Pin It

February 27, 2017

Snowballing Incredible Customer Experiences

By michaelpace on March 6, 2014

Snowballing Incredible Customer Experiences

“Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill.” – Warren Buffett

This article originally appeared in ICMI’s Social Media Resources.

It is such a perfect simile. We’ve all had those moments, for good or for not-so-good, when our actions build upon the previous, and create either a gloriously round snowman body or a boulder blocking our driveway.  Hopefully, you are having more of the positive experiences.  I love the simile because it conjures such a clear visual example of creating virtuous cycles.  They are not always perfectly linear, grow based on the force/momentum, conditions, and the overall landscape, and need time to mature.  As I approach developing customer service experiences, I am always trying to identify the opportunities for virtuous cycles.

What is a virtuous cycle?  Dictionary.com describes it as “a beneficial cycle of events or incidents, each having a positive effect on the next”.  Usually in the business world, this is expressed by a boring PowerPoint Smart Art of arrows going in a continuous circle.  We have all seen it, nobody is impressed.  In actuality, virtuous cycles are really like snowballs; with each revolution the circle grows and compounds for the next revolution.  While this appears to be a great post on how to build a snowman, let me bring us back to how virtuous cycles great amazing and profitable customer experiences.  Let’s start with a digital example:

Virtuous cycle

 

 

 

 

 

Moment 1: Customer tweets to your handle or mentions your brand with a question.

Moment 2: Customer Service responds to the tweet, with a link to Knowledge Base.

Moment 3: Since this a fairly frequent question, you post the tweet and response on your blog or community site.

Moment 4: Customer Service “proactive” tweet with a link to your support blog and/or community site, “Wondering how to do XXXXXX, so was one of our customers, see how <link>”.

Now, what just happened with this example?

  1.  Customer is acknowledged on Twitter, hopefully within a beyond customer expectation turnaround time (2-10 minutes).  Both acknowledgement and response time are as important as providing the correct answer in social customer service.
  2. Customer is provided an answer linked to your Customer Knowledge Base.  Not only does this provide an answer to your customer’s question, it builds awareness that answers are available in another digital format. If this is a public tweet, not a Direct Message (DM) or began with the “@” symbol, any follower can learn from your other customer.
  3. Believe it or not, you are now in possession of valuable content.  You have a customer’s voice, an answer to the question, and awareness to alternate forums.  By posting this content to your community or blog site, you have created “searchable” customer support content.
  4. By posting the community or blog site link, you now have created proactive content for customers who may search for their answer via a search engine (Google, Yahoo, etc…) and provided help content on your site.

Even if just steps 1 and 2 occurred, you still created a bigger snowball or virtuous cycle of customer support between your Twitter community and your Knowledge Base.  If moving to steps 3 and 4 produce a sense of fear or out of your current scope of work, you are correct.  But I believe it’s the role of Customer Service and the tools they use that is changing, and so should Customer Service leaders.

This may sound similar to previous Customer Service tactics, such as while your customers are on hold waiting for a service representative, you let them know they can also get answers from your website.  The intention in this message is to reduce or deflect call volume by creating awareness of your website. People and customers all hate this.  They probably called for a reason.  This tactic actually creates a vicious cycle, where the message angers callers on hold, and typically creates a longer call.  Virtuous cycles create value for all parties involved.  Virtuous cycles do not interrupt.  In the example above, the customer received their answer in the forum, format, or medium the customer chose.

If you wanted to introduce them to your website, use a follow up email post or even during the interaction with the customer on the phone.  Let the customer know you will be sending them a link if they ever need this information again, a quick simple place they can find it. 

Other examples where virtuous cycles can be created:

  • Providing your Twitter or other social links on your mobile app
  • Including Knowledge Base information or search functionality on your mobile app
  • Using company blogs or SHORT whitepapers to educate or coach your customer post a transaction, but only if it is relevant to the conversation
  • Invite customers to your communities (in person, via email, over the phone, etc…) – only after the transaction has been completed
  • Using Chat functionality to link to your Knowledge Base (but also provide a in simple written form while in the chat
  • If you have a Customer Success program, make sure you have virtuous cycles imbedded in your processes

Virtuous cycles create exponential value for both your company and the customer.  If done well, you may also begin helping customers who you will never hear from, because they have helped themselves.  And if done really well, those customers will also share their new insights.  Then the snowball starts getting bigger and faster.  Your infrastructure and processes are the hill, and your helping the customer is the first small ball.  Find your virtuous cycles, create momentum, and get rolling.

Image credit

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. 

