BeckyBenishek_picBecky Benishek is Social Media and Community Manager for the Crisis Prevention Institute, the global leader in behavior management training. She talks to us about the role of working out loud in external Yammer communities at the Crisis Prevention Institute.

Becky, can you share with us how the Crisis Prevention Institute has been using external communities?

The Crisis Prevention Institute now has two external communities. We are an organization that delivers training to education, healthcare and other long term care organizations. The first community we launched is for our 30,000+ Certified Instructors. These people train others in their organizations and ultimately train over 10 million people across the globe.

We have just launched our second, which is focused on providing person-centered care in dementia and is our first community that allows not only customers but clients and thought leaders who may not have taken our training but who advocate for our mission.

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What’s the history of the first community?

When I joined CPI, they had an existing instructor community but it had not been built with an eye to the customer. Instructors were opted in to this new experience right away without much context. They couldn’t get any notifications as to activity in the community. Engagement was very low. In 2014, our organization got Yammer so there was an opportunity to re-platform the community and launch it more effectively to its users. We soft launched in May and were ready by July for takeoff.

What did you do differently this time?

We had a completely different approach. We treated it as an ongoing campaign, slowly inviting in groups of Instructors until we’d invited everybody. Initially we as CPI staff were more active, answering questions, posting our own questions to get discussion moving, showing by example the many ways our customers could use this space. That really helped people take up their engagement. Now we see users in there every day brainstorming strategy and tips and sharing experiences to learn from each other.

What value are you seeing from working out loud with your customers?

The best part is that now we see how our customers work. We see how they connect with each other. There are lots of offline meetings set up to go with the discussions online. We have really seen it blossom into the customer’s own space, so we need to remember to get out of their way. We even implemented a 48 hour rule on questions in the community to help with this. Outside of a few caveats that we have outlined in an internal policy document, we only respond to a customer question if it has not been answered for 48 hours to give the community first chance to answer. We conduct YamJams with customers on topics that matter to them, and share micro-learning opportunities such as industry news items and blog posts.

Working in this way with our customers has enabled us to better understand what happens in their day to day lives. We can also share our customer stories. They are so awesome, and it gives a great sense of gratification to both of us to share the positive difference they make with the public. Importantly, too, we’ve seen that our Yammer community reflects what happens offline as well. For example, our customers are not only busy, but their work can be seasonal. Online engagement for our educators will drop for the summer because of summer vacation, but that is part of our customer’s work patterns.

What have been some of the challenges of working out loud in this way?

Many of our customers have a perception that the boss won’t let them use social. We have had to be clear that we’re providing a professional learning network. That helps them to communicate that none of us are wasting time, this is here to help them extend their training skills.

We have also remained cognizant of the fact that we are a person-centered company and we need to do what our customers need. In our business we still have faxes and typewriters because some of our customers need us to use them. We have had to focus on the WIIFM for our customers in encouraging them to go to this new, online place and think of it not as giving up their time, but as a place to exchange their time to get help and answers.

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What do you think is required for success?

Have a goal before you start. Be flexible and recognize it is for them and not for you. These communities are easy to set up but you need to plan for the future and plan to invest in engagement. Remember to get out of the way of your customers when they are starting to work out loud. This is not a sales environment. It is a chance for the customers to work out loud together. If you do it right, customers sometimes even forget that you are there. It helps to try different things. We originally posted a discussion question a week. We also set up a Hobbies group for our customers to use—but mostly they talk about training.

Lastly, remember that quality matters more than quantity. Use benchmarks to know your progress but focus on achieving your and your customers’ goals.

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