Ecommerce University > Ecommerce Marketing > The Community Presence: Leveraging Forums for Customer Support
The Community Presence: Leveraging Forums for Customer Support

Established online retail stores with plenty of return customers may be ignoring a powerful presence that can help convert customers into strong brand advocates—a lurking community of like-minded shoppers hungry for interaction. Leveraging that community for customer support is a great way to offer your customers ownership in your store’s brand.

At Shift4Shop, we maintain an active forum section made up of customers with a vested stake in our software. As a result, those forums ease the burden of customer support on our staff.

In the beginning, integrating forums can have a powerful effect on driving return sales. When you’ve established a community around your brand, forums can take on the role of customer service. Below you’ll find four ways forums help ease the customer service burden.

1. Another contact channel.
All successful online retailers have primary contact channels around phone, email and live chat support. In the same way you support different payment options, your customers may be more or less comfortable with different contact channels. Forums that are monitored by you or your staff offer another way for customers to get in touch.
2. Extra support staff.
A strong community rallied around your brand means that customers are willing to help other customers. While you may take an active role in monitoring your customer support forum, you may find customers that have gone through similar issues answering questions for you.
3. A fully archived knowledge base.
You’ve probably built out a basic FAQ section—but savvy customers will search more in-depth knowledge libraries to find answers before they need to get in touch directly. As a result, active support forums can act as a knowledge base for customers.
4. Smaller time investment.
If your forums fulfill any or all of the above functions, you gain the advantage of a smaller time investment for you and your staff. A healthy customer community can help make your online retail store a thriving venue for brand advocates.
by Gonzalo Gil Google