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February 22, 2017

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?

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

 

 

Using Communities for Customer Support

By michaelpace on March 18, 2013

Crowd surfing

Overview:




A majority of organizations are using some sort of community based support model or have considered doing such.  The question is, are you seeing the results and cultivating real relationships with your customers?




It is known customer communities can be an incredible source of support, for both your customers and your organization.




In this episode, I have invited Michael Pace (Customer Support & Community Management Executive) to join myself on Voice of the Customer Radio to discuss “Community”.




Objectives:

 

  • Learn about communities and community management for all levels of the enterprise
  • Uncover the tremendous benefits of this unique “self” service tool
  • Step by step assessment guide on how to get started
  • Technical options available for you

 

Questions  Reviewed:
What is a community or support community? And how are they beneficial?


How do they impact engagement? C-Sat? Reducing Costs? Driving top line growth?


How did you get involved in communities?


Where do you start?


Once you are up and running, how do you keep your customers engaged?


Metrics?


How do you get executive buy in to pursue?


People – what kind of people do you need to be community managers? How do you hire?


What kinds of tools are available?


Are there any resources to help get folks started?






Listen to internet radio with execsintheknow on Blog Talk Radio



Execs In The Know promotes the capabilities of global “Customer Experience” or “Service Leadership” professionals around the world. 

Their model is to “serve” and be an “advocate” for providing awareness, facilitating networking opportunities, offering talent reach and highlighting the significant accomplishments this industry has to offer.

Community Manager: Help Yourself

Tom Jones Help YourselfBy michaelpace on March 14, 2013

As Tom Jones says,

“We are always told repeatedly

The very best in life is free

And if you want to prove it’s true

Baby I’m telling you

This is what you should do

Just help yourself … ”



Community Management is a new and exponentially growing career field.  And because it is new and growing so fast, it is hard to understand how others are building their infrastructures, creating best practices, lessons learned, and how to fail fast.  Today’s guest post is from Rachel Happe, Principal of the Community Roundtable, and she needs your help to help yourself.

Community Roundtable

(Note: I am a member of the Community Roundtable, and a HUGE supporter and promoter of their services; you should check them out.)  I’ll let Rachel take it from here:



Many of The Community Roundtable Network members and the organizations we work with struggle with some of the following questions:

  • What is the benefit of a community strategy?
  • When should I expect to see those benefits at a meaningful scale?
  • What difference does community management make?
  • What are the standard roles and responsibilities of community managers?
  • How does the performance of internal communities differ from external communities?
  • How big should I expect my community program budget to be?

All of this information would be helpful to community program owners but there is little aggregate data available to assist in answering these questions despite some excellent research at the strategic level like McKinsey’s The Social Economy study, which suggests there is $1.3 trillion in optimization to be gained by using social network approaches. With the 2013 State of Community Management we aim to help answer the next question which is, how do we optimize our organizations to take advantage of these opportunities.

Our annual State of Community Management has covered qualitative best practices over the years – in 2011 the SOCM covered practices related to the competencies of the community management discipline and in 2012 the SOCM covered how organizations mature with the common initiatives and milestones organizations take in each stage. This year we are looking for organizations willing to help us understand the underlying performance data from their community initiatives. Does this describe you?



  • Your organization has been working to develop a social or community competency for over a year.
  • Your organization has the ambition to have an enterprise wide approach to how it coordinates and manages its communities, both internal and external.

The 2013 SOCM survey is now open for the month of March. This research is made up of four segments:

  • Organizational demographics
  • Community program profile
  • Community management profile
  • Profile of the performance of one specific community

The survey is likely to require some coordination across your organization with HR, finance and IT. We have created a workbook to help gather this data before submission. We expect the data submission to take between 30-60 minutes depending on how much data you have readily available vs. estimates required. Because this is an emerging discipline we do expect every organization to have to make some estimates when filling out this survey.



We will select three participants to receive a custom research presentation that includes performance benchmarks for their organization, worth $7,500 each.



