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October 31, 2014

Snowballing Incredible Customer Experiences

By michaelpace on March 6, 2014

Snowballing Incredible Customer Experiences

“Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill.” – Warren Buffett

This article originally appeared in ICMI’s Social Media Resources.

It is such a perfect simile. We’ve all had those moments, for good or for not-so-good, when our actions build upon the previous, and create either a gloriously round snowman body or a boulder blocking our driveway.  Hopefully, you are having more of the positive experiences.  I love the simile because it conjures such a clear visual example of creating virtuous cycles.  They are not always perfectly linear, grow based on the force/momentum, conditions, and the overall landscape, and need time to mature.  As I approach developing customer service experiences, I am always trying to identify the opportunities for virtuous cycles.

What is a virtuous cycle?  Dictionary.com describes it as “a beneficial cycle of events or incidents, each having a positive effect on the next”.  Usually in the business world, this is expressed by a boring PowerPoint Smart Art of arrows going in a continuous circle.  We have all seen it, nobody is impressed.  In actuality, virtuous cycles are really like snowballs; with each revolution the circle grows and compounds for the next revolution.  While this appears to be a great post on how to build a snowman, let me bring us back to how virtuous cycles great amazing and profitable customer experiences.  Let’s start with a digital example:

Virtuous cycle

 

 

 

 

 

Moment 1: Customer tweets to your handle or mentions your brand with a question.

Moment 2: Customer Service responds to the tweet, with a link to Knowledge Base.

Moment 3: Since this a fairly frequent question, you post the tweet and response on your blog or community site.

Moment 4: Customer Service “proactive” tweet with a link to your support blog and/or community site, “Wondering how to do XXXXXX, so was one of our customers, see how <link>”.

Now, what just happened with this example?

  1.  Customer is acknowledged on Twitter, hopefully within a beyond customer expectation turnaround time (2-10 minutes).  Both acknowledgement and response time are as important as providing the correct answer in social customer service.
  2. Customer is provided an answer linked to your Customer Knowledge Base.  Not only does this provide an answer to your customer’s question, it builds awareness that answers are available in another digital format. If this is a public tweet, not a Direct Message (DM) or began with the “@” symbol, any follower can learn from your other customer.
  3. Believe it or not, you are now in possession of valuable content.  You have a customer’s voice, an answer to the question, and awareness to alternate forums.  By posting this content to your community or blog site, you have created “searchable” customer support content.
  4. By posting the community or blog site link, you now have created proactive content for customers who may search for their answer via a search engine (Google, Yahoo, etc…) and provided help content on your site.

Even if just steps 1 and 2 occurred, you still created a bigger snowball or virtuous cycle of customer support between your Twitter community and your Knowledge Base.  If moving to steps 3 and 4 produce a sense of fear or out of your current scope of work, you are correct.  But I believe it’s the role of Customer Service and the tools they use that is changing, and so should Customer Service leaders.

This may sound similar to previous Customer Service tactics, such as while your customers are on hold waiting for a service representative, you let them know they can also get answers from your website.  The intention in this message is to reduce or deflect call volume by creating awareness of your website. People and customers all hate this.  They probably called for a reason.  This tactic actually creates a vicious cycle, where the message angers callers on hold, and typically creates a longer call.  Virtuous cycles create value for all parties involved.  Virtuous cycles do not interrupt.  In the example above, the customer received their answer in the forum, format, or medium the customer chose.

If you wanted to introduce them to your website, use a follow up email post or even during the interaction with the customer on the phone.  Let the customer know you will be sending them a link if they ever need this information again, a quick simple place they can find it. 

Other examples where virtuous cycles can be created:

  • Providing your Twitter or other social links on your mobile app
  • Including Knowledge Base information or search functionality on your mobile app
  • Using company blogs or SHORT whitepapers to educate or coach your customer post a transaction, but only if it is relevant to the conversation
  • Invite customers to your communities (in person, via email, over the phone, etc…) – only after the transaction has been completed
  • Using Chat functionality to link to your Knowledge Base (but also provide a in simple written form while in the chat
  • If you have a Customer Success program, make sure you have virtuous cycles imbedded in your processes

Virtuous cycles create exponential value for both your company and the customer.  If done well, you may also begin helping customers who you will never hear from, because they have helped themselves.  And if done really well, those customers will also share their new insights.  Then the snowball starts getting bigger and faster.  Your infrastructure and processes are the hill, and your helping the customer is the first small ball.  Find your virtuous cycles, create momentum, and get rolling.

Image credit

Net Promoter Scoring is Asking the Wrong Question

By michaelpace on February 4, 2014

Yoda Smarts

If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play

I’m not a huge fan of Net Promoter Scoring (NPS).

Nope.

I am sure this sounds like blasphemy from a Customer Service professional. 

Too bad.

I would not recommend a family member, friend, or colleague to blindly use Net Promoter Scoring to understand or forecast the retention of their customers. 

I’d give NPS a Net Promoter Score of 7 (Passive).

