Customer experience is critical to the success of every business. Here’s a quick overview of how Ipswitch’s Network Management division builds longstanding and meaningful relationships with their customers in a branded online community.
The social web is changing how we interact and engage with customers. We are no longer in control. The customer is more informed and empowered than ever before. That means they can choose whether they want to engage or disengage with us on their terms.
This is a case study about Ipswitch, a Lexington, Massachusetts-based IT software company. Ipswitch has been using Igloo within the Network Management division since 2011 to foster an active and passionate online community around their product. The post below was used, in part, as an award submission for Constellation Research’s SuperNova Awards which will be held on November 9.
The awards program is a part of Connected Enterprise 2012-a summit for senior leaders who are successfully using disruptive technologies such as cloud, big data, gamification and social to drive business value.
Sometimes before we can move forward, we have to go backwards. This was the case with Ipswitch and their online customer engagement strategy. With community participation declining and growth stagnating, the Ipswitch team opted to start from ground zero in order to scale their community building initiatives. Re-launching their branded online community using a new technology platform (Igloo), Ipswitch rebuilt their connection to customers, improved communication and drove a 3X increase over the original membership total (in a fraction of the time).
Before implementation: In 2009, Ipswitch transitioned from corporate-wide user forums (launched pre-2000) to a branded community. Unfortunately, participation declined amongst “power users” as it failed to deliver the core functionality that they had before. Membership in the online community reached a ceiling of 2,200 members and 39,000 page views per month prior to being shut down in February 2011 after more than 3 years in operation.
After implementation: Since re-launching the community in March 2011, membership has quickly eclipsed its previous total growing by 222 percent to over 7,000 members and page views jumped to 69,000 per month. Engagement continues to trend upward, so much so that Ipswitch decided to implement a points and recognition program which recognizes and rewards members for their contributions and activity. At present, approximately 200 members have progressed to at least the second “ninja status” by accumulating 100 points, which is not easy considering you only get two points for creating a new forum topic and only one point for comments.
The idea of a customer community for best practice sharing and peer-to-peer support is not a new concept. What is new, however, is the approach of crowd sourcing innovation to drive not only product improvements, but also product messaging.
Most product ideas are typically captured within a community forum, but Ipswitch is also launching a new product to the IT sector that is tied to the community via its API-allowing customers to create WhatsUp Gold templates within the product that will then be seamlessly and instantaneously shared with all community members (an app store for WhatsUp Gold templates).
In the beginning, the short-term mission was to rebuild the community for network engineers, IT managers, architects and system administrators that were users of the WhatsUp Gold product line. But just recently a shift started occurring-customers have begun to ask how they could share resources and content for other relevant applications and technologies surrounding network management. The conversation has not just been revived, but expanded, and WUGspace membership now includes many that aren’t even current WhatsUp Gold users.
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