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March 29, 2017

The Art and Science of Customer Service Recovery

By michaelpace on November 5, 2013

“Customers do not expect you to be perfect.  They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong” – Doug Porter while SVP at British Airways

Remember that time a company did not meet your expectations, or something broke, or you received sub-par customer service, or you were just having a bad day, and then something happened …

Something that moved you from “company challenger” to its biggest “champion”.  You go from dislike to love, like a rocketship to the mailbox.  Cupid’s company arrow struck you right through your wallet.  We all have one; what was your most memorable service recovery kiss?

To quote two greats, Chip Bell & Ron Zemke, “Service recovery is the art of fixing what went wrong for the customer and mending the damage that error, mistake, or misstep did to your relationship with the customer.  Service recovery is about restoring trust when your customer is most vulnerable to doubt.”

Service recovery is truly both an art and a science.  It’s about both how you handle a customer who was impacted, and how do you spot them in a sea of customers.  It’s about short term fixes, and long term proactive changes. It requires a special kind of associate, one who is empowered to do the right thing for the customer, while keeping the businesses best interests in mind, and can be consistent with process. 

Below find a presentation on the Art and Science of Customer Service Recovery.  Also be on the lookout for a full step by step article in this month’s Contact Center Pipeline.

 

Resources:

Knock Your Socks Off Service Recovery by Ron Zemke & Chip Bell

Image: Verint Blog

The Best Medicine for Customer Success – Prescription

PrescriptionBy michaelpace on February 26, 2013

  1. Take two of these every 4 hours for 5 days
  2. Go home and rest
  3. Drink plenty of fluids
  4. Make some chicken soup
  5. Take ibuprofen to reduce fever
  6. Gargle salt water for a sore throat
  7. Steam to loosen congestion
  8. Etc…

We’ve all been there.  There is something wrong with our bodies, and we visit a doctor.  After their years of training and experience, they know the path back to health.  They prescribe a solution to help you get back into optimum shape.  They provide clear steps on how to get from poor results to feeling great.  I think you are getting where I am going; Customer Success needs to be prescriptive.

Particularly in the SAAS, but also relevant in other areas, customers need guidance to help them on to the road of success.  A typical scenario has a customer researching a product for a need, considering options, developing intent to purchase, and finally purchase.  During this process, they may consult with a “Sales Coach” or “Sales Representative” from your company to help them understand the possible value and help with initial set up.  Then they are handed over to Support.  Essentially, you have given them the medicine, but as with your personal health, there are multiple steps to success.

Here’s my prescription to help you develop a prescriptive path to Customer Success.

x

Identify the most common paths to Customer Success or “Happy Paths” (no more than 5) – As the doctor has learned from years of training and experience, you must understand the best practices of customers to achieve success.  While product training and experience will be helpful, I believe, you should be leveraging the best practices of BPM (Business Process Management) to clearly understand your customers needs.Map out how your current processes are actually working.  The two best tools from BPM for this activity are SIPOC and Swimlane tools. These tools will help you understand the people and tools involved in the processes, and will help identify overlaps, holes, and general inefficiencies.  You will probably come out of this exercise with a number of opportunities.

  1. Map out how your current processes are actually working.  The two best tools from BPM for this activity are SIPOC and Swimlane tools. These tools will help you understand the people and tools involved in the processes, and will help identify overlaps, holes, and general inefficiencies.  You will probably come out of this exercise with a number of opportunities.
  2. Determine what is Critical to Quality for your customer.  A very helpful tool process managers use to flesh out who your customer is, what they care about, and how to measure what they care about.
  3. Get deep into your analytics.  Hopefully, in this age of Big Data, you are collecting information about your customer’s habits and trends.  You need to understand what your most successful customers are doing, and how they are doing it.  Examples: How often do they log in?  What activities are they doing?  Are they contacting Support or are they using Forums?  At my previous employer, we saw an incredibly strong correlation of success with the amount of times they contacted Support.  They more the better (odd but true).  Do they use your product or service in a specific way?  Understanding your data will assist in the Success Path creation.

Customer Success starts in the top of the funnel.  How have your built awareness, consideration, and intent to buy?  Ease of use is an incredibly important variable in your customer’s purchase decision.  You need to ensure your marketing, or the expectations your company is setting, is obtainable, and the value you provide can be evident quickly.  The most important part of Customer Success is providing evident value quickly.

x

The critical handoff(s) after purchase.  As I just stated, you must provide evident value quickly.  Hopefully, within your Sales process you are able to demonstrate real value to your customer.  This is one of the huge benefits of providing trial periods.  If you are lucky enough to have a fast sales cycle, you may need to take additional steps to ensure the handoff of post sales to implementation or support is done incredibly well.  In fact, the harder it is for the purchase to be made (financial, complexity, etc..) the more time and money you need to spend in designing handoffs that ensure effectiveness.  I highly recommend adding a Customer Success team to identify struggling customers.  If your customers just purchased, their will to achieve the skill is at its highest.  A Customer Success team is charged with developing exception reporting to understand customer usage gaps, and remedy the situation through a mixture of well placed content and some courtesy calls.  The behavioral analysis you conducted previously should provide what’s needed for understanding your exception reporting.

x

Monitor behavioral and emotional responses.  A low amount of companies are collecting behavioral information about their customer’s actions.  A much larger portion is monitoring emotional ties to your company (Customer Satisfaction and/or NPS).  Guess what? You need to be measuring both simultaneously.  Let me give an example:  I am a customer of a cable company that provides my phone, internet, and cable.  Behaviorally, I am a great customer; I buy all of their services and upgrades.  Emotionally, I can’t stand them.  My NPS for them would definitely be in the detractor category.  Conversely, I am a customer of an internet based music collection company.  I have them on my mobile devices and desktop, but I forget to use it 99% of the time.  I love the service and function, but I forget all about it.  You need to be able to monitor both to prescribe the right action.

x

Action. Action.  Action.  Sometimes we end up in analysis paralysis, and forget to do something with all this data.  Regardless, if you are collecting only NPS or behavioral scoring, or both, you need to do something with the info.  If you are scoring low on CSAT or NPS, you do not have a strong relationship with your customer or they do not trust you.  If you are scoring low behaviorally, you may need to increase awareness or education.  Regardless, you will need to determine strategies to move the needle on your customer.  Make sure your post sale marketing is directed to their particular issue.  Make sure your customer service agents can see their scoring and have effective means at their disposal to correct the situation.

x

Customer Success is complex, and has been overlooked for many years.  If you leverage process management tools, recognize your Sales team is deeply involved and it doesn’t start at Support, ensure solid handoffs, monitor behavioral and emotional responses, and take action, you have the prescription for Customer Success.

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

By michaelpace on November 15, 2012

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

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

Here are my typical answers:

Social media is a tool, plain and simple.

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

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

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

Step 1: It’s Not a Lonely Job

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

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

Step 2: Start with the Big 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you educating your associates about social media tools?

What is working and what is not?

Article originally appeared on Knowlagent’s ProductivityPlus blog

Image credit

The Power of the Social Business – presentation

By michaelpace on September 5, 2012

Next Wednesday, October 10th, I will be in Miami, FL presenting The Power of the Social Business at the Contact Center Conference – Fall 2012 (Hashtag: #CCCon12).

If you are attending as well, here is a sneak peek.  If you are not attending, you should, but if it is too late to slide into your schedule, you can view my presentation below.  Obviously, you are not going to get the awesome performance that accompanies the presentation.  Hopefully you learn something new, and enjoy!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me anytime.

 

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.

Did You Just Build Your Strategy on a Shaky Foundation?

By michaelpace on March 7, 2012

Umass Library

Let me tell you story.