Are you ready to help move the industry forward? Do you want to know where you stand? Are you game for the challenge? We want you!

First: Download the 2013 SOCM Workbook

Second: Complete the online 2013 SOCM Survey



Rachel Happe

Rachel is a Principal and Co-Founder at The Community Roundtable – A company dedicated to advancing the business of community which offers a monthly subscription report, a membership based peer network, a community management training program and advisory services for corporations and individuals.

Everyone can be a Community Manager & Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day

CMAD High FiveBy michaelpace on January 28, 2013

If you are a “registered” or “titled” Community Manager, have a great Community Manager Appreciation Day – whether others folks in your company know it, we all love and appreciate your work.  Throughout the day, I have seen amazing content being produced and curated by a number of social rockstars and community managers.  But…

I am seeing so many different definitions and roles of community managers; some I wholly agree with, some I can see the connection, and some I just don’t get.  I wish I could ask a number of these incredibly smart people to get there take on a bunch of questions.

•    If you work in social marketing, are you a Community Manager?
•    If you work in social customer service, are you a Community Manager?
•    I’m assuming if you work with an actual community platform on a daily basis, you are a Community Manager?
•    Do Community Managers only work with social online channels?
•    Do Community Managers manage top of the funnel metrics? Support and advocacy metrics? Across the whole value chain?
•    Do you have to be a designated Community Manager to do community management work?

Here are my thoughts:

Community Management is a discipline.

Discipline (def): activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training

Other disciplines in business – Project Management, Process Management, People Management, Financial Management, Organizational Management, etc…

Every day, I employ business solutions that include a mix of many of the disciplines, and others not mentioned.  It is about HOW I work.

To put Community Management in context to other terms:

Community context

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone can be skilled and proficient in Community Management; from Call Center Associates to CEO’s.  Anyone can use the methodologies and tools to achieve a broader outcome.  Everyone can be involved in Community Management.  It also means not everyone should be involved.  “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

If you start thinking about Community Management as a discipline, many of the (continuing) lingering questions, concerns, and issues become a bit easier to address.

•    Where do Community Managers fit in an organization?
•    Why do Community Managers feel so stressed?
•    Why is allocation of resources so difficult?
•    What are they responsible for?
•    Why do so many people in the organization not understand what Community Managers do?

Ok, these questions are still difficult to address.  However, it’s difficult because organizations are not all the same.  Each may have a different answer based on the objectives, values, and strategies of the company.  Many different areas within a company can use or need to leverage the discipline, methodologies, and tools of a Community Manager.  At the same time, folks who are “titled” as a Community Manager need many of the same skills as other business areas, such as People Management, Block & Tackle organizational design, influencing competencies (I am not talking about social influence here), results oriented, Process Management, Project Management, how to develop a business case, communication skills, ability to work in “white space”, etc…
It’s not about the social media tools and individual tactics of marketing or platforms.  Community Management is an amazingly effective, efficient, and powerful discipline to get things done (or achieve a goal).  Anyone can be a Community Manager.

For all of those who consider yourselves Community Managers, I applaud you.  Not everyone gets what you do, sees the value of your efforts, and can empathize with your struggles.  Much of our knowledge is still tacit, and it is difficult to articulate.  Remember that we work (and live) in a social bubble that not everyone has entered yet or will, their understanding is still nascent.   But try not exclude, try to include more.  Help others understand the discipline of Community Management, and how they can contribute to broader objectives.  Also, let them help you with your broader competency, discipline, and skill development.  I think it will help everyone appreciate what you do a little bit more.

This was definitely a “soapbox” post, just needed to let a rant out.

High five image credit: http://www.wilterdink.com/Internet_High_Five.jpg

Usual, Great, and Future Leading Companies

By michaelpace on January 14, 2013

 

How Most Companies Sell & Add Value:

How Usual Companies work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Great Companies Sell & Add Value:

How Great Companies Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Future Leading Companies Help, Add Value & Sell:

How Future Leading Companies Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat

It’s Time to Grade My 2012 Predictions – Customer Service Fortune Cookies for 2012

By michaelpace on December 19, 2012

Customer Service Fortune CookiesBefore I let my crazy cousin Pacefucious make any predictions for 2013, we need to hold him accountable for his previous Confucius-like prophecies.

