Long before there was Google+, the concept of +1 was used to address the topic of extraordinary customer service. In 1993, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service. In Raving Fans, Blanchard and Bowles cover three areas: Deciding what you as a business want; Discovering what the customer wants; and delivering plus one.
So what did they mean by delivering plus one. Here are some of the key points they articulate:
- Being consistent in your performance to create credibility with your customers
- Limiting the number of areas in which you want to make a difference so that you have a chance of doing them well
- Promote more service and deliver more (as opposed to under-promise and over-deliver)
- Meet expectations first, exceed them second
- Be flexible
Since one of the primary reasons to have an externally facing online community is to deepen relationships with your customers, it seems that the +1 concept from Blanchard and Bowles fits well for online communities. Here are 10 suggestions for ways you could +1 your community this year.
- Write +1 additional piece of content – we all know that quality content that is regularly refreshed is important to the continued health of a community. While the engagement of community members does create a valuable steady stream of new content, it is no substitute for the occasional piece of content originated by your company. Let your community members hear your voice and see your continued interest in the community by writing something new that is of value to them.
- Highlight the accomplishments of +1 of your community members – in order to demonstrate to your members that your community is not just a marketing site where the only thing your promote are the products, services, and accomplishments of your company, make some of the content about them. Think about the purpose of your community, why your members are there in the first place, and identify someone who has benefited from the fulfillment of that purpose. How have they used your products or services in such a way to benefit them? Tell their story – or better yet – find a way to let them tell it.
- Publically thank +1 community member for their activities in the community - if you have community members that are engaging in a way that you think is beneficial – they are answering questions of others, commenting, originating content, sharing valuable information, and demonstrating the culture you desire – then thank them. People love acknowledgement and it is sure to provide some level of motivation for them to continue. Others who see your public acknowledgement will also be encouraged to follow suite.
- Take +1 poll on ways to improve the community - asking people their opinions is a great way increase their level of connectedness to your community. It says that you care about what they think and the kind of experience you would like them to have. You benefit because it gives you a perspective into the thinking of your members and can help you prioritize your investments in the community in a more impactful manner.
- Implement +1 idea in the community based upon poll results - it’s great that you asked people what they would like to see changed in the community. Now it’s time to act upon it. If your members feel they can have some level of influence over the community because they see visible evidence, their loyalty to the community will increase (and so should their opinion of you.) With that increased loyalty ought to come increased spending on your products and services over time.
- Personally invite +1 additional person to join your community – while it is always great for people to find your community through search or advertisements, it is even better when someone personally invites them. The specific recommendation of the community from one of the members has a much greater impact on someone’s likihood to visit, join and engage in your community. Don’t just leave the personal invitations up to your community members though. Jump in and call or email someone you know to join in.
- Greet +1 new community member – designing your community so that it is easy for newcomers to engage and developing welcome guides are both great ways to make sure that your new members can easily jump in the conversation. It is even better is someone notices they are there and gives them a personal greeting. Many communities have automated tools to help enable this – things like a default welcome message and an automatic friend. The problem with relying solely on these things is that everyone knows they are automated and therefore no one feels that anything was done specifically to welcome them personally. Take the time to make a connection with a new member, comment on something they did, ensure they get an answer to their question, ask them something about themselves, or just generally connect in a way that is personal.
- Share +1 thing off topic - you are an interesting person and your members might want to know something about your interest other than business. This is why companies have baseball teams and office parties. They want to increase the trust among their employees through non-business related sharing. Don’t tell them what you had for lunch – unless of course it was something unique enough to be of broad interest (like the time some of my colleagues and I went to dinner at an exotic food restaurant and the table was spread with zebra, wildebeest, wild boar, and a salad topped with locust and crickets – that was worth the pictures and a bit of the story due to the general weirdness of it all.) Instead, share something that lots of people might have some interest in and feel like commenting on or sharing.
- Find +1 community member to give some administrative rights to - managing your community is a big job that can consume a lot of someone’s time. However, there is a good chance that you have at least one member that is passionate about an area of your community that you would trust to help you with moderation and topic leadership. Give that person the right to lead. This will make them stronger advocates for your community and give you additional resources – at no cost – to stay on top of all of the community management tasks.
- Host +1 online event- while most of the engagement that takes place in an online community is asynchronous, Community engagement can be energized with an occasional synchronous event in which members can plan to “meet” as specific times to discuss a topic. Online chats can increase the velocity of engagement. Video casts will allow people to both see and hear each other resulting in the formation of new and deeper relationships among members.
In the spirit of this post, I just couldn’t stop at 10 suggestions. Here’s +1 suggestion:
- Host +1 live off-line event – in the spirit of +1, here is an extra suggestion: while online events are good for deepening relationships, offline events can take those relationships to even greater levels. It is important to remember that the technology should not confine the engagement of your community. Humans are social beings and in one hour of face to face interaction can shave months of relationship building time off of online communications only.
As an added bonus – if you haven’t read Raving Fans or haven’t read it in a while, here is a mind map of the Raving Fans book.
What ideas do you have for to +1 your community?