Take a second and answer these questions about Net Promoter Scoring:

  • What do you do with the score?  Individually and in aggregate?
  • What are you really trying to understand by collecting this information?
  • If last month you scored a 27, and this month scored a 28, what does that mean?
  • Is the verbatim on the general survey more important than the scores?
  • Should or do you alter retention or net add forecasts if your scores change?
  • What is the action if the score drops?
  • Do your customers know the difference between a 6, 7, or a 9?
  • How often do you ask yourself if this is a waste of time, energy and money?

Net Promoter Scoring is a good system.  It’s better to collect NPS than to not at all.  Since it’s relatively generic, it allows you to benchmark your industry and others.  It will provide a sense of your customers’ emotional connection to your company.

Why does “Ultimate Question” ask if you would recommend someone who is near and/or dear to you?  It is clearly looking for an emotional relationship versus a behavioral relationship because you would not recommend a commodity company.  I know the end goal is to get the recommendation or referral, but the real underlying question is quite different, and may be more powerful.

What Net Promoter Score is really asking is:

Do you trust <company X>?

Answers should be simple: Yes, No, or Sometimes

If a participant answers “Yes”, theoretically you are recommendable.  I say theoretically, because many companies make it difficult or complex to recommend.

If the answer is “No” or “Sometimes”, the likelihood of achieving a recommendation is low.  Would you recommend a company you do not trust or only sometimes trust?  Why do you think Financial Services, Healthcare providers and cable companies have such low scores?  – No Trust.

How might things be different if you asked, “Do you trust <company X>?”?

(For the score freaks out there, let’s pretend a “Yes” is +1, while “No” and “Sometimes” are -1)

  • How would your CEO respond to a low Trust score versus NPS?
  • Would you find more companies in the negative?
  • There is no question of whether a 7 is a 9 in another person’s opinion. It’s clearer to the participant.

Again, you will still need more context of the answer.  Regardless, if you ask NPS or Trust, this is always harder for participants to explain.  The areas of the brain that handle limbic functions such as liking, loving, referring, emotion, and trusting are not “connected” to the area that handles speech (Broca’s area).  That is why it is hard to describe why you love someone.  However, with help, participants can break down why they do or do not trust <company X>.

I believe trust is a combination of three factors:

  • Sincerity
  • Competence
  • Reliability

If someone does not trust you or a company, you are falling short on 1, 2 or all of the 3 factors above.  Follow up questions, should gather their feelings on your sincerity, competence, and reliability.  By understanding where you are weak in trust, you can take corrective action.  I am sure my cable company means well (sincere) and know how to do their jobs (competent), but their reliability or at least the perception of their reliability is poor.  People love Zappos and USAA because we believe they care about us or service, provide valuable advice, and deliver consistently. 

There are many ways to skin a cat, and other ways to determine the likelihood your customers will stay and even recommend.

More on Trust & Net Promoter Scoring

Customer Service Fortune Cookies for 2014 and Beyond

By michaelpace on December 16, 2013

Complete, wild guess predictions and thoughts by my cousin Pacefucious about the trends in Customer Service for 2014.

Note: The practice of adding “in bed” may or may not work with the following fortunes.

Customer Service Fortunes

Customer Service Fortunes

Pacefucious say: Successful Customer Service leaders will be Customer Success Leaders

Even now, Customer Success strategies and methodologies have been mostly delivered in the Software as a Service (SaaS) world, and even there it may not be considered part of the customer service strategy.  Customer Success is all about providing rapid value and adoption of your product or service to your newly sold customers or trialers.  In a SaaS environment, delivering value to customers in a timely manner is critical to reduce churn and/or boost retention.  In general, Customer Success strategies and methodologies place a considerably higher effort during the initial stages of the customer support lifecycle.  It may involve a “coach” or “relationship manager” helping the customer better understand how the product or service works, appropriate marketing or learning materials sent with context, and hand offs to deeper technical support. 

But there is no reason this level of service needs to remain solely in the SaaS world.  Providing rapid value and adoption leads to improved retention, and every customer service leaders primary responsibility is to retain customers (quality of service is a driver of retention).  Imagine if your newly selected bank contacted you to make sure you better understand the fee schedule or how you could save more.  Or if you buy a tablet, learn how to find the best apps for childhood learning.  Earlier in the year, I provided my steps for Customer Success; you find them here.

Pacefucious say: Mobile is the Combo Plate of Service – Everything at once

Mobile – it is probably the most discussed technology over the past few years.  But what does it mean for Customer Service?  Everything.  First off, mobile is not channel; it is the combination of a device, ecosystems, and circumstance.  A few examples:

  • Using a smartphone to check prices at retail establishment through the general internet
  • Purchasing an item through a company branded mobile application
  • Calling customer service while driving
  • Interacting with multiple screens such as tablet, smartphone, and TV while you are lounging on your couch at home
  • Amazon texting you when you receive a package at home while you’re at the office
  • Pay a bill while or deposit a reimbursement check from your office
  •  Tweeting feedback (positive or negative) to a company
  • Browsing Flipboard while you are waiting for your spouse to finish up the dressing room
  • A FitBit device uploading workout data to a user dashboard
  • I hate this term, but yes, the internet of things

How could or would customers interact with your company?  Do you have a responsive website or customer service site?  Do you have a mobile app?  What are all the customer service channels you can point to in a mobile situation?  Can they connect via phone, get answers from your knowledge base, get their most general questions answered, link to a chat, send an email (yuck), provide feedback or answer a survey, or even just consistently perform routine actions? 

