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March 26, 2017

Customer Service Fortune Cookies for 2014 and Beyond

By michaelpace on December 16, 2013

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

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

Customer Service Fortunes

Customer Service Fortunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

#JobHunt Lessons Learned in Early Age of Social Business

By michaelpace on April 23, 2013Jobsearchhelp

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

AND how you searched for a job 3 years ago.

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

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

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

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

My best LinkedIn practices:

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

Learn how to Inbound Market yourself

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

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

Best Practices in Inbound Marketing for hire

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

Other Quick Lessons Learned

Know Your Audience:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Winner is ….

By michaelpace on April 18, 2013

PerkStreet Announcement

Drum roll please …

And the Winner is …

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

PerkStreet Financial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

How to Get Promoted – for Managers and Reports

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

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

“When am I going to get promoted?”

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

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

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

In my 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

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.

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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.

“Well, it’s all about Trust”

By michaelpace on January 8, 2013

Last week my friend passed away.  He wasn’t only my friend; he was a peer, my manager, a career changer, a mentor, and overall great guy.  Larry (Streeter) and I had met up the Friday before Christmas to catch up and talk customer service and leadership shop.  As it often did, the conversation turned to retention strategies, support, loyalty, and advocacy programs.

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Me: “Well, it’s all about trust.”

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Larry: “But what does that really mean?  You sound like someone who has guru at end of your title.”

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(Good point)

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Me: “What does trust mean to you?  And you can’t say what it is not, or how you break it or earn it. That’s not a definition buddy.”

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We continued on for about another hour, until we started going off on tangents that will remain our own business.  But, looking back it is fitting that one of our last conversations was about Trust.
So what is Trust?  How do you impact it? And is it important to almost every facet of your business?

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My Definition: Trust is the confidence that a party/company/person/group is sincere, competent and reliable to meet the customer/person or affected group’s expectations.

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Sincerity, Competency and Reliability – I like to think these drivers are analogous to a 3 legged stool. If one of the “legs” is broken, the stool is going to rock or come crashing down (just like your trust).

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Sincerity: Asking your “customers” if they believe you care about them, are not deceitful, honest or have their interest at heart.

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Competency: Do you or your company have the ability (or competency) to deliver as expected? I am sure we all run across someone or a company that has the best intentions and is always available but their end product or service is just lacking. Sometimes lacking in this driver is due to poor operational processes, training, general knowledge or expertise.

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Reliability: Do you deliver on time, per spec, within budget of your customer’s expectations consistently? This key driver is probably the easiest for you or your “customer” to measure, because it is very tangible. Did the delivery company show up on time? Has a company given you the right product? Did it cost more than the sticker on the box? Internally, companies can ask if they met their SLA’s (service level agreements) and how often. They can look at their uptime/downtime of their website. They can monitor and track billing issues.

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Trust Drivers

3 Critical Use Cases involving Trust

People & Talent Management

I can do a lot of amazing things, but I cannot do them all myself.  Great leaders have people they can trust to get things done, and done well.  But have you ever stopped yourself from delegating a task to someone?  Why?  Somewhere along the line, you do not trust that associate to complete the task as you believe it should be done.  One or more of the key drivers of trust is not meeting your expectations.  Do you believe the person/team wants to complete the assignment to a high degree of quality or do they care about the initiative? (Sincerity)  Do the individuals have the competency or skills to get it done?  Have they failed you in the past on a similar project? (Reliability)

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Understanding where you feel an individual or team is falling short here, is critical to their development.  If Reliability or Sincerity (or both) are not up to your standards, an open conversation about your fears is needed.  If Competency is lacking, find ways to develop those skills within the project or outside of it for the future.

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Building a Social Business

You cannot build a social business without Trust; simple.  A social business requires that the organization trusts its associates to conduct its business over social networks with a high degree of autonomy and structure.  Usually Sincerity is not the main issue here, except in those incidents of associates ripping the company in public.  Usually, “the owners” of the social channels do not believe individuals, teams, or departments have the Competency (social and community management skills) and the Reliability (or consistency) to work in a highly competent manner.