In 1974, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst completed building the W.E.B. Du Bois Library.  It’s a glorious 26 story, red bricked honor to education of the 25,000+ students of the university.  I believe it is still the tallest library in the United States.  Besides for all the knowledge that resides in the building, it also has some of the best views of the Pioneer Valley, especially during the fall. The library is a beacon to the center of campus, and a unforgettable image I will always carry with me.  Umm … there is one small problem, the library is sinking.

While it might be urban legend, every UMass attendee has heard the story of the library being built, but the architect and engineers forgot to calculate the weight of the books and equipment.  The foundation is not strong enough to support.  It is said to be sinking anywhere from ¼ – ½ inch a year.  Consequently, occasionally a brick or brick parts fall to the ground at a speed of 9.8 meters per second squared.

While I have deep love for my alma mater and the library, the story is a great analogy for many, especially those just wrapping up your 2012 strategies.  Your strategies can be bold and beautiful, and if you build them on shaky ground, you may rain bricks down on your customers.  What do you need for an incredibly sturdy foundation?  Below are my thoughts by priority:

  1. Culture – the single, most important foundational step
  2. Best Talent – all the best plans and culture need to executed by incredible people
  3. Technology – work smarter and more efficiently
  4. Process – if you have Culture, Talent and Technology, they always need alignment and governance
  5. Data – allows the other 4 foundational areas operate with confidence

Strategy Building

Culture: Every company has a culture. The problem is most company culture’s are weakly internalized by associates, non productive, overly complex, and bullcrap.  If you culture is not clearly articulated, visible and available, you will fall into the category of companies stated previously.  Culture is too important to be considered tacit knowledge.  Culture is how people work and behave.  A strong, articulated, and internalized culture helps individuals exercise responsible freedom. It allows them to make the right decisions for your company, autonomously.  It breeds trust and openness.  It is a knowledge and understanding that is part of everything from communication to teamwork to respect of your customer.  Make sure your culture is articulated, and better yet written and visible to all.  Make sure it is discussed frequently.  Build it into your performance management systems and processes.  Make sure it is internalized and engrained in everyone. Attitude is not driven by policies, it’s driven by culture.

Best Talent: Popularized by the best seller Good to Great, make sure you get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go. Poor, mediocre and even ‘ok” talent is a waste of time; it destroys value.  Be honest with yourself, do you have the best possible people at each critical position within your organization.  By having the best talent at your critical positions within your organization, your business as usual will go smoothly, all of your reports will develop quicker, and innovation will flow.  The best talent knows how to delegate effectively, removing them from the trees and allows them to see the forest.

Technology: Just like any good tool, technology gives you leverage.  The right technology allows you to work smarter and more efficiently.  This doesn’t mean you need the most bleeding edge technology throughout your organization.  Technology can also have high initial or maintenance expenses.  So make sure you have the technology that solves for business needs, and addresses key or critical customer touchpoints.  This technology can anything from a solid workforce management system, IVR, community platforms, or even an iPhone.  Just remember technology is a tool, it should never be an objective.

Process: Oh, I loves me some process.  I don’t love process for process sake; but process that provides direction for others to empower themselves to do great things.  Stop thinking as process as red tape, but instead, think of process as a foundational step that sets your workforce loose to do amazing things.  Process and governance allows others to act within their guardrails and not need micro-management supervision.  Set your process foundation early; establish clear roles and responsibilities, clarify what is critical to quality, outline steps, and develop your control systems to determine your effectiveness.  Process aligns the organization, and mitigates good intentions without vision.

Data: If I hear one more person say “Big Data is going to be important in year 20XX, I’m gonna puke.  Big Data was important 25 years ago, is important today, and will be important 25 years from now.  (Ok rant over) Data enables you to move forward with foundational and strategy steps.  Data provides objective views on what has happened, is happening, and provides confidence in future initiatives.  Decisions not based on data are gut, and therefore often personal.  Personal decisions are much harder for others to get behind, and make influencing others outside of your organization more difficult.  There is plenty of data out there, and much more to be found.  Make sure you understand what is critical to the quality of your customer and what drives those metrics.  All the other data is nice to have, meaning unless you have extra analytical resources or time, focus on what is most important and dive deep.