Many mobile apps and sites are typically “controlled” by Product Development, and their goals may be different than the Customer Service Department’s goals.  How can you influence them to include more customer service features and options?  Start with understanding how, why and where your customers use their mobile devices.  The mobile “movement” is still in its early stages (hard to believe), so survey and meet with your customers (whether internal or external).

Pacefucious say: “Your customers will be your most valuable customer service agents” (repeat from ’12 and ‘13)

I still find it puzzling that so many customer service organizations do not utilize communities to help solve their customer’s questions or problems.  Some customer service organizations do not even have relationships with the people in their organization who manage their communities.  I am not sure I have ever even been to a customer service conference where community management was a topic.  Your customers, especially your advocates and superusers, have (collectively) considerably more knowledge than your support agents; why not let them help your customers too?  I am not advocating for the end of phone or chat service (maybe email  – see below), but having a shared community and knowledge base that can be added to and used by your customers is both incredibly efficient and can provide awesome service. I discussed this topic in an interview with Execs in the Know in March, find it here.

Pacefucious say: It may be Big Data buffet, but tummy still the same size

Big Data is all the rage.  How do we incorporate Big Data into the customer experience and their service?  Love this quote from Dr. Eric Topal at Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit, “Big data is like teen sex. Everybody is talking about it; everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”

Big Data is a bit of hype.  Yes, technologies have improved that enable us to gather and analyze more data faster.  But data is still data, whether it is big or small.  You cannot be big dead or big pregnant, it is what it is. 

Customer Service and contact centers have been in the Big Data game for the last 20 years, and will be for another 20 more.  Contact centers produce so much quantitative and qualitative data it usually coming out of their headsets.  More often than not, service centers can gather immense amounts of data, but either do not have the ability, competency, or availability to do anything with it, let alone gain insight.  Most companies still need to focus on the basics.  Basics seem to be forgotten when we can look at or “need to look at” 15 different combinations of analytics.  Odds are you not Amazon or Google.  Don’t worry so much as to what Big Data is, and the promises that it can provide.  Instead of collecting more data, revisit the questions that you are trying to solve. 

  • How do I retain more customers?
  • What areas of the experience are pains for customers?
  • How do we do this efficiently for our customers and ourselves?
  • How do I hire, develop, and retain the best associates?

IBM’s Watson can probably give you the answer, or you can just ask the folks in customer service.

Pacefucious say: Why do you think the Menu has Such Pretty Pictures?

How can you be a company worth between $1-3 Billion (yes B), and still never create anything close to a $1 of revenue?  Just be a company like Instagram or Snapchat, where pictures rule.  Who knows how much Pinterest will be worth one day.  The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” may need to be updated.  My point is that we have become a very visually dependent society.  And, there is nothing wrong with that, but it also means you may want to understand how visuals can reduce customer issues.  If we know that visuals (images) are enticing and important to our customers, how can customer service leverage the power of visuals to provide proactive or self service? 

  • Use images to link to your most popular questions answered in your knowledge base
  • Use slideshows to walk customers through longer step by step processes, better yet, link them to your branded Slideshare site (create virtuous cycles)
  • Create short videos (no more than 2 min.) introducing new products or enhancements to your service

The Poo Poo Platter: Things that I hope will disappear down some dark tunnel

  1. Email for Customer Service – email is atrocious for customer service. Let’s take a typical email situation: question to company (waits), reply and clarification from company, customer clarifies (waits), company provides standard message to solve problem, customer needs more specific information, blah, blah, blah, blah etc…  That is a horrible experience, and costs more than you think to provide.  Use email to accept issues during your non-hours of operation, but make sure the customer knows the expectations of service.
  2. Bullpen / Open cube areas – I am not sure how the concept of the open cube area makes for a more collaborative environment came about, but let’s put a chopstick in this idea and call it done.  All the bullpen does is make easier for you to see the person that is IMing you. 
  3. NPS (Net Promoter Score) Monitoring – You got a score of 43 this month. Next month it is 44.  Then it is 42.  The score is pointless unless you know why.  Also, gathering this information and not including it in your customer’s account information is even worse.  NPS has become one of those things that we have to do, but people have forgotten why we do it. 

 

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah – I got you “How to Measure Social Media ROI”

By michaelpace on November 20, 2013

How to Measure Social Media ROI

My friends and family think I am a bit “Grinchy” when it comes to the holidays.  I say “Bah Humbug” to that.  Today, I give you the best present I can possibly give someone working with social media tools and their senior management who want to understand if they are providing actual business value – The How to Measure Your Social Media ROI “guide”.

