Company: Virgin Media
Entry submitted by: James Woods (Community Lead)
Community: Virgin Media Community
Lithy category: Community Design of the Year
Since the invention of the internet, digital technology has had an increasing impact on the way we live. As the UK’s first provider of all four broadband, TV, mobile phone and home phone services, it’s not just the technology that interests us – what matters is how it can improve the lives and prospects of everyone.
Virgin Media is a part of Liberty Global plc, the world’s largest international cable company. Together Virgin Media and Liberty Global serve 24 million customers across 14 countries, helping connect people to the digital world and enabling them to discover and experience its endless possibilities.
Our community goals
Our primary goal is call deflection. We believe that this can be done by enabling a vibrant environment where customers can come to seek help, a place they’ll come back to in the future for assistance, and where they’ll want to return to share knowledge with their peers.
We’re also committed to supporting the wider business in trialling new products and services. We wanted to help customers who are now just using Google for their answers. The role of the Community as a shop window in the path to purchase is a key consideration, as is our continued desire to drive adoption and advocacy.
Both the wider Virgin Group, and ourselves at Virgin Media have, as you’d expect, some incredible brand guidelines to work with in terms of design, web functionality and tone of voice.
These customer usability and the customer experience considerations are all tied-together by our guiding company ethos at Virgin Media, which is to be open-minded, fun and generous.
As part of our ‘Community Transformation Project’ (CTP) which ran from April –November 2015 we were able to analyse and refine our objectives and target in greater detail, and identify what we wanted to achieve as a result of our redesign.
Our specific design goals were as defined as follows:
1: Boost Helpful Answer views (reducing call traffic into Care)
a. Increase visibility (internally) and differentiate (compare and contrast to other posts)
b. Promote (external)
2: Increase traffic to the forums
a. Across the website estate
b. Across channels
3: Increase forum participation through to contribution:
a. Increase registered users and prioritise content
b. Improve repeat visits
c. Blog integration
4: Position the Virgin Media Community as a differentiator
a. Consideration phase of the consumer lifecycle – consideration-assimilation phase
b. For existing customers
What makes our community unique
We’re fully responsive.
Our CTP has delivered a community that isn’t restricted by device, and is seamlessly accessible – regardless of where you are or how you use it.
We’re not just on brand – we’re shaping it. Brand guidelines were being re-written during the project, which meant we were the first implementation of ideas, palettes, and usability rules.
Community Hub page
We’ve focused on creating a Community Hub page that is dynamic and welcoming.
It incorporates all the key features of the community in bite-size chunks, and the principle behind this page is used throughout the site - surfacing content where and when it is needed. Our ‘Trending now’ function typifies this approach.
Each visitor is greeted with a role-specific message, with a call-to-action that fits their standing in the community.
The ‘forum’ page can be adapted to hide boards that the customer isn’t interested in.
There’s a different experience for non-members than members – they are directed to find help, and guided to our enhanced ‘Getting Started’ and on-brand ‘Community FAQ’ section.
We’ve added a social-proofing community reach, which highlights the scope and reach of the site.
YouTube help videos within the community – while using YouTube API to show the overall video views. This module allows us to quickly showcase topical information.
The enhanced ‘Your conversations’ panel, as well as more conventional pop-up notifications and customer journey emails, means that it’s easier to know what’s been happening while you were looking elsewhere.
Working with a top digital agency we assessed SEO across the site, and have introduced a number of both SEO enhancement and automated blocking features. This means that fresh relevant information will be found, and outdated or inaccurate postings can be removed from search with a click of a button.\
We’re really proud of our plectrum nav button – which we think should win an award on its own.
Give it a try!
How we executed our community design
We worked AGILE – which ultimately proved to be the right choice as it delivered efficient collaborative working. Following careful consideration and preparations, a small core team worked in a series of sprints to deliver a fully-responsive transformative design in six months from the Discovery Phase to Launch and Completion in November 2015.
The initial decision was whether to make a light version – a refreshed community look and feel, or for the transformative, fully responsive option, with a real emphasis on delivering results. There was really only one option: Go big, or go home.
This was the motto adopted by our project team, as they focused on a Mobile-first development.
With the smallest device as the starting point, we were able to make sure that the same fully-featured functionality could upscale and prove accessible across all devices – and in doing so, we think made a big difference to the approach.
Co-location at Lithium / Virgin Media meant the team worked really closely in 10 day-long ‘sprints’, working with a Product Backlog, defined roles and responsibilities and shared project tools quickly identified across the two companies. Our core team of ten combined Lithium technical developers and a front-end / user interface designer, with Virgin Media User Experience, copy writing, design and UAT, under leadership and ownership from both parties.
Our community team populated the stage site with content, before along with our Superusers they were able to put it through its paces. In the staging environment, the community began to come together over the course of the sprints, and ideas could be tested, scrapped or implemented on the fly. One of our most successful features – ‘Trending now’ came about in such a manner at the tail end of the project.
(Comparing10/11/14 - 09/03/2015 and 09/11/2015 – 11/3/2015, unless otherwise stated.)
Comparing year-on-year results we can demonstrate that the CTP fulfilled it’s goal to Boost Helpful Answer views.
We’ve used the functionality available within Lithium to surface Helpful Answers quicker, highlighted and authoritative with an assured bright-green border.
Our helpful content now surfaces across the wider Virgin Media help sites too in the same branded manner. We’ve seen a 54% increase in visitor referrals from other parts of VirginMedia.com since the cross-site promotion initiatives we launched along with CTP, and a steady rise in time online from those joining from Twitter.
In terms of “increasing forum participation through to contribution” we’re seeing marginal growth – this is an established mature community with over 300k registered members. However we have seen a 16% increase in Member Entrances.
As a result of being responsive, we’ve taken a good look at the traffic from mobile.
While the amount of visits from mobile is similar, the amount of posts has increased significantly as we’ve made it a much easier experience to participate from a device.
As a customer hub, for seeking support and sharing with their fellow customers we’ve seen so much more engagement – a 48% increase in posts, for example, and community health has rocketed – Kudos is up 80% year-on-year.
Fantastic work everyone – the new community looks truly transformed, brilliant!
Barbara Hall, Head of Channel Delivery, Virgin Media
Absolutely speechless, incredible team effort, you and the team should be very proud of what you have achieved.
Shaun Hewitt, Senior Manager, eService – Liberty Global
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