Pin It

March 26, 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

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.

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?

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

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: