your Community, you can build a foundation that supports an effortless experience for your customers.
MVP approach - Document the basics
If you have limited time to launch, copy, paste, and quickly modify the basic needs for your Community.
- Create guidelines for using your Community.
- Set up a couple of topics with descriptions, and include an example post.
If you’ve started fresh with Community, you’ll see a few placeholder topics, sections, and posts you can use or modify.
- Establish 1-2 "sticky" points for your Community.
- Create team-specific topics where your Customer Success, Product, and Support can prompt discussions or ideas.
Rollout approach - Collect, curate, and automate
I interviewed Jessie Schutz, our Zendesk Community Support Manager, to understand best practices for scaling Community work.
Collecting and curating content
If you have an old forum with content that you need, use our Community API documentation to aid your migration. Otherwise, keep it simple and only pull over the most important topics or copy for your new Community.
Tracking incoming posts:
Don’t let your Community down - make sure you track and observe incoming posts, especially early on. If you don’t have a hold on new conversations, it can be hard to keep them coming back.
One way you can track posts and comments in your Community is to set up a dedicated email inbox to monitor and mark items needing an answer or escalation. Gmail users can optimize using Label and Filter features, while Outlook users should get familiar with Rules and Folders. Examples:
- Create a Label in Gmail to mark each post’s topic with the same color.
- Skim through general Q&A posts and quickly add a star if it needs re-routing or escalation.
- Apply a red Label titled “Escalation” to make sure you can visually track the most important conversations.
- Use Filters to apply a Category for trends you observe. We could look back to find every post with the term “Insights Dashboard” to quickly find related questions and conversations.
When you have a pulse on what’s incoming and how often, you can encourage users to co-own certain topics by following the topic themselves, and taking the first pass at answering or guiding them to a possible solution. You can create community moderator groups to help you manage the community.
Begin with broad topics:
A general Q&A topic can catch everything, while a Product Feedback topic is helpful to redirect feature requests and feedback to a central repository. As you see questions around a product area or expertise, you can break out the content into specific topics based on the trends you see. Once you build the new section, direct relevant questions or topics to the newly created section.
Zendesk example: We started our Community with one general Questions & Answers section, but received so many Insights questions, we created a separate space for those conversations. Now, we redirect anyone asking about Insights in the Questions & Answers section to the Insights Q&A.
Customers as moderators:
If you want customers to be the main contributors to your Community, then ask them to get involved before launch. Reach out to super users, early adopters, brand enthusiasts, or anyone positively knowledgeable to represent your customer base.
Tap these people through your coworkers' networks, send a semi-formal invite to make it official, and offer benefits to any moderators you onboard. Incentives are often hard to identify, so ask your early adopters or super users early and often what would engage and motivate them. Then have them follow topics to answer questions and help fellow users.
You can also create community moderator groups in Gather if you want to give these community members special privileges to do some official community management tasks.
Our Zendesk moderator program is high-touch, and moderator benefits are a continual process.
Launch with marketing:
Marketing knows where your customers are. Engage with them to tap into the right channels or teams for promotions or messaging about the Community Launch.
Here’s our Marketing Team’s landing page:
Part 3: Launch and learn
Rip off the band-aid and launch now, or set up specific expectations and guidelines for your new Community channel.
MVP approach - get ready to flip that switch!
Be a first responder:
Before you turn on Community, you must be prepared to respond in a timely fashion. If a user gets a response to their first post within 5 hours, there's a 53% chance that they'll re-engage in the community. If that timeframe extends to 24 hours, the chance for re-engagement drops to 10%. Read more about the importance of being a first responder.
Flipping the switch:
Turn on your Community when you're ready. It’s that simple! Read how to activate your community.
The idea of a community, large or small / familial or transactional, is to encourage users to help one another. They will not come just because you built it, you have to nurture these relationships a LOT at the beginning.
Hold hands, give compliments (or swag), be positive and listen with care. Acknowledge that with the opening of a new forum, you must be visible and supportive, setting a standard for care and respect.
Reporting on engagement: Native reports
You can analyze Community activity and search results to see how effective your new Community has become. A simple self-service ratio is easy to evaluate in Zendesk. Simply take your total number of Help Center views and divide it by the number of tickets, located on your Insights dashboard.
Reporting on engagement: Google Analytics
Make sure to hook up Google Analytics to your Help Center - there are some quick reports to evaluate for the overall self-service experience. And don’t forget to enable tracking of deflected community post events!
Rollout approach - additional considerations
Make sure moderators are engaged and answering questions. Create a restricted section for feedback or have them email your Community team with questions and concerns. Are the incentives working? Send a feedback survey to identify gaps or gather new ideas.
Generating traffic may be initially difficult, but Zendesk bridges the gaps between content and agent-customer interactions with a few easy strategies outlined in this article, Driving traffic to your Help Center and Community. Here’s a preview:
- Keep agents informed about new content and updates, because they more an agent knows, the more your customers will find value in your Community
- Establish a repeatable process for linking content; i.e. signatures, Macros, ticket comments, auto-response emails, promoted articles, websites, or social media
To create a ticket or not?
There are times when you’ll want to take a conversation in the Community to a Zendesk Ticket. Before you do so, consider the following.
- DO create a ticket from a post if it requires extensive troubleshooting inappropriate for a public space.
- DO NOT create a ticket from a post to silently answer questions.
- DO NOT create a ticket to step into the conversation. Let your community thrive itself!
What other guidelines help your Community stay engaged and not distracted? Add them to the comments below!
And as always, we’re here for you:
- Engage with Zendesk Product in the Product Feedback forum for additional improvements to the Zendesk Community portal.
- Join the Customer Success Team in our Fine Tuning series of months past or follow the article for a note when the next round is coming.
Thanks for joining me in this Fine Tuning article. Please post your comments and questions below.