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Managing Support Forums
Publication date: 12/04

Executive summary

According to survey data compiled by ServiceXRG, 45% of software companies offer some kind of support-related forum or bulletin board. Some generate literally hundreds of thousands of postings by knowledgeable users and outside product experts, creating a valuable and influential community (and deflecting many hard-to-answer support queries). But other forums are far less successful. "Our usage has been dismal," a services manager told us. “Only two clients have posted to the forum, even though we’ve notified everyone by fax, newsletter, and even an insert in their quarterly support bills.”

Why do some forums work brilliantly—and others fizzle out? As support organizations try to migrate users toward self-serve, Web-based solutions, this question has become increasingly important. Not surprisingly, there’s no silver bullet that instantly makes a support forum successful. Instead, there seems to be a long list of success factors: the right focus, design, traffic promotion, incentives for contributors, moderators, metrics, and much more. If you handle most of these details well, chances are your forum will soon take on a life of its own.

To get a sense of what support forum producers have learned about these success factors, the ASP recently polled members and friends for their best forum management tips. This report reflects a compilation of the most valuable ideas we found, plus some useful metrics and resources for further guidance.

  • On Getting Started
  • How to Build Traffic
  • The Call Deflection Question
  • On Rewarding Top Contributors
  • The Role of the Moderator
  • Meaningful Metrics
  • Selected Resources

Copies of the survey are free to ASP members in the members-only area.

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