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February 22, 2017

“Well, it’s all about Trust”

By michaelpace on January 8, 2013

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

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Me: “Well, it’s all about trust.”

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

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(Good point)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trust Drivers

3 Critical Use Cases involving Trust

People & Talent Management

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

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

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Building a Social Business

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

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

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Customer Trust

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

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As mentioned before:

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

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

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

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

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More on measuring Trust

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

Are there any other factors you think that drives Trust?

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

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

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

By michaelpace on November 15, 2012

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

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

Here are my typical answers:

Social media is a tool, plain and simple.

  • Nobody should “own” the tool.  The phone system is a tool, you don’t see Marketing asking the Customer Service team for permission to use the phone. – Understanding how to use the tools is more important, as it is a discipline or competency.
  • I have lots of tools in my toolbox, including hammers, saws, screwdrivers (manual and electric) wrenches, and so on.  It doesn’t mean one tool is better than another, it is just serves a different purpose. – Use the tools that your customers are most active on, and prioritize.
  • Your company’s use of email, chat, and phone can be as viral as a tweet or a video now-a-days.  Your organization needs to understand social business, the benefits and risk avoidance are just too great.

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

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

Step 1: It’s Not a Lonely Job

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

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

Step 2: Start with the Big 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you educating your associates about social media tools?

What is working and what is not?

Article originally appeared on Knowlagent’s ProductivityPlus blog

Image credit

The Power of the Social Business – 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:

 

How to Develop Rockstars in Your Organization

Bon Jovi Boston 2011By michaelpace on July 17, 2012

Over the past few months, I have acquired a tremendous amount of lessons learned for the job hunt, finding an opportunity you love, and uncovering if you will be a cultural fit.  I’ll document the best practices as soon as I am firmly landed.  In the meantime, I have observed one particular trend that is a bit unnerving:
When I ask potential employers

“Tell me about your associate personal development program[s].”,
I typically get an answer similar to this

“Our Training Program teaches our associates about new product releases.” Or “We train everyone for 4 weeks, then we put them on the phones.”

This is important: Training is not personal development.  It’s an incredibly small part of personal development.  If you only train, you will create some really good SME’s (subject matter experts), but you will not develop an organization full of rockstars or high performing associates ready to deliver bigger and better results.  Rockstars are the representatives of your team to the company.  Rockstars go above and beyond on their own.  Rockstars are your successors.  Create Rockstars, not SME’s.

How do you create a Rockstar? (Tactical steps)
Step 1: Invest the time
Most leaders and managers make time for their associates, either weekly or bi-weekly, and most of these meetings consist of talking about what they are working on and status updates.  These meetings are important to accomplish short term objectives, but rarely look at the long term development of your reports.  My recommendation: Set up separate development meetings, which should be exclusively about long term career goals, providing behavioral feedback on competencies (or the “how” work is getting done), an open forum for your report to provide you feedback, and finally how you can interweave into their daily worklife.  Make sure you prepare beforehand.
Step 2: Focus on the right things
As mentioned earlier, direct report meetings rarely focus on long term competency development.  It becomes really easy to focus on specific results and projects; do your best to be conscience and avoid it.  If your organization has specific competencies associates are measured against, they are a great place to focus, especially if you have discussed these opportunities in prior reviews or performance management sessions.  If your organization does not have a set of competencies to be measured, here are a few that make sense for any organization or direct report:
•    Communication
o    Interaction with peers, reports and management
o    Public speaking
o    Written, verbal and physical (time and place important as well)
•    Results Focus or Orientation
o    Meeting commitments
o    Delivery of consistent, high quality
o    How efficient are they in achieving results
•    Influencing Others
o    How to influence 360 degrees around
o    Formal and informal socialization of ideas
o    Developing credibility
•    Integrative Thinking / Using data in decision making
o    Quantitative and qualitative (when and where to use)
o    Ability to pull the trigger and not have analysis paralysis
o    Look at the entire organization when making decisions
•    Teamwork
o    Interaction with peers
o    Working cross functionally
o    Building relationships outside of your company
•    Change Management
o    Getting everyone on board to change
o    Creating change management strategies
•    Customer Focus
o    Balancing the needs of the customer in their decisions
o    Understanding customer impact
By focusing on these types of competencies, Job Specific Learning or Training will naturally improve.
Step 3: Reinforcement and Tracking
I am a huge fan of the Learn, Practice and Feedback methodology of development.  First, create what is the goal of your report’s development (ex. Improve ability to influence across departments).  Second, have your report identify ways they can learn how to improve this competency (books, blogs, webinars, conferences, training events, mentors, etc…). Then identify the resources that can assist them, and when they will have completed the activity.  Do the same for practice and feedback.  Practice should be the opportunities for them to safely try to use the new skills they have learned.  Your report must also identify how they will receive timely feedback on their practice opportunities.  A note: You should not be the resource for every activity. Email or tweet me if you are interested in the excel template.

