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March 29, 2017

Archives for March 2012

I discovered my Social Media ROI? Or How much is your personal development worth?

By michaelpace on March 30, 2012

Einstein quote















I am not that big of a fan of the term “Social Business”. I love the broader concept of using social tools and networks to more effectively and efficiently achieve business goals. For a more complete understanding of social business, I recommend two sources: SideraWorks from Amber Naslund and Matt Ridings and The Community Roundtable’s State of Community Management Report from Rachel Happe and Jim Storer. However, I worry that the term “Social Business” leaves the act of working this way to the current few in a company “who do Social Media”. I prefer the term “Social Organization”, as I wrote about a couple months back. The “Social Organization” implies that is more about the people in the organization, all the people, using relationships, process and tools to accomplish broad business goals.

If your company’s broad business goals include the personal development of your associates, becoming a social organization should be one of your key strategic imperatives. One of my favorite quotes is from the book The Power of Pull by John Hagel, he said, “There are a lot more smarter people outside of your company, than in it”. This quote has nothing to do with the intelligence of the people in your company; it’s just that there are so many subject matter experts, students, and geniuses in any field you can imagine. Social networks are fantastic way to listen, connect and build relationships with the smartest people in the world. Encouraging your associates to seek knowledge about their passions (both professional and non) and use social tools to aide in their personal development can be a powerful way for them to improve. If you don’t mind, I will use myself as a case study in this matter.

When I started becoming interested in social media in 2009, I had a Facebook account to keep track of folks from high school (mostly who I didn’t like back then either) and a LinkedIn account (mostly to help in a job search I had just completed). My professional development, at that time, centered around three areas: Understanding Social Media for Customer Service, Community Management, and public speaking. Historically, I read a lot of books to gain access to information of bright minds. I still do, but as a compliment to other forms of media. I quickly began to understand the power of an RSS feeder. Twitter was next. I fell in love with Twitter, and still love it today as a professional development tool. Twitter, if used for no other purpose, is an amazing way to pull the world’s smartest people content into a simple and digestible form. Over time, I began to build amazing relationships, some digital and some in person, and conversations from these relationships have added incredibly towards my personal development along all three areas. Today, I speak regularly at Customer Service, Social Media and Community Management conferences about how to build scalable social media customer service teams, revitalizing fading communities, inspiring cultural evolutions in your organization, new ways to measure customer retention, and how to leverage the power of the social organization. You can see some of the presentations here.

So what is the ROI of social media to me or what is the value of my personal development?

The answer is simple, priceless.

5 Signs That Your Customer Service Sucks

By michaelpace on March 26, 2012

Does your customer service suck?

Talk to most any CEO, and they will tell you that they have great customer service.  They will tell you how proud they are of their service, and how important it is to their business objectives.  And it goes beyond C-Level executives.  Lots of people think their company provides great service.  So answer this for me then: If so many people think their customer service is good – great, why does most customer service suck or is adequate at best?

Yes, there are plenty of ways to score or quantify your service execution (NPS, CSAT, CES, CSI, etc…), but let me give you five behavioral clues that your customer service may suck.

How to tell if your customer service sucks (without the use of NPS or C-Sat scores):

1.       You use benchmark data

Benchmark data is for suckers (pun intended).  Let’s start with what benchmark data is, a culmination of average companies providing their averages.  If we start with the premise that most service sucks or is adequate at best, and you take the average of their averages, you get sucky (pun again) benchmarks.  I am in the business of trying to provide awe inspiring service, sucky doesn’t cut it.  Identify what is critical to quality of your customers and overdeliver.

2.     You prefer to handle customer service via email

Email customer service is getting worse by the day.  The service itself is mostly the same as it has been for the last 15 years, but with today’s need to be real time, email is terrible.  The analogy I like to use here is USPS and FedEx.  People were content with the speed of mail, until FedEx showed up and proved you could get reliable delivery the next day.  Sending things via USPS became relegated to packages that did not have any time constraints.  I am going to assume your customers have time constraints.  Email requires a lot of customer effort.  Email (typically) requires back and forth exchanges.  Email provides the right complete answer about 20% of the time. Email sucks.

 3.     Your daily representative (unplanned) absentee rate is greater than 5%

If you absentee rate is greater than 1 in 20 associates, they often dread coming to work.  If your associates often dread coming to work, they are not going to provide superior service.  This one is pretty simple.

 4.       You don’t allow your associates use social media

When companies block or do not allow their associates to access their social networks while at work, it is a clear sign that you do not trust them.  Connecting via social networks is the new hanging out at the water cooler.  People need people and conversation.  If you are afraid something bad is going to go viral, you are fooling yourself.  Emails, chats, conversations, and any interaction can go viral.  It’s the content, not the tool going viral.  Treat your associates like the adults they are, and/or provide the training needed to reduce the risk.  There are so many possible benefits of allowing them to access their networks (training, personal development, release, monotony breaks, recruiting, branding, etc…).  If you cannot trust them to access their social networks, do you really want to trust them with your customers?