 

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah – I got you “How to Measure Social Media ROI”

By michaelpace on November 20, 2013

How to Measure Social Media ROI

My friends and family think I am a bit “Grinchy” when it comes to the holidays.  I say “Bah Humbug” to that.  Today, I give you the best present I can possibly give someone working with social media tools and their senior management who want to understand if they are providing actual business value – The How to Measure Your Social Media ROI “guide”.

A few notes to start:

  • I don’t believe Engagement is a metric – it is a combination of metrics that may or may not tie back to an actual business goal.  I’m not a big fan of using squishy metrics and buzz words.
  • This methodology does not show or provide you the value of using social tools within your business. It may, but was not specifically designed to do so.  However, there is plenty of juice here.
  • There are a ton of non-quantifiable benefits of using social network tools for your business; it will still be up to you to show the value of those benefits.  Story-telling does work well here.
  • Quantifiable numbers, in context, make the basis for a fantastic story to tell.  Your need to create the storyline, tone, and its beginning, middle, and end.  Also, remember, story-telling is just another way to influence others.
  • If you don’t know the value of other more important or relevant business activities, such as your retention efforts or acquisition, STOP HERE and go figure that stuff out first.
  • Making progress on Learning Agendas is more important that ROI.  Learning Agenda items may include things such as: content management, scale, hiring/development, infrastructure needs.
  • Lastly, and maybe most importantly – If you cannot link social profiles to your customer database, you will never actually answer the question of ROI. 

Ok, now you may unwrap your gift.

Part 1: As just previously mentioned, it is imperative you can link your customers’ social profiles to a customer database.  To gather a somewhat accurate ROI, you need to be able to identify which of your customers are active on social media.  If you then can link them back to a customer database, you can then index or compare them against your non-social customer data set.  From there you will be able to see how they perform on the metrics below.

I realize in many industries and companies, you may not sell directly to the consumer (think home products, Coca Cola, trash bags, bacon, Smuckers, etc…), but you can still use the following information to develop your ROI.

Part 2:  I am going to assume you are in business to acquire customers, retain customers, grow their usage, and do it profitably (if you are a for-profit company).  All of the other stuff is how you get there.  Traditional business models have brainwashed the simplicity out of getting actual results done.  In other words, if you keep focusing on the pine needles, you are going to miss the forest. 

Acquiring Customers:

Whether they admit it outright, most marketers are focused on acquiring customers.  “Likes” and “Shares” are pine needles, they need to lead to something bigger.  Context and content would be the trees in this metaphor.  Social media used well can be an incredibly effective way in acquiring customers; I love the concept of Inbound Marketing made popular by folks like Hubspot.  The four metrics I find most beneficial to look at are:

  • Marketing Qualified Leads
  • Sales Qualified Leads
  • Referrals
  • Cost per Acquisition

Some may feel “Likes” and “Shares” should be considered MQL’s or SQL’s, and I do too if, and only if, you are able to reconnect beyond just possibly being visible in Facebook (or other stream).  I feel more strongly that content that leads to action (like email capture) is worth considerably more.  If you context and content creation are strong, you should also be able to lower your paid search costs.

Everyone who works in social knows that content shared by a connection is more trusted than a commercial or direct mailer.  The trick is now to track that referral.  Isn’t that a big reason why we collect NPS (Net Promoter Score), to see if you would refer a family member, friend, or colleague? If social media is about connections and relationships, the referral is the ultimate, tangible result.

Of course, the easier you collect MQL’s, SQL’s, and referrals you lower one of your most important acquisition metrics – Cost of Acquisition.  I’m not sure why cost of acquisition doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but all profitability starts with how much it costs to gain a customer.  Lowering your cost of acquisition impacts how you look at retention, average usage, and general customer profitability. 

Retention:

While studies may vary, it is widely known that acquiring a customer is between 5-8 times more costly than to retain a current customer.  In really simple terms, if it cost you $100 to acquire a customer, every customer you retain saves you between $80-$87.50.  I love how David Skok illustrates this in the SaaS world with his article “Why Churn is SO critical to success in SaaS”. 

Impact of Churn

During my tenure, at fast growing SaaS company, we saw customers, who were active in our community and social network platforms, attrite at half the rate of non-engaged customers.  If you had no other metrics to prove the value of your social program, this one will typically turn a CEO on their head.  Also, if your company employs a customer success program, you will want to see where and when social fits in.

Average Usage or Average Revenue per User

When I have consulted and spoken at conferences, I will usually refer to education and coaching as social’s best driver of average usage or average revenue per user (ARPU). Gaining more revenue from your customer is a no brainer, but how you do it is critical.  Social networks, in tandem with strong context and content, are an incredible way to showcase how your product or service can better the lives of your customers.   I highlight “better the lives” because there is a very real distinction between education/coaching and the cross sell.  Cross selling for the sake of revenue will increase attrition rates eventually.  You would need a very considerable amount of ARPU to overcome loss of customers.  Education and coaching help your customer accomplish their goals.  They chose your product or service for a reason, help them get the most out of it.  Again another great illustration on the financial impact of increased ARPU or what David Skok refers to as Negative Churn.