Personal Development Template

Creating SME’s is a short term fix, and that is all most trainings will accomplish.  Look for long term competency development to create the Rockstars that will lead your organization in the future.  By focusing on competencies, you will suffer some short term time loss, however, you are building a leader for your organization which should allow you to delegate more to them with confidence in the future.  This will allow you to focus on more long term and important matters, instead of short term, urgent issues.
Do you have a strong associate development program?
If you have one, do you focus on competencies or short term results?
What are some of the challenges you are facing?

 

 

 

Social’s First Real Customer Service Centric Platform? Product Review: Social Dynamx

By michaelpace on May 13, 2012

“No social enterprise transformation strategy can succeed unless Customer Service plays a central role.” said Michael Maoz, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst for Customer Strategies research at Gartner.  “Current structures are inadequate. The challenge for senior management is to engineer the necessary processes and technology changes that will allow customer service to evolve to embrace social trends.  New concepts of recruitment, measurement and outcomes are necessary to allow for the increased agent participation in social media.  When this happens, and the right supporting technology is deployed, businesses will see increased customer engagement and higher overall customer success.” 

Damn, I could not have said that better.  Being one of a relative few social customer service practitioners, who has built a high quality, scalable social customer support team, I have been perplexed over the past two years as to why customer support/service/retention/success has been the afterthought of the social media platform market.  After all, doesn’t the terminology “customer engagement” imply there is life after they have been acquired?  In my own humble opinion, most of engagement is post acquisition.  Everyone knows customer retention is multiple times more cost effective than acquisition.  And I do not believe Marketing will ever be able to scale efficiently to provide the intimacy social customer service requires.  However, the social platform market is flooded with Marketing-centric products or “oh yeah, we need to cover social” CRM bolt-ons.  This is why I was incredibly interested in a new company called Social Dynamx and their recently released purpose built social customer service platform.

I learned of Social Dynamx from friend Heather Strout, Customer Insights Manager, and was asked to provide my feedback after meeting some team members and a demo.  Here are my thoughts*:

Company Leadership:

If you read my posts, you know the value that I place on culture.  I consider culture as the most important tacit or non-tacit asset in every organization.  Before meeting with Social Dynamx team, I was very impressed with the backgrounds of their leadership.  Their backgrounds are a strong mix of customer service, call center, social strategy and execution, community and technology.  If you are going to design a tool with the customer service agent in mind, you need to be able to understand the complexities of a representative.  They have a new workflow, marketing initiative, incentive, exception, and policy to remember each day.  Their workstations are typically covered in post-it notes and processes, and are expected to get it right every time.  This is not an easy job.  Similarly, I have often used the analogy of understanding social to learning to riding a bike.  You can read all the books and blogs on how to ride a bike or social, but until you get your butt on the seat or actively, consistently engage on social networks, you will not get it.  Social Dynamx’s leadership structure, experience and competencies comes through the product. (Leadership is never strictly held in C-level positions)

This cross functional knowledge also is provided at implementation.  While it’s a cloud based product, each company should customize to teach your system what to look for.  The last thing a customer service stakeholder wants to hear is sales people drown on about all the things it can do for you, when they have no idea how customer service or a call center works.  Social Dynamx background and experience provides both social and service understanding.

