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March 26, 2017

#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.

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 15+ 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.

Image credit

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.

The Best Medicine for Customer Success – Prescription

PrescriptionBy michaelpace on February 26, 2013

  1. Take two of these every 4 hours for 5 days
  2. Go home and rest
  3. Drink plenty of fluids
  4. Make some chicken soup
  5. Take ibuprofen to reduce fever
  6. Gargle salt water for a sore throat
  7. Steam to loosen congestion
  8. Etc…

We’ve all been there.  There is something wrong with our bodies, and we visit a doctor.  After their years of training and experience, they know the path back to health.  They prescribe a solution to help you get back into optimum shape.  They provide clear steps on how to get from poor results to feeling great.  I think you are getting where I am going; Customer Success needs to be prescriptive.

Particularly in the SAAS, but also relevant in other areas, customers need guidance to help them on to the road of success.  A typical scenario has a customer researching a product for a need, considering options, developing intent to purchase, and finally purchase.  During this process, they may consult with a “Sales Coach” or “Sales Representative” from your company to help them understand the possible value and help with initial set up.  Then they are handed over to Support.  Essentially, you have given them the medicine, but as with your personal health, there are multiple steps to success.

Here’s my prescription to help you develop a prescriptive path to Customer Success.

x

Identify the most common paths to Customer Success or “Happy Paths” (no more than 5) – As the doctor has learned from years of training and experience, you must understand the best practices of customers to achieve success.  While product training and experience will be helpful, I believe, you should be leveraging the best practices of BPM (Business Process Management) to clearly understand your customers needs.Map out how your current processes are actually working.  The two best tools from BPM for this activity are SIPOC and Swimlane tools. These tools will help you understand the people and tools involved in the processes, and will help identify overlaps, holes, and general inefficiencies.  You will probably come out of this exercise with a number of opportunities.

  1. Map out how your current processes are actually working.  The two best tools from BPM for this activity are SIPOC and Swimlane tools. These tools will help you understand the people and tools involved in the processes, and will help identify overlaps, holes, and general inefficiencies.  You will probably come out of this exercise with a number of opportunities.
  2. Determine what is Critical to Quality for your customer.  A very helpful tool process managers use to flesh out who your customer is, what they care about, and how to measure what they care about.
  3. Get deep into your analytics.  Hopefully, in this age of Big Data, you are collecting information about your customer’s habits and trends.  You need to understand what your most successful customers are doing, and how they are doing it.  Examples: How often do they log in?  What activities are they doing?  Are they contacting Support or are they using Forums?  At my previous employer, we saw an incredibly strong correlation of success with the amount of times they contacted Support.  They more the better (odd but true).  Do they use your product or service in a specific way?  Understanding your data will assist in the Success Path creation.

Customer Success starts in the top of the funnel.  How have your built awareness, consideration, and intent to buy?  Ease of use is an incredibly important variable in your customer’s purchase decision.  You need to ensure your marketing, or the expectations your company is setting, is obtainable, and the value you provide can be evident quickly.  The most important part of Customer Success is providing evident value quickly.

x

The critical handoff(s) after purchase.  As I just stated, you must provide evident value quickly.  Hopefully, within your Sales process you are able to demonstrate real value to your customer.  This is one of the huge benefits of providing trial periods.  If you are lucky enough to have a fast sales cycle, you may need to take additional steps to ensure the handoff of post sales to implementation or support is done incredibly well.  In fact, the harder it is for the purchase to be made (financial, complexity, etc..) the more time and money you need to spend in designing handoffs that ensure effectiveness.  I highly recommend adding a Customer Success team to identify struggling customers.  If your customers just purchased, their will to achieve the skill is at its highest.  A Customer Success team is charged with developing exception reporting to understand customer usage gaps, and remedy the situation through a mixture of well placed content and some courtesy calls.  The behavioral analysis you conducted previously should provide what’s needed for understanding your exception reporting.

x

Monitor behavioral and emotional responses.  A low amount of companies are collecting behavioral information about their customer’s actions.  A much larger portion is monitoring emotional ties to your company (Customer Satisfaction and/or NPS).  Guess what? You need to be measuring both simultaneously.  Let me give an example:  I am a customer of a cable company that provides my phone, internet, and cable.  Behaviorally, I am a great customer; I buy all of their services and upgrades.  Emotionally, I can’t stand them.  My NPS for them would definitely be in the detractor category.  Conversely, I am a customer of an internet based music collection company.  I have them on my mobile devices and desktop, but I forget to use it 99% of the time.  I love the service and function, but I forget all about it.  You need to be able to monitor both to prescribe the right action.

x

Action. Action.  Action.  Sometimes we end up in analysis paralysis, and forget to do something with all this data.  Regardless, if you are collecting only NPS or behavioral scoring, or both, you need to do something with the info.  If you are scoring low on CSAT or NPS, you do not have a strong relationship with your customer or they do not trust you.  If you are scoring low behaviorally, you may need to increase awareness or education.  Regardless, you will need to determine strategies to move the needle on your customer.  Make sure your post sale marketing is directed to their particular issue.  Make sure your customer service agents can see their scoring and have effective means at their disposal to correct the situation.

x

Customer Success is complex, and has been overlooked for many years.  If you leverage process management tools, recognize your Sales team is deeply involved and it doesn’t start at Support, ensure solid handoffs, monitor behavioral and emotional responses, and take action, you have the prescription for Customer Success.

