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  1. Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! How a Tech Pubs Team Took Ownership of the User Support Forums Michael Torok
  2. Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! How a Tech Pubs Team Took Ownership of the User Support Forums Michael Torok
  3. Who am I?  Michael Torok @MickTorok Director of Community at Solarwinds formerly and not so long ago Director of Information Development  Why is community important to me? » Helps the business » Helps your department » Helps you do your job » Helps you grow and expand » Helps you gain experience that can only help you secure another position when necessary Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 3 -
  4. Where does ID fit in the post life cycle? Reach out Problem to or Idea Community Moderated and Reviewed by ID Customer’s Internal and idea External heard/problem Help Found solved by ID Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 4 -
  5. Who needs to be on board?  Support  Product Management  Development  Sales  Your Management, if you aren’t the lead or manager Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 5 -
  6. Support needs to be on board  Your biggest advocate, initially, will probably be the Support org. » Why? • They are on the hook, whether directly or indirectly, for supporting questions in the forums. • Support, in almost every company I’ve been in, does not refer as often as they could to the documentation. • Our release schedule requires constant support training • They are rarely staffed any better than ID departments » Working with Support, you can show both your own business impact and cost savings. We will get to that in a later slide, but this is very important both as a motivation and a justification. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 6 -
  7. Product Management needs to be on board  Product management » At SolarWinds, the Product Management team uses our community site to more fully engage with the needs and wants of our varied customer base. » PM will need to trust your judgment and your interaction level. • You may well find yourself proving this for a while. We did. • Double team with the PMs on their own threads. Ensure you are over checking, rather than under notifying about posts that seem important. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 7 -
  8. Product Management needs to be on board  There are forum threads specifically targeted at pulling feedback from customers and to communicate development’s next steps back to them. » These threads are included in the regular user forums, and you can imagine how some inquisitive, angry, or helpful customers don’t self-edit. & » Posts can be found all over the forums that lead to PM interaction. Does the product do XYZ? When will the product do XYZ? » Why make them search? We help them find and identify these posts, then we help move posts to the appropriate places. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 8 -
  9. Product Management needs to be on board  What do we gain? » We see where the product is heading and why. » We can become better user advocates for features. » We can also see what might have been missed in documentation by monitoring the “Does the product do xyz” posts. » We can get input into the product roadmap as the trust in our interaction and knowledge of customer wants/needs grows. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 9 -
  10. Development needs to be on board  Development » When things get out of your depth on the boards, you will need someone to contact. » Dev is key to successful engagement on the boards, they lend you the ability to get the right answers from the technical source. » Dev must be on board, as there will be many questions that you cannot answer. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 10 -
  11. Development needs to be on board  What do we gain? » Become the facilitator for the community. » Strengthen the bond between yourself and your audiences, both dev and the end user. » We gain knowledge and can possibly answer the same question next time without dev help.  You continue to provide a buffer between dev and the end user. » Though, in the best case scenario, this wall begins to crumble. » We have numerous developers now that are active in the community, directly interacting with customers. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 11 -
  12. Sales/Technical Sales needs to be on board  Sales Engineers » Maybe they are not called SEs in other businesses, but these are the technical sales people. » When a person is running into a licensing limit or if the person is pre-sales and testing a product out, these are your go-to folks. » Yes, if the sale is big enough, this might warrant post sales development involvement, but usually you start here with a technical sales person. » These may also be the people you reach out to instead of support in the case of pre-sales. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 12 -
  13. Sales/Technical Sales needs to be on board  What we gain » Valuable insight into the way a product might be used or is going to be used in someone’s environment. » Are we documenting to the situation customers are trying to put the product to use in? Offering everything we can? » Scenarios, use-case based doc… SEs are a panacea of information about the users and uses of your products. How is the software used in highly restricted networks? How is your online help made available? Is your web console being made publically available? Was it made to be? Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 13 -
  14. What is the role of Information Development? Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 14 -
  15. Why be involved?  Community is a huge influence generator » You can drive customer engagement » You can drive customer satisfaction » You can add another avenue to your education routes, documentation, videos, training, and knowledge base.  ID teams can only gain from what they invest  Real interaction with a large cross section of your customer base Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 15 -