Complete, wild guess predictions and thoughts by my cousin Pacefucious about the trends in Customer Service for 2012.
Note: The practice of adding “in bed” may or may not work with the following fortunes.

Pacefucious said: “Transactional social customer service is like making out with pretty cousin” –   I hope my crazy cousin isn’t talking about me, but he does have a point about social customer service (somewhere in there).  I believe he is saying, you get your customer’s immediate need resolved, but you are not forming a relationship.  Once a company receives a comment or issue (positive or negative), they should realize the customer has opened up a channel that you share.  Just handling their immediate transactional need is good, following up with that customer with content that is of value to them, starts to create a relationship, and is phenomenal customer service.  More about this kind of proactive customer service see Is Your Social Customer Service Missing the “Social” Point?

Grade: B+
Rationale: Pacefucious is still ahead of his time on this prediction.  2012 did not prove to be the year that Customer Service and Support teams grabbed the social customer service brass ring.  Per @marketingprofs recent article “Top Brands Using Twitter for Customer Support”, only 23% of big brands have a dedicated Customer Service group.  Don’t even get me started on how poor the response times and service levels appeared.  You must be able to crawl before you walk, and Customer Support is still getting the basics of social media support down.  Hopefully, this prediction will improve its accuracy in 2013.

customer-service-handle-simply-measured

Pacefucious said: “Social CRM platform is silver bullet made of ice” – In 2012, SCRM (definitions) will continue to be a hot topic, but currently it is overpriced (for this economy), overpromising and being mostly sold by people who still believe in traditional sales models and have no understanding of social business.  Don’t get me or my cousin wrong, SCRM can and will be a very important tool for businesses, but I don’t think most businesses (or people running those businesses) will be ready for full blown SCRM tools.  SCRM will not help you understand social business language, develop your strategy for using social media tools or establish governance.  I would love to see more distributors or sales people of SCRM platforms get a firm understanding of social business and practices in 2012 before trying to sell their “silver bullets”.

Grade: B-

Rationale: Pacefucious was correct on the economy, but was slightly harsh on the (S)CRM industry.  Consolidation and platform integration has helped the large CRM companies broaden their product suite, but also brought in more people who understand social business and the needs of their customers.  While Pacefucious’ prediction wasn’t his best, the industry is moving in the right direction.

Pacefucious said: “Benchmark data and metrics make your service taste like cheap Chinese food” – – I always get a little worried when people ask me if I have any benchmark data on customer service or contact center metrics.  I will try to provide what I think a particular industry considers benchmark data (example:  X% of calls answered in X seconds), but that is really just averages.  If you are interested in average customer service, which pretty much sucks, benchmark data and metrics is perfect for you.  If you are interested in providing outstanding service, go understand what your customer finds important or critical to quality, and deliver that and more.

Grade: You tell me

Rationale: How has any benchmark data helped you deliver awe-inspiring service?  It usually gives you a number or metric that makes sense to do better.  Be a differentiator, not a trend follower.

Pacefucious said: “Your customers will be your most valuable customer service agents” – I still find it puzzling that so many customer service organizations do not utilize communities to help solve their customers 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.

Grade: A-

Rationale: A collective “AAAAHHHHH” is being shouted by community managers around the world.  In 2012, the value of the community manager, their platforms, and the discipline of community management was beginning to be realized.  Communities deliver more content for SEO, helps retain customers, educate prospects and new customers to gain the fullest out of your product, and provides your organization immense scale.  The awareness, desire, and knowledge of communities still has tremendous opportunity within the Customer Support world, but innovative leaders are catching on fast.

Pacefucious said: “Email customer service sucks, your lucky numbers are 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42” – Again, don’t get my cousin wrong, email doesn’t suck, but customer service through email is RARELY good, and almost always includes extra work for your customers.  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… Now email can be valuable to a company as an off-business hour service, and possibly outsourced, but why even provide the subpar experience?

Grade: Not Rated

Rationale: Well, it really wasn’t a prediction, more of a customer service fact.  Pacefu also did not guess the $500M Megaball numbers very well.

Pacefucious said: “Be social and transparent organization or soon no organization” – The companies that will succeed in 2012 and beyond will leverage social business principles internally and externally.  It has already been proven during our recent recession; those companies that embraced social marketing and the use of social tools internally have performed significantly better.  Those companies now also have an almost insurmountable time advantage over those companies who have not embraced the social organization.  As I wrote earlier this year, I believe the social organization will be the most important advancement for business in the next 5 years – The Next Innovation in Social will come from … HR

Grade: A

Rationale: “…become a Social Business or die”, I don’t know if that was a mantra from 2012, but I did read it somewhere.  While I agree, social business will be the next big business innovation, you probably won’t die.  Traditional work organizational models have siloed departments, working on their individual goals to hopefully achieve a greater sum for the sake of acquiring and retaining customers.  This model, generally, approaches internal and external customers as someone to talk at or to be spoken to.  People, whether internal to your organization or external, are tired of being spoken to.  Social Business is inclusive, collaborative and open.  I believe people and relationships are every company’s most important and underutilized asset.  We now have the technological ability to act/work/socialize/create relationships like we do in “real life”.  By leveraging the relationships, new technology, and process, we can unleash the ultimate power – PEOPLE.

Big Prediction misses:
•    Power of Visual Media (Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ changes, Facebook changes, etc…)
•    Location Based Services pivot (less gamification, more exploration)
•    Community funding – Kickstarter
•    Mobile payments
•    Mayan calendar

So, what does your fortune cookie say? (Don’t forget to add “in bed” afterwards)

Any other big prediction misses?
Pacefucious is only available via smoke signal or albatross mail, you can contact me with thoughts.

Image via Clutchcook

My 3 All Time Favorite Communities (& Why)

By michaelpace on November 26, 2012

Great CommunitiesI’ve used a lot of analogies to help explain communities and community management to executives and business owners:

–    A community is not a sandbox for your customers to play in.  Nothing grows in a sandbox.  Think of it as a garden.  A garden requires structure and planning, needs to be seeded (with content), weeded (for trolls), and as it grows you need to manage it differently.

–    Martha Stewart would be an amazing community manager.  If you think of your community as a party venue for your customers, your company is the group hosting the shindig, and the community manager is the party host.  The party host sets up, lines up the entertainment, provides the beverages and apps, makes introductions to like party-goers, and kicks out the guy with the lampshade on his head.  Over the course of the party, some attendees (super users) start picking up duties like coat check, welcoming, and making beer runs.

But sometimes even the best analogies and metaphors cannot tell the story like actual examples.  Whether it is help people understand communities and community management or just for my own personal enjoyment, here are my 3 All Time Favorite Communities. (In no particular order)

Lost

Oh, how I miss Lost.  I miss Lost for the mind bending episode turns, getting to know the characters, and the mystery of the show.  Were they in purgatory, or hell?  What is in the hatch? What was that running around the woods, maybe it’s a dinosaur.  The first two seasons, I was lost too.  Then I started to discover more lost/Lost people.  There were the interweb people, such as the folks who added to Lostopedia, an incredibly helpful guide to understanding everything Lost (such as the possible reasons the statue only had four toes to all the literary references).  It became my reference guide.  I started reading the Lost blogs, and trying to hide from the spoilers.  Then I started finding people in the “flesh world”.  We started having early morning Thursday meetings to discuss what we saw last night.  People would attend with notepads full of ideas, predictions, and easter eggs.  Even when I switched companies between seasons 5 and 6, my new company had a Lost community.  We shared a common interest and purpose.  While I am not sure we actually ever added any value to the world, it was must “be” TV.  During the last season, I discovered Twitter, and the world of the second screen.  I instantly increased my Lost community by thousands.  I could watch the show unfold, and listen or add commentary in real time.  I either stretched the capacity of my brain or did some serious damage, either way, I would do it again.  Oh, how I yearn for just 1 show to make me feel that way again.

