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In my 10+ years in the research industry, I’ve seen firsthand the evolution of insight communities. Once considered an optional “cool toy” for researchers, insight communities have become a mainstream, must-have tool for industry experts. In fact, according to the GRIT report, a bi-annual study on the market research industry, more than 60 percent of companies now use communities to engage with their customers.

The adoption of communities is growing because they’ve proven to deliver high-quality insight faster. That speed of insight comes from the level of engagement and participation among community members.

At the 2017 Asia Pacific Customer Intelligence Summit, I had the honor of presenting original and fresh data on why people participate in insight communities. My colleague Elsja Hancock, research director at Vision Critical, joined me for the presentation.

To prepare for our talk, we ran a short project on our customers’ communities across Asia. More than 5,000 community members across nine of our customers’ communities participated in this project. Our goal was to uncover why community members (our customers’ customers) choose to participate in insight communities, and use those learnings to help companies get more out of customer engagement.

We were impressed with the reception to our study. For example, when we asked members to upload videos to explain why they joined insight communities, we got a lot of detailed responses. It always amazes me how open people can be and how generous they are with their time, if approached in the right way.

Our study highlights three key reasons why people are eager to engage in ongoing conversations in insight communities.

1. They feel appreciated

Ninety-three percent of customers said they feel appreciated  when brands listen to them, according to our study. When companies reach out to them and ask for their opinions, customers feel valued and special. Customers like being a member of an exclusive group that’s able to advise on the direction of the brand.

More than 80 percent of community members indicated that they feel more loyal to a brand because of their participation in that company’s insight community.

The ROI of listening to your customers and making them feel appreciated is high. In addition to the impact on your marketing, customer experience and product innovation strategy, it can also lead to better customer relationships and brand loyalty. More than 80 percent of the customers we talked to indicated that they feel more loyal to a brand because of their participation in that company’s insight community.

Takeaway for brands:
Show your appreciation for your customers by regularly engaging them in your insight community. Customers enjoy providing their feedback (provided the research experience is good), and ongoing engagement helps build brand loyalty.

2. They see their own influence

Almost 90 percent of customers enjoy “share backs”—information on how their input influenced decision-making at the company. Our study shows that customers enjoy hearing what brands are doing with their opinions and advice. They want to know whether the effort they are putting into answering community activities has a tangible impact on the company. Customers are more likely to continue to engage if they know the results of the participation.

Takeaway for brands:
To encourage participation and increase response rates in your insight community, share with your customers what changes and decisions you’ve made as a direct result of their input. Share back generously and often.

3. They value authentic, ongoing conversations

Customers like providing feedback—both good and constructive. Customers in an insight community don't always provide rosy, positive feedback. In fact, we found that members of an insight community can be more critical than those who aren’t members of a community. This might seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense; after all, if a customer already has a relationship with a brand and is using that company’s products and services, providing honest and constructive feedback could benefit him or her directly.

We also found that community responses are richer and more in-depth. We compared the results to questions completed by both community members and non-members and discovered that community members provide, on average, eight more words per open-ended response than non-members.

Also, community members don’t mind being asked for follow-up questions. When you contact the same people in your insight community, response rate can be 70 percent or more.

Takeaway for brands:
Engage your customers for constructive feedback. Also, if you need to dig deeper and ask follow-up questions, talk to the same group of customers to get more information faster rather than starting from scratch.

Better relationships = better insight

All these points prove that ultimately, participating in an insight community is an extension of the interaction and relationship that customers have with a brand. An insight community is a channel for a brand to learn and improve, for customers to have a voice and for the relationship between brand and customer to deepen and develop. When we have relationships with people, the feedback that we get is so much more valuable.

If you’d like to learn more about building stronger customer relationships in communities, watch a recording of our presentation from the APAC Customer Intelligence Summit.

The 10 Smartest Brands: How They Use Customer Intelligence

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