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

The Power of the Social Business – presentation

By michaelpace on September 5, 2012

Next Wednesday, October 10th, I will be in Miami, FL presenting The Power of the Social Business at the Contact Center Conference – Fall 2012 (Hashtag: #CCCon12).

If you are attending as well, here is a sneak peek.  If you are not attending, you should, but if it is too late to slide into your schedule, you can view my presentation below.  Obviously, you are not going to get the awesome performance that accompanies the presentation.  Hopefully you learn something new, and enjoy!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me anytime.

 

The Power of the Social Business – Why this is where your business needs to be

Social Media BingoBy michaelpace on September 26, 2012

If you have been consciously or unconsciously playing Buzzword Bingo around the office, the term social business has probably been at the center of your board.  “We need to be a Social Business.” Or “I went to an event recently where everyone was talking about Social Business.”  Or even “People say we need to become a Social Business or die.”  While I agree, social business will be the next big business innovation (see more here), you probably won’t die.  So what is Social Business and why is it important to your company, customer service, and the contact center?

I am a big fan of not reinventing the wheel.  My online friends over at SideraWorks have developed an excellent explanation of what is Social Business.

“Social Business is the creation of an organization that is optimized to benefit its entire ecosystem (customers, employees, owners, partners) by embedding collaboration, information sharing, and active engagement into its operations and culture. The result is a more responsive, adaptable, effective, and ultimately more successful company.”

Social Business is broader than social media; social media is just one of the tools of Social Business, just as your phone system is a tool of customer service.  As SideraWorks definition describes, Social Business is a way of working.  It can and should involve every level and department of your organization, your partners or vendors, your community, and your current and prospective customers.

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.  For example, how do you feel when you see a corny commercial telling you to buy a diaper brands latest “innovation” in dry-lock protection?  Or how do you feel when a senior leader in your organization says there will be a process change without any understanding of why the old process is in place?  How many times have you worked with a partner or vendor and have an email chain when printed could circle the earth twice?

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.  I love this quote from John Hagel III’s book The Power of Pull, “There are a lot more smarter people outside your organization, than inside it”.  It doesn’t mean your company or department doesn’t have smart people, it’s just there are so many smart people outside of your immediate perspective.  What if you could leverage the power of the people in your contact center, and their vast networks to achieve more and faster?

Typically a contact center is one of the largest departments within an organization.  Each one of those associates have a network outside and within your organization.  Why not start the revolution from within?  Your senior leaders are always looking for ways for the contact center to become a “profit center”.  What if you could aide in both top and bottom line revenue or cost avoidance?  Just one example is recruiting.  Traditional recruiting primarily uses websites to pull in attractive potential hires, and often scoops up high amounts of unqualified wastes of time.  A pull model, it’s like a the Death Star’s tractor beam sucking up everything from Millennium Falcons to space junk.  Social recruiting leverages the relationships of your associates to find potential hires matching your cultural fit.  And by having large numbers of separate people from separate departments, you also reach a more diversified candidate pool.

The benefits of a Social Business are almost countless, but just to name a few:

  • Individual personal associate development
  • Lower operational costs
  • Stronger interdepartmental collaboration
  • Faster innovation
  • Improved customer satisfaction and trust
  • Vision & culture sharing
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Brand reputation and awareness

Some great resources to learn more about Social Business:

SideraWorks – http://www.sideraworks.com/

The Community Roundtable – http://community-roundtable.com/

Edelman – http://www.edelman.com/

Are people talking about Social Business in your immediate circles? Senior Management?

If you are not, what is holding you back?

The week of October 8th, I will be speaking about this subject at the Contact Center Conference – Fall 2012 in Miami, FL.  Below is similar presentation given earlier in the year:

 

Customer Service Needs a Romper Room Magic Mirror or Transparency is Innovation

By michaelpace on April 23, 2012

Romper Room Transparency Customer Service

Magic Mirror, tell me today

Did companies do as they say,

I see Costco, Ritz Carlton, and Starbucks …

Ah nostalgia.  If you grew up in the late 70’s and the 80’s, you probably remember Miss Molly and the show that was Romper Room.  At the end of every episode, you waited with baited breath as Miss Molly would grab the magic mirror and peer through your television.  Would today be the day she see you?

