This article looks into the reasons why many companies turn to community support forums for tech support and troubleshooting, and how to do it the right way. 

Troubleshooting by peers: are community support forums the way to go?

Letting users take care of product support might sound counterintuitive to many companies. How can one expect non-experts to advise and troubleshoot? Aren’t the designers best equipped to answer helpless customers? How can you tell sound advice from nonsense? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of community support forums

A counter-intuitive approach to product support

With the development of forums in the early days of the internet, many product users were dissatisfied with the technical help they received from companies or vendors and turned to online forums. Users would go there to deal with their most common problems and discuss new releases. Users have come to enjoy the reactivity and efficiency of the help they can get in order to fix issues themselves. In the past few years, companies have taken notice and jumped on the community support bandwagon. Many have launched their own community forums, sometimes supplanting the original independent forums. 

Should your company go for community support?

There are a few reasons why a company benefits from making the switch to community support. First off, having customers talk to other customers allows them to share the most common problems and the solutions that they have found. In addition, such community forums can create a sense of belonging around the brand where customers can invest into and maybe, for the most prolific “helpers”, get some recognition from the brand itself. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. However, there are many pitfalls to avoid in order to have an effective community support forum that customers and users will want to turn to.

How to improve your community support forum

  • Make sure there is a dedicated troubleshooting section or tech support section in your community forum. Some users actually expect any type of company forum to become a product support community, such as the Fender guitars’ community forum. This forum was clearly intended to create a community and share news and opinions about their products. Even though there isn’t any dedicated tech support section, many users post about tech issues. Since the forum is not intended for that use, customers in need of tech support mostly get told by admins or moderators to turn to their local dealer, with hardly any direct help. Many troubleshooting inquiries remain unanswered and there is no way to know if the help offered by other users can be trusted. 
  • Winnow the users, and rank them to increase support reliability. It is absolutely crucial to make sure that users gets the most accurate information. One possibility is to rank the users according to their experience or effectiveness and award points to build a reputation. Additionally, a rewards system can be set up to incentivize the most helpful, most constructive users, such as on the Apple community page.
  • Finally, increase effectiveness: the interface should minimize user frustration when looking for an answer. An FAQ section is an absolute must, as well as pinned posts that deal with the most common issues. On the other hand, it is best to allow expert users to find unanswered or unresolved posts very easily such as on the WordPress community forum. In addition, the best solutions can be up-voted, such as on the GitHub community page.

The importance of moderators on community forums

If some users take the community forum as a platform to vent their frustration or simply bash the company, make sure that the admins or moderators have been trained to deal with it properly. Simply deleting inconvenient posts may backfire with accusations of censorship. It is strongly advised to avoid a public argument on the forum and invite the disgruntled user to discuss their issue via private message and put them in touch with a customer service representative. 

Finally, keep in mind that your community forum represents the company on the internet. If you make it easy to use, with quality content that actually helps your users, it can be a winning strategy for your company.  

Have you ever considered using community support for your company? Have you ever used community support? Were you satisfied with the help you got? Let us know in the comments below! 

Thank you for reading, we hope you found this article insightful.

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