Far too often, we spend weeks developing and designing strategy without ensuring it can be supported by a strong foundation, like the library at UMass.  The strategy can be beautifully constructed, innovative, and inspirational, but you don’t want to try executing it while proverbial bricks rain down.  Before you go much further, make sure your foundation steps (Culture, Best Talent, Technology, Process and Data) are in a place to carry the weight.

Have you ever tried executing a strategy with a faulty foundation? Were you able to correct in time?

When did you know your foundation was shaky?

Have you ever had a strategy executed near flawlessly because of your foundation?
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Are you Walking your Talk?

By michaelpace on December 15, 2011 Leadership credibility

As a member of the Board of Directors for the North East Contact Center Forum, I have the opportunity to speak with a number of Customer Service Managers, Directors and VP’s across multiple industries and geographies. The most common theme among these leaders is the intricate balancing act of providing extraordinary experiences while reducing expenses (and sometimes juggling regulatory risk and/or time constraints).

I have battled with the same dilemmas myself. Over time, I have learned to ask myself and my colleagues a few questions:

  • What do you coach your service representatives on?
  • What are the common conversations in your team and all-hands meetings?
  • What is it that your CEO/COO/VP of Customer Service is evangelizing?

More often than not, the answers sound like: call quality, customer experience, superior service, etc.

Some time later, I follow up with another set of questions:

  • What are the key metrics that you look at daily?
  • How do you incent your service representatives?
  • What are the metrics that your boss (whether he or she be the CEO or someone else) are hammering you about?

These answers usually sound like: service level, AHT (average handle time), 50-75% of incentives involve productivity numbers, expenses, cost per account/loan/customer, etc.

Things that make you hmmm.

                                    What you talk                                                                                What you walk

Constraints - QualityConstraints - cost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The terms [triple/quad constraints] and charts are typically used in project management, but apply to our quandary.  One constraint cannot be changed without altering another. Triple or Quad constraints are funny; everything cannot be the most important or the highest priority. Trying to make everything the highest priority will only drive you and your service representatives crazy. It leads to mediocre quality, often subpar cost metrics, low morale, and CEO’s/COO’s/VP’s of Customer Service breathing down your neck.

With all of that in mind, how do you move (walk) forward?

1.       The first step for any recovery program is to admit you have a problem.

  • Be objective.
  • Ask your floor representatives what they think you say and what you really focus on.
  • Listen to calls, review chats, and emails (are your associates rushing, taking too long?

2.     Force rank your current priorities (create the order that you believe you are presently working under)Everything cannot be equal

  • Everything cannot be equal

i.      Quality (call quality, defect management, complaints, customer incident surveys)

ii.      Cost (AHT, service levels, cost per X, expenses, utilization, occupancy)

iii.      Time (are new product releases critical? Service availability?)

iv.      Risk (regulatory/legal, credit, reputational)

  • Make sure you have accurate differentials – use an entire 1-5 scale

3.     Have an honest, direct conversation with senior management about what is the most important priority, what is the second most important priority, and so on.

Now that you have your direction, you need to determine what you are going to change. (Hint: don’t limit yourself to the base of the box, work the edges. Read Seth Godin’s Linchpin for more on that subject.)

  • People – Do you have the right people in the right places to succeed? Do you need to reorganize? How would you incent people to deliver your priority? What do you need to communicate to your associates?
  • Process – What processes would you change? What metrics would you highlight? What dashboard items need to change?
  • Systems – How can you leverage your technical solutions to maximize your priorities?

Are you able to walk your talk? Or do you need to change your talk?

 

This post was originally published in May, but sadly it did not make the site conversion in June.

