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February 27, 2017

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

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?

Putting Social Media in Context or Don’t Hate the Tool, Hate the Carpenter

By michaelpace on February 20, 2012

They say frustration is the mother of invention.  This post is rooted in frustration.  My frustration lies with smart social strategists and users consistently doing the following:

  • Making social media the objective
  • Consistently bashing one social media tool versus another, whether it’s Google +, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Path, etc…
  • Fostering conversations on “who owns social media”

Social media is a tool, plain and simple.

  • It is not the result; it’s a way to get there
  • I have lots of tools in my toolbox, including hammers, saws, screwdrivers (manual and electric) wrenches, and so on.  It doesn’t mean one tool is better than another, they just serve  different purposes.
  • Nobody should “own” the tool.  The phone system is a tool, you don’t see Marketing asking the Customer Service team for permission to use the phone.

Hopefully, my homemade “infographic” can put social media and its surrounding terms in context.
Putting Social Media in Context

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*CLTV = Customer LifeTime Value

While I consistently use the carpenter analogy (just because you swing a hammer, doesn’t make you a carpenter, it just makes you more dangerous), I thought including Lord Vader may connect with my audience a bit more.

Do you have social pet peeves or things that generate frustration?

Do you use a different analogy?

Do you do one of those things that drives me crazy?  If so, we should fight on the playground at Three o’ Clock High style.

Strategy 2012: Random Acts of Connection

War Games movie - Random Acts of ConnectionBy michaelpace on January 19, 2012

At the beginning of every year, I sit down (usually at a cozy bar) and put my goals together for the coming year.  I have goals for my physical health, family, career, relationships, financial and self (things I want to do for me).  I crave structure with planning.  In both my work and personal life, I have learned that the best outcomes are derived when I develop strategies that include results (what I am going to do), process (how to do it) and relationships (with whom to include).  This is usually the most daunting part.   I took a breath and a sip, and was hit by a micro “A-ha” moment – Random Acts of Connection.

I first heard the phrase “Random Acts of Connection” at last year’s SXSWi during a panel hosted by friend, mentor and fellow community manager Jim Storer.  Loved it.  Random Acts of Connection is sort of Community Management 101; its the act of bringing together two or more people who have a similar interest or bringing people to data/information.  As I looked at my goals, I realized the primary strategy for me was to practice daily acts of random connection.  Every conversation you have is an opportunity for Random Acts of Connection.  Its easy to find places on Twitter and LinkedIn to make Random Acts of Connection; someone looking for help, job seekers to employers, like personalities, hobbyists, etc…

Why Random Acts of Connection:

  • Not much makes you feel better than helping others
  • Pooling collective smarts
  • Surprises are fun – “If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.”
    ― Dr. Seuss
  • You never know when you will need help
  • Ever hear of paying it forward?
  • Karma

I truly believe if I practice daily acts of random connection, I will accomplish my BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).

Here are some Random Acts of Connection for you: (these not exhaustive lists by any means, but some people you may not know)

Social Customer Service Leaders – These folks know customer service, social and more than anything understand the constraints operational leaders deal with

Kate Nasser, Guy Stephens, Josh Sippola, Spoken Communications, Mary Bartels-Cook, Marcio Saito,  Richard Natoli, Greg Ortbach

Community Management – They get Random Acts of Connection

Rachel Happe, Jim Storer,  Mark Yolton, Mark Wallace, Dan Brostek, Claire Flanagan, Bill Johnston

Random – Just because

My soul brutha from a different mutha – Greg Levin (also a great writer and satirist)

Info on Marketing Technology – John Refford, Mike Schneider & Eric Leist (watch their show TechInterruption)

Social Business – David Armano & Edelman Digital

North East Contact Center connections – www.neccf.org

Customer Service Leadership – Larry Streeter

Social in Regulated Industries – Mike Langford, Jaime Punishill, Carissa O’Brien

Cocktails and Connections – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cocktails-Connections/128861043831324

My neighbor and a best friend – Jeanette Palmer

Think about practicing Random Acts of Connection and do it!  Do you have any Random Acts of Connection?  Do you practice?

Does Bon Jovi know Customer Service & Social Business?

By michaelpace on July 28, 2011Bon Jovi Boston                                          Bon Jovi pontificating after a blown speaker fuse during their Boston show in March – image via @chickswguitars

If you are like me, you probably do some of your best thinking in the shower or on your commute to work.  The other day, while doing a little commute dancing and jamming to Bad Medicine, the greatest 80’s song of all time, I had an epiphany for my Social Support team.  That specific idea needs to be fleshed out a bit more, but I also came to the realization that both in the shower and on my commute I am usually rocking out to some tunes.  Maybe I was smarter in the 80’s, or hair band music releases brain motivating endorphins, or maybe, even it’s the slightest possible chance, Bon Jovi’s music has subliminal hidden meaning for Customer Service and Social Business rockstars?   Ok, probably not, but if I am to be a true scientist of how to deliver superior Customer and Social Service, I will need to investigate this possibility.

