Category Archives: Social Channels

Customer Resonse Summit 3 | Scottsdale, AZ, November 14-16

I’m attending CRS3 next week in Arizona. Chad McDaniel and his team have put on two great events already, taking a pragmatic and in-depth look at the effects and uses of social media in customer service. It’s also a great networking opportunity. The organisers have put together a 30 second clip on YouTube.

My boss at SYKES, Mike Clarkin, is speaking on “Take Control in Social Media: Make Your Own Community the Right Arena for Engagement”. This is a thought-provoking approach that counters the current focus on doing everything through Facebook and Twitter. Sure, these social networks are useful but they can’t be all things to all men.

Come and join the debate. There are still delegate pass discounts available, saving over $1,000 on the regular ticket price. This should be enough to offset the cost of travel and accommodation. Simply enter “SYKES” in the promo field on the registration form.


Technology Services World Fall 2011 : Email to Die Soon?

I attended the TSW conference last week at The Mirage Convention Center in Las Vegas. One important point made was the opportunity to change customer service channels used as companies strive to decrease the cost burden of supporting customers and create new revenue streams.

Interestingly, social support is key to achieving the first of these two key objectives. In the opening keynote sessions, JB Wood and Thomas Lah spoke of the high cost of email support, and the associated poor customer satisfaction rating. This channel is the least happy for both company and customers, whereas chat and community forums are both cheaper and more satisfying.

The relevance of Internet channels remains high. Indeed, chat may be having a rennaissance as we approach 2012. Chat originally promised much but didn’t have the expected impact when adopted. As company websites, and social media, hook customers to the Internet the opportunity remains for well-managed chat to keep the customer there and demonstrate real-time help to find what’s available, make offers and assist purchase decisions. Further, proactive chat shifts control from consumer to the online sales/support team by enabling them to monitor visitor behaviour and pop a window at the right moment.

As with anything, the best tools in the wrong hands are virtually worthless. Take a look at community forums built on SaaS platforms such as Lithium, Jive and Telligent. Many of these date back to around 2006/7 and won awards in those early days. Since then these have largely been under-resourced and poorly managed – failing to address the needs of the very people they rely on for their health – customers!

I presented at TSW during one of the Expo Theater sessions. My address, similar to my recent webcast, looked at what happens in the community and what must happen behind the scenes. Companies spend a lot of money on the technology platform but then fail to achieve a return on their investment because the community fails to step up. Right?

Sort of right, actually. There are very few cases where the “build it and they shall come” approach has really worked. Picture this – if you leave your garden untended, it WILL become unsightly. The same happens to your community forum. To prevent this, have your team give care and attention

  • Fertilise (nurture relationships)
  • Prune (remove abusive content)
  • Mow (clean up threads)
  • Move plants (repurpose content)
  • Cut flowers (take the important stuff back indoors for product managers)

Community forums are about people. People are about relationships, trust and confidence. These all need to be worked on. Your team is necessary to realise the potential of the community, and deliver service to customers. And over time, as community participation changes, so the team profile needs to change to suit.

I asked a couple of questions during the presentation:

  1. Was the TSIA research summarised by John Ragsdale’s slides an accurate reflection of companies’ experience? The majority of the audience agreed.
  2. What would you do next if your forum question wasn’t answered? (assuming you really want the answer). Options offered were:
  • Keep searching online
  • Contact the company by phone or email
  • Give up
  • None of these

The majority voted for contacting by phone or email which is, presumably, exactly what the company does NOT want people to do. No wonder community ROI is so elusive.

The audience at my session was great. Very engaged and interactive. My white paper was distributed – Online Support Communities – Are They For You? Enjoy reading this!

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…

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.

Jeremiah Owyang’s view on companies | A welcome view, but not new

I read Jeremiah’s recent post with interest, finding that his views were familiar but not immediately obvious in what context.

Companies and, for that matter, individuals are not all made equal. Indeed, just as a standard method of measuring ROI may be elusive in the world of community forums and social media monitoring, we see rich diversity applies in companies as much as it does in life.

So, does Jeremiah speak of all companies or only market leaders? It’s unlikely that sufficient research has been carried out to accurately reflect all companies so I assume his comments are reflections on leading companies.

I read “The Discipline of Market Leaders” a while ago. The authors summed up nicely the differentiating traits of leading companies as

  • Operationally Excellent
  • Customer Intimate
  • Product Innovative

Every leading company majors in one of these. The examples quoted included Sony as Product Innovator and IBM as Customer Intimate.

Reading Jeremiah’s post I equate his comments with the book as follows:

  • Biggest = Operationally Excellent
  • Better = Customer Intimate
  • Different = Product Innovative

One overarching thought I took from reading the book, however, was this – companies major in only one of the three disciplines but they do not lose sight of the other two. So leaders recognise a key strength but do not lose sight of important “others”.

As we think of the Customer Experience we do well to consider that loyalty has to be earned, it is not ours by right. What each customer experiences as they do business with a company leaves an impression that may be difficult to erase. Jeremiah was clearly influenced through many meetings and discussions to conclude, similar to the book’s authors, that you can’t be all things to all men, and you can’t be good at one thing to the detriment of others. Customers are not easily fooled.

Thanks, Jeremiah, for sharing your insights!