My Own Personal Intersection

By michaelpace on November 30, 2011

I started this blog because I believe there is true opportunity at the intersection of Customer Service, Social, Business Process Management and People Leadership.  I also believe I can help.  We work and live in the most fluid environment since the Industrial Revolution.  The more we can have thoughtful discussions and fun about our surroundings, the more we will all learn.  The intersection is important because nothing exists in a vacuum anymore, and we should be leveraging the best practices of many areas to develop better solutions to our problems, opportunities and quandaries.  Today, I start the approach to my own career intersection.

In January, I will be leaving Constant Contact to explore what my next personal/career intersection has to offer.  Right now it is a bit of a blind intersection; however I am ready for the challenge.  I know the direction that I want to go, but there is no GPS for this route.  I desire to lead my own customer service organization to attain amazing heights in service, efficiency and people leadership.  Our service world is on the cusp of some incredible paradigm shifts, and I am incredibly lucky to be in position to lead those front lines.

I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am to have worked for Constant Contact.  This organization has enabled and sponsored me to uncover how to deliver exceptional broad customer service, social media support and community management.  More importantly, they had the faith in me to put in place a remarkable team that provides this amazing service with scale efficiency.  My role as Director of Customer Support and Community Management has opened my eyes and heart to the incredible power of the social world (both digital and in person).  They gave me the confidence to speak in front of hundreds of Marketing, Tech, and Customer Service leaders at conferences across the country, helping me to overcome some punishing public speaking fears.  Thank you Constant Contact.

Over the course of the next few months, I would love to understand how I can help you and more businesses tackle this new space, and deliver a holistic awe-inspiring customer experience.  Even as I write this post, I feel the rollercoaster ups (excitement of the unknown) and downs (fear of the unknown) that are to come.  But like any journey to a worthy destination, it all starts with the first step.  Thank you again Constant Contact, and thank you Mr./Ms. Reader for letting me express my thanks and discussing my new intersection.

Are we connected yet? If not, let’s get LinkedIn and talk.

Mike

Social Star Wars Saga Episode II: Attack of the Clones

By michaelpace on November 9, 2011

Pre-prequel: With the recent release of the Star Wars saga on Blu-ray, I feel compelled to finally put together my official Social Star Wars Blog Saga. Enjoy all you fantastic nerds.

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

I was attending the social media track of conference, and went to the first social session of the day.  The session started with the Socialnomics’ Social Media Revolution Video (the first one) and continued with non-actionable generalities.  I went on pursuit of the speaker’s social network just to see how active or involved he was; no twitter handle!  Are you serious?  He then proceeded to use the word “twit” as in the action you do when you use twitter.  Thank goodness Apple was announcing the new iPhone right at that moment.  It didn’t get much better when the next session started with the United Breaks Guitars song and video. Let’s just say there are plenty of consultants or non-practitioners out there.  These clowns (clones) are one of two reasons why the social business space is moving slower than the technology.

The Clone we all know

Let’s start with the first set of clones referenced above.  Social is incredibly easy to get into, find information on and sound knowledgeable about to unfamiliar crowds.  These individuals understand the tactical use of social media tools, but rarely have an understanding how to actually integrate into business processes or moving to organizational goals.  .  Their Twitter and Facebook streams look like constant ads for some product or service. Since they are not using the tools daily, they rarely actually enter the social media bubble (people’s who lives have changed from social interactions and participate hourly/daily).  How to tell the Clone we all know:

  • Infrequent twitter use or used only to promote their organization’s “something”
  • Have less than ten social sites tied to them (beyond Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn)
  • Talks in vague generalities about cookie cutter social steps
  • Never brings up business goals and objectives