A few notes to start:

  • I don’t believe Engagement is a metric – it is a combination of metrics that may or may not tie back to an actual business goal.  I’m not a big fan of using squishy metrics and buzz words.
  • This methodology does not show or provide you the value of using social tools within your business. It may, but was not specifically designed to do so.  However, there is plenty of juice here.
  • There are a ton of non-quantifiable benefits of using social network tools for your business; it will still be up to you to show the value of those benefits.  Story-telling does work well here.
  • Quantifiable numbers, in context, make the basis for a fantastic story to tell.  Your need to create the storyline, tone, and its beginning, middle, and end.  Also, remember, story-telling is just another way to influence others.
  • If you don’t know the value of other more important or relevant business activities, such as your retention efforts or acquisition, STOP HERE and go figure that stuff out first.
  • Making progress on Learning Agendas is more important that ROI.  Learning Agenda items may include things such as: content management, scale, hiring/development, infrastructure needs.
  • Lastly, and maybe most importantly – If you cannot link social profiles to your customer database, you will never actually answer the question of ROI. 

Ok, now you may unwrap your gift.

Part 1: As just previously mentioned, it is imperative you can link your customers’ social profiles to a customer database.  To gather a somewhat accurate ROI, you need to be able to identify which of your customers are active on social media.  If you then can link them back to a customer database, you can then index or compare them against your non-social customer data set.  From there you will be able to see how they perform on the metrics below.

I realize in many industries and companies, you may not sell directly to the consumer (think home products, Coca Cola, trash bags, bacon, Smuckers, etc…), but you can still use the following information to develop your ROI.

Part 2:  I am going to assume you are in business to acquire customers, retain customers, grow their usage, and do it profitably (if you are a for-profit company).  All of the other stuff is how you get there.  Traditional business models have brainwashed the simplicity out of getting actual results done.  In other words, if you keep focusing on the pine needles, you are going to miss the forest. 

Acquiring Customers:

Whether they admit it outright, most marketers are focused on acquiring customers.  “Likes” and “Shares” are pine needles, they need to lead to something bigger.  Context and content would be the trees in this metaphor.  Social media used well can be an incredibly effective way in acquiring customers; I love the concept of Inbound Marketing made popular by folks like Hubspot.  The four metrics I find most beneficial to look at are:

  • Marketing Qualified Leads
  • Sales Qualified Leads
  • Referrals
  • Cost per Acquisition

Some may feel “Likes” and “Shares” should be considered MQL’s or SQL’s, and I do too if, and only if, you are able to reconnect beyond just possibly being visible in Facebook (or other stream).  I feel more strongly that content that leads to action (like email capture) is worth considerably more.  If you context and content creation are strong, you should also be able to lower your paid search costs.

Everyone who works in social knows that content shared by a connection is more trusted than a commercial or direct mailer.  The trick is now to track that referral.  Isn’t that a big reason why we collect NPS (Net Promoter Score), to see if you would refer a family member, friend, or colleague? If social media is about connections and relationships, the referral is the ultimate, tangible result.

Of course, the easier you collect MQL’s, SQL’s, and referrals you lower one of your most important acquisition metrics – Cost of Acquisition.  I’m not sure why cost of acquisition doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but all profitability starts with how much it costs to gain a customer.  Lowering your cost of acquisition impacts how you look at retention, average usage, and general customer profitability. 

Retention:

While studies may vary, it is widely known that acquiring a customer is between 5-8 times more costly than to retain a current customer.  In really simple terms, if it cost you $100 to acquire a customer, every customer you retain saves you between $80-$87.50.  I love how David Skok illustrates this in the SaaS world with his article “Why Churn is SO critical to success in SaaS”. 

Impact of Churn

During my tenure, at fast growing SaaS company, we saw customers, who were active in our community and social network platforms, attrite at half the rate of non-engaged customers.  If you had no other metrics to prove the value of your social program, this one will typically turn a CEO on their head.  Also, if your company employs a customer success program, you will want to see where and when social fits in.

Average Usage or Average Revenue per User

When I have consulted and spoken at conferences, I will usually refer to education and coaching as social’s best driver of average usage or average revenue per user (ARPU). Gaining more revenue from your customer is a no brainer, but how you do it is critical.  Social networks, in tandem with strong context and content, are an incredible way to showcase how your product or service can better the lives of your customers.   I highlight “better the lives” because there is a very real distinction between education/coaching and the cross sell.  Cross selling for the sake of revenue will increase attrition rates eventually.  You would need a very considerable amount of ARPU to overcome loss of customers.  Education and coaching help your customer accomplish their goals.  They chose your product or service for a reason, help them get the most out of it.  Again another great illustration on the financial impact of increased ARPU or what David Skok refers to as Negative Churn.

Churn / Negative Churn

Customer Profitability

Obviously, all of the metrics above can increase or decrease profitability depending on how well you execute on the initiatives and programs that drive those results.  When I say profitability, I am specifically talking about how much does it cost you to serve your customer.  Social networks, specifically community platforms, can serve your customers at far less expensive cost than your traditional networks like phone and email.  Again, during my tenure with the SaaS company, we saw handling issues over Twitter costing about 1/6th the cost of a phone call. 