Churn / Negative Churn

Customer Profitability

Obviously, all of the metrics above can increase or decrease profitability depending on how well you execute on the initiatives and programs that drive those results.  When I say profitability, I am specifically talking about how much does it cost you to serve your customer.  Social networks, specifically community platforms, can serve your customers at far less expensive cost than your traditional networks like phone and email.  Again, during my tenure with the SaaS company, we saw handling issues over Twitter costing about 1/6th the cost of a phone call. 

Twitter cost per customer

Community platforms (such as Jive and Lithium) can deliver even better results, much better.  A strong community manager can support tens of thousands of customers helping customers.  Community platforms that have an easy to use search functionality are especially effective in lower your cost per customer. 

Part 3: Now it is time to calculate, yay for math.  I’d advise pulling in someone from your Finance or Analysis team to assist, specifically on how to best influence and showcase your data.  However, if you need some assistance on calculators, here are a few helpful sites:

This may be my longest post ever; now you definitely cannot say that I didn’t give you anything for Chrismahanukwanzakah.  Happy Holidays.

Usual, Great, and Future Leading Companies

By michaelpace on January 14, 2013

 

How Most Companies Sell & Add Value:

How Usual Companies work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Great Companies Sell & Add Value:

How Great Companies Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Future Leading Companies Help, Add Value & Sell:

How Future Leading Companies Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat

“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.

x

Me: “Well, it’s all about trust.”

x

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

x

(Good point)

x

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.”

x

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?

x

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.

x

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).

x

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

x

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.

x

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.

x

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)

x

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.

x

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.

x

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).

x

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.

x

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.

x

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?”

x

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?

My 3 All Time Favorite Communities (& Why)

By michaelpace on November 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

Lost

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

The Grateful Dead

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

community roundtable maturity model

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

Movember

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

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

Do you have a favorite community or communities?

What about those communities keep you engaged?

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

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

Live Google+ Debate: Will Technology Kill the Call Center?

By michaelpace on October 15, 2012

Contact Center DebateRecently, I participated in an live Google+ debate hosted by Software Advice that asked, “Will Technology Kill the Call Center?” The research firm basically wanted to investigate trends in consumer contact channel utilization, technology and the impact of these trends on the future call center.

The event featured a panel of experts that answered scripted questions, before the discussion was opened to the audience. The prepared queries included:

1.    How have you seen consumer contact channel utilization change in the last decade?
2.    What role has technology played in this change?
3.    How do you see technology impacting the way customers contact a company in the future, and the kind of service they receive?
4.    Will technology eventually render call centers irrelevant?

Click on the video below to watch the entire recorded debate hosted by the talented Ashley Furniss.

I was able to send comments directly to the panel during the live event. One of the speakers, IntelliResponse Vice President of Marketing Mike Hennessy, made a statement that questioned the value of social media for customer service. He argued that according to analysis he’s seen about social customer service, the return on investment for time spent is not there. I disagreed:

Here are some other key takeaways from the responses.

Become Truly Multi Channel
All of the speakers agreed that consumers are embracing newer contact channels, such as virtual agents and self service, at a pace never seen before in the contact center world.

This doesn’t mean customers are choosing these new channels instead of voice. Rather, they are using self service, FAQs, mobile and other channels in addition to the telephone.

In response, companies need to do more than just make these channels available. They should leverage each to better serve the customer. For example, can you tell what a customer was looking at in your FAQs before they called your 1-800 number? Do you know if they interacted with a virtual agent? Having these answers can bring context and personalization to the live response experience. This increases efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Accommodate the Customer’s Contact Channel Choice
Technology advancements have had a huge impact on the way organizations interact with customers. Advancements such as intelligent virtual agents and self service can finally devlier on the promises from five and six years ago.

These contact channel improvements have leveled the playing field as far as user experience. The customer is now empowered to choose the communication channel they want, when they want. It’s up to the company to “right channel” their business–to determine which channels are most important to its customers and invest in those technologies.

Ready Your Agents for the Reborn Contact Center
All of the speakers agreed that customer contact preference is shifting away from voice. But this won’t kill the call center because it’s already dead.

The concept of a call center comprising phone agents has evolved into a contact center comprising ”command teams” who manage customer interactions through multiple channels. That’s because today’s consumer demands instant gratification, and the reborn center is expected to support those demands, whether they come through Twitter, live chat or a phone call.

 

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: