A friend who’s doing consulting work asked me “Everyone’s asking about the ROI on community building. At your work at ACDSee, your work in building a community, does your management require some sort of justification or lead generation goals etc?”.

The answer to the question is that no one has asked me to justify my proposed work with specific numbers but I do need to provide a needs assessment & analysis for my proposals. My first project is based on the expectation of a considerable ROI, but I haven’t quantified it.

About my project: Our goal is to maximize communication with our customers in all ways that we interact with them (website, forums, blog, from within the app’s, tech support, etc). The expectation of ROI is that by making all the points of contact relevant can only increase customer satisfaction. My prediction for our ROI is:

  • Less demand on Customer Service & Tech Support as people more easily self serve themselves. My sister & I found that to be true at our site.
  • Marketing will have more information as we place polls in the forums.
  • Product development will have direct feedback thru betas.
  • Our blog has already proven an excellent place to teach how to use our products utilizing multimedia options.

My project includes benchmarking where we’re at now & monitoring the results on a regular basis. This will be imperative for me to show the growth of my efforts in a qualitative way & report on the progress.

To answer the question I’m going to draw on some resources others have gathered.

Will Pate presents these facts about online community ROI:

  • Community users remain customers 50% longer than non-community users. (AT&T, 2002)
  • 43% of support forums visits are in lieu of opening up a support case. (Cisco, 2004).
  • Cost per interaction in customers support averages $12 via the contact center versus $0.25 via self-service options. (Forrester, 2006)
  • Community users spend 54% more than non-community users (EBay, 2006)

Sean O’Driscoll built on that post & listed out specifics for Support, Sales & Marketing & Product/Program Dev’t.

So, stop pitching community and start pitching the ROI benefits!! Online success rate!! Satisfaction!! Cost model improvements! Product improvement!

As I mentioned, we’re aiming for Customer Satisfaction at ACDSee. I had read Sean’s post when it was first published & it’s interesting that upon rereading it now, that the word ‘localization’ jumped out at me. When I was at the ACDSee offices localization was added to my vocabulary. We offer software in 4 languages & I’m now aware of the implications of that.

This was a good exercise because I can use some of these facts in my proposal. Do you have other helpful sources on ROI for Community Building?