Forums are a popular customer support channel. But if not done right, it can backfire on your business. Here’s how to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Customer support can come in many different forms and through many different channels. In the WordPress world, however, one of the most popular support channels (if not the most popular) is forum support.
Forum support is popular with WordPress businesses for many reasons:
- it’s more efficient to answer a common question publicly than privately
- forum support doesn’t require many reps
- other successful WordPress businesses like AppThemes and ElegantThemes have done a good job with it
That isn’t to say forums don’t come without their pitfalls; quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. But they are still a great way to service your customers without having to go to way too much trouble yourself.
That said, forums can easily backfire on you if you’re not careful, due to their traits of non-exclusivity and (more often than not) customer idiocy. So here’s how to run a forum effectively and coherently.
Make it Clear: One Thread for One Question
This ground rule is an absolute must: one new thread for one new issue. If you don’t set this rule in place at the very beginning of your forum, customers will tend to clump their questions into one huge thread that they assume (mistakenly so) discusses the same issue they’re having.
Lots and lots of wasted time for you. You’ll end up spending more time busy figuring out who is having trouble with what than actually solving problems for customers.
Get Through the Initial Response as Fast as Possible
Customers — particularly new ones who have never bought from you before or posted on your forum before — will be testing the speed with which you respond to new threads with new issues. The quicker you are, the higher their perception of your business.
Higher perception means more repeat purchases, satisfied customers, and more brand evangelists. It’s absolutely crucial to your business’s overall success that you’re able to respond as quickly as possible.
Try to make it a priority to make the initial response to each new support thread within one hour of its posting (within the daily time frame that you are awake, of course). Even if debugging your product’s code to solve that mistake going to take a lot longer than that, make sure you just drop a few sentences and let your customer know what you’re doing.
The later responses can come at a slower pace, of course. Realistically, there’s no way that you’ll be able to solve every problem in a single day, particularly if your business is actually popular.
Create a Sticky Starter Thread Listing Common Issues
Once you’ve gotten through 50 or so support requests, you should have a pretty good idea of the common issues people are having with your product. While the most obvious route is to fix those issues in future updates, there are sometimes other factors that can prevent you from doing so (for instance, if the support issue is a customer mistake and not a code one).
In that case, you should try to make sure that all future customers with those common issues see the former threads that discuss the issue so that you don’t have to explain it again.
To do that, simply create a sticky thread with links to threads that solve those issues, post it at the top of your forum with a highly noticeable title like “NEW CUSTOMERS: READ THIS BEFORE POSTING!!!”, and voila. I guarantee that your number of requests will fall immediately.
Tell People to Check Your Knowledge Base and Threads Before Posting
Yet another way to streamline your forum’s efficiency is to ensure that your customers check your knowledge base, your sticky starter thread, and other previous threads on your forum before posting about their issue.
There’s always a chance that the solution to their problem might be mentioned in the knowledge base or the starter thread. And even if it isn’t there, a quick search of the forum should reveal the answer the would-be poster is looking for.
I like the way ElegantThemes does it. Before anybody can create a new thread on the support forums, they first have to look at this popup:
By employing the same strategy on your forum, you can dramatically decrease the number of support requests and increase the satisfaction of customers.
Forum support could easily be the best thing that’s ever happened to your WordPress business … if you do it right. By employing the above strategies on your website, you will be able to effectively run a forum that customers walk away from satisfied.Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via Email Back to Top