The Clone that is US

Why do you think people talk about social media fatigue?  Or why do people chase shiny social objects (me included)?  I have a thought.  I entered in this social media bubble in November 2009, somewhat late for most in this space.  Because of my role, I drank from the firehouse of information.  I can honestly say within 4 months, if I heard one more person tell me that the first step of social media is to “Listen”, I was going to puke.  Some folks still claim that is the first step of using social media for business, but the example I am trying to show is people in the social media bubble keep talking about the same things to the same people in the same social bubble.  Another more recent example, I followed the Inbound Marketing Summit hashtag (#IMS11) as I was not able to attend.  I am glad I wasn’t able to, as all the tweets from session could have been copied from #IMS10 and probably #IMS09 and every other social media conference attended by the same social media folk.  Just to prove my point, go through your twitter stream or your Google Reader, and look at the blogs that are written.  Most are just copies and repurposing of things people in this bubble have heard a hundred times.

Shiny objects are great because it allows people to play or use something new.  The technology is moving faster than the thoughts on how to use and integrate.

It’s not social media fatigue, its social media laziness. 

I am not saying the people who work in social are lazy; they are some of the hardest working people I know.  The thought leadership is lazy.  Thought leadership in this space has been mostly relegated to marketing and technology focused individuals.  I think it just needs an infusion of diverse thinking, process managers, operations, human resources, executive leadership, etc…  I stated it before; I don’t think the next innovation of social business will come from marketing or technology, but from areas like Human Resources.  We need to expand our social bubble to include these other areas.  We need to branch out of social media conferences and attend industry specific or small business conferences.  When I attend a customer service conference, there may be ½ dozen of active socially networked individuals, but hundreds of people interested in the area.

I do have a belief that in 2012, the cream will rise to the top and more individuals will be focused on operationalizing social business.  We all have the opportunity to prepare for that time now.

May the force be with you, always.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Crawl Creator

Attack of the Clones - Social Star Wars

Is your Social Media strategy RACI?

By michaelpace on May 10, 2011

EllenI just did a Google search on the phrase “Who owns social media within organizations,” and was returned 3,160,000 results. Now I doubt there are more than 3 million different ways or opinions for a company to organize around social media, but it is obviously a hot topic. I also believe how companies organize and operationalize social business and tools will be the most important topic in social media over the next 2 to 3 years. While I have a number of opinions about social media “ownership”, this post is about how to create operating agreements across your company, regardless of what model you have chosen, to ensure a well managed process.

Popular examples of social media organizational models via Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group.

Getting RACI!

In any well managed process, people need to understand who is doing what, and RACI is a fantastic tool to get everyone on the same page. RACI is a Business Process Management tool that clarifies everyone’s role in a process (in this case, execution of a social media strategy). RACI is an acronym for:

RACI Chart

Creation of a RACI matrix has a number of benefits for any process:

  • Encourages teamwork by setting boundaries of responsibility
  • Pushes you to think of who else in the organization needs to be consulted about this function/decision/action
  • Reduces risk of actions “falling through the cracks”
  • Saves time by reducing overlap and need for mass consensus
  • Allows associates to exercise their own responsible freedom/empowerment & increase personal satisfaction

How to build a RACI matrix/chart:

  1. Start with a template
  2. Define your main areas of function, decision and/or action (what activities, decisions, major tasks will be completed in the process)
  3. Determine who are all the possible players or participants
  4. Label the matrix boxes with the appropriate R, A, C or I

Tips:

  • Only 1 person should be (A)ccountable per activity
  • Decision authority must accompany (A)ccountable
  • Minimize Your (C)onsults & (I)nforms
  • Place (R)esponsible for those who are physically performing the action

 

Performer Role Chart

Every organization’s RACI chart is going to be different based on strategy, personal competencies, organizational set up, technology knowledge and a number of other factors. Don’t over think it. Again, its about building operating agreements. Once you have the agreements, the execution of the RACI decisions is relatively easy. I would suggest reviewing and updating every 6 months with key stakeholders.

The first wave of social media was about the tools and the marketing, the next phases will be about it’s process and how you operationalize within your organization. Go buy a process manager a cup of coffee, you are going to need him or her to be successful for many years to come.