Entry submitted by: Claudius Henrichs (Claudius) Community Manager
Community: Skype Community (http://community.skype.com)
Lithy category: The Organization Game Changer
The Skype Community has earned a seat at the table of all levels of the business by delivering:
Ideas –Two major product teams are currently fielding new ideas for their products from the Community with more to come.
Interactions – The Skype Community is made up of both users and staff, allowing previously unseen levels of direct contact with end users.
Insight – Weekly feedback reports to product, marketing and operations are fuelled by inputs from the Community.
Influence – The Community is viewed as a strategic communications asset distinct to social media, blogs, service status and promotional channels.
Since its launch over two years ago, the Skype Community has been the best destination to discuss and learn about all things related to Skype. With over two million registered users across eleven languages, it is a well-established community with deep roots in Skype’s user-base. For that reason, our recent initiatives to develop the Community further have looked into the way Skype does business day-to-day and create meaningful change on behalf of our users.
These efforts have been a resounding success due to the ability of the Skype Community to deliver on four key promises to the business and shift the thinking within our organization.
A good community has the ability to provide a feedback loop in the tail end of the product development cycle. A great community provides clear and direct user input before the development cycle even begins.
More and more product teams are sponsoring idea boards on the Skype Community to gauge user interest and help shape development priorities for their products. At the moment, Skype for Windows desktop and Skype for Windows Phone both have idea boards open, and Community ideas are already making their way into products as a result.
These idea boards, and their promotion through Skype’s social media channels, have been highlighted by the Social Media Examiner as a “great example” of learning from customers what they really want.
While we expand this initiative to cover more of Skype’s products, other teams have not ignored the potential of the Community to generate ideas. The Skype Tips & Tricks blog recently published the first two articles in a series the Community requested through a Lithium poll.
Tapping into this resource has brought Community into the heart of Skype decision making for the good of all its users.
But the Skype Community is more than just a bank that we withdraw ideas from. In order to grow a community there must be some give and take, and we encourage Skype staff to get involved on the Community as well.
Members of staff who make frequent visits to the Community earn themselves the title of Staff Champions. They do sterling work in rewarding our users for their contribution to the Community, but the staff find the experience rewarding too. When we asked one of our Mac developers what was the best thing about being on the Community, he answered:
First of all, it’s not always easy to know what users think about Skype – Community provides one way of finding out. It feels great to see a user's reaction to receiving a reply from an actual developer.
In addition to our regular contributors, we also create live events for users to interact with us. Most recently, we organized the first Ask Skype event using the Lithium Groups feature. For an hour, three program managers answered questions about our iOS client as submitted by Community users.
Creating this direct engagement between our staff and users is invaluable in putting users at the heart of our decision making. As user-focused decision making is a fundamental value at Skype, the Community is widely respected internally for filling that role.
Another way in which the Skype Community has changed how we do business is by providing insight into user thinking, experiences and issues. In Skype, this information is one of the driving forces behind a weekly Product and Customer Experience report. The PACE report is voraciously consumed by the product development and marketing organizations, as well as core operations teams.
What makes the Community unique in this space, and lends weight to its voice in the Skype business, is users’ ability to confirm, clarify or contradict each other’s reports. This often serves to provide a more holistic understanding of issues than can be found in one-to-one contact channels. This makes Community a sought after voice in any and all user focused discussions.
If you were to ask ten people what the best way is to communicate with your users, chances are you’d get eleven different answers. For better or worse there are no shortage of channels through which businesses talk to users, and it’s becoming harder and harder to find the distinctions between them.
The Skype Community, however, has managed to carve a niche for itself separate to social media, blogs, service status bulletins and marketing channels. It is recognized as a channel which has real influence amongst our user-base on all levels of the business.
The Community is sought out by the business as the best place to land communications which:
This growth of the Skype Community as a communications channel was an organic shift in the business which resulted from recognition of the authority of the Community. That authority stems from the user-base, which the Community represents faithfully throughout the Skype business.
The Skype Community has changed the way Skype does business, whether it’s feeding the user voice into product design, allowing users and Skype staff to interact directly, providing insight post release, or enabling meaningful communications. The ideas, interactions, insight and influence provided by the Community have made the business sit up and take note. That’s a good thing too, because the Community speaks with the voice of the user.
If you think this is impressive, wait till you see what we’ve got coming up. Keep checking in on the Skype Community throughout the year as we continue to expand these initiatives with more idea boards, Ask Skype events and other innovative ways to drive Community into the core of our business.
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