Recently, I was researching a company called Zmags, which creates beautiful rich media catalogs for retailers and others.  On their support page, there is a simple and effective graphic showing customers when the slowest and busiest periods for support based on time zone.

Zmags Support pageIt’s open and honest approach to helping customers determine when the best time to call for non-urgent issues.  Ah transparency.  Having a graphic, like the one above, puts out a shingle and sets a level of expectation for customers.  It shouldn’t be used as an excuse for poor execution, and can be used for setting internal bars to overcome.  This simple graphic started the hamster in my tiny brain running, and what else can be accomplished if other customer service metrics were made available and accessible to the public or your customer base.

Incident, Customer Satisfaction and Net Promoter Scoring:

One of my greatest pet peeves of most companies today is the action of asking me for survey feedback and not providing any response in return.  Imagine if you could go to a link on a company’s website, and see near real time Incident, Customer Satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores.  Was your feedback inline with other customers?   Was your experience an outlier?  Was your verbatim feedback part of a larger trend?  I believe this level of transparency would improve the customer experience.  It shows your customers that your organization is open to feedback, taking action on your feedback, and is concerned about your feedback beyond just numerical scores.  It also can be a place for proactive messaging.  If your company has received feedback that a certain product or service has a defect, you could insert messaging to your customers as to how you are tackling this particular problem.  And probably the most impactful result of opening up the customer service score kimono, executives and leaders would know that their scores are out there for the world to see.  If your NPS or C-Sat score was below benchmark level, you can bet your last budget dollar that C-level leaders would be eager to invest more to bring those scores up.

Service Level Agreements: (Service Level, FCR, Compliance Scores)

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, service level metrics should not be the primary metric used to determine the quality of your service.  Unless your speed of answer is beyond acceptable (you know what acceptable is), how fast someone answers a phone, email, tweet or chat is a very small part of a customer experience.   However, it is an important metric that shows both a part of the customer experience and how effectively staffed your organization is to help customers.  Similar to the chart provided by Zmags, giving your customers an understanding of how often you answer their calls within an expected period, provides insight to how you often you keep your word (Walk matches Talk).  The same thought process can be applied to FCR (First Contact Resolution) and any Compliance scores that are important to your customers.  Again, by publicly providing how well you are serving your customers, you create even more accountability.

Employee Morale, Satisfaction and Engagement Scores:

You say your company is a great place to work, well prove it.  Every customer loves to work and deal with a happy, pleasant associate.  Everyone also knows when an employee doesn’t care about their job or their customers.  By posting your employee morale, satisfaction and engagement scores, customers gain insight to how well companies treat their employees.  Similar to companies doing social good, customers would rather transact with companies which take care of their associates.  I wouldn’t recommend conducting an associate survey more than once a quarter, and make sure you are surveying in combination with broader company surveys.

By pulling back the curtain to your metrics and satisfaction scores, you can create higher levels of trust between your organization and your current and future customer base.  Yes, this level of openness has some potential risks.  Customers may not understand the scores, what is excellent versus poor.  But if you provide excellent service, why not show it off.  The more you can open up your company to the public, the more they can build trust.  (more on measuring trust)  Innovation comes in many forms, you can make transparency your next.

Do you think you are open enough to show off your scores?

What would stop you from doing it?

If your scores were available to the public, how would you change your actions?

Do you remember Romper Stompers?  They rocked!

Image Credit: yttm.tv

 

 

 

 

 

Is it time to flip Customer Service on its side? – along with Marketing, Sales, Product, etc…

Inception: Flipping Customer Service on it's sideBy michaelpace on february 15, 2012

I am not sure who originally designed how organizations should be aligned. Maybe it was the armies of the past, the mafia or some random Joe who gets no credit for how 99% of businesses are structured today. There is a Marketing Department, Sales, Customer Service, Product, IT, Human Resources, Accounting and each have their own little silos of metrics and goals. Great companies typically have a global vision, and each of the departments work together to develop an integrated strategy to deliver the vision and, more specifically, yearly goals. Each department outlines initiatives that have positive and negative impacts to budgets. They eventually get approval and proceed to execute. But what are the goals they are executing against? The goals that relate only to each department. The hope is, magically, the sum of the parts will add up to corporate goals. So Marketing starts executing on their acquisition and loyalty strategies. Sales works on their acquisition goals. Product may lead the pack or follow Marketing and Sales lead. And Customer Service takes all the flow down and tries to deliver something that more often than not, looks like adequate to good customer service.

This methodology has been in place for more than 100 years, so it obviously works well. And I am just some poor customer service blogging schmuck from Massachusetts. But why do we align this way? Why do we accept it? Skill set? Competencies? Scalability? Mentorship? Obviously, it is not to deliver a common goal. Maybe it is time to realign (yes, before the apocalypse of 2012). What if we flipped everything on its side, and aligned by organizational goals? (horizontal mambo baby!)

