Monthly Archives: October 2011

Corporate Lessons to be learned from Social Media

I’m indebted to Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group for the supporting material. His recent post Social Media Crises On Rise: Be Prepared by Climbing the Social Business Hierarchy of Needs shows that crises brought about by the pervasive nature of social media is increasing. There’s a nice chart to show this.

His report links to a list of the events involved.  There are some howlers in there, so beware what you do if you live in corporate life!

  1. GoDaddy CEO gets trampled by the (social media) crowd after killing an elephant (my take…”boasting” while in the public eye – beware of the effect on your brand)
  2. CookSource steals a recipe (…plagiarism – just because you can doesn’t mean you should)
  3. Apple removes iPhone problems from community forums (…I’ll deny it and hope it goes away)
  4. Nestlé gets corporate on FaceBook (…how to make friends and influence people – not!)

Online, social media users look for transparency and authenticity [stage whisper “actually offline customers like this, too”]. Companies that can deliver this will do well, and be popular.

Being popular comes in two flavours:

  • On-the-outside popular – shortlived, the moment something goes wrong you really find out who your friends are. Based on portrayed values, this amounts to sugar coating.
  • From-within popular – enduring, because it’s not just a veneer, and forgivable, because everyone makes a mistake at some point, don’t they? Based on held values, the goodness oozes out.

Everything has to be aligned, starting from the core with held values and working out through attitudes and behaviour to the “full display”. In the past, full display was controllable and, through PR, different light effects used, making even the most ugly company look somewhat attractive.

When social media reveals, it’s warts and all. We can see that manipulation doesn’t work too well. Neither does denying (Apple and the grip of death?). Being corporate stirs up anger.

But saying ‘mea culpa’, asking for forgiveness, doing what’s right seems to work pretty well.

What’s the relevance to Customer Service through Social Media or The Customer Experience? Consumer expectations are shifting. It’s time to be wise and develop an approach that works.

Helpfully, one of Jeremiah’s colleagues provides some guidance as to what you can do if a problem arises…

O2 Never Calls Back

On Friday our broadband connection failed. After running the usual diagnostics, I called O2. My experience with O2 support so far has been fine. But I have been disappointed this time.

I called on Friday evening around 7pm, after doing the usual fiddling, unplugging, plugging, changing etc, the agent escalated to level 2 as the problem was outside his experience to fix. Level 2 did some more tests, with my support, patience and more plugging/unplugging. The verdict: the case required an enquiry to BT to ‘test’ something. I’d receive a call back with a few hours (most likely sometime early Saturday) but it could take 24 hours as it was the weekend.

No call received by 7pm Saturday, so I called. The agent reviewed the case notes, told me that the report indicated all was well on the BT side and asked me to do some more plugging and unplugging etc. The verdict: an engineer needed to visit my house and the agent needed to approval to schedule this visit. He would call back within an hour or two to do this.

No call received by 7pm Sunday, so I called. The agent reviewed the case notes, said that approval was given and that he’d schedule an engineer call but couldn’t because he couldn’t access the system. He’d have a colleague call me. She called back a little while later and the appointment was made for today.

The engineer visited to check our connection but knew that the problem was with a failed card at the exchange because other houses were affected. Presumably these were spread across a number of home broadband providers, which is why it wasn’t immediately obvious.

The O2 staff were friendly, thorough and polite but, my point is this, why did I have to keep calling O2? I am now in the market for another service provider. Anyone interested?

Webcast: Serving Customers through Social Channels: Looking Beyond the Hype

Last Thursday (October 6), I presented this topic. A recording is available here. Through examples, I explained how releasing a new product need not create the customer support spike so often a feature in the product lifecycle, and how switching from email support to community forums can dramatically reduce support transaction costs and improve customer satisfaction.

TSIA’s John Ragsdale provided the introduction and identified the following as key challenges to community success:

  • Knowledge management: leveraging community content for self-service and assisted service
  • Microtransactions and page views: ‘bleeding edge’ technology does not guarantee community success
  • Staffing models: how many employees are required, what skills, how to manage?
  • Process, process, process: defining the customer experience and delivering it
  • Core vs. context: Is community management really in your DNA?

It’s clear that many companies focussed attention on the underlying technology platform in the early days assuming, incorrectly, that minimal human resources would be needed to deliver on their investment. This resulted in unhealthy communities and an environment that gave little to either the corporation or the community.

A community is like a garden. Having put in so much effort to get it looking good (or paid the landscaper to do this) it’s counter-intuitive to step back and watch the weeds take over, the lawn turn into a hayfield and the bushes run wild. Executives wanted (and still want) a place where:

  • Users find what they’re looking for, ask questions, and receive answers
  • Contributors feel that their contributions are valued
  • The environment feels safe, welcoming, encouraging
  • There is life, interaction, energy
  • Access to the collective knowledge, experience, brain-power of followers
  • Interaction between peers, and company and community, is real and valued
  • Help is delivered at lower cost, and with greater customer convenience
  • New audiences are reached, including those that would never call

So what constitutes the right approach?

Social media, according to Erik Qualman, is not about technology but about people. Therefore, technology is merely the enabler and the health and energy of the community comes from people that participate. They will come, but what will compel them to stay?

Listen to the webcast recording, please. A lot is explained in a short time.

Going back to the garden analogy, having paid for the garden to be landscaped (or having done it yourself) you then have the structure in place but not the maturity. Plants, trees and shrubs need time to grow and they need to be encouraged and guided (fertilised and pruned). The gardener you employ (or the time you devote yourself) is needed and the garden takes on a beauty and shape as time goes by.

Beyond the social media hype, it’s all about people. On the outside, there are your customers, fans, followers. Without them there is no community. On the inside, there’s the team that clips, manicures, feeds, nurtures, moves, encourages and shapes the content and environment within the framework enabled by the technology platform. Get the team right and you can realise the vision of a community and the return you anticipated when the adventure began.