It’s Monday morning and Carmen, a new Zenefits administrator, has a lot to accomplish.
On her list: onboard four new hires, process this week’s payroll and generate several reports for company leadership. New to the platform, Carmen is anxious. Although she received training and education from Zenefits during implementation and enablement, not all was retained. As Carmen considers her options, she remembers ClubZen.
ClubZen, Zenefits’ online customer community, has over 2,200 members, exclusive access to Zenefits’ subject matter experts and key product teams, as well as free feedback and support from those who understand your daily challenges: your peers. ClubZen has become an increasingly valuable resource for all things Zenefits. Current customers recently voted ClubZen the #1 unexpected feature for the platform. It offers participants the feel of a VIP experience that is also community-focused. Members post discussion topics ranging from challenges they face in their respective roles to how to use the Zenefits platform more efficiently. Many of the responses come directly from peers but it is not unusual to have Zenefits team members provide feedback and suggestions that contribute to the conversation. To add a bit of fun to the experience, participants can earn rewards, like gift cards and Zenefits swag. This customer-driven experience offers a window into the everyday world of the company administrators. Reviews, referrals, and success stories are just some of the fruits harvested from these consumer community gardens.
Online customer communities have become the latest leverage for the conscious consumer. No longer impressed by flashy gadgets and giveaway gimmicks, customers are looking for an authentic experience that resonates — not only with themselves — but their peers. According to leadernetworks.com, “people spend most of their time online with colleagues in professional networks (41%)”. The same research also revealed that “80% of respondents participate in online groups to help others by sharing information and experiences, and 66% participate in a professional community to belong to a group of colleagues and peers.”
As companies recognize a need to shift away from arbitrary upselling to an individualized experience, they are accessing the invaluable information that communities offer. Smaller sample sizes and access to superusers provide a perfect professional petri dish for beta testing and product feedback. Teams like product, UX, and sales are benefiting from the insight gained from these dedicated industry diplomats.
Tribe.blog indicates that, “In many cases, communities give brands an opportunity to test the use of branded communities in a more controlled, private environment, with 54% of respondents indicating that the company’s experience with private online communities has ‘changed the way we think about collaboration in general.’” It goes on to say, “Furthermore, 86% report they have experienced ‘deeper/richer insight into customer needs’ and 82% say they have gained the “ability to listen/uncover new questions.”
Online communities are often safe spaces for open, honest discussions. Each customer brings a mix of work and life experience that is as varied as the individual. The wisdom shared by more seasoned professionals is extremely valuable.
As the Community Manager of ClubZen, I moderate and facilitate many of the conversations initiated. What impresses me most is the willingness of many to show up fully to support and share with those less familiar with the nuances needed to navigate an increasingly complicated HR landscape. Compliance and custom fields are just a couple examples of the topics up for discussion. Difficult conversations like the death of an employee or how to manage a micromanager are sensitive subject matters addressed with vulnerability and a sense of comradery. We, at Zenefits, benefit from these conversations because we get a better understanding of how the HR industry is evolving to meet the needs of the employees served. Popular topics have included 4-day work weeks, 2020 compliance, and handling employee concerns about the coronavirus.
Communities are built on mutual respect and understanding. As we listen to understand what matters most, the hope is to respond in ways that build bridges and alleviate stress. Zenefits believes that our partnership with customers does not end with platform capabilities. With resources like the Coronavirus Resource Center, found both through ClubZen and Zenefits’ media site, Workest, Zenefits recognizes the responsibility we share with providing our customers access to content, information and support that is meaningful in more ways than one.
As more and more companies see the value of these communities, an entire industry has emerged in order to support and enable them. Organizations like CMX, a community consulting company that advises organizations on community strategy, have built a business model around online communities and the systems needed to make them successful. Statistics from their research indicate “85% of marketers and community builders believed that having a branded online community would improve the customer journey and increase trust.”
Entities like Influitive have made it their business to successfully support online customer communities. Balancing supportive software with meaningful metrics, these companies are the future of online engagement. Providing spaces for marketable meetups (both in person and virtually) have moved customers beyond their two-dimensional walls to three-dimensional experiences, making it easy to connect the dots and build bridges.
During a recent customer panel discussion at Zenefits’ Sales Kickoff event, a customer shared some impressive feedback about ClubZen, saying they get more out of their experience in ClubZen than out of their HR Professional Management membership. As the evolution of people operations continues to play out in public spaces, customer communities are one real way organizations address the need to authentically engage resulting in meaningful metrics.
But the members of ClubZen already know that.