Top Tips for Creating Powerful Zendesk Community Forums

Posted on 19 Jul 2016

Your Zendesk Help Center forum can be an extremely valuable customer service and branding tool on your website. While you do have to put a lot of work into setting up a viable forum, once the community is up and running, your business can leverage powerful benefits with little more than routine moderation and maintenance.

Create a Plan and Set Goals

Functional forums always start with a plan and goals. Know why you want a forum on your site so you can drive participation to meet your goals. A common goal for forums is to provide a place where users can help themselves and others when you or your staff are not immediately available to answer questions. While this seems like a productivity or efficiency goal, consumer surveys indicate customers are often more satisfied when they have a DIY option. As many as three-fourths of survey respondents said DIY is convenient, and 67 percent said they actually preferred it to traditional phone service options.

Build for Key Community Participants

Create a forum that all key players can use. Structure the forum so staff can make critical announcements to relevant customers and so customers feel welcome to engage with staff and each other online. Remember that many users are likely to access your forum via a mobile device, especially if they are looking for answers on the go, which is one reason they'd opt to check in online rather than make a phone call or send an email. In its own tips for creating strong forums, Zendesk points out the need to select templates and formats with mobile in mind.

Create Task- or Topic-Centric Structure

Use threads and layers to create a sort of indexed menu of forum topics so customers can find the information they are looking for easily. Separate forum threads by overarching topics, and encourage users to post new discussions and questions within areas that match their topic. If you want to encourage online camaraderie between customers and staff, consider creating a small "off-topic" section where fun items can be posted. When letting users create new discussions themselves, provide a reminder to check to make sure the topic hasn't been created already, and empower forum moderators to integrate discussions into single threads if they are on the same topic. Managing your forum structure keeps information organized and useful.

Encourage Community

Use templates that break content up with pictures and create a stronger community feel for consumers. Customers might also like to have the option to customize their forum profile and signature, add a picture to accompany their posts or provide a link to their own social profile or pages. Encourage employees who use the forum to do the same so customers can interact with people rather than avatars or numbers.

Build Flow Between Forum Articles and Posts

Continually grow your forum by harvesting the information users and staff post rather than letting it wither away into a forgotten online corner. Moderators should regularly review forum posts and comments -- not only to ensure that inappropriate behavior is minimized -- but also to create links between relevant topics. A user who enters the forum should be able to click on one topic for information and follow a trail of links to numerous other related topics. When topics are especially popular or helpful, consider writing knowledge base articles using those ideas and linking to the knowledge base from the forum.

Ultimately, your forum should be user-friendly and integrate well with the rest of your Zendesk Help Center. Lotus Themes can help you create a seamless experience for users on all your Help Center pages.

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