Modern Marketing Engine Podcast Sales Leadership

How the Online Community at SAS Provides Customer Support

How the online Support Communities at SAS play a pivotal role in their customer support strategy while adding marketing value to SAS. Chris Hemedinger and Shelley Sessoms share behind-the-scenes insight on how they encourage interaction and keep their users up to date within the community.

This podcast features Chris Hemedinger and Shelley Sessoms, two SAS employees whose efforts can be seen on the SAS Support Communities. As Senior Manager of Online Communities, Chris leads the team of three Community Managers including Shelley. The SAS Support Communities complement their technical support team and are not meant to replace it. In this episode, you’ll discover how the re-energized community plays a pivotal role in their customer support strategy and adds marketing value to SAS.

In an effort to create a deeper connection with community members, SAS evolved their 10-year-old online support community to include more technical and newsworthy content. Established in 1976, SAS is a recognized leader in business analytics software and the largest independent company in the business intelligence market.


On This Episode You’ll Discover:

  • How SAS’ 10-year-old online support community has evolved and encourages peer-to-peer help.
  • How there is a group of four individuals who oversee the community and curate content to encourage interaction.

  • How the online community is optimized for mobile users with a lighter version.
  • What is involved in the role of a community manager and why Shelley (affectionately) says it’s like herding cats.
  • How the 20 different communities at SAS are broken up among the three community managers.
  • How the community managers involve employees outside of the support team as problems arise that require specific expertise.
  • How the community managers have SAS employees write content to address recurring issues.
  • Why Chris says the biggest challenge of getting non-support employees involved is letting them know they have permission to communicate with customers.
  • How SAS polls their customers to find out what content they should create.
  • How content is created before deciding whether it should be posted in the community, as a blog or in a newsletter.
  • How the online community at SAS works with the marketing department and social media program.
  • How messages shared on the community are often amplified through social media.
  • What is published by SAS Press, their media channel.
  • How SAS conducts support-related, live community events.
  • How the community is only one component to SAS’ support services.
  • How members are recognized with badges and rank levels as part of the gamification strategy of SAS’ online community and how that encourages further interaction within the community.

  • How the community is not meant to replace tech support, but to provide more places for discussion about products and self-service as desired.
  • Why Chris says if you don’t have a branded community, your customers are talking about you somewhere else and you should consider a community to host those conversations.
  • Why Shelley says listening can help you to improve your business and communications.

Host your customers’ conversations on a branded community; otherwise, they’re talking about you somewhere else.
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By Bernie Borges

Bernie Borges is Co-founder and former Chief Customer Officer of Vengreso, the leader in virtual selling skills training and technology for today's modern sales rep. He was also the host of the award-winning Modern Marketing Engine podcast. His book Marketing 2.0, was an early playbook in social media strategy. Bernie is also a speaker and voice over talent. He has a passion for aligning marketing, sales, and customer success for great customer outcomes and sustained revenue results. Bernie is a fitness buff and enjoys kayaking with his family in Tampa Bay.

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