Twitter cost per customer

Community platforms (such as Jive and Lithium) can deliver even better results, much better.  A strong community manager can support tens of thousands of customers helping customers.  Community platforms that have an easy to use search functionality are especially effective in lower your cost per customer. 

Part 3: Now it is time to calculate, yay for math.  I’d advise pulling in someone from your Finance or Analysis team to assist, specifically on how to best influence and showcase your data.  However, if you need some assistance on calculators, here are a few helpful sites:

This may be my longest post ever; now you definitely cannot say that I didn’t give you anything for Chrismahanukwanzakah.  Happy Holidays.

The Art and Science of Customer Service Recovery

By michaelpace on November 5, 2013

“Customers do not expect you to be perfect.  They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong” – Doug Porter while SVP at British Airways

Remember that time a company did not meet your expectations, or something broke, or you received sub-par customer service, or you were just having a bad day, and then something happened …

Something that moved you from “company challenger” to its biggest “champion”.  You go from dislike to love, like a rocketship to the mailbox.  Cupid’s company arrow struck you right through your wallet.  We all have one; what was your most memorable service recovery kiss?

To quote two greats, Chip Bell & Ron Zemke, “Service recovery is the art of fixing what went wrong for the customer and mending the damage that error, mistake, or misstep did to your relationship with the customer.  Service recovery is about restoring trust when your customer is most vulnerable to doubt.”

Service recovery is truly both an art and a science.  It’s about both how you handle a customer who was impacted, and how do you spot them in a sea of customers.  It’s about short term fixes, and long term proactive changes. It requires a special kind of associate, one who is empowered to do the right thing for the customer, while keeping the businesses best interests in mind, and can be consistent with process. 

Below find a presentation on the Art and Science of Customer Service Recovery.  Also be on the lookout for a full step by step article in this month’s Contact Center Pipeline.

 

Resources:

Knock Your Socks Off Service Recovery by Ron Zemke & Chip Bell

Image: Verint Blog

A Gift That Keeps Giving: Review of Chip R. Bell’s “The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service”

By michaelpace on October 1, 2013

Chip Bell Book Customer Service

I can remember when Chip first changed my world.  Almost a decade ago, I attended an intra-company process management conference with the hope I would not literally be bored to tears.  Luckily, the conference was very well run and “edu-taining” as a whole.  On the morning of the second day of the conference, the morning keynote was introduced.  This man with an absolute crazy look in his eye, bound in his gait, and wild white hair appeared from nowhere and lit up the room.  He brought energy, a sense of purpose, and most importantly smart information and storytelling.  I was totally captivated.  

When I returned back to the office, I order a copy of his latest book at the time, Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service. I would say that I blew through the book in hours, but that wasn’t the case.  After each chapter, I was taking too many notes and streaming ideas for my contact center and customer service teams.  When I finished, I ordered another 15 copies of the book for my direct reports, supervisors, and even my bosses.  It drastically changed my customer service long term strategy, and I wanted everyone on the same proverbially page.  He helped me discover:

  • The Power of a Service Vision and Standards
  • How to deliver truly remarkable and memorable service
  • Part of my managerial style of today – helping others Exercise Their Responsible Freedom (my take on the subject)

Managing Knock Your Socks Off Servic

Since then I have read all of Chip’s other books including Magnetic ServiceManagers as Mentors, and Knock Your Socks Off Service Recovery.  But my well worn copy of MKYSOS, still comes with me on every engagement.  A couple weeks ago, I was honored to be asked to write a review of his latest book, The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service.  For me, it was a chance to give Chip just a little something back.

First, let start by acknowledging what the book itself is; it’s a gift book.  Its (obvious) intention is not to provide you with detailed strategies on how to create and develop a remarkable and innovative service organization.  There are plenty of books by Chip that provide that kind of information.  The book itself is only “106” pages.  The book is meant to share basic principles and inspire.  It will make a great gift for:

  • Personal inspiration
  • Thank you gift
  • Customer gift
  • Agent appreciation
  • Reinforce culture
  • Team development
  • Prospect gift

9 1/2 Principles provides the basis for a great experience, with a short story for each and inspirational quotes from leaders across industries.  All are great reminders what it takes to innovate in service.  My personal favorite is “The Speed Limit 23 MPH Principle”.  The story revolves around a group of visitors to a gated beach resort.  Over a game of stump-the-other-team trivia, someone asked what the speed limit around the resort was, and everyone cheered 23 MPH.  The principle is simple, even the littlest details make memorable experiences.  By “working the edges of the box” (a little Seth Godin there), the resort makes you stop and notice, creates a memory, and gives their customers a story to tell.  Give your customers a great story to tell.  In our sharing economy, word of mouth and great stories travel.

9 1/2 is a great introduction to Chip, and a nice gift for someone on your list. Check it out.

For more about Chip, head over to http://www.chipbell.com/

Chip Bell

Boba Fett and the Value of Community Hurdles

By michaelpace on September 9, 2013 Boba Fett Alarm clock

As a little man, Boba Fett was by far the coolest Star Wars character ever.  He had a jet pack, wrist rockets, and an outfit designed with attitude.  I never thought about it back then, but his outfit and weaponry was not all that made him cool.  And it definitely wasn’t his appearance in Return of the Jedi (worst Star Wars movie and scene ever).  Part of Boba’s fandom comes from how you needed to acquire his action figure.  And for a nine year old it was quite a hurdle. 