Know Your Customer: Social Dynamx Agent Priority

In my presentation for Customer Service leaders, the 5 Steps to Set Up a Social Customer Service Team, the first step of the Customer Conversation is always Know Your Customer. Social Dynamx provides a clean view of your customer’s major social networks,customer support/peer-to-peer forums and blogs, and an assessment of the priority based on their proprietary model scoring model.  This priority should help your agents and management staffs understand the social impact a customer may have on your business.  Of course, influence is contextual, and while someone may have a large following in technology, it may not pertain to your knitting business (for example).  However, you never know how many of those tech folks like to throw a quilt together in their spare time.  For future versions, I would love to see a more integrated view of YOUR customer’s value or customer lifetime value.  You need to understand both social impact and the specific value this customer represents to your company.

The conversation thread feature is perfect and rarely seen in anything on the market today.

Time to get Real:

Three major aspects I wanted to make sure I received an understanding of was:

Are there differentiated views for agents and management? Yes (see pics)

How can I measure my agents? Yes, there are out of the box metrics for measuring SLA’s (service level agreements) and customizable fields.  We discussed the future need for management to be able to quality monitor their associates, and is a critical aspect towards agent measurement.  There is, however, a nice connection to your knowledge base to more quickly answer questions.

I probably not buying a whole new CRM (especially in this economy), does this work with my existing account or issue management tool? It’s cloud based, so no servers to maintain on site, and is an open architecture to integrate with major CRM tools.  Obviously, considering this was a demo, I was not able to witness how their systems integrate with CRM platforms.  This is a perfect opportunity to bring in your network support team to understand the implications. 

As a Customer Service leader, I am thrilled to see a company think “customer support” first, and I believe Social Dynamx has developed the solid, very customer centric social customer platform.  I love their approach, starting with understanding the customer through implementation.  Considering this is a newly released public product, they have a high majority of the critical business requirements covered.  (Product has been in place in a number of enterprise organizations, however, it has not been available to the general service public.)  I believe the biggest challenge will be the businesses they work with, as there is still a huge, glass barrier of customer service leaders actually taking hold of the customer service reigns, and driving their social business.  You can learn more about Social Dynamx here.

*I am not associated with Social Dynamx in any material manner other than my friend relationship with Heather Strout, and received no compensation for providing a review.  All commentary contained within is strictly my own perception and thoughts.  So if you are a hater, you know what you can do.

Social Dynamx Agent RoleSocial Dynamx Supervisor Trends

 

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

By michaelpace on April 23, 2012

Romper Room Transparency Customer Service

Magic Mirror, tell me today

Did companies do as they say,

I see Costco, Ritz Carlton, and Starbucks …

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

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

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

Incident, Customer Satisfaction and Net Promoter Scoring:

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

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

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

Employee Morale, Satisfaction and Engagement Scores:

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

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

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

What would stop you from doing it?

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

Do you remember Romper Stompers?  They rocked!

Image Credit: yttm.tv

 

 

 

 

 

CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES or Leadership’s Most Underrated Skill

By michaelpace on April 23, 2012

David Bowie - Changes It’s great to see a portion of the focus on social media technologies shift from shiny objects and how to market better to increasing the adoption of the tools and uses within the organization.  The era of the Social Business or, as I prefer to call it, the Social Organization is just beginning to take hold in progressive companies, and should start to “Cross the Chasm” within the next few years.  Yes, it is going to take at least a few years; some laggard companies still do not let some of their associates access the internet via their workstation.  For those companies starting down the Social Organization path, or considering it, introducing tools and new corporate communication policies is not going to be enough to be successful in achieving high adoption.  Companies will need to change from the inside out, shift their culture, and learn new, better ways of working and interacting.

But how do you change successfully?
Are your organization’s leaders skilled in the arts and sciences of change management?
Do you have a change management plan or methodology?

Over the years, few training courses have stuck with me like training I received while with Capital One on Change Management.  For more on the specific training that was provided, please visit PROSCI’s Change Management Learning Center, in the meantime, I’ll provide my key takeaways.  The basis for much of the training centered around the acronym ADKAR.

 

Awareness:
Most successful changes start with the impacted stakeholders being made aware of the changes.  This is just an introduction to the changes that will be coming.  This information may have a positive, neutral or negative impact on your associates morale, job satisfaction, workload, role, and/or position within the organization.  Prior to making your associates aware of the change, I recommend completing a Change Management Assessment.  See below for an example:

Change Management Assessment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steps to complete a Change Management Assessment:
1.    Identify changes or workstream
2.    Provide a brief description
3.    Identify a SINGLE Owner
4.    Judge the impact to the stakeholders
5.    Is it a positive, negative or neutral change?
6.    Is training required?
7.    Is a communication plan or strategy required?
8.    Are there organizational changes associated with this change?
9.    How aware is the organization that this change is coming?
10.    Identify all stakeholders associated with the change

Desire:
Often the building of Desire coincides with the communication associated with Awareness.  This is your “Why”.  Having a strong understanding of the possible outcomes, consequences and ripple effects is critical to be able to build the Desire for change.  While creating your plan to build Desire, a great idea is to bring in 2-4 influential associates to understand what their concerns are, questions they have, and their thoughts on what the general populous reactions will be to the changes.

Knowledge:
This is where your training or continuous learning plans come into play.  In general, most people recognize this phase of change management best.  This is where you develop and execute training, or providing the Knowledge, for your associates.

Ability:
If Knowledge was the training or learning, Ability is the opportunity to put what has been made aware and trained into practice.  You will also want to make sure you are quality monitoring in this phase, and be available to provide coaching and support.

Reinforcement:
Sometimes the most forgotten area of change management, Reinforcement is your opportunity to implement incentives (and consequences if necessary) to help your associates keep/adopt the change.  The most important part of this phase is credibility.  Are you walking your talk?  Is this a fly-by-night , flavor of the month initiative?  Identify multiple ways so your changes can be internalized by your teams.

The more impactful the change, the greater the need is for change management.  If you are discussing culture change, there are few changes more impactful.  By investing early on in the change timeline on a change management methodology will help ensure you execute even more excellently.  This model can also be used for external customers, and I would even suggest just trying it for your next customer impacting initiative.

Have you used change management methodologies before? If so, how did it differ?
If you fear process, does this sound like too much process?
Are you considering a change on the magnitude of a culture shift?
I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Next Innovation in Social will come from (wait for it) . . . HR

By michaelpace on October 3, 2011Herd Cats button

No, not some hybrid formation of technology from Hashable and Radian6 or something of the like, good ol’ Human Resources.  Yes, Human Resources.

Of course, new technology will continue to flood our lives in alpha, beta and full rollout versions, but they are mostly all incremental changes or consolidation of features.  Marketing departments and agencies will stretch our imaginations with fantastic ways of looking at products and services.  However, the most powerful innovation of the next generation should/will come from Human Resources.

The tools are only as valuable as the people using them (a hammer swung does not make a carpenter).  Human Resources focuses on the organization’s most critical asset: people. They are one of few departments with horizontal reach across organizations, goals and culture.  They also can be the catalyst to possibly the most important innovation of this era – THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION.

The Social Organization is a company/business whose majority of people use social business competencies, social tools (media), and social processes to achieve higher quality internal and external results more efficiently.  The power of the Social Organization is in the exponential leverage of diversified relationships and the speed in which information can be transferred.  A non-social organization uses more one to one conversation, limiting the accuracy and relationship distance information can be communicated.  Think of the telephone game as a child; one to one conversation, often inaccurate and limited in distance (or viral ability) by how many people are willing to wait or listen.  A social organization provides information to multiple people simultaneously, provides easy methods to share internally or externally or both, and allows for iteration in a shared space.  It is like the difference between trying to catch something with a 50 ft. rope or a 50 ft. by 50 ft. net.

3 examples of the difference in power of the Traditional Organization versus the Social Organization:

Brand Advocacy: Theoretically, the strongest brand advocates should live inside the company or organization.  A highly social organization will be able to reach more people, reach more people who are influenced by the sender, and deliver all with much greater efficiency.

social organization

The Social Organization reaches 87%+ more people with only 10% of the original population.  The same number of associates would equal a 18.75X difference (1,125,000 in reach).  Do you know of any one move that can change metrics by almost 20X?

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.

Research & Development:  The most known example of a Social Organization leveraging social competencies and process to improve R&D efforts is Dell, and their IdeaStorm Community.  This community leverages the resources and thoughts of their enormous customer base to help identify future enhancement and product ideas.  Dell is able to iterate with the end customers on what those same customers would want.  I like to reference a quote from John Hagel’s Power of Pull “There are a lot more smarter people OUTSIDE your organization than IN it,”

The Social Organization is more of a cultural shift than a project.  It requires massive amounts of change management (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement) to be effective.  Just getting everyone to have a Twitter account or LinkedIn account will not transform your organization.  All that will end up happening is a bunch of silly looking Twitter eggs passing your company’s latest press release to each other.  Associates need to become socially competent, both individually and for social business.  Human Resources is in a unique position to help transform a culture, and they have the greatest opportunity to make the greatest impact on business in general.

Is your company a highly Social Organization?

How has Human Resources played a role in social competency development? Use of tools and processes? Social cultural shifts?

Photo Credit Blogging4Jobs

Straight from the Unicorn’s Mouth

By michaelpace on July 11, 2011

Unicorn's mouth

“How do you guys do Social Media Customer Service and do it well?”

I might be paraphrasing, but that is probably the most common question that has been asked of me during the past 2 years at Customer Service and Call Center conferences.  In this post, I thought I would have my team at Constant Contact give their top tips to executing Social Media Customer Service and how to manage these team members.  So straight from the Unicorn’s Mouth*

Top Tips from Community Host & Social Support Associate Jarrad:

  1. Response Time – Customers on Social Networks are looking for answers fast, especially on Twitter. Minimize any delay in a response. We try to respond to any @ or general Constant Contact comment within 2-5 minutes.
  2. Keep the Customer Informed – If you are experiencing downtime or a problem, address it immediately. Be proactive and honest. This is a great way to build brand loyalty.
  3. Content – It is not all about reacting to customer issues.  You can help them before they even contact you.  Try to provide content that your customers want and are interested in reading or watching.  If you see an article that relates to your client base send it out to them
  4. Support – Not all answers can be solved by a simple tweet. There may be some back and forth, but try to solve the problem online rather than having them call in.
  5. Call The Customer – If an issue cannot be resolved online, don’t pass it off to your phone support. Make the call yourself and do as much as possible to resolve the incident at that moment.
  6. Research – If a customer has a blanket statement like, “I hate your company” see if you can find out what has prompted this tweet. Check their website or email address and see if you can locate the customer’s account. Find out the “Why” before responding.
  7. Ask for Feedback – If someone is considering canceling their account or stopping business with you, rather than leaving it alone, ask them for feedback. Not only does this show you value their opinion; it can also help retain customers.
  8. Personality – Try not to sound too robotic or stale when answering customers. Be social. Talk to them casually and personally and at the same time, keep it professional.
  9. Experiment – Social Media is still new and trying new ways to interact with your customers is important.  You never know what will work and what will not until you try it.
  10. Visibility – Be aware that everything you say on a Social Network has the potential of being seen by millions of people. Don’t respond to trolls and don’t post anything your company would be embarrassed by.
  11. Empathize – Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. (How would you like your favorite company or brand to address your concerns?)

