While most brand communities would say they exist “To help our customers”, or potential customers, they probably fall into one of two camps: first resort or last resort.
What is a first resort community?
This means the community is the first port of call for members looking for help or to ask a question. Before, for example, contacting customer support. A first resort community will spend a lot of time facing the same questions over and over again. This is because members have learned to bring their problems here first whenever they have an issue. This could be made even more purposeful by making this suggestion during onboarding or in the community guidelines.
Highly active and engaged members are essential for running a first resort community. Because queries will usually be straightforward (or at least known from a previous enquiry) you want users who are happy commenting and redirecting fellow members across the community. A solid gamification system will help keep these users hard at it.
When members can’t solve a problem, it should be passed to the customer service team. Unsolvable problems are likely to be either highly specific and complex (requiring exceptional expertise) or concerning personal data which the member doesn’t want publicly shared.
The last resort community
Flip everything on its head: this community is the final port of call. They’ve tried customer support, online research, and a lot of manual experimenting—and now they turn to you. This is also a common scenario for product owners whose warranty has expired. Without access to the company’s expert support staff, they turn to its membership community for answers.
Rather than highly active superusers, this kind of community calls for a high number of extremely-knowledgeable experts. Guys and girls who may not chime in too often, but who can always figure out the solution. Whereas the first resort community needs a focus on fast resolution, last resorters must focus on the quality of resolution.
Back to our gamification comment, you’ll need seriously high-quality rewards to keep these users engaged. They are worth as much as your support team in many cases, and their answers will help you build an invaluable collection of solutions to obscure problems. Over time, these existing solutions may allow you to solve some complex problems in more of a “first resort” way.
Is one better than the other?
Not at all. Being a first or last resort community is just a by-product of how you do things and what your members need. It can be helpful to use these definitions to provide focus and structure to your community, but most just fall naturally into one role or the other!
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