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February 22, 2017

#JobHunt Lessons Learned in Early Age of Social Business

By michaelpace on April 23, 2013Jobsearchhelp

AOL, getting film developed, Blockbuster stores, paper maps, the classifieds, pay phones and phone books, fax machines, record stores, …

AND how you searched for a job 3 years ago.

If you don’t know what all these things have in common, put your flip phone down and hit pause on your VCR or CD player.  For everyone else, you know all of the above are obsolete.  Sure, they exist somewhere out there in the world, but either they are highly inefficient or just broken.

This week, I will be beginning my next great adventure at PerkStreet Financial, and finding this fit was an adventure all on its own.  The past several months have been a roller coaster unequalled by anything I would have predicted.  The highs of freedom and new opportunities were amazing.  The trials of hope rejected pushed my mental boundaries.  Throughout the ride, I’ve kept a running list of what worked, what didn’t, what was broken, and other lessons learned from the ride.

LinkedIn is the most important social networking tool. (PERIOD) – It is also your most valuable job search tool.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp and whatever else can go away or be replaced without much impact, but LinkedIn is the PDA, rolodex, resume, community, business card, job search site, search engine, presentation portfolio, and subtle introduction of today.  No other tool is as powerful and useful to a person in search of a position.  Whether you are employed or looking, you should be maintaining LinkedIn DAILY.  No, it is not the sexiest application, and you don’t get to play games or see what your ex-girlfriend is up to today, but unless you plan on never being downsized, laid off, fired, bored with your current company, or change your mind, it is critical to your career.

My best LinkedIn practices:

  • Always start with the company search, and see who you know or who you know has influential relationships.  If you see posting from another site, never apply without exhausting all of your LinkedIn resources first.
  • Pay for the Premium Job Seeker services – you end up higher in recruiter search results, can see who has viewed your profile, see if changes to profile change your views/day, prioritized applications upon submission, job seeker badge
  • Link In with every person you meet and have a conversation with at an event.  Make sure to write a note in the LinkedIn invite relating to your meeting.
  • I found their job search functionality as strong as the best job search sites
  • Provides fantastic research on companies and people you may be interviewing with
  • Becoming a “go-to” place to curate content from (especially with new mobile app)
  • Groups and the discussions within groups provide great ways to make introductions to people
  • If you have presentations available to view, add to slideshare.net and you can add it to your profile
  • Follow the companies you are interested in working for, content is pushed to you

Learn how to Inbound Market yourself

When you are looking for a position in your field, you are essentially trying to sell yourself.  Just like a Marketing/Sales funnel, you need to create awareness, develop consideration, create intent, and hopefully sell the interview and yourself.  Mailing a copy of a resume makes as much sense as direct mail.  Sending your resume to someone in a company without a relationship is a kin to spam.  Finally, banner ads have a better success rate than randomly submitting information to Monster or Careerbuilder.  Hubspot defines inbound marketing as the process of using content, social media, search engine optimization, email, lead nurturing, and marketing automation to attract and retain customers.  In the job hunt process, the companies are your customers.  Individuals or companies that come to you based on prior experience or word of mouth are much more likely to consider you for hire, even when they do not have the current need.

Inbound Marketing should start well before you ever need or go looking to be employed.  During the past couple years, I have made a number of relationships (and friends) that stemmed from a piece of content I created or curated.  Many of those relationships help make introductions to influential hiring personnel or were the hiring managers.  The content you create or curate helps develop your credibility and trust with peers and individuals within your industry. 