The Grateful Dead

Possibly the greatest community of all time, and some amazing marketers too (just ask David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan authors of Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead).  It is amazing looking back how far ahead of their time The Dead were in terms of community management maturity.  Before the consideration of the idea of community management, they built, grew, maintained, added advocates for decades.  Even with their most iconic lead gone, the community thrives on.  If we use the Community Roundtable’s Community Maturity Model as a guide, The Dead (even today) would be one of a very short few who have reached Stage 4 (Network) competency in multiple areas.

community roundtable maturity model

Leadership: Distributed leadership has enabled The Dead community to thrive well beyond the Grateful Dead themselves.  Dead Heads (or their super-users) took up the reins decades ago.  They built the tailgate experience, made the music viral, and were the governors of the culture.
Culture: The Dead’s culture quickly moved from Reactive, to Contributive, to Emergent, and finally to Activist.  Much of their Culture progression was based on the activist and giving values of the band, and those values quickly spread through their fans.  Today we see the same type of culture and activism with a company such as Life is Good.
Content: Whether you are a fan of the music or not, The Dead’s content (like many communities) is the live blood.  Their music was the foundation for all the media they and their community members created and spread.  They allowed their fans to create bootlegs, which were copied and dubbed on tape players hundreds of times.  These bootlegs spread the music much further than the officially released albums ever could.

Movember

During the month of November, hundreds of thousands of men around the world grow mustaches in support of raising awareness and funding for men’s health issues, such as prostate and testicular cancer.  Movember manages the community of hairy lips, and does two things especially well; they create edu-taining content and reward their super-users.  Edu-taining content, or content that educates while you are entertained, is a sure fire methodology to keep your members engaged.  Whether your company sells incredibly popular widgets or boring data management systems, your members and potential customers are still humans, and we like to be entertained.  Find ways to make your content interesting.

Movember also does a wonderful job of recognizing and rewarding their best community members.  Members receive awards and prizes for different levels of donation participation.  Movember provides members with easy to use sites [my site], which show donations, reward updates, and badges for years participated. They also host fantastic Gala parties at the end of the month to thank everyone for their hard and hairy work.

Do you have a favorite community or communities?

What about those communities keep you engaged?

What’s missing from your community to make it memorable?

Visual Service can be Proactive Customer Service

By michaelpace on August 8, 2012

Madonna and customer service

We are living in a visual world, and I am visual girl (ummm guy).  Even back then Madonna knew the importance of how visual we are as human beings.  Whether it was provocative videos, suggestive stage acts, or pointy cone-shaped bras, she understands the impact of using “visual aids” to draw in an audience.  Twenty to thirty years later, social networks and our lives are flooded with the use of visual tools to grab share of audience attention.  Pinterest, Instagram, and SocialCam have acquired multi-millions of users, and bigger players like Facebook and Google have made significant enhancements to make photo and pictures front and center of their applications.  LinkedIn purchased Slideshare for $119M.  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 service?



Disclaimer: I do not condone the use of picking arbitrary tools (social networks or any tool), and basing a strategy around the tools.  Your strategy is based on your objectives; if the tool helps you deliver your objectives/goals than use it correctly.  In your “regular life”, you do not buy a miter saw, and then decide what you are going to build around your house with it.  You have a project, and select the appropriate tool to accomplish your task (it’s the same with social media tools).



Let’s work backwards from the customer (like we should for every initiative).

How do your customers find answers to questions, concerns, how-to’s, and issues?