 

Bad Medicine

On The Surface: This is uber quintessential cheesy 80’s hair band song, presumably about a woman’s love being like a drug.

Questionable Quote: Bon Jovi concert

I ain’t got a fever got a permanent disease
And it’ll take more than a doctor to prescribe a remedy
And I got lots of money but it isn’t what I need
Gonna take more than a shot to get this poison outta me
And I got all the symptoms, count ’em 1, 2, 3

Possible Deeper Meaning: All the money in the world sometimes cannot get a customer to the right person to handle their problem or poison.  So why not enable every representative of your organization the ability to help a customer?  Organizations that focus and exercise strong knowledge management practices/processes provide the tools for assistance regardless of where the call ends up.

I’ll Be There For You

On The Surface: Man treats incredible woman poorly, and is really regretful of his decisions.

Questionable Quote:Bon Jovi stage

I guess this time you’re really leaving
I heard your suitcase say goodbye
And as my broken heart lies bleeding
You say true love in suicide

You say you’re cried a thousand rivers
And now you’re swimming for the shore
You left me drowning in my tears
And you won’t save me anymore

Now I’m praying to God
You’ll give me one more chance, girl

I’ll be there for you
These five words I swear to you
When you breathe I want to be the air for you
I’ll be there for you

Possible Deeper Meaning: I think Jon may be talking about retention here, and isn’t that the primary goal of all Customer Service operations?  In particular, I believe he is talking about your service’s availability and its role in customer retention.  Do you have a good understanding when your customers are using your product or service?  Do you need 24/7/365 human support?  Should you outsource (domestically, near shore or offshore) to create flexibility and availability?  Do you have resources that your customers can access on demand, such as knowledge centers or FAQ’s, tutorials, videos, taped webinars, or branded / unbranded communities?  Are you there for your customers and are those 6 words you’ll swear you’ll do?

Just Older (a personal favorite)

On The Surface: About a man who is getting older, but still doesn’t consider himself old and useless.

Questionable Quote:Bon Jovi closeup

I like the bed I’m sleeping in 
It’s just like me, it’s broken in 
It’s not old – just older 
Like a favorite pair of torn blue jeans 
This skin I’m in it’s alright with me 
It’s not old – just older 

Possible Deeper Meaning: Jon and crew could relate to phone support.  Yes, it is our industry’s most familiar technology for customers to reach out to companies with issues, comments or questions.  While older, it is still the best way to create a bond between customers and companies.  Companies that monitor beyond compliance quality, and allow their phone representatives go “off script” or even (wait for it) let them be humans have the potential to really connect and build relationships with their customers.  Great conversations lead to relationships, and relationships lead to retention.  Yes, there are a lot of new and shiny ways to connect with your customers, but you phone support is still your relationship foundation.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

On The Surface: Rock band wants to live life to its fullest

Questionable Quote:Bon Jovi concert start

Until I’m six feet under 
I don’t need a bed 
Gonna live while I’m alive 
I’ll sleep when I’m dead 
Till they roll me over 
And lay my bones to rest 
Gonna live while I’m alive 
I’ll sleep when I’m dead 

Possible Deeper Meaning: Bon Jovi must also be his band’s Community and Social Media Customer Service Manager, because we all know these roles in organizations have minimum sleep qualifications.  In an informal poll (really informal), the average Community and Social Media Customer Service Manager sleeps 6.4 hours per week.  They are usually recognizable by their iPhone with Hootsuite running constantly, and tucked under their pillow.  Communities and social networks operate 24/7/365, and can operate in a self service manner, but all the best ones require consistent management.  And by consistent management, I do not meaning just monitoring.  Community and social business require content creation, curation and connection.  It is no wonder Jon just figures he’ll sleep when he is dead.

Livin’ on a Prayer

One the Surface: Fictional couple (Tommy & Gina) struggling make ends meet and maintain their relationship

Questionable Quote:Bon Jovi screen

There are no questionable quotes in this song, as it is the most fun song of all time (line in sand has been officially drawn).  Try not to sing this:

We gotta hold on ready or not
You live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got
Whoa, we’re half way there
Whoa oh, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand and we’ll make it I swear
Whoa oh, livin’ on a prayer

Possible Deeper Meaning: Bon Jovi clearly knows how hard it is to be a Customer Service and Social Business superstar.  This is just pure entertainment.  So if you are Community or Social Support Manager, take a few minutes and get your rock horns ready for some head banging.

In conclusion, apparently it is scientifically impossible to tell if Bon Jovi is subliminally singing about Customer Service and/or Social Business or not.  I suggest more research needs to be done in this area.  I may check to see if this scientific discovery can fit into the National Debt debate going on right now (should only be a few million for me to travel and follow the band).

If you have put up with me this far, thank you for letting me have a little fun and break away from the hardcore Customer Service, Social, Business Process Management & Leadership focus.  While there are things to be learned here, we all need to take a summer vacation from our norms sometimes.  Rock on Soul Brothers!

 

Images by @chickswguitars my partner in crime at Bon Jovi’s Boston 2011 show

For an amazing collection of pictures and videos from the Boston 2011 show created by @chickswguitars