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February 22, 2017

Net Promoter Scoring is Asking the Wrong Question

By michaelpace on February 4, 2014

Yoda Smarts

If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play

I’m not a huge fan of Net Promoter Scoring (NPS).

Nope.

I am sure this sounds like blasphemy from a Customer Service professional. 

Too bad.

I would not recommend a family member, friend, or colleague to blindly use Net Promoter Scoring to understand or forecast the retention of their customers. 

I’d give NPS a Net Promoter Score of 7 (Passive).

Take a second and answer these questions about Net Promoter Scoring:

  • What do you do with the score?  Individually and in aggregate?
  • What are you really trying to understand by collecting this information?
  • If last month you scored a 27, and this month scored a 28, what does that mean?
  • Is the verbatim on the general survey more important than the scores?
  • Should or do you alter retention or net add forecasts if your scores change?
  • What is the action if the score drops?
  • Do your customers know the difference between a 6, 7, or a 9?
  • How often do you ask yourself if this is a waste of time, energy and money?

Net Promoter Scoring is a good system.  It’s better to collect NPS than to not at all.  Since it’s relatively generic, it allows you to benchmark your industry and others.  It will provide a sense of your customers’ emotional connection to your company.

Why does “Ultimate Question” ask if you would recommend someone who is near and/or dear to you?  It is clearly looking for an emotional relationship versus a behavioral relationship because you would not recommend a commodity company.  I know the end goal is to get the recommendation or referral, but the real underlying question is quite different, and may be more powerful.

What Net Promoter Score is really asking is:

Do you trust <company X>?

Answers should be simple: Yes, No, or Sometimes

If a participant answers “Yes”, theoretically you are recommendable.  I say theoretically, because many companies make it difficult or complex to recommend.

If the answer is “No” or “Sometimes”, the likelihood of achieving a recommendation is low.  Would you recommend a company you do not trust or only sometimes trust?  Why do you think Financial Services, Healthcare providers and cable companies have such low scores?  – No Trust.

How might things be different if you asked, “Do you trust <company X>?”?

(For the score freaks out there, let’s pretend a “Yes” is +1, while “No” and “Sometimes” are -1)

  • How would your CEO respond to a low Trust score versus NPS?
  • Would you find more companies in the negative?
  • There is no question of whether a 7 is a 9 in another person’s opinion. It’s clearer to the participant.

Again, you will still need more context of the answer.  Regardless, if you ask NPS or Trust, this is always harder for participants to explain.  The areas of the brain that handle limbic functions such as liking, loving, referring, emotion, and trusting are not “connected” to the area that handles speech (Broca’s area).  That is why it is hard to describe why you love someone.  However, with help, participants can break down why they do or do not trust <company X>.

I believe trust is a combination of three factors:

  • Sincerity
  • Competence
  • Reliability

If someone does not trust you or a company, you are falling short on 1, 2 or all of the 3 factors above.  Follow up questions, should gather their feelings on your sincerity, competence, and reliability.  By understanding where you are weak in trust, you can take corrective action.  I am sure my cable company means well (sincere) and know how to do their jobs (competent), but their reliability or at least the perception of their reliability is poor.  People love Zappos and USAA because we believe they care about us or service, provide valuable advice, and deliver consistently. 

There are many ways to skin a cat, and other ways to determine the likelihood your customers will stay and even recommend.

More on Trust & Net Promoter Scoring

Customer Service Fortune Cookies for 2014 and Beyond

By michaelpace on December 16, 2013

Complete, wild guess predictions and thoughts by my cousin Pacefucious about the trends in Customer Service for 2014.

Note: The practice of adding “in bed” may or may not work with the following fortunes.

Customer Service Fortunes

Customer Service Fortunes

Pacefucious say: Successful Customer Service leaders will be Customer Success Leaders

Even now, Customer Success strategies and methodologies have been mostly delivered in the Software as a Service (SaaS) world, and even there it may not be considered part of the customer service strategy.  Customer Success is all about providing rapid value and adoption of your product or service to your newly sold customers or trialers.  In a SaaS environment, delivering value to customers in a timely manner is critical to reduce churn and/or boost retention.  In general, Customer Success strategies and methodologies place a considerably higher effort during the initial stages of the customer support lifecycle.  It may involve a “coach” or “relationship manager” helping the customer better understand how the product or service works, appropriate marketing or learning materials sent with context, and hand offs to deeper technical support. 

But there is no reason this level of service needs to remain solely in the SaaS world.  Providing rapid value and adoption leads to improved retention, and every customer service leaders primary responsibility is to retain customers (quality of service is a driver of retention).  Imagine if your newly selected bank contacted you to make sure you better understand the fee schedule or how you could save more.  Or if you buy a tablet, learn how to find the best apps for childhood learning.  Earlier in the year, I provided my steps for Customer Success; you find them here.

Pacefucious say: Mobile is the Combo Plate of Service – Everything at once

Mobile – it is probably the most discussed technology over the past few years.  But what does it mean for Customer Service?  Everything.  First off, mobile is not channel; it is the combination of a device, ecosystems, and circumstance.  A few examples:

  • Using a smartphone to check prices at retail establishment through the general internet
  • Purchasing an item through a company branded mobile application
  • Calling customer service while driving
  • Interacting with multiple screens such as tablet, smartphone, and TV while you are lounging on your couch at home
  • Amazon texting you when you receive a package at home while you’re at the office
  • Pay a bill while or deposit a reimbursement check from your office
  •  Tweeting feedback (positive or negative) to a company
  • Browsing Flipboard while you are waiting for your spouse to finish up the dressing room
  • A FitBit device uploading workout data to a user dashboard
  • I hate this term, but yes, the internet of things

How could or would customers interact with your company?  Do you have a responsive website or customer service site?  Do you have a mobile app?  What are all the customer service channels you can point to in a mobile situation?  Can they connect via phone, get answers from your knowledge base, get their most general questions answered, link to a chat, send an email (yuck), provide feedback or answer a survey, or even just consistently perform routine actions? 

