Brand communities often fall into two categories; first resort or last resort.
1) First resort. They’re the first place members go to ask questions and get help. When members have an issue they are taught (or learn) to visit the community first. If the community can’t help, then they call support/file a ticket etc….In this scenario, support handles the difficult cases which might involve private data or are so rare no-one else has a solution.
2) Last resort. They’re the place of last resort for members to go and get help. If customer support didn’t resolve the issue and they can’t find the answer through any other channel, the community is the final destination where customers can try to seek help from others. This often crops up if a customer is ‘out of warranty’.
Both options are fine, but it’s good to be clear about which role your community is fulfilling.
If your community is the place of first resort, then your goal is to reduce the effort and speed to first response. Your community is usually tackling easier questions asked multiple times in different ways. You need superusers who are enthusiastic who you can train and nudge in just the right way. A great search experience is also important and you need the community to appear in places where people might usually contact support.
If your community is the place of last resort, you often need the involvement of customer support agents and to offer stronger rewards for the handful of experts who might have the ability to answer the more difficult questions. You have to focus on the satisfaction and resolution rate more than the speed and effort of asking questions. You can also expect members to be a lot grouchier.
Which type of community is yours?