  16. Why be involved?  Metric answered questions as support ticket avoidance » Metric incoming How To tickets against forum interaction/posts  Customer interaction allows for ID teams to learn what it really is like in the field without having to engage in costly customer visits. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 16 -
  17. What can you expect from the community?  Feedback » You will hear whether you are doing a good job or not » You can expect criticism to be immediate and, at times, abrupt – be wary of verifying versus suggesting answers » You will also be surprised by how many people, if you have a healthy community, defend your brand.  Issues will be found. No quality assurance team can do the job and cover the many different ways in which your product will be used. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 17 -
  18. What can you expect from the community?  If you are responsive, they will be also  I have found the SW Community incredibly responsive to calls for polls or requests for opinions. » They drive many of the features added to our products. » The community can lend you opinions and credibility around other changes: should doc be online only? Do you need more videos or graphics or walkthroughs? Where can you get scenarios? Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 18 -
  19. What do you have to know?  You need to understand what you are trying to do in and with your community » Is it a marketing initiative? » Is it primarily a support alternative? » Are you raising brand awareness and creating advocates?  You need to know your material and have a clear escalation path. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 19 -
  20. What do you have to know?  You need to have guidelines. If you do not have a community manager or director, you may well help create these. » What is considered offensive behavior? There is a difference between criticism, even harsh criticism, and being a bully or threatening. » Need to have clear rules about language and SPAM. » Need to make it clear that certain behaviors will have repercussions. We have a zero tolerance rule for SPAM. It is deleted and the user account is also deleted. » Even some of our MVPs on the SWI Community site have had to be reminded about professionalism. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 20 -
  21. Who are your customers?  This is one of the most important things you learn. You will find you have many and your role will expand.  All of the people you need to enlist for escalation/help/advice are also your customers. » End users » Development » Support » QA » Product management » Sales » Usability/Ux/UI Design Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 21 -
  22. What do your customers gain?  End users gain a vocal advocate in your company.  Development will want to see the feedback you are seeing about features and what is or is not working.  Support will want to know when they are being called out on the boards and will hopefully work to defuse some of those posts.  QA needs the same information as development. They may see scenarios they never thought of writing test cases for. They may get the backing to hire to fill testing gaps. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 22 -
  23. What do your customers gain?  Product management will definitely want to engage with customers wanting more from your products.  Sales will want to know of people having demo issues or requesting demonstrations.  Usability/Ux can use the community as a place to easily recruit customers for walkthroughs. You can make the bridge between feature requestors and new feature wireframe and paper testing. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 23 -
  24. What do you gain?  Job growth  Job satisfaction  Defense against “nobody reads the doc”  A group of people you can call on for feedback and help  You gain another avenue through which your skills and knowledge help others to succeed. - Slide 24 - Mine Mine Mine Mine
  25. What do you gain?  You gain a solid role in a growing area of interaction for many companies. One that is not going away and can only expand.  You can expand your own knowledge of how the audience uses your product or services which can only help you succeed in writing to them or designing documentation sets for them.  You gain visibility in your company. - Slide 25 - Mine Mine Mine Mine
  26. How do you take control?  Take the initiative.  Split your team up and have them spend time in the boards.  Start posting answers or referring people to your other materials.  Become a recognized knowledge source within the community. (  Don’t just give people doc links. Engage with them and make sure that you circle back after providing information. Close the loop. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 26 -
  27. How do you take control?  Help the community change product plans, become an advocate for your users and show management that the community can help with difficult decisions and priorities.  Help your community feel like they influence your decisions as a company. Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 27 -
  28. ROI  Incoming support case drop  Knowledge base case increase  One group that acts as the grand filter and knows the boards very well  One group that becomes well known both internally and externally for both knowledge and interaction (something we are not always good at conveying) Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 28 -
  29. ROI  Really become a user advocate with the data and proof to back up the claim.  Track posts your ID team interacts on.  Track the number of posts that avoided support calls (answer provided and customer happy).  Track customer suggestions  Track features driven from community Mine Mine Mine Mine - Slide 29 -