Prior to Empire Strikes Back, Kenner (the toy company) created a hurdle for their Star Wars action figure community by offering a mail-in promotion, in which five proof of purchases would be the only way to acquire the action figure Boba Fett.  For the first time, everyone couldn’t just go to the toy store and pick up possibly the coolest figure ever.  Kenner created a barrier only their most loyal fans would cross. 

Historically, I have been a big proponent of making your communities easy to use, easy to access, and providing the least amount of hurdles.  Having multiple screens or process steps for someone to register or gain full access to your community limits volume, possible conversion, and the so sexy numbers your boss may like to see.  For the most part of the past few years, this has been the strategy for many organizations:

  • Providing a freemium product
  • “Like us on Facebook”
  • Just name and email for community platform access

If volume and impressions are your goal(s), this is a perfectly great strategy.  It brings you more possibilities to convert, win over share of wallet, and allows your marketing message to reach a higher number of people.  If your goals are about direct top and bottom line growth, you may want to rethink your strategy.  In other words, would you rather have 10,000 likes or 100 raving fans?  Yes, the answer is both, but requires two very distinct community management strategies.  If your goals are about depth of engagement versus breadth, creating barriers to inclusion may be a strong option for you.  Some barriers include:

  • Pay for app or pay trials (think WhatsApp or other pay for games/apps)
  • Develop an acceptance process to join a community
  • Detailed information on entry
  • The Mafia and other organized gangs have some very difficult hurdles (I don’t recommend)

Remember you are providing access to your community to achieve a goal or a number of goals.  Take the time to think about which strategy help you get there, free and easy access or adding in some hurdles.  Boba Fett still remains a personal favorite character, and I still remember the day my mom walked in and handed me the brown mailing box from Kenner. bobafree

Do you belong to any communities that provided hurdles? 

Does your organization make it purposely difficult for customers to get involved?

Did you get your Boba Fett in the mail too?

#JobHunt Lessons Learned in Early Age of Social Business

By michaelpace on April 23, 2013Jobsearchhelp

AOL, getting film developed, Blockbuster stores, paper maps, the classifieds, pay phones and phone books, fax machines, record stores, …

AND how you searched for a job 3 years ago.

If you don’t know what all these things have in common, put your flip phone down and hit pause on your VCR or CD player.  For everyone else, you know all of the above are obsolete.  Sure, they exist somewhere out there in the world, but either they are highly inefficient or just broken.

This week, I will be beginning my next great adventure at PerkStreet Financial, and finding this fit was an adventure all on its own.  The past several months have been a roller coaster unequalled by anything I would have predicted.  The highs of freedom and new opportunities were amazing.  The trials of hope rejected pushed my mental boundaries.  Throughout the ride, I’ve kept a running list of what worked, what didn’t, what was broken, and other lessons learned from the ride.

LinkedIn is the most important social networking tool. (PERIOD) – It is also your most valuable job search tool.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp and whatever else can go away or be replaced without much impact, but LinkedIn is the PDA, rolodex, resume, community, business card, job search site, search engine, presentation portfolio, and subtle introduction of today.  No other tool is as powerful and useful to a person in search of a position.  Whether you are employed or looking, you should be maintaining LinkedIn DAILY.  No, it is not the sexiest application, and you don’t get to play games or see what your ex-girlfriend is up to today, but unless you plan on never being downsized, laid off, fired, bored with your current company, or change your mind, it is critical to your career.

My best LinkedIn practices:

  • Always start with the company search, and see who you know or who you know has influential relationships.  If you see posting from another site, never apply without exhausting all of your LinkedIn resources first.
  • Pay for the Premium Job Seeker services – you end up higher in recruiter search results, can see who has viewed your profile, see if changes to profile change your views/day, prioritized applications upon submission, job seeker badge
  • Link In with every person you meet and have a conversation with at an event.  Make sure to write a note in the LinkedIn invite relating to your meeting.
  • I found their job search functionality as strong as the best job search sites
  • Provides fantastic research on companies and people you may be interviewing with
  • Becoming a “go-to” place to curate content from (especially with new mobile app)
  • Groups and the discussions within groups provide great ways to make introductions to people
  • If you have presentations available to view, add to slideshare.net and you can add it to your profile
  • Follow the companies you are interested in working for, content is pushed to you

Learn how to Inbound Market yourself

When you are looking for a position in your field, you are essentially trying to sell yourself.  Just like a Marketing/Sales funnel, you need to create awareness, develop consideration, create intent, and hopefully sell the interview and yourself.  Mailing a copy of a resume makes as much sense as direct mail.  Sending your resume to someone in a company without a relationship is a kin to spam.  Finally, banner ads have a better success rate than randomly submitting information to Monster or Careerbuilder.  Hubspot defines inbound marketing as the process of using content, social media, search engine optimization, email, lead nurturing, and marketing automation to attract and retain customers.  In the job hunt process, the companies are your customers.  Individuals or companies that come to you based on prior experience or word of mouth are much more likely to consider you for hire, even when they do not have the current need.

Inbound Marketing should start well before you ever need or go looking to be employed.  During the past couple years, I have made a number of relationships (and friends) that stemmed from a piece of content I created or curated.  Many of those relationships help make introductions to influential hiring personnel or were the hiring managers.  The content you create or curate helps develop your credibility and trust with peers and individuals within your industry. 

Best Practices in Inbound Marketing for hire

  • Re-read everything you just read about LinkedIn above
  • I am assuming you have something to say about your industry, find a platform that allows you to express your thought leadership (blog, video blogs, speaking opportunities, use slideshare to show off your presentations, comment in communities, twitter chats, speak up at events, etc…)  Not only will this build your resume, your content repository, your digital rolodex, but it will give you something to do during the doldrums of the job search.
  • Curate content – use tools like Flipboard or Feedly to find articles from other authors you find to be thought provoking, and share on or with your professional networks.  Thought leadership by association.
  • Just like Marketing and Search Engine Optimization, your information need to be searchable.  Make sure your information and resume is available on the major job search sites, such as Monster, Careerbuilder, ZipRecruiter, and Experteer.  Make sure you resume includes the keywords that you believe will drive the recruiters to your phone.

Other Quick Lessons Learned

Know Your Audience:

  • Are they a progressive company with a casual dress code?
  • Even if they are a progressive company, is the person or people you are meeting with more traditional?
  • Do you know someone at the company who can give you an inside to the company’s hot topics?
  • Find something you have in common with the people you are interviewing

Job Search Sites: Use job search site email subscriptions and job alerts to help you learn about new companies and to learn who is hiring, but use your relationships and research to apply.  Applying online for through the company’s website or a job site should be your last resort to engage a company.

Job Title Discrimination: Don’t pass over a company because the job title is “beneath your level” or “too far above your current level”.  If the company is interested in acquiring great talent, they will gladly have the conversation with you.  You can always negotiate title.

Priorities: Before you even start your search, be clear with your priorities in your next great opportunity.  For me, my priorities were as follows:

  1. A company with a culture and values that fit my own
  2. A role with the right scope and velocity (velocity – I wanted high growth)
  3. A company and a role where I can do work that is bigger than myself

Mobile: There are plenty of tool to conduct your job search on the run.  Go ahead, hit the beach or go skiing; you will not have time later, and most apps are fully functional.

Human Resources has forgotten they are a customer facing part of the organization: This topic will need a whole customer service post on its own.  Take a minute to understand how many people apply to a company in a year, these are all potential customers or people who can refer your company, how are you treating them?  Do you even acknowledge their application beyond the automatic email reply?

Finally – it’s a mental game.  Find resources to help you with the ups and downs.

I hope these lessons I have learned will help you in your eventual search.  Odds are you will not be with the company you are currently with for the rest of your worklife.

And the Winner is ….

By michaelpace on April 18, 2013

PerkStreet Announcement

Drum roll please …

And the Winner is …

Ladies and Gentlemen we have a tie, a three way tie.  The winner of an amazing opportunity goes to PerkStreet Financial, Me, and Everyone who is tired of broken banking as usual.

PerkStreet Financial

PerkStreet Financial (located at 114 State Street, Boston, MA) will be my new home away from home, and I couldn’t be more excited.  PerkStreet Financial is changing the way we can bank.  If there ever was an industry that needed to be disrupted, it’s Banking and Financial Services. 

  • Get rewards for using your debit card, rather than going into debt (Hmm … that would be nice)
  • Reach a person 24/7 (Stuff happens, we’re there to help)
  • Use social media to create community (Yes it is possible in Financial Services)

People say things happen for reason, and while the search for the right opportunity took longer than anticipated, PerkStreet is a perfect fit for my customer service experience, social and community management skills, and financial services background.  PerkStreet doesn’t approach business with typical functional silos like marketing, operations and customer service. Instead, they organize around the business objective* with team members with different skills working together in stand alone teams. My job will be to spearhead Customer Care and Cultivation in 4 critical areas:

  • Customer Dialogue – How do we engage with prospects and customers across channels to help them get the most out of PerkStreet?
  • Issue Diagnosis – It isn’t enough to fix things that go wrong, we are applying analytics to our customer interactions to understand how we fix things that went wrong and take friction out of the process.
  • Scale and Flex – How do we grow without losing the human touch?
  • People Leadership – All great businesses have cultures that drive success, how do we maintain and build upon a strong foundation, particularly when we leverage outside parties?

Banking customers and their money deserve better, and I intend on changing their perceptions and realities.

Special thanks to Jennifer Spencer for advocating internally for me to bring me in to speak with such a great team!

*Discussion regarding the need for change in traditional organizations from 2012

 

 

How to Get Promoted – for Managers and Reports

By michaelpace on April 2, 2013Corporate ladder - How to get promoted

Want to make your manager uncomfortable?  Try one of these below out on them.

“When am I going to get promoted?”