  • On your branded site or community
  • Search
  • Connected social networks

On your branded site or community



Most customers will go directly to your site to find answers to immediate issues, learn how to use your products better, learn more about your products and service, find peer opinion, and of course browse or shop.  For all that is holy and sacred in the customer service world, make it easy for you customers to get help.  Don’t bury your service access with a tiny link at the bottom of a page.  Remember prospects like to know help is available and often have “how to” questions before they buy.  Once there, remember pictures can be worth a thousand words.  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.   Remember to use the thumbnails and short descriptions to attract customers to click.  If you are selling physical products, provide lots of images from different angles (Zappos & Amazon do extremely well here).  Vague text descriptions just invite calls, emails and chats to your center.

On your branded community site, supply content with images, slideshows, and videos.  Better yet, invite your advocates and super-users to provide content using images.  Ask them for help, and to include screen shots and tutorials if they are technically inclined.

Search



More and more customers are using search engines to find information and answers about your company, especially via mobile.  They are not going directly to your site, where you control the message.  They are relying on top search results to learn more.  If your branded content is not at the top 1/3 of the page, customers will rarely select your link.  If you thought Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is just for your Marketing Department to worry about, you are dead wrong.  If you don’t understand SEO, find someone in your organization that does, and spend an hour learning how it impacts your business.  All the tools we have mentioned and many more get indexed by Google and Yahoo.  The more content and viewed content associate with a brand gets “pushed” up higher in search results.  By creating content (whether your own or from your branded community) you give search engines more results associated with your brand.  Online slideshows, tutorials, videos, pictures (tagged), community posts, and knowledge base articles all add to your content indexing.

Connected Social Networks



If you or other departments have established social tools connected to your customers, create sections for customer service, education, or tag as customer support related.  I think this is a place where customer service leaders can influence to have service boards created on a brand’s Pinterest site.  Pinterest allows you to link images or thumbnails to a variety of content, whether it be blogs (with images), slideshows, tutorials, knowledge base articles (with images), and videos.  Again, Pinterest is indexed by search engines, and beloved by millions of users for its use of images to tell you quickly what content lies within.  Leverage your other social networks (again creating virtuous cycles) to let people know about your customer service board.  Sites like Slideshare can be effectively used in a similar fashion.  More visual tools are on their way, early practice on sites like Pinterest and Slideshare may pay big dividends in the future.



Sites like Pinterest, Slideshare, and others are rapidly gaining users because people can quickly view an image and know what the content is about in seconds.  Make it easier for your customers get service answers quickly; images, videos and slides will help support your customer access strategy.  Ok, this Papa will stop preaching.  Express Yourself and don’t be Like a Virgin.  Experiment with the tools, but don’t cross the Borderline, and maybe your customers will be Crazy For you and Cherish your service.

Are you using visual tools for customer service?



What other visual tools have you witnessed being effective?



Open Your Heart to Me with comments.

Social’s First Real Customer Service Centric Platform? Product Review: Social Dynamx

By michaelpace on May 13, 2012

“No social enterprise transformation strategy can succeed unless Customer Service plays a central role.” said Michael Maoz, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst for Customer Strategies research at Gartner.  “Current structures are inadequate. The challenge for senior management is to engineer the necessary processes and technology changes that will allow customer service to evolve to embrace social trends.  New concepts of recruitment, measurement and outcomes are necessary to allow for the increased agent participation in social media.  When this happens, and the right supporting technology is deployed, businesses will see increased customer engagement and higher overall customer success.” 

Damn, I could not have said that better.  Being one of a relative few social customer service practitioners, who has built a high quality, scalable social customer support team, I have been perplexed over the past two years as to why customer support/service/retention/success has been the afterthought of the social media platform market.  After all, doesn’t the terminology “customer engagement” imply there is life after they have been acquired?  In my own humble opinion, most of engagement is post acquisition.  Everyone knows customer retention is multiple times more cost effective than acquisition.  And I do not believe Marketing will ever be able to scale efficiently to provide the intimacy social customer service requires.  However, the social platform market is flooded with Marketing-centric products or “oh yeah, we need to cover social” CRM bolt-ons.  This is why I was incredibly interested in a new company called Social Dynamx and their recently released purpose built social customer service platform.

