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Technology Doesn’t Create a Community – People Do

As we wound down our week long vacation in Barcelona and Paris, I realized my return flight was canceled. I scrambled and contacted Edith our Airbnb host with whom we would be staying in Paris to check if she would be able to accommodate our flight change. She immediately messaged back, graciously offered to extend our stay at the last minute without any extra charge and even suggested stuff we could do with the extra time in Paris. When we finally reached home, I left a glowing message for Edith with a 5 star rating. I was happy, Edith I am sure was happy, and the platform made this all happen – Airbnb grew closer to all of us in this whole process. As I reflected on this, I couldn’t imagine a better example of a successful customer community.

Right next to the Jewish quarters in the heart of Paris is a shop – Nike Lab. As we munched on some delicious falafel, my wife told me the story of a spastic child who was looking to be independent and couldn’t find shoes which he could wear on his own without help from someone else. Nike invented a special kind of shoe which enabled him to wear them on his own and used the same concept in a new product line. A great story how communities are helping companies co-create products.

Building communities of customers and creating great customer experience is the Holy Grail for all marketing and customer service leaders today. And while a community is essentially about people, the right use of technology today is absolutely paramount as we build communities. Great stories like the couple I narrated above emerge from great customer experiences and convey a very real emotional sense to prospects and bring existing customers closer to the brand. Stories are the vehicles which carry the community forward and build advocates from customers.

To build a win-win scenario for every participant/actor in your community, gamification plays a key role. As the rating builds up for Edith as a great host, Airbnb recognizes Superhosts; they are the ones who get the most business. The transactions that customers carry out through the community portal like logging a support case, just looking for information, sharing experiences, recognizing exceptional work, suggesting ideas, to just giving feedback on service – need to be well supported. For example, Airbnb deliberately provides a messaging service within its app and dissuades hosts and guests from using something like WhatsApp – thus enabling Airbnb to have visibility and intervene in case of any break in service.

Communities are critical to customers and it is our goal to build lasting communities. Our technology depth and experience in building communities is one of our strengths. We collaborate with the marketing and IT departments to position the brand strongly through the Community portals. User experience design workshops carried out by our experts with all major stakeholders help create a great device agnostic experience for the community users. As all of us dream of building successful social businesses, and building vibrant and successful customer communities is a major step towards that goal.

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