In the first year of our online customer community at Commvault, we experienced some ‘aha’ moments in customer engagement. Those insights led us to focus on what was working well and resulted in a Best Emerging Advocate Program (BAMMIE) award from Influitive. We used their technology to gamify and scale our online customer community, Commvault Connections.

Top 5 Customer Engagement Strategies that Proved Successful

  1. ‘Keep it real’ is essential to developing a community that feels authentic and valuable to the customer. We wanted to develop a tone of voice within the community that reflected the new Commvault brand. The development of our community preceded a rebrand within our organization. We were ahead of the curve by communicating with our customer base in a way that was accessible, exciting, and real.
  2. Personas – make your company more than a company. Introduce higher-level personas in an accessible way, such as C-suite, VP of Customer Success, and Product Management to your customers in your online community.  You can do this by using photos, connecting and following social media handles, and moderating a community Discussion, like an Ask Me Anything approach.
  3. Responsiveness is key in developing honest relationships with customers in the community. This means don’t delay—respond as quickly as possible even if you don’t have an answer. It will let people in the community know that you are listening and seeing them is massive. Be timely with company news and events. We set up a Challenge (content) introducing our new CEO within moments of the world knowing. It lets our community advocates know that we are thinking of them as a primary Commvault audience.
  4. Get to know your audience. What is the profile of your community by title, industry, business or technical, etc.? Tailor your content to these different audiences within your community.  Depending on the platform you are using, most technologies allow for specific targeting of content by user or profile.  How are you rewarding your customers for the effort they are giving to engaging with their peers and your company?  Next, take a pulse check every quarter or six months to ensure you are meeting the needs of your entire community.
  5. Think about the customer experience. How does your customer login into your community?  Is your community integrated with other tools or systems within your organization?  Are you leveraging single sign-on capability via a customer portal that your company already has established?  You want to make it easy for your customer to engage with you and your company.

Engagement Tactics that Drive Results

Being relevant is everything, both in highlighting the company and product news and engaging with pop culture themes that are timely.

A massive success in our first year as a community was our Game of Thrones campaign, which drove a 55% increase in engagement in its first month and occupied 40% of the top 10 content engagement pieces.  We ran this campaign for six months.

We are aware of holidays that are especially relevant to Commvault’s industry, such as World Backup Day and aware of those important to our advocates, such as International Women’s Day.

Advocates want to feel that their voices are being heard.  We have seen success leveraging our community advocates for focus groups, surveys, and UX interactions with different teams within our organization. This makes advocates feel very exclusively involved in developing Commvault products and gives our company essential feedback for developing new products.  We have also asked for feedback about our online customer community – what the advocates would like to see and experience.

Advocates like the spotlight.  We provide our advocates with opportunities that encourage acts of advocacy and make the experience worth their while.  We have developed a Spotlight Champion initiative.

Our Spotlight Champion initiative highlights a customer story that is being shared via our Commvault website. Through this initiative, we highlight a customer story and make the customer a “celebrity” in our online customer community for a month.

The tactics include socially sharing the customer story, allowing the customer to grow their own social following (with an introduction to their social media handles), and to moderate a discussion where the customer is allowed to open the conversation to areas of their own personal interest.

Challenges to Growth

With any new endeavor, you may be presented with challenges.  Our experience growing Commvault Connections had a few hurdles:

  • Let me sum it up by saying we needed to find our secret sauce for engagement / retention. With a gamified platform, it would be easy to establish a place for customers to blow off steam or engage in only fun activities.  We needed to find the balance between fun with education, discussions, and other activities that encouraged customers to interact with each other, as well as with us.
  • In addressing the engagement and retention aspects, we were mindful of how we approached rewarding members for their participation. How much swag do you mix in with education, training, and experiences with our company?  And swag costs money, so how much should you include and how often?  We were a global community from inception, and facilitating the rewards part of gamification presented an initial challenge.
  • Targeting and personalization was another challenge we faced. How can we create a positive, engaging, and consistent customer experience in our community? As more and more internal groups discovered that the gamified online community is an immediate vehicle to engage with our customers, it was almost like a groundswell response.  Integrating multiple stakeholder objectives with our overall community objectives was an initial balancing act.  We would receive ad-hoc initiatives and weave that into our goal of ‘keeping it real.’

Bringing it All Together

With your customer engagement strategies in place, measuring both the qualitative and quantitative results is vital to learning and growing your online customer community.  There will undoubtedly be some challenges to address as your customer community is starting up or expanding.  Reviewing your metrics at regular intervals allows you to address any hurdles early on. And finally, asking your advocates for their feedback helps you find your formula for success in engaging your customers in your online community.

For more information on how we built a thriving customer advocate community, check out this Q&A blog: How Commvault Built a Successful Customer Advocate Community from the Get-Go.