I learned of Social Dynamx from friend Heather Strout, Customer Insights Manager, and was asked to provide my feedback after meeting some team members and a demo.  Here are my thoughts*:

Company Leadership:

If you read my posts, you know the value that I place on culture.  I consider culture as the most important tacit or non-tacit asset in every organization.  Before meeting with Social Dynamx team, I was very impressed with the backgrounds of their leadership.  Their backgrounds are a strong mix of customer service, call center, social strategy and execution, community and technology.  If you are going to design a tool with the customer service agent in mind, you need to be able to understand the complexities of a representative.  They have a new workflow, marketing initiative, incentive, exception, and policy to remember each day.  Their workstations are typically covered in post-it notes and processes, and are expected to get it right every time.  This is not an easy job.  Similarly, I have often used the analogy of understanding social to learning to riding a bike.  You can read all the books and blogs on how to ride a bike or social, but until you get your butt on the seat or actively, consistently engage on social networks, you will not get it.  Social Dynamx’s leadership structure, experience and competencies comes through the product. (Leadership is never strictly held in C-level positions)

This cross functional knowledge also is provided at implementation.  While it’s a cloud based product, each company should customize to teach your system what to look for.  The last thing a customer service stakeholder wants to hear is sales people drown on about all the things it can do for you, when they have no idea how customer service or a call center works.  Social Dynamx background and experience provides both social and service understanding.

Know Your Customer: Social Dynamx Agent Priority

In my presentation for Customer Service leaders, the 5 Steps to Set Up a Social Customer Service Team, the first step of the Customer Conversation is always Know Your Customer. Social Dynamx provides a clean view of your customer’s major social networks,customer support/peer-to-peer forums and blogs, and an assessment of the priority based on their proprietary model scoring model.  This priority should help your agents and management staffs understand the social impact a customer may have on your business.  Of course, influence is contextual, and while someone may have a large following in technology, it may not pertain to your knitting business (for example).  However, you never know how many of those tech folks like to throw a quilt together in their spare time.  For future versions, I would love to see a more integrated view of YOUR customer’s value or customer lifetime value.  You need to understand both social impact and the specific value this customer represents to your company.

The conversation thread feature is perfect and rarely seen in anything on the market today.

Time to get Real:

Three major aspects I wanted to make sure I received an understanding of was:

Are there differentiated views for agents and management? Yes (see pics)

How can I measure my agents? Yes, there are out of the box metrics for measuring SLA’s (service level agreements) and customizable fields.  We discussed the future need for management to be able to quality monitor their associates, and is a critical aspect towards agent measurement.  There is, however, a nice connection to your knowledge base to more quickly answer questions.

I probably not buying a whole new CRM (especially in this economy), does this work with my existing account or issue management tool? It’s cloud based, so no servers to maintain on site, and is an open architecture to integrate with major CRM tools.  Obviously, considering this was a demo, I was not able to witness how their systems integrate with CRM platforms.  This is a perfect opportunity to bring in your network support team to understand the implications. 

As a Customer Service leader, I am thrilled to see a company think “customer support” first, and I believe Social Dynamx has developed the solid, very customer centric social customer platform.  I love their approach, starting with understanding the customer through implementation.  Considering this is a newly released public product, they have a high majority of the critical business requirements covered.  (Product has been in place in a number of enterprise organizations, however, it has not been available to the general service public.)  I believe the biggest challenge will be the businesses they work with, as there is still a huge, glass barrier of customer service leaders actually taking hold of the customer service reigns, and driving their social business.  You can learn more about Social Dynamx here.

*I am not associated with Social Dynamx in any material manner other than my friend relationship with Heather Strout, and received no compensation for providing a review.  All commentary contained within is strictly my own perception and thoughts.  So if you are a hater, you know what you can do.

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