Many mobile apps and sites are typically “controlled” by Product Development, and their goals may be different than the Customer Service Department’s goals.  How can you influence them to include more customer service features and options?  Start with understanding how, why and where your customers use their mobile devices.  The mobile “movement” is still in its early stages (hard to believe), so survey and meet with your customers (whether internal or external).

Pacefucious say: “Your customers will be your most valuable customer service agents” (repeat from ’12 and ‘13)

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

Pacefucious say: It may be Big Data buffet, but tummy still the same size

Big Data is all the rage.  How do we incorporate Big Data into the customer experience and their service?  Love this quote from Dr. Eric Topal at Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit, “Big data is like teen sex. Everybody is talking about it; everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”

Big Data is a bit of hype.  Yes, technologies have improved that enable us to gather and analyze more data faster.  But data is still data, whether it is big or small.  You cannot be big dead or big pregnant, it is what it is. 

Customer Service and contact centers have been in the Big Data game for the last 20 years, and will be for another 20 more.  Contact centers produce so much quantitative and qualitative data it usually coming out of their headsets.  More often than not, service centers can gather immense amounts of data, but either do not have the ability, competency, or availability to do anything with it, let alone gain insight.  Most companies still need to focus on the basics.  Basics seem to be forgotten when we can look at or “need to look at” 15 different combinations of analytics.  Odds are you not Amazon or Google.  Don’t worry so much as to what Big Data is, and the promises that it can provide.  Instead of collecting more data, revisit the questions that you are trying to solve. 

  • How do I retain more customers?
  • What areas of the experience are pains for customers?
  • How do we do this efficiently for our customers and ourselves?
  • How do I hire, develop, and retain the best associates?

IBM’s Watson can probably give you the answer, or you can just ask the folks in customer service.

Pacefucious say: Why do you think the Menu has Such Pretty Pictures?

How can you be a company worth between $1-3 Billion (yes B), and still never create anything close to a $1 of revenue?  Just be a company like Instagram or Snapchat, where pictures rule.  Who knows how much Pinterest will be worth one day.  The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” may need to be updated.  My point is that we have become a very visually dependent society.  And, there is nothing wrong with that, but it also means you may want to understand how visuals can reduce customer issues.  If we know that visuals (images) are enticing and important to our customers, how can customer service leverage the power of visuals to provide proactive or self service? 

  • Use images to link to your most popular questions answered in your knowledge base
  • Use slideshows to walk customers through longer step by step processes, better yet, link them to your branded Slideshare site (create virtuous cycles)
  • Create short videos (no more than 2 min.) introducing new products or enhancements to your service

The Poo Poo Platter: Things that I hope will disappear down some dark tunnel

  1. Email for Customer Service – email is atrocious for customer service. Let’s take a typical email situation: question to company (waits), reply and clarification from company, customer clarifies (waits), company provides standard message to solve problem, customer needs more specific information, blah, blah, blah, blah etc…  That is a horrible experience, and costs more than you think to provide.  Use email to accept issues during your non-hours of operation, but make sure the customer knows the expectations of service.
  2. Bullpen / Open cube areas – I am not sure how the concept of the open cube area makes for a more collaborative environment came about, but let’s put a chopstick in this idea and call it done.  All the bullpen does is make easier for you to see the person that is IMing you. 
  3. NPS (Net Promoter Score) Monitoring – You got a score of 43 this month. Next month it is 44.  Then it is 42.  The score is pointless unless you know why.  Also, gathering this information and not including it in your customer’s account information is even worse.  NPS has become one of those things that we have to do, but people have forgotten why we do it. 

 

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

And the Winner is ….

By michaelpace on April 18, 2013

PerkStreet Announcement

Drum roll please …

And the Winner is …

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

PerkStreet Financial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Community Manager: Help Yourself

Tom Jones Help YourselfBy michaelpace on March 14, 2013

As Tom Jones says,

“We are always told repeatedly

The very best in life is free

And if you want to prove it’s true

Baby I’m telling you

This is what you should do

Just help yourself … ”



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

Community Roundtable

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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



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

First: Download the 2013 SOCM Workbook

Second: Complete the online 2013 SOCM Survey



Rachel Happe

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

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.

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

CMAD High FiveBy michaelpace on January 28, 2013

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

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

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

Here are my thoughts:

Community Management is a discipline.

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

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

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

To put Community Management in context to other terms:

Community context

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, it’s all about Trust”

By michaelpace on January 8, 2013

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

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Me: “Well, it’s all about trust.”

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

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(Good point)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trust Drivers

3 Critical Use Cases involving Trust

People & Talent Management

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

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

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Building a Social Business

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

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

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Customer Trust

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

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As mentioned before:

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

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

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

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

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More on measuring Trust

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

Are there any other factors you think that drives Trust?

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

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

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

By michaelpace on December 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

customer-service-handle-simply-measured

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

Grade: B-

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

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

Grade: You tell me

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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

Grade: Not Rated

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

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

Grade: A

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

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

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

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

Image via Clutchcook