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  • Writer's pictureKerri Williams

User Groups: The Unsung Heroes of CX

Updated: May 23, 2023

One of the most undervalued and overlooked customer engagement programs is the Community User Groups space. It’s quite simple in theory, and it drives high engagement — so much so that many organizations don’t even realize the gold mine of value they are sitting on. Imagine a program that brought customers together, in a shared space, to discuss a topic of interest, potentially attended by internal resources but actually run by customers or a group of them. There is minimal start-up capital needed, minimal resourcing, and yet, so many of these programs fall flat or fail to produce meaningful results. If you’re considering a user group or events program, or you are trying to revamp an existing program, consider the following:
Define The Purpose — In some organizations, there are some who will salivate at the chance to ‘target’ their specific audiences with messages. While yes, these can be great opportunities to share what’s coming in the product or ask for feedback, sending out one way communication to members of these groups should not be the intention of these spaces — and if it is, then you may want to reconsider you approach as blasting group members rarely returns positive experiences for anyone. Focus on serving the customer needs, not just leveraging the audience. User Groups are more likely to be successful if focused on connecting users and enabling rich discussions.

Choose the Right Format — Pre-pandemic, it was pretty common for user groups to be hosted in specific cities and in person. It allows users to network with others in their close proximity, show off their latest use case, or in some cases, there’s free food or drink. But the pandemic saw a necessity to move these entirely virtual, which opened up the content selection and allowed for a more broad networking to occur. If it’s a brand new initiative, you may want to start broad with virtual user groups or networking events, then break out into networking groups or regional events. If you’ve got too many groups, you may want to think about consolidating and creating more consistency, it all depends on your maturity and needs.

Integrate with Events Calendars — Ideally you’ve got a centralized calendar internally where all those who are organizing events have the ability to see what’s coming and ideally CX owns a governance process to ensure that events aren’t overlapping, topics aren’t repeated to heavily and speakers aren’t abused with a constant barrage of requests. There are often many events being managed across the business, so ideally there is a way to streamline this both internally and externally, so that your attendees can also manage their attendance to the highest value events for their current needs. This Cisco Support Community does a great job with their calendar space, providing multiple filter options to help users find the events they’re most interested in.

Invest in Your Leaders — Have a plan for how you’ll recruit, enable and support the leaders of these groups. Look for ways to recognize and reward them, connect them with internal resources, provide them with early access and learning opportunities. User Group leads may not always be the most engaged in your online space, but they provide a deeper connection to your customer that is worth enabling. Some great examples of User Group Leader programs include: Alteryx, Microsoft Power BI, UIPath, Zendesk

Play the Long Game — Virtual events and user groups are not a magic bullet for success. There is likely to be a building period where you’ll need to invest in awareness, a suitable technology stack and of course resources to support topics, moderation and technical troubleshooting during events. You’re likely going to need to leverage your CSM teams or other customer facing resources to help you get this program off the ground. Ideally they are customer-led, allowing you to scale resources and reach a broader audience. The Salesforce Trailblazer Community Groups is a great example of how a program like this can spread like wildfire if supported properly.

Measure Success — This one seems to get missed way too often. It feels like such a natural fit for many Community or Success initiatives that sometimes the metrics don’t get tied to the business drivers. But, like any engagement initiative, virtual events or user groups are great indicators of relationship success and account health. Look to tie attendance to account metrics such as NPS, CSAT or CLV. While not causation for increases, there is likely to be some causation one way or another. Once you’re rolling, consider investing in a platform such as Bevy that will allow you to better manage the experience, and more easily tie your data into your business systems.

For all my years in Community, these types of events and programs still remain one of the richest forms of engagement you can have with your customers, helping you drive success through adoption, retention and renewals and yet, one of the most overlooked especially from an investment standpoint. But if you’re able to strategically support them, showcase their value and plan to invest in a long term ecosystem, you have potential to unlock some serious community power for your organization.
Do you have an existing Community Events or User Group program? Any words of wisdom for others who may just be getting started?

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