Top Tips from Community Host & Social Support Associate Marissa

Acknowledge as soon as possible

  • You don’t need to have an answer readily available, but at least if you acknowledge you saw the tweet or post and you’re looking into it, people can be very appreciative.

Be empathetic

  • Try to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re reaching out to. You may not agree with what they are saying or have ever been in the situation, but at least try to understand.

Don’t argue

  • If someone says something horrible about your company, don’t start a fight and tell them that they’re wrong. Something as simple as “Was there something I could help with?” can go a long way.  I even had a Blog Post written about it!

Curate content you know about

  • Don’t just tweet articles you haven’t read, make sure you can answer questions on them if need be.

Know your audience and your brand

  • Make sure the content you’re curating for them will provide value.  Don’t waste their precious time with useless noise.  Find information they can use, find entertaining or can learn from.
  • Different customer service brands have different voices, you need to know yours.  For instance, Zappos and Tiffany & Co. provide great service, but have very different voices.

Thank your followers

  • Whether someone re-tweets what you say or if someone gives you great content, tell them thanks.

Don’t be afraid to have conversations

  • Don’t just answer questions.  Start a conversation with those that ask questions.  You’ll be surprised what you may find out.  I was helping someone the other day and even though they weren’t local, they told me about a local restaurant to check out!

Top Tips for managing Jarrad and Marissa by Ros

  • Transitions between team members is critical. If you have multiple team members tweeting or managing social support, the customers shouldn’t be impacted by a shift change.
  • “Social Influence” is an indicator but not the goal. From the help side, your number of followers and retweets are not the primary metrics. Your Klout or influence is AN indicator not THE indicator. Socializing this with your internal team and executives is important.
  • Trust is key. As a manager, you must trust that your team’s intentions are good and support their risk taking.  Social Media is changing everyday and some mistakes will be made.  It is important for your team to know that you support them even if they stumble.
  • Hiring curious people is key. Social Media is fast moving and having people eager to learn is more important than having people who have all the answers.

 

*Unicorns are prettier than horses

Social Customer Service – A completely different animal (associate)?

By michaelpace on June 12, 2011

Social Customer Service Team

For the last 30 years, traditional customer service recruiting, training, core skills and performance management have not changed dramatically.   Service professionals and their management teams have been able to hone the delivery of customer needs through various channels.  But are the same attributes that make a great traditional customer service representative applicable for Social Customer Service?

Traditional customer channels & attributes:

Attributes of Social Customer Service

But are these the same attributes needed for superior social customer service?  Let’s look at responsibilities & qualifications of a social customer service representative.

Responsibilities:

  • Monitor social media outlets/networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs.) for customer service related inquiries, complaints, concerns
  • Organize customer service inquiries, concerns, and responses for record and reference track the types of questions that appear on social media outlets
  • Distribute and/or partner with various  internal resources to ensure social media generated issues are resolved and communicated
  • Partner with various internal (possibly external) resources to update customers on promotions, technical advancements, general content, issues or changes
  • Create, curate, and repurpose content to share with social communities
  • Facilitate the Voice of the Customer (Social Media) to various internal departments and individuals to enhance the customer experience and product strategy

Qualifications:

  • Excellent writing and phone skills
  • Strong grasp of the structure, purpose, and tone of social networks
  • Ability to think quickly, and formulate responses within a short turnaround time
  • Ability to communicate on social networks in a professional, yet personable, way
  • Basic understanding of Marketing practices
  • Ability to work cross functionally
  • Flexibility
  • Comfortable presenting organization’s values, positioning and persona potentially to the  entire social universe
  • Able to “Exercise Responsible Freedom

social customer service team attributes

I think we are dealing with a completely different animal.  So if we are dealing with something different, what should we consider changing?

  • New job titles/roles/descriptions
  • Recruiting – should it need to be socially sourced?
  • On-board training – inclusion of marketing, product, service, HR
  • Core skill development
  • Career progression paths
  • Performance Management
  • Continuous education models

Social Customer Service Team

Since this is such a new arena, all comments and thoughts are very much appreciated.