Calculating the ROI of Community Projects: A Conversation with Francoise Tourniaire

This month I am going to publish interviews with the instructors for our Professional Development Courses scheduled for Monday, May 2nd at our Technology Services World conference in Santa Clara, CA. We have pulled together five courses, each with an instructor who is a recognized expert in their field. The courses from from 8am-1pm, and are a great way to educate your team, reward top performing employees, and get them enthused about a new topic.

First up is a long time partner and supporter of the TSIA, Francoise Tourniaire, founder of FT Works. Francoise is a very popular author and visionary on KM and social media, leading workshops and providing consulting services for dozens of TSIA members each year. Her professional development workshop, “A Gold Mine? Calculating the ROI of Community Projects,” hits on the single hottest topic in service today. I had a chance to chat with Francoise last week about her course as well as industry trends. Here are some highlights.

John Ragsdale: I’m thrilled to see you offering a workshop on the ROI of customer communities. Talk about jumping into the lion’s den—this is the hottest topic in support today. About three fourths of our members companies offer a customer community. Does it surprise you that so many companies adopted this technology without an understanding of where the ROI comes from—or if there is ROI?

Francoise Tourniaire: The rational side of me hates jumping into any large initiative without a good metrics strategy – but at the same time experiments are wonderful and mind-opening. Support organizations tend to be very conservative so it’s great to see them taking risks. My view is that it’s always ok to try something new, and that part of the experiment must be to measure the success of the experiment. So sure, get going without being certain you will see an ROI, but take steps to measure the ROI.

Ragsdale: According to our most recent social media survey, 65% of members active in social media say they are unable to measure ROI—they don’t know how or where to start. Many companies assumed they would easily deflect phone calls to the forum, but I don’t hear many stories out there of dropping call volumes. What are some of the financial benefits other than call deflection?

2010 TSIA Social Media Survey

Tourniaire: In my experience the bulk of the quantifiable savings comes from case deflection so it would be interesting to see why volumes are not affected. At the same time, I see lots of my clients experiencing significant benefits on the knowledge management side. Rather than having to invest large amounts of resources in creating and maintaining knowledge, they find that the forums create a strong “tribal” knowledge base, which can be even more useful to customers than something built internally. So that would be one area to investigate. Another area is how increased customer satisfaction (and customers are overwhelmingly happy with forums) can translate into repeat purchases, additional purchases, and referrals. It’s not easy to track them, but it’s worth trying.

Ragsdale: One of the complaints I’ve had from members is the reporting tools for their community platform are insufficient, and there aren’t enough prepackaged reports to get them started. In the workshop, do you make recommendations on what ‘best practice’ reports companies should be tracking?

Tourniaire: Reporting is an issue, yes. Some of the problem lies with what the limitations of what community vendors offer today, but a big part of the problem is that support communities are often rolled out without much forethought and without solid thinking around metrics. If you think through the metrics requirements and implement with them in mind, you can gather those “best practices” metrics much more easily.

Ragsdale: Let’s talk about integration. Francoise, I believe you were at Scopus about the same time I was at Clarify, so we both have a CRM-centric background. I have to say I am saddened that only 8% of our members have integrated communities to CRM—and that number remained flat from the 2009 survey! Clearly CRM integration isn’t a priority, but in my mind, it should be. Does the 360 degree view of the customer not include community activity? Or is CRM no longer the center of the customer data universe?

Tourniaire: Fifteen years ago when Scopus was pushing the 360-degree view of the customer I totally, absolutely believed that we would deliver just that to all our customers. But even then I could not help but notice that even our customers were not always purchasing an entire solution from us, and with the proliferation of functionality I think things may be worse today than they were at the time. With communities, integration is rare because many times communities were started as a skunkworks project, under the radar of the structured and slow-moving CRM team. So it will take time to hook up all of the pieces. I’m very hopeful in the long term.

Ragsdale: Let me get back to your course. You have a lot of ground to cover in a 5 hour workshop. Could you give us an idea how the day is structured?

Tourniaire: It’s going to be very hands-on, with the goal that every attendee takes away a custom model for his or her organization, so it will run as a hands-on workshop. We’ll start with some best practices discussions on ROI in general, and then we will dive into practical topics, from measuring case deflection to estimating knowledge management savings, drawing on my experience working with a variety of clients on community ROI. The workshop will be very attendee-driven. Ideally I’d like to be able to put the power of the attendees of the workshop behind each and every ROI we build. That’s the power of communities!

Ragsdale: I’m so impressed you are actually giving class attendees a spreadsheet model for calculating community ROI. That’s one heck of a take away!

Tourniaire: I’m a generous person😉 — and I’m all about practical, tangible results.

Ragsdale: Francoise, thanks for taking the time for this interview!

Tourniaire: John, it’s always a pleasure to talk with you. And I want to mention that I will also facilitate a workout with Rob Shapiro of Oracle on Tuesday afternoon at TSW on the topic of community best practices and metrics, so that’s another opportunity to talk about my current obsession, support communities.

Explore posts in the same categories: Best Practices, customer support, Enterprise Support, knowledge management, social media, Technology

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One Comment on “Calculating the ROI of Community Projects: A Conversation with Francoise Tourniaire”

  1. kgroshek Says:

    It was a pleasure meeting you on Monday morning. I appreciate what you shared and the format of the workshop. Thanks, Kim Groshek


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