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The great news is that both Competency and Reliability can be corrected.  Developing Competency is all about continuous learning and training. Create training programs that give them the ability to work socially.  Build process and governance models that outlines boundaries.  Once competent, provide lower risk opportunities to prove Reliability (then audit and measure for quality).

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Customer Trust

Maybe the Ultimate Question is not “How likely are you to refer Company X to your friends, family and colleagues?”, maybe the new ultimate question in today’s world is “Do you trust us?”  After all, you probably would not refer anyone to a company you do not trust.  In this social landscape, trust may be the most valuable commodity your company can offer.

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As mentioned before:

Sincerity: Asking your customers if they believe you care about them, are not deceitful, honest or have their interest at heart. You may ask them to review your site, materials, products, etc.. to learn if they believe you have their interests top of mind or even if you understand them. Audit yourself as well. Drug and Oil companies seem to consistently fall short on this driver.

Competency: Do you or your company have the ability (or competency) to deliver as expected? I am sure we all run across someone or a company that has the best intentions and is always available but their end product or service is just lacking. Sometimes lacking in this driver is due to poor operational processes, training, general knowledge or expertise. I see consultants and inexperienced people/companies falling down on this attribute most often.

Reliability: Do you deliver on time, per spec, within budget of your customer’s expectations consistently? This key driver is probably the easiest for you or your customer to measure, because it is very tangible. Did the delivery company show up on time? Has a company given you the right product? Did it cost more than the sticker on the box? Internally, companies can ask if they met their SLA’s (service level agreements) and how often. They can look at their uptime/downtime of their website. They can monitor and track billing issues.  We trust FedEx here; rarely do we trust the USPS.

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Yes, I understand there may not be a silver bullet metric for trust. The customer service world as a whole is the same, no one metric can provide the clearest indication if you are doing it well. However with Customer Service, we do have proxies, and we do understand what drives exceptional service. At a conference I recently attended, it was clear the wave of social media talk (within our social media bubble-very important distinction) is ending, and the discussion is moving to the question of “How do you operationalize and manage this space well?”  We will need to stop saying things like “You need to build trust with your customers”, and move to “How are you defining and measuring the trust your customers have of you?”

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More on measuring Trust

I’m sad that I won’t be able to have another conversation like this with my friend, but I trust that he is looking down now and is happy the conversation continues.

Are there any other factors you think that drives Trust?

How many times in a day/week/month are you not delegating, because you do not trust someone on your team?

Can “Do you Trust us?” be the next ultimate customer question?

Swinging a Hammer Does Not Make You a Carpenter; It Just Makes You Dangerous Or Smart Use of Social Media for your Contact Center

By michaelpace on November 15, 2012

When I am speaking or consulting regarding Social Media Customer Support or Social Business, a few of my favorite questions that I almost always receive are:

  • Who should own social media in a company?
  • Should we be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, and every network?
  • There are so many risks of allowing social media in our contact centers, how do we support it and protect ourselves?

Here are my typical answers:

Social media is a tool, plain and simple.

  • 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. – Understanding how to use the tools is more important, as it is a discipline or competency.
  • 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, it is just serves a different purpose. – Use the tools that your customers are most active on, and prioritize.
  • Your company’s use of email, chat, and phone can be as viral as a tweet or a video now-a-days.  Your organization needs to understand social business, the benefits and risk avoidance are just too great.

So where do you start, and how do you use social media in a smart way?

In my presentation, 5 Steps to Set Up a Social Customer Service Team, the first step is to “Get Yourself Involved”.  The reason to get yourself involved is simple, education and understanding is power – power to effectively deliver amazing internal and external results, and to mitigate the risks of such a ubiquitous tool.  So let’s get started getting you started. (I will begin with the assumption that you have already influenced others in your organization for the need of social media education.  If you need more info, feel free to contact me or here are two articles that may help – Top 5 Reasons Why Customer Service is Avoiding the Social Media Wave & The Next Innovation in Social will Come from (wait for it) … HR .

