The benefits of building a customer community

By Valeria Gomez, Customer marketing manager

Published February 24, 2020
Last updated February 24, 2020

All of your customers have at least one thing in common: you. Many of them have a lot of other things in common as well, though—similar job responsibilities, challenges, hobbies, and life experiences. If they can figure out a way to connect with each other, that can bring real value to them. From learning tips from each other on how to use your product more effectively to gaining genuine friends, customer communities are a powerful way to improve your customers’ lives.

But if they’re spread across countries and traveling in different circles, they aren’t likely to find each other on their own.

For that, they need your help in the form of a customer community.

What is a Customer Community?

A customer community can take on a few potential forms. It can be a gathering of customers in one place that allows them to meet each other, either in person or online. Or, like Zendesk’s Luminaries Program, it can be a club that allows members to tap into special benefits, including exclusive resources and opportunities to connect with other customers in person.

When you give your customers a space to get to know each other, it empowers them to make the kind of connections that form a community. Whatever specific tactics you use, if they help your customers form relationships with each other and strengthen their bond with your brand, you can identify and inspire brand evangelists.

5 ways a customer community benefits customers

A good community creates a partnership with your customers that delivers value above and beyond your product and its features.

1. Advanced learning resources

Make your community more valuable with exclusive learning materials that help your customers get more out of your product. In addition to the resources you create in-house, your customers will also get the benefit of learning from your other customers as well. After all, they have hands-on experience using your products and have likely figured out best practices you haven’t even considered.

We’ve seen this in action in our Luminaries Program. Chris Wilson, Director, Customer Experience at WP Engine shared, “Zendesk Luminaries enables us to meet other similar customers, talk to them, learn how they're doing other things and learn best practices that are out there in the community. Then we get to take that back and implement changes that help us.”

2. Opportunities to network with others in their industry

So much of a person’s career depends on the relationships they have—around 85% of all jobs are filled by networking. A brand community presents your customers with a whole new set of contacts. Many of the colleagues they meet through your community will become valuable professional connections or, even better, genuine friends. Once they’re connected, they can help each other gain both new knowledge and new professional opportunities.

3. Early access to new features and products

This is a customer benefit and a business benefit. Members of your community are likely to be your most enthusiastic customers, which means they’ll be the ones who most appreciate an early look at new features. By giving them exclusive early access, you show them they’re special to you.

At the same time, the customers who care the most about your product and use it frequently will also be the ones to give you the most honest feedback. By making them your beta testers, you’ll gain valuable input on anything that’s not working in advance of a wide release—saving you from potential embarrassment if your product isn’t ready yet.

4. Career advancement opportunities

You can help bolster the careers of your community members by inviting them to speak at events you host or asking them to be the featured guest on a relevant webinar. That raises their profile amongst their colleagues and gives them a chance to share their expertise, while also helping you make your events more valuable for other customers. By helping them gain recognition as a leader in their field, you provide them with a tangible career benefit.

5. Direct access to you

Direct access to them works as a benefit for you, but it goes both ways. Knowing that you’re always willing to listen shows them you care about their input. They don’t view you as a distant entity that might get back to them when they have a problem. Your employees become people they know personally, who they can talk to as human beings and know they’ll get straight answers.

This is something else we’ve seen in action in the Zendesk Luminaries Program. Customers come to see us as equal partners in the work they do and they know we see them the same way.

Why building a customer community is good for business

Doing something for your customers that purely benefits them is a nice idea, but if it requires resources—and building and maintaining a customer community does—you need to know the business benefits as well.

A customer community encourages customer loyalty.

Customers that find value in connecting to each other and being a part of the community will associate that value with your brand. By doing the work to bring your customers together and help them help each other, you’ll give them more opportunities to be successful using your product, and you’ll generate the kind of goodwill that builds brand loyalty.

This isn’t just supposition. A study of over 500 community builders found that 61% of communities improved customer retention.

A customer community gives you a more direct line to customers.

Customer feedback is immensely valuable to companies. It’s how you learn how to improve your products, create new ones people actually need and make sure you’re providing a customer experience that keeps customers coming back.

Businesses often put resources toward soliciting feedback through surveys or focus groups. When you create a customer community, sharing their feelings and opinions becomes something your customers do naturally. You don’t have to make a special effort to hear from them, you simply need to listen.

When customers have a space to share their thoughts where they know you’ll be listening, it creates a stronger sense of connection with the brand. Members of the Zendesk Luminaries Program have told us as much. Brent Pliskow, Director, Product Support at Box, said “Access to a connected community of Zendesk Luminaries enables us to compare and share ideas, plans, and results with a supportive community of thinkers and doers. It's a pivotal link to valuable resources that supports our ability to achieve business objectives.”

A community helps you identify and reward the biggest advocates of the brand.

All of your customers are valuable, but the customers that love you the most are important on an extra level. Customer evangelists don’t just use your product, they’re genuinely invested in the quality of your product and the success of the brand. They’re the customers that will rave about you to their peers, and they’ll also be the first ones to let you know when your product isn’t working perfectly so you can fix it.

When you can identify your customer advocates, you can do more to work with them and reward them for their loyalty. Developing a customer community will help you quickly see who your most enthusiastic and active customers are. Then you can find ways to provide special perks and opportunities that help you keep their loyalty.

A customer community creates social proof.

The customer advocates your community helps you identify can provide one of the most powerful marketing tools you have: social proof. They’re talking to each other within your community about how your product helps them. And chances are, they’re also talking about it to other peers they encounter and on their social media feeds.

You can leverage their enthusiasm by asking to feature them in case studies and putting their testimonials on your website. Their words are a more powerful way to show prospects the value of your brand than anything you could say yourself. And as evangelists for your brand, they’re usually happy to provide the quotes you need to bolster your marketing.

About Zendesk’s Luminaries Program

Every customer community will be a little different, but we’re confident the benefits we’ve seen from creating ours will extend to what other companies can expect if they build something similar. We’ve grown closer to our customers and seen them learn from each other.

We also know involvement in our Zendesk Luminaries Program has led customers to get more out of our products, and feel more loyal to us as a result. One community member told us, “Because of that's easy for me to recommend Zendesk and say that people should use it, and I'd be happy to help them make that connection."

If you’re a Zendesk customer who hasn’t yet joined our customer community, we’re ready to see you there! Join the Zendesk Luminaries Program today to access:

  • Free training and content that helps you get more out of Zendesk
  • Invitations to events where you can connect with other community members
  • Early access to beta versions of Zendesk products
  • Opportunities to share your experiences with Zendesk

It only takes a few minutes to join and tap into a new community of your peers.