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February 22, 2017

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

Using Communities for Customer Support

By michaelpace on March 18, 2013

Crowd surfing

Overview:




A majority of organizations are using some sort of community based support model or have considered doing such.  The question is, are you seeing the results and cultivating real relationships with your customers?




It is known customer communities can be an incredible source of support, for both your customers and your organization.




In this episode, I have invited Michael Pace (Customer Support & Community Management Executive) to join myself on Voice of the Customer Radio to discuss “Community”.




Objectives:

 

  • Learn about communities and community management for all levels of the enterprise
  • Uncover the tremendous benefits of this unique “self” service tool
  • Step by step assessment guide on how to get started
  • Technical options available for you

 

Questions  Reviewed:
What is a community or support community? And how are they beneficial?


How do they impact engagement? C-Sat? Reducing Costs? Driving top line growth?


How did you get involved in communities?


Where do you start?


Once you are up and running, how do you keep your customers engaged?


Metrics?


How do you get executive buy in to pursue?


People – what kind of people do you need to be community managers? How do you hire?


What kinds of tools are available?


Are there any resources to help get folks started?






Listen to internet radio with execsintheknow on Blog Talk Radio



Execs In The Know promotes the capabilities of global “Customer Experience” or “Service Leadership” professionals around the world. 

Their model is to “serve” and be an “advocate” for providing awareness, facilitating networking opportunities, offering talent reach and highlighting the significant accomplishments this industry has to offer.

“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

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

By michaelpace on November 15, 2012

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

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

Here are my typical answers:

Social media is a tool, plain and simple.

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

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

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

Step 1: It’s Not a Lonely Job

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

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

Step 2: Start with the Big 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you educating your associates about social media tools?

What is working and what is not?

Article originally appeared on Knowlagent’s ProductivityPlus blog

Image credit

Live Google+ Debate: Will Technology Kill the Call Center?

By michaelpace on October 15, 2012

Contact Center DebateRecently, I participated in an live Google+ debate hosted by Software Advice that asked, “Will Technology Kill the Call Center?” The research firm basically wanted to investigate trends in consumer contact channel utilization, technology and the impact of these trends on the future call center.

The event featured a panel of experts that answered scripted questions, before the discussion was opened to the audience. The prepared queries included:

1.    How have you seen consumer contact channel utilization change in the last decade?
2.    What role has technology played in this change?
3.    How do you see technology impacting the way customers contact a company in the future, and the kind of service they receive?
4.    Will technology eventually render call centers irrelevant?

Click on the video below to watch the entire recorded debate hosted by the talented Ashley Furniss.

I was able to send comments directly to the panel during the live event. One of the speakers, IntelliResponse Vice President of Marketing Mike Hