Too often a firm creates an online community, purchases software and designs a site—and then spoils all this hard work by failing to monitor, manage or staff it over the long term. Sure, everyone paid attention in the beginning, but then the focus on it waned and everyone assumed that the mythical team mate named “someone else” was looking after it. Now, fast forward to the present, the result is a spiffy looking community and multitudes of unanswered questions–posts that draw plenty of eyeballs, but no replies. Or, even worse, a forum taken hostage by spammers, who feel they can hawk knockoff purses on your dime.
In fact, the customer journey has long been an integral part of the online community experience. Many – dare I say most? – online communities make “the journey” a key part of their mission, aiding the customer before, during and after the point of purchase or other key decision. Communities are dedicated to helping customers and other stakeholders understand, explore, question and learn about products and services. This “Ah-Ha!” moment for the customer journey highlights two different but parallel approaches – let’s call them tracks – for understanding this process: one is mapping the customer experience; the other is building customer engagement. In our ever-more-connected world, these two tracks are now merging to become one.