Lithys 2012: Autodesk - Best Community ROI

Lithys 2012: Autodesk - Best Community ROI

Company: Autodeskautodesk_logo.png

Entry Submitted by: Brian Kling 

Program Manager, Community & Social Media (bkling)

Community: Autodesk Discussion Groups (

Lithy Categories: Best Business ROI, Best Community Technical Implementation


Autodesk has actually had online “discussion groups” for more than 15 years – remember Compuserve?!  In June of 2010 we migrated to the Lithium platform.  Because we already have a well-established community, our focus has been on optimizing our Support and Service participation, getting our organization participate in a sustained manner and to evangelize to our internal business groups how much value this thriving community provides.


The Technology Integration Angle

One of our major efforts achieved last year was to answer the question “how do you keep a community open to all customers, but yet provide an enhanced level of customer service to those customers that have paid for an annual Subscription Contract?” 


Our solution was to integrate the Lithium platform with our CRM platform (Salesforce). 


The key components are:


Identify Subscription Customers – this was achieved when we migrated, but using our own SSO and authenticating against our CRM for Subscription Entitlement.  Internally we can see who has an entitlement, and even what level they are on, and a proper role is auto-assigned.  This authentication occurs every time at login.


Offer enhanced service – this boiled down to four escalation methods:


  • Automated “No Reply” - A question authored by a Subscription Customer is monitored; if no first Reply is received after 24 hours, a linked case is created in Salesforce and routed to the appropriate support queue.
  • Automated “No Solution” – A question authored by a Subscription Customer that has no further Replies for 48 hours and no Accepted Solutions marked will be escalated into Salesforce to determine if help is needed.  An email is sent to customer asking if they need our help, if yes, then case is routed to appropriate support queue.
  • Manual by Author – Premium level Subscription customers have a “Need an Answer” button on any new question they author.  They can escalate prior to the automated options above.
  • Manual by Autodesk - Autodesk staff can escalate any forum thread into Salesforce, for either internal collaboration, large file transfer, sensitive information, product defect tracking, Content Creation flagging, etc.


The ROI angle

Proving some ROI to your executive staff is an important part of a Community Strategy.  Not all ROI’s are easy to measure, and every community really has multiple ROI’s, not just on cost, but also brand awareness, advocacy, etc.  This example is just one of the many possible facets.


Our communities are mostly based on technical support questions related to our many design products.  Customers paying for Subscription Contracts are welcome to come and participate in our online community, but they also have the right to come directly to our Support staff through Salesforce.  As you can imagine, the cost of a technical, 1:1 interaction is vastly higher than that of a peer-to-peer interaction in an online community.  For us, the calculated cost difference is 1000x – yes, one that’s one thousand!


Through SSO we can easily identify which customers posting in our online community have Subscription contracts.  We also regularly survey our customers and ask if their issue was resolved in the community.


For Subscription Customers, if they had a resolution, we then ask them if they would have turned to us for 1:1 support if they hadn’t found their answer in the community.  Here is a perfect opportunity to measure how many of these customers achieve a resolution to their issues without needing to come to us on a 1:1 interaction, which is a direct cost savings calculation. 


For our community, in 2011 our calculated cost savings was $6.8M dollars.




This is not all about saving costs, because for lower severity issues that are common to many users, these questions are best served in a public forum where all can then find and benefit from the answers provided.  Further, typically answers come faster from this vast group of community experts, who also know our products better than we do; they use them in the trenches each and every day, in many ways we can’t anticipate or model!


For both angles

At Autodesk we use Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a common indicator of customer perceived value in our interactions with them.  In Product Support, we measure this in our 1:1 transactions, online communities as well as customer interactions through our partners worldwide. 



Our NPS score for online communities has reached or even at times surpassed the NPS for our Silver Subscription 1:1 transactions and our partner transactions, which proves that customers do assess a high value to their online experience.

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1 Comment

For the NPS chart above, all data points are trending upward, which is a good thing Smiley Happy


The yellow trendline is for the Community data.  Note also that it jumped by 34% in Q4, which is when we launched our Social CRM (Lithium & Salesforce) integration (Oct 2011)!