 5.       Your goals and metrics do not include employee satisfaction scores

If you are not measuring it, you are not managing it.  If you are not including your associates morale, satisfaction and engagement metrics with your typical customer service metrics, you are providing validation they are less important than your other metrics.  I doubt you are going to get their best effort if you do not prove you’re concerned for their well being.  See #3.  You ask them to be concerned with your customers’ well being, show them you care about theirs.

So …. do you suck? Feel free to comment.

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Did You Just Build Your Strategy on a Shaky Foundation?

By michaelpace on March 7, 2012

Umass Library

Let me tell you story.

In 1974, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst completed building the W.E.B. Du Bois Library.  It’s a glorious 26 story, red bricked honor to education of the 25,000+ students of the university.  I believe it is still the tallest library in the United States.  Besides for all the knowledge that resides in the building, it also has some of the best views of the Pioneer Valley, especially during the fall. The library is a beacon to the center of campus, and a unforgettable image I will always carry with me.  Umm … there is one small problem, the library is sinking.

While it might be urban legend, every UMass attendee has heard the story of the library being built, but the architect and engineers forgot to calculate the weight of the books and equipment.  The foundation is not strong enough to support.  It is said to be sinking anywhere from ¼ – ½ inch a year.  Consequently, occasionally a brick or brick parts fall to the ground at a speed of 9.8 meters per second squared.

While I have deep love for my alma mater and the library, the story is a great analogy for many, especially those just wrapping up your 2012 strategies.  Your strategies can be bold and beautiful, and if you build them on shaky ground, you may rain bricks down on your customers.  What do you need for an incredibly sturdy foundation?  Below are my thoughts by priority:

  1. Culture – the single, most important foundational step
  2. Best Talent – all the best plans and culture need to executed by incredible people
  3. Technology – work smarter and more efficiently
  4. Process – if you have Culture, Talent and Technology, they always need alignment and governance
  5. Data – allows the other 4 foundational areas operate with confidence

Strategy Building

Culture: Every company has a culture. The problem is most company culture’s are weakly internalized by associates, non productive, overly complex, and bullcrap.  If you culture is not clearly articulated, visible and available, you will fall into the category of companies stated previously.  Culture is too important to be considered tacit knowledge.  Culture is how people work and behave.  A strong, articulated, and internalized culture helps individuals exercise responsible freedom. It allows them to make the right decisions for your company, autonomously.  It breeds trust and openness.  It is a knowledge and understanding that is part of everything from communication to teamwork to respect of your customer.  Make sure your culture is articulated, and better yet written and visible to all.  Make sure it is discussed frequently.  Build it into your performance management systems and processes.  Make sure it is internalized and engrained in everyone. Attitude is not driven by policies, it’s driven by culture.

Best Talent: Popularized by the best seller Good to Great, make sure you get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go. Poor, mediocre and even ‘ok” talent is a waste of time; it destroys value.  Be honest with yourself, do you have the best possible people at each critical position within your organization.  By having the best talent at your critical positions within your organization, your business as usual will go smoothly, all of your reports will develop quicker, and innovation will flow.  The best talent knows how to delegate effectively, removing them from the trees and allows them to see the forest.

Technology: Just like any good tool, technology gives you leverage.  The right technology allows you to work smarter and more efficiently.  This doesn’t mean you need the most bleeding edge technology throughout your organization.  Technology can also have high initial or maintenance expenses.  So make sure you have the technology that solves for business needs, and addresses key or critical customer touchpoints.  This technology can anything from a solid workforce management system, IVR, community platforms, or even an iPhone.  Just remember technology is a tool, it should never be an objective.

Process: Oh, I loves me some process.  I don’t love process for process sake; but process that provides direction for others to empower themselves to do great things.  Stop thinking as process as red tape, but instead, think of process as a foundational step that sets your workforce loose to do amazing things.  Process and governance allows others to act within their guardrails and not need micro-management supervision.  Set your process foundation early; establish clear roles and responsibilities, clarify what is critical to quality, outline steps, and develop your control systems to determine your effectiveness.  Process aligns the organization, and mitigates good intentions without vision.

Data: If I hear one more person say “Big Data is going to be important in year 20XX, I’m gonna puke.  Big Data was important 25 years ago, is important today, and will be important 25 years from now.  (Ok rant over) Data enables you to move forward with foundational and strategy steps.  Data provides objective views on what has happened, is happening, and provides confidence in future initiatives.  Decisions not based on data are gut, and therefore often personal.  Personal decisions are much harder for others to get behind, and make influencing others outside of your organization more difficult.  There is plenty of data out there, and much more to be found.  Make sure you understand what is critical to the quality of your customer and what drives those metrics.  All the other data is nice to have, meaning unless you have extra analytical resources or time, focus on what is most important and dive deep.

Far too often, we spend weeks developing and designing strategy without ensuring it can be supported by a strong foundation, like the library at UMass.  The strategy can be beautifully constructed, innovative, and inspirational, but you don’t want to try executing it while proverbial bricks rain down.  Before you go much further, make sure your foundation steps (Culture, Best Talent, Technology, Process and Data) are in a place to carry the weight.

Have you ever tried executing a strategy with a faulty foundation? Were you able to correct in time?

When did you know your foundation was shaky?

Have you ever had a strategy executed near flawlessly because of your foundation?
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