Historically, organizations have struggled to integrate community into their infrastructure and customer-facing offerings. Community is often looked at as a standalone application or service that’s tacked onto a company’s overall suite of platforms, such as their corporate website, their marketing automation platform, their email engine, and their CRM.
Such a lack of integration makes each platform, and even the entire company, less efficient because they create a fragmented view of customers. Your email engine gives you one set of data, while your CRM and community give you two more. That information is never combined to give a comprehensive dataset including transactional data, demographic data, and behavioral data that you can use to provide a better customer experience.
Many leaders also wrestle about where community should sit in their organization. Should marketing own the community? What about customer support? Many organization never fully answer this question or define their community’s business goals, so it becomes just another relatively isolated tool among many. When I worked at Intuit, we dodged this question and treated it as a Center of Excellence. The team moved around to different parts of the organization at different times: Marketing, Support, Product Management, Advocacy, and others.
Community should not be thought of as just another platform, or even as just another offering from an organization. It should be part of a larger suite of platforms, all of which work together to forward business goals like customer acquisition, engagement, retention, and revenue. ‘Community as an Integrated Service,’ or CIS, is: a community that's fully integrated with technology stacks across an organization (Support, Marketing, Sales, IT, etc.) and enables the company to tailor the entirety of the customer's online experience toward each individual's specific needs.
This holistic approach leads not only to improved business outcomes (targeted marketing and care, sentiment, retention, etc.), but also to a better customer experience. It is a key driver of the customer’s overall digital experience (and to some degree his/her offline experience) because it impacts a company’s business processes. It is part of a larger integration tying it together with marketing technology stacks and support systems, and it drives the overall ecosystem of customers, partners and other stakeholders.