Step 1: It’s Not a Lonely Job

Use of social tools in a vacuum is about as dangerous as the young child in the blog post image. Gather the potential impacted stakeholders – Marketing, PR, Human Resources, Legal, Product, etc…, and explain your goals and obtain their points of view.  Here are a couple things to think about:

  • Do you already have a company communication policy in place?  If so, social media tools usually fall under the same categories as phone calls, emails, IM, and other channels.  If your organization has strong, articulated values, they should also be your guiding force.
  • What is your company’s voice?  For example two great service companies – Tiffany & Co and Zappos – with incredibly different engagement voices.
  • Ask how your significant workforce can help them achieve their goals? Recruiting, promotion, brand recognition, SEO, thought leadership, employee morale, etc…

Step 2: Start with the Big 3

There are so many social media tools to become educated about, but my advice is to stick with the Big 3: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

LinkedIn: Unless you or your associates are planning on staying with the company for the rest of their lives or there is no possible risk of layoffs or downsizing, LinkedIn is the most important professional network out there.  With almost 200 million professionals on LinkedIn, it is an incredibly powerful networking tool.

  • Help your associates build a strong LinkedIn profile, and don’t be afraid they will suddenly leave because they have a profile out there.  If they leave, it is because of something you are or are not doing internally.
  • Help them get connected.  Suggest individuals in the company for them to connect with, for that matter, have them connect to most everyone in your company.  You never know when a new relationship will be made.
  • Help them find Groups to join.  Groups are an incredible way to meet people in similar industries or like interests.  Great work related questions are asked every day on LinkedIn, and people love the different perspectives people can provide.

Facebook:  Just about everyone and their grandmother have a Facebook account, almost a billion people have one, and that is why it is important for your associates to understand how to use it for business purposes.  Here are a few of my tips on Facebook for business:

  • Don’t be friends with people you work with.  I know that sounds so contrary to the LinkedIn advice, but perception is reality, especially without context.  Facebook does not typically provide much context on why you may have a crayon sticking out of your nose.
  • Like a brand (maybe say … Yours) – Ask them to Like a few brands to see how companies are using Facebook to connect with their fans.  Ask them to Like your brand.  Have them compare engagement.  They may even find out about what your Marketing department is saying to the customers who are 5 minutes away from calling you upset over a wording choice.
  • Have them create a business page on Facebook.  It’s simple to have them walk in the shoes of the company, by creating a business page for a real or pretend small business “that they own”.  It will provide a different perspective to Facebook.

Twitter:  Maybe the most misunderstood social media tool out there.  Yes, some use it to tell you they had a peanut butter sandwich today, but many more use it for personal growth and business purposes.  I would even say that Twitter has had more impact on my own personal development than any other tool (social or not) in the last 5 years.  Twitter allows you to connect to the smartest people in virtually any industry or interest you have.  Here are a few ways you can get up to speed on Twitter.

  • I think my former employer Constant Contact did a phenomenal job outlining the basics of Twitter (and many other tools) in their Social Media Quickstarter.  It provides a great step by step on how to set up and use Twitter.
  • Have them do a Twitter search on your company.  Let them see if your customers are using Twitter for customer service and talking about your company or competitors.
  • Have them find like tweeters.  You can use Twitter’s search capabilities or site’s like Listorious to find others who are interested in what they are interested in.  Most of the smartest people on the planet create content, and most of them use Twitter to let their audience know new information is available.

Step 3: Focus on Continuous Learning (as opposed to Training)

Follow up with your associates on what they have done on social media and if they are continuing to use any of the sites they learned about.  If you have seen a place where you can provide affirmative or constructive feedback, give some timely feedback.  As their knowledge grows, the benefits and reduction of risk grows exponentially.  Another step may be to expand their knowledge, such as:

  • Interaction with blogs and blog aggregators (like Google Reader or Flipboard)
  • Check out Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, or whatever is hot that week.  Have them teach others what the tools do.
  • See if other departments (like Marketing) would like to have a blog written by a support associate to provide the backend perspective.

Education how to use social media tools, makes your organization less dangerous and potentially can allow themselves to be empowered to grow.  The benefits and risk mitigation are great, by just including your associates in learning how to use the tools.  Otherwise, you may have a bunch of screaming, hammer wielding non-carpenters with some dangerous weapons.

Are you educating your associates about social media tools?

What is working and what is not?

Article originally appeared on Knowlagent’s ProductivityPlus blog

Image credit

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: