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February 22, 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.

Boba Fett and the Value of Community Hurdles

By michaelpace on September 9, 2013 Boba Fett Alarm clock

As a little man, Boba Fett was by far the coolest Star Wars character ever.  He had a jet pack, wrist rockets, and an outfit designed with attitude.  I never thought about it back then, but his outfit and weaponry was not all that made him cool.  And it definitely wasn’t his appearance in Return of the Jedi (worst Star Wars movie and scene ever).  Part of Boba’s fandom comes from how you needed to acquire his action figure.  And for a nine year old it was quite a hurdle. 

Prior to Empire Strikes Back, Kenner (the toy company) created a hurdle for their Star Wars action figure community by offering a mail-in promotion, in which five proof of purchases would be the only way to acquire the action figure Boba Fett.  For the first time, everyone couldn’t just go to the toy store and pick up possibly the coolest figure ever.  Kenner created a barrier only their most loyal fans would cross. 

Historically, I have been a big proponent of making your communities easy to use, easy to access, and providing the least amount of hurdles.  Having multiple screens or process steps for someone to register or gain full access to your community limits volume, possible conversion, and the so sexy numbers your boss may like to see.  For the most part of the past few years, this has been the strategy for many organizations:

  • Providing a freemium product
  • “Like us on Facebook”
  • Just name and email for community platform access

If volume and impressions are your goal(s), this is a perfectly great strategy.  It brings you more possibilities to convert, win over share of wallet, and allows your marketing message to reach a higher number of people.  If your goals are about direct top and bottom line growth, you may want to rethink your strategy.  In other words, would you rather have 10,000 likes or 100 raving fans?  Yes, the answer is both, but requires two very distinct community management strategies.  If your goals are about depth of engagement versus breadth, creating barriers to inclusion may be a strong option for you.  Some barriers include:

  • Pay for app or pay trials (think WhatsApp or other pay for games/apps)
  • Develop an acceptance process to join a community
  • Detailed information on entry
  • The Mafia and other organized gangs have some very difficult hurdles (I don’t recommend)

Remember you are providing access to your community to achieve a goal or a number of goals.  Take the time to think about which strategy help you get there, free and easy access or adding in some hurdles.  Boba Fett still remains a personal favorite character, and I still remember the day my mom walked in and handed me the brown mailing box from Kenner. bobafree

Do you belong to any communities that provided hurdles? 

Does your organization make it purposely difficult for customers to get involved?

Did you get your Boba Fett in the mail too?

And the Winner is ….

By michaelpace on April 18, 2013

PerkStreet Announcement

Drum roll please …

And the Winner is …

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

PerkStreet Financial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Using Communities for Customer Support

By michaelpace on March 18, 2013

Crowd surfing

Overview:




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




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




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




Objectives:

 

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

 

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


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


How did you get involved in communities?


Where do you start?


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


Metrics?


How do you get executive buy in to pursue?


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


What kinds of tools are available?


Are there any resources to help get folks started?






Listen to internet radio with execsintheknow on Blog Talk Radio



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

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

Community Manager: Help Yourself

Tom Jones Help YourselfBy michaelpace on March 14, 2013

As Tom Jones says,

“We are always told repeatedly

The very best in life is free

And if you want to prove it’s true

Baby I’m telling you

This is what you should do

Just help yourself … ”



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

Community Roundtable

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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



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

First: Download the 2013 SOCM Workbook

Second: Complete the online 2013 SOCM Survey



Rachel Happe

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

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

CMAD High FiveBy michaelpace on January 28, 2013

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

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

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

Here are my thoughts:

Community Management is a discipline.

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

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

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

To put Community Management in context to other terms:

Community context

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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?

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

By michaelpace on December 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

customer-service-handle-simply-measured

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

Grade: B-

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

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

Grade: You tell me

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

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

Grade: A-

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

Pacefucious said: “Email customer service sucks, your lucky numbers are 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42” – Again, don’t get my cousin wrong, email doesn’t suck, but customer service through email is RARELY good, and almost always includes extra work for your customers.  Let’s take a typical email situation: question to company (waits), reply and clarification from company, customer clarifies (waits), company provides standard message to solve problem, customer needs more specific information, blah, blah, blah, blah etc… Now email can be valuable to a company as an off-business hour service, and possibly outsourced, but why even provide the subpar experience?

Grade: Not Rated

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

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

Grade: A

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

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

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

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

Image via Clutchcook