Has anyone developed an SLA, and this may not be the correct term for it, for their community?

We are developing an SLA for our community for our support teams. 

Thanks in advance for your help! 

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Hi Bryan,


We are just now kicking off our Online Customer Community in a limited release mode for a select group of customers (we are in week 2 of the soft launch).   As expected, we are learning daily and our assumptions are being "checked" with every new interaction.


The question of SLAs and response times has come up many times in the planning phase.  I think that the issue of SLAs might be driven by the goal of your community.   Some communities are actually an extension of the support delivery process and, as such, should likely have, at least, internally published SLAs.  In our case, our community is not a support delivery tool.   We are currenly positioning it as a place for the users of our products annd services to connect with each  other to share ideas, solutions and ask questions.   Aspect employees and SMEs are acting in the background as facilitators and dicussion moderators.  If customers have a service affecting product issue, we encourage them to open a case via our web services site or the telephone.  (Both of wich are available only to our customers under active support contracts).


With this in mind, we have purposely NOT set SLAs for Aspect responses on the community as we do not want to set an expectation that Aspect will weigh in on every discussion thread immediately or at all.  Our goal, at this point, is to establish a vibrant "user" community and our current approach is to not play "big brother" in the space.


That being said, we are establishing in house "limits" on things like stale threads where we are defining for our employees when they may want to weigh in on a dicussion that has gotten no customer responses or strategies that they might use to "bump" a thread back to the top of the discussion pool by commenting on it.


I would very much love to hear others' input on this as well.  Thanks for asking the question.

I'm with Paula.

For me, the essential question about your community is whether it is going to be a community of like-interested/like-minded users that genuinely want to help other users, or whether your community will act as a support channel.

If you choose the former, you will want to build your SLA's to allow the community first crack at user inquiries. In my experience, you need to give them 48 hours. If an employee badge answers to soon, you will stifle your communities sense of ownership. And that's what it really comes down to - ownership. Is it your community or their community?

If it is their community, spend your support hours providing your enthusiasts with a private spot to community with you. Share what's going on, what's coming (wherever possible), and cultivate a climate of trust and respect by responding to their questions quickly. This will allow you to focus your efforts on a group that will help you answer "casual" users questions and concerns.

If you want to use your community as a support channel, then you have to figure out staffing, which means an equation of how many posts a support representative can provide to your quality standard. Maybe its 20, maybe 40 or more depending on your business.

I've tried it both ways and the former has several distinct advantages. One, you feed those people that are enthusiastic about your product or service by giving them "special access" and quick responses. Two, you create a community that will be largely self-policing - you'll still need moderation, but it will be less significant than the forum-as-support channel model. Three, your community can act as an early warning system as your loyalists expand your reach through their own experience and act as an early warning system.


Hope that helps.

Thank you Paula Boucher and Matt Phillips. I am in the first steps of launching a new customer community which will serve for both question/answers/ideas and for support related issues. Was struggling regarding how to balance between the need to provide solution for technical issues on a timely manner and the need to have a community that assists itself. Your posts are really helpful in applying the right balance between these two needs. 



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