R & R Department (Retention and Referral)

This department is purely focused on keeping customers and making it easy for them to recommend your product, service or brand. If in some parallel universe someone asked you to deliver on goals, as stated above, would you really align by historical standards? Probably not, you might organize as follows:

Marketing:

  • Focused on maintaining communication and relationships with current customers
  • Developing loyalty programs
  • Incentives to deliver referrals
  • Communications to improve Average Revenue Per Unit or Customer
  • Communicating and partnering with other R & R areas to act as 1 unit

Product:

  • Delivering solutions to know bugs, enhancements and issues
  • End recipient of Voice of the Customer (VoC) program
  • Communicating and partnering with other R & R areas to act as 1 unit

Customer Service:

  • Act as the primary point of contact for customers to interact with the organization
  • Execute on retention, loyalty and referral strategies
  • Serve the customer
  • Cross sell value
  • Community Management
  • Be the primary internal resource to additions to the Voice of the Customer program

Sales:

  • Accountable for established relationship management, specifically in B2B sales

Acquisition Department

The Acquisition Department is purely focused on the acquisition of new customers. This department doesn’t look too much different than today, since acquisition for some odd reason typically has priority over Retention and Average Revenue Per Customer – even though 5 billion studies prove it cost considerably less to retain a customer than to acquire.

Actually, I don’t need to go over the following areas again. Just take what they do today, and remove the stated above responsibilities.

Broader infrastructure departments (IT, HR, G&A, etc…) would continue with Business As Usual, however they may want to align their resources to specific departments (R&R, Acquisition & General)

Aftermath

Now because you have “dis”organized, you will need to fill the potential gaps in skill set and competency development, leveraging scale and competing resources. Circle of Excellence teams can provide the forums for both the skill development and communication. In my own humble opinion, I would rather matrix these responsibilities than to matrix goals.

There are a lot of ways we work that exist only because that is how it’s been done for 100 years or 10 years (don’t get me started today on Net Promoter Scoring), but that doesn’t mean we need to continue or not try different ways to get things done. Even something as predictable as how an organization is aligned should be subject to questioning and asking the question of why do we do this?

Is anyone actually organized this way?

What are the other possibilities with this scenario?

Am I a little crazy?

Image credit: Warner Bros.

How to Set Up a Social Customer Service Team

By michaelpace on January 25, 2012

Again this week I am attending and speaking at a Customer Service / Contact Center conference, and I am seeing lots of talk of companies interested in social media, but very few acting on it.  I can understand the trepidation to jump in, and I am concerned for my horizontal (customer service).  The value of a social organization is so incredibly powerful, and by not participating you are missing more than just a new channel.  Over the last year and a half, I have presented the following presentation to help get folks started using social for Customer Service.

 

The Five Steps to Set Up a Social Customer Service Team

Now you don’t get the benefit of my performance, but I will try to provide a high level summary.

Starting with WHY:

  • Its how people are talking and sharing
  • Peer sharing is overwhelming more trusted than traditional marketing
  • Don’t believe me, go watch your kids

5 Steps to Success

  1. Get Yourself Involved
  • Get to know LinkedIn, Facebook (for business), Twitter, Blogs & other resources
  • Its like learning to ride a bike, you cannot do it by reading a book or watching

2.  Know Your Business

  • Overall strategy and objectives (social media is not an objective, its a tool)
  • Know your customers – what’s important, where are they, industry best practices
  • Get others involved

3.  Listen to your customers

  • Monitoring
  • Understand their language

4.  The Customer Conversation

  • Service Level Agreements for great social support
  • Know the voice of your brand
  • A conversation is two way, build a relationship rather than complete a transaction

5.  Capture Info and Catalog

  • Keep it simple at first
  • Don’t worry about operational metrics yet

Objectives and Metrics

  • Depending on your social maturity, balance business metrics and your learning agenda
  • Engagement = Customer Acquisition x Retention x Average Revenue x Profitability
  • Positive and negative sentiment impact customer acquisition and retention
  • Educate your customers – the more they trust and understand, the more they will spend
  • Social costs per channel can be 1/6 of other channels (phone)

Hiring and People

  • You need a different type of agent to handle social media conversations
  • Basic qualifications and responsibilities

If you have questions or would like to talk more about the presentation, comment or send me a note on LinkedIn, Twitter or email.

Presented at:

IQPC‘s Call Center Summit (Orlando) – January 2011

ICMI‘s ACCE(New Orleans) – June 2011

Contact Center Association Fall Event (Phoenix) – October 2011

ICMI‘s Call Center Demo (Dallas) – October 2011

TSIA’s Technology Services World (Las Vegas) – October 2011 *voted Top 10 presentations by attendees*

How to Set Up a Social Customer Service Team - The Customer Conversation