 “I’ve been in this position for two years, I should have been promoted by now.”

 “Why does <insert first and last name here> get promoted, and I get looked over every single time?”

Want to NOT get promoted? Try one of these above out on them.

In my 12+ years in being a people leader, promotion conversations are some of the most difficult to have with an associate.  After all, these promotion questions and statements are almost always difficult conversations where the manager needs to explain to a (usually) solid employee that a promotion is not in their near future.  Possible promotion talk is a welcomed conversation to a manager.  Many managers “give away” the promotion news too early because they too are excited about the news.  Odds are if you have to ask, you are not ready in your manager’s eyes. 

Promotions feel a little bit out of your control.  Sure you can work hard, smart, and long, but that will not ensure a promotion.  You need to understand what a manager looks at to promote you, regardless where you are on the corporate ladder.  I have never seen this written down in a book, and most managers don’t understand it themselves; therefore, they will not be able to tell you.

In general, there are 5 requirements for an associate to receive a promotion.

  • Results in your current role are reflective of potential success
  • Competencies demonstrated at the NEXT level to compete with your new peers
  • You possess the technical or job specific skills for the role
  • The role and scope of the role is available
  • You have advocates, preferably influential ones

Results in your current role reflective of potential success

If you want to get promoted, be awesome at your day job.  Yes, this appears as a “Captain Obvious” statement.  However, so many think their current role is beneath them.  Once an associate takes their role for granted, their best rarely comes out.  Don’t drop your day job. 

One of my most valuable lessons in business came in my first “professional” job at Tiffany & Co..  I was a phone agent in the Customer Authorizations Department setting up private label credit cards for our customers.  I could do it in my sleep after about six months; it felt natural to me as a combination of art and science.  I was faster than others in my group.  I was more accurate than others in my group.  I was consistently requested by our internal customers to help them out.  I could have breezed, beat everyone out with a minimal amount of effort.  I did the opposite.  I busted out twice as much work, and volunteered and “Leaned In” while keeping up the pace.  I put in a lot of hours that were never recorded.  I never mentioned a promotion, but discussed my future.  I got promoted.  If I skated through, I may have been promoted at some time, but I could have just as easy been passed over for an external candidate. 

Competencies demonstrated at the NEXT level to compete with new peers

Competencies are about how you get work done.  How you get the work done is just as important as the results.  Let me provide an example.  A Project Manager could get a lot done and possibly good results by being a ruthless barbarian of a leader.  It will not last long, as their relationships will suffer.  Most likely they are not showing strong communication or teamwork skills.  Competencies must be demonstrated at the next level or role. 

Competencies most managers look for:

  • Communication skills – oral, written, and presentation
  • Results Driven
  • Teamwork – intra-team and cross functional
  • Understands and integrates data to make decisions
  • Ability to influence others
  • Focuses on the customer
  • Lives the Values of the organization
  • Can work autonomously
  • Efficiently leverages resources
  • Looks the part

Alright, looks the part is not a competency.  But portraying an image of someone who belongs at the next level is critical.  If you are fantastic in every way but look like you just woke up and threw on he sweatpants, you are adding an extra hurdle.  Even if the sweatpants fit in your corporate dress policy, you are doing the bare minimum.  Take pride in your appearance, and give yourselves a pant leg up, no shorts please.

You possess the technical skills or job specific skills for the role

Odds are if you are getting a promotion, you will have new responsibilities.  These new responsibilities may be managing associates, managing 10X the number of current associates, use a specific technology, budgetary, able to communicate to large audiences or public speaking, build strategies, negotiate a deal, understand influences on stock price, project or program management, etc…  It will be different for every role and level.  Find out what are the technical skills your manager does today.  Offer to help them next time they need to accomplish a like task.  Create a personal development action plan.  If you are promoted, you may need to use this skill on day 1.

The role and the scope of the role is available

You may be promotable for every reason, but if your organization does not need a person in that role, promotion is rare.  When this is the case, you have four choices:

  • Influence the need
  • Create a new role that is needed
  • Suck it up
  • Leave the department or company

You have advocates, preferably influential ones

Promotion is rarely decided entirely by one person in medium to large size organizations.  Most often, your manager’s manager is involved.  If there are multiple people at that level, each one may be included in the promotion thought process.  Most organizations, at least, include Human Resources in the promotion process.  Key take away: you need more than just your direct manager as an advocate. 

How do you acquire advocates?  Here are a number of different ways to build advocacy:

  • Find mentors to build on your weaker competencies
  • Go above and beyond in your normal job so that you are impossible to miss
  • Join cross functional teams
  • Ask good thoughtful questions, perhaps over a cup of coffee
  • Lunch
  • Get out of your cube/office and make a physical presence
  • Buy doughnuts, and walk around meeting new people
  • Be visible

Understanding the key drivers of promotions puts you in control, removes the victim tonality out promotion conversations, and stops putting your manager in an awkward position.  Be awesome at your current role.  Build and demonstrate competencies at the next level.  Acquire the job specific skills needed for that new role.  Make sure it will or is available.  Find your advocates or make them.

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