As community forums become essential tools for scaling support, it’s natural for companies to need some help keeping things organized, ensuring the conversation runs smoothly and everyone can tap into the wisdom of the crowd. That’s where moderators come in: to help your community grow into, and remain, a destination.
Moderators are internal employees or external power users contributing official answers and moderating questions and responses within a community. They’re out there, waiting to share insights and experiences—but they’re currently an untapped resource when it comes to support. They may be employees looking to stretch themselves in a new capacity, everyday users looking to do more to advance their careers, or people fueled by passion for talking shop or helping others. We can all think of that friend who quickly jumps in with well-researched advice on a new phone, camera, or TV. Maybe you or someone you know is a passionate member of the local running forums or parent groups, eager to advise and share knowledge.
A community can contribute to a better customer experience, as well as provide downstream business value when it enjoys a healthy level of participation. According to research from the University of Michigan, customers who engage in a company’s community spend 19% more than those that do not. If engagement is key to success, moderators are essential in driving it within your community, thereby unlocking its true power. Think of pedaling a bicycle—you need to pedal a little harder at the outset to drive momentum. But once the bike is going, it moves more effortlessly. Moderators are necessary to pedal the bike and then help maintain that forward momentum.
Here are some best practices for empowering moderators, helping you scale customer service operations, create better products, and enhance customers’ experience.
Empower internal and external experts
Given their passion, moderators definitely want to be there. A formal structure and process around that passion lets support teams tap into that enthusiasm. Consider how many times agents engage with customers; yet, there is often no follow-up that allowed them to continue building a relationship.
For larger online communities, success hinges on a combination of identifying and engaging your most active participants, and providing them with the tools they need to easily share their expertise.
A positive and welcoming environment is key to ensuring your community is the destination for help with the product, industry conversation, or even inspiration for a project. As natural leaders, moderators can also facilitate this by enforcing rules of engagement—no bad language or hateful speech—or by bringing everyone back to the topic at hand if a thread branches off into a few different directions.
Creating a positive online environment is a self-fulfilling prophecy—the better the community is moderated, the more likely it will generate visits, more relevant content, and more value for your customers, however they find the content.
Build routine maintenance and quality assurance into the process
Ideally, more and more people will organically find community topics over time, thanks to the power of search-engine optimization (SEO). You want to ensure that what they find is accurate and relevant.
To start, regularly archive service-related threads that have become obsolete, and set an expectation for when incorrect information should be flagged and addressed. For extra scalability, consider a more sophisticated solution that learns to identify and flag suspicious content, placing it in a special queue for moderator review before it ends up creating unnecessary noise within your community. For example, you could set a filter to automatically trigger moderator review if it contains certain language or keywords.
Whatever you deem your biggest maintenance priority, keep in close contact with your moderation team. Consider providing a private forum for moderators to communicate guidelines and start discussions about how things are going and where they could use some additional support.
Regular maintenance and QA also stand to improve your help center, an essential adjunct to the community forum. Having a consistent pulse point on your user community means you quickly get insight into knowledge base articles that are outdated, which can contribute to the overall health of your online, self-service forums.
Establish a process for escalating a comment or feedback to the right internal teams
Product feedback, product requests, or comments about the nuances of certain use cases are common topics in community forums. Moderators can help route those issues to the right people, such as product managers or support agents, helping ensure they don’t get lost in the shuffle or touch off a negative comment thread.
Internal stakeholders are key partners for community moderators. Encourage product managers, sales reps, customer success managers, and others to also engage directly with customers in the community by answering questions or sharing relevant product news as appropriate.
Just like the dialogue in a robust community can improve your knowledge base, that dialogue can be used to improve your product—by alerting support teams to issues as soon as they happen. Your community needs to have a direct line to the support organization if it’s truly going to help you scale support. For example, giving moderators the ability to turn a post into a ticket, and then have visibility into the responses, is one way to keep this connection strong. If exciting product news is coming soon, it helps when moderators can identify feature requests as planned, not planned, or completed, as well as highlight posts, calling attention to the most popular ones and giving them the highest visibility on the home page.
Think creatively to leverage moderators’ power across the board
Combining the power of customer service, social networking, and communications, a community stands to streamline the experience across the board. We know that customer experience is more than support, so encouraging moderators to go beyond answering questions for community members in need can be motivating. The team at InVision, a digital product-design platform, for example, took their community experience beyond support by engaging users on different topics, such as industry news, blog posts from the marketing team, or other content that’s published on the website.
By empowering moderators, establishing processes around moderation and escalation, and thinking creatively about how to tap into your community, you can make it a true destination, helping you extend the reach of your customer support and improve the customer experience.