Best Practices in Inbound Marketing for hire

  • Re-read everything you just read about LinkedIn above
  • I am assuming you have something to say about your industry, find a platform that allows you to express your thought leadership (blog, video blogs, speaking opportunities, use slideshare to show off your presentations, comment in communities, twitter chats, speak up at events, etc…)  Not only will this build your resume, your content repository, your digital rolodex, but it will give you something to do during the doldrums of the job search.
  • Curate content – use tools like Flipboard or Feedly to find articles from other authors you find to be thought provoking, and share on or with your professional networks.  Thought leadership by association.
  • Just like Marketing and Search Engine Optimization, your information need to be searchable.  Make sure your information and resume is available on the major job search sites, such as Monster, Careerbuilder, ZipRecruiter, and Experteer.  Make sure you resume includes the keywords that you believe will drive the recruiters to your phone.

Other Quick Lessons Learned

Know Your Audience:

  • Are they a progressive company with a casual dress code?
  • Even if they are a progressive company, is the person or people you are meeting with more traditional?
  • Do you know someone at the company who can give you an inside to the company’s hot topics?
  • Find something you have in common with the people you are interviewing

Job Search Sites: Use job search site email subscriptions and job alerts to help you learn about new companies and to learn who is hiring, but use your relationships and research to apply.  Applying online for through the company’s website or a job site should be your last resort to engage a company.

Job Title Discrimination: Don’t pass over a company because the job title is “beneath your level” or “too far above your current level”.  If the company is interested in acquiring great talent, they will gladly have the conversation with you.  You can always negotiate title.

Priorities: Before you even start your search, be clear with your priorities in your next great opportunity.  For me, my priorities were as follows:

  1. A company with a culture and values that fit my own
  2. A role with the right scope and velocity (velocity – I wanted high growth)
  3. A company and a role where I can do work that is bigger than myself

Mobile: There are plenty of tool to conduct your job search on the run.  Go ahead, hit the beach or go skiing; you will not have time later, and most apps are fully functional.

Human Resources has forgotten they are a customer facing part of the organization: This topic will need a whole customer service post on its own.  Take a minute to understand how many people apply to a company in a year, these are all potential customers or people who can refer your company, how are you treating them?  Do you even acknowledge their application beyond the automatic email reply?

Finally – it’s a mental game.  Find resources to help you with the ups and downs.

I hope these lessons I have learned will help you in your eventual search.  Odds are you will not be with the company you are currently with for the rest of your worklife.

How to Get Promoted – for Managers and Reports

By michaelpace on April 2, 2013Corporate ladder - How to get promoted

Want to make your manager uncomfortable?  Try one of these below out on them.

“When am I going to get promoted?”

 “I’ve been in this position for two years, I should have been promoted by now.”

 “Why does <insert first and last name here> get promoted, and I get looked over every single time?”

Want to NOT get promoted? Try one of these above out on them.

In my 15+ years in being a people leader, promotion conversations are some of the most difficult to have with an associate.  After all, these promotion questions and statements are almost always difficult conversations where the manager needs to explain to a (usually) solid employee that a promotion is not in their near future.  Possible promotion talk is a welcomed conversation to a manager.  Many managers “give away” the promotion news too early because they too are excited about the news.  Odds are if you have to ask, you are not ready in your manager’s eyes.

Promotions feel a little bit out of your control.  Sure you can work hard, smart, and long, but that will not ensure a promotion.  You need to understand what a manager looks at to promote you, regardless where you are on the corporate ladder.  I have never seen this written down in a book, and most managers don’t understand it themselves; therefore, they will not be able to tell you.

In general, there are 5 requirements for an associate to receive a promotion.

  • Results in your current role are reflective of potential success
  • Competencies demonstrated at the NEXT level to compete with your new peers
  • You possess the technical or job specific skills for the role
  • The role and scope of the role is available
  • You have advocates, preferably influential ones

Results in your current role reflective of potential success

If you want to get promoted, be awesome at your day job.  Yes, this appears as a “Captain Obvious” statement.  However, so many think their current role is beneath them.  Once an associate takes their role for granted, their best rarely comes out.  Don’t drop your day job.

One of my most valuable lessons in business came in my first “professional” job at Tiffany & Co..  I was a phone agent in the Customer Authorizations Department setting up private label credit cards for our customers.  I could do it in my sleep after about six months; it felt natural to me as a combination of art and science.  I was faster than others in my group.  I was more accurate than others in my group.  I was consistently requested by our internal customers to help them out.  I could have breezed, beat everyone out with a minimal amount of effort.  I did the opposite.  I busted out twice as much work, and volunteered and “Leaned In” while keeping up the pace.  I put in a lot of hours that were never recorded.  I never mentioned a promotion, but discussed my future.  I got promoted.  If I skated through, I may have been promoted at some time, but I could have just as easy been passed over for an external candidate.

Competencies demonstrated at the NEXT level to compete with new peers

Competencies are about how you get work done.  How you get the work done is just as important as the results.  Let me provide an example.  A Project Manager could get a lot done and possibly good results by being a ruthless barbarian of a leader.  It will not last long, as their relationships will suffer.  Most likely they are not showing strong communication or teamwork skills.  Competencies must be demonstrated at the next level or role.

Competencies most managers look for:

  • Communication skills – oral, written, and presentation
  • Results Driven
  • Teamwork – intra-team and cross functional
  • Understands and integrates data to make decisions
  • Ability to influence others
  • Focuses on the customer
  • Lives the Values of the organization
  • Can work autonomously
  • Efficiently leverages resources
  • Looks the part

Alright, looks the part is not a competency.  But portraying an image of someone who belongs at the next level is critical.  If you are fantastic in every way but look like you just woke up and threw on he sweatpants, you are adding an extra hurdle.  Even if the sweatpants fit in your corporate dress policy, you are doing the bare minimum.  Take pride in your appearance, and give yourselves a pant leg up, no shorts please.

You possess the technical skills or job specific skills for the role

Odds are if you are getting a promotion, you will have new responsibilities.  These new responsibilities may be managing associates, managing 10X the number of current associates, use a specific technology, budgetary, able to communicate to large audiences or public speaking, build strategies, negotiate a deal, understand influences on stock price, project or program management, etc…  It will be different for every role and level.  Find out what are the technical skills your manager does today.  Offer to help them next time they need to accomplish a like task.  Create a personal development action plan.  If you are promoted, you may need to use this skill on day 1.

The role and the scope of the role is available

You may be promotable for every reason, but if your organization does not need a person in that role, promotion is rare.  When this is the case, you have four choices:

  • Influence the need
  • Create a new role that is needed
  • Suck it up
  • Leave the department or company

You have advocates, preferably influential ones

Promotion is rarely decided entirely by one person in medium to large size organizations.  Most often, your manager’s manager is involved.  If there are multiple people at that level, each one may be included in the promotion thought process.  Most organizations, at least, include Human Resources in the promotion process.  Key take away: you need more than just your direct manager as an advocate.

How do you acquire advocates?  Here are a number of different ways to build advocacy:

  • Find mentors to build on your weaker competencies
  • Go above and beyond in your normal job so that you are impossible to miss
  • Join cross functional teams
  • Ask good thoughtful questions, perhaps over a cup of coffee
  • Lunch
  • Get out of your cube/office and make a physical presence
  • Buy doughnuts, and walk around meeting new people
  • Be visible

Understanding the key drivers of promotions puts you in control, removes the victim tonality out promotion conversations, and stops putting your manager in an awkward position.  Be awesome at your current role.  Build and demonstrate competencies at the next level.  Acquire the job specific skills needed for that new role.  Make sure it will or is available.  Find your advocates or make them.

Image credit

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

By michaelpace on December 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

customer-service-handle-simply-measured

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

Grade: B-

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

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

Grade: You tell me

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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

Grade: Not Rated

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

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

Grade: A

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

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

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

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

Image via Clutchcook

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

By michaelpace on November 15, 2012

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

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

Here are my typical answers:

Social media is a tool, plain and simple.

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

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

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

Step 1: It’s Not a Lonely Job

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

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

Step 2: Start with the Big 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you educating your associates about social media tools?

What is working and what is not?

Article originally appeared on Knowlagent’s ProductivityPlus blog

Image credit

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?

 

 

 

Is it time to flip Customer Service on its side? – along with Marketing, Sales, Product, etc…

Inception: Flipping Customer Service on it's sideBy michaelpace on february 15, 2012

I am not sure who originally designed how organizations should be aligned. Maybe it was the armies of the past, the mafia or some random Joe who gets no credit for how 99% of businesses are structured today. There is a Marketing Department, Sales, Customer Service, Product, IT, Human Resources, Accounting and each have their own little silos of metrics and goals. Great companies typically have a global vision, and each of the departments work together to develop an integrated strategy to deliver the vision and, more specifically, yearly goals. Each department outlines initiatives that have positive and negative impacts to budgets. They eventually get approval and proceed to execute. But what are the goals they are executing against? The goals that relate only to each department. The hope is, magically, the sum of the parts will add up to corporate goals. So Marketing starts executing on their acquisition and loyalty strategies. Sales works on their acquisition goals. Product may lead the pack or follow Marketing and Sales lead. And Customer Service takes all the flow down and tries to deliver something that more often than not, looks like adequate to good customer service.

This methodology has been in place for more than 100 years, so it obviously works well. And I am just some poor customer service blogging schmuck from Massachusetts. But why do we align this way? Why do we accept it? Skill set? Competencies? Scalability? Mentorship? Obviously, it is not to deliver a common goal. Maybe it is time to realign (yes, before the apocalypse of 2012). What if we flipped everything on its side, and aligned by organizational goals? (horizontal mambo baby!)

R & R Department (Retention and Referral)

This department is purely focused on keeping customers and making it easy for them to recommend your product, service or brand. If in some parallel universe someone asked you to deliver on goals, as stated above, would you really align by historical standards? Probably not, you might organize as follows:

Marketing:

  • Focused on maintaining communication and relationships with current customers
  • Developing loyalty programs
  • Incentives to deliver referrals
  • Communications to improve Average Revenue Per Unit or Customer
  • Communicating and partnering with other R & R areas to act as 1 unit

Product:

  • Delivering solutions to know bugs, enhancements and issues
  • End recipient of Voice of the Customer (VoC) program
  • Communicating and partnering with other R & R areas to act as 1 unit

Customer Service:

  • Act as the primary point of contact for customers to interact with the organization
  • Execute on retention, loyalty and referral strategies
  • Serve the customer
  • Cross sell value
  • Community Management
  • Be the primary internal resource to additions to the Voice of the Customer program

Sales:

  • Accountable for established relationship management, specifically in B2B sales

Acquisition Department

The Acquisition Department is purely focused on the acquisition of new customers. This department doesn’t look too much different than today, since acquisition for some odd reason typically has priority over Retention and Average Revenue Per Customer – even though 5 billion studies prove it cost considerably less to retain a customer than to acquire.

Actually, I don’t need to go over the following areas again. Just take what they do today, and remove the stated above responsibilities.

Broader infrastructure departments (IT, HR, G&A, etc…) would continue with Business As Usual, however they may want to align their resources to specific departments (R&R, Acquisition & General)

Aftermath

Now because you have “dis”organized, you will need to fill the potential gaps in skill set and competency development, leveraging scale and competing resources. Circle of Excellence teams can provide the forums for both the skill development and communication. In my own humble opinion, I would rather matrix these responsibilities than to matrix goals.

There are a lot of ways we work that exist only because that is how it’s been done for 100 years or 10 years (don’t get me started today on Net Promoter Scoring), but that doesn’t mean we need to continue or not try different ways to get things done. Even something as predictable as how an organization is aligned should be subject to questioning and asking the question of why do we do this?

Is anyone actually organized this way?

What are the other possibilities with this scenario?

Am I a little crazy?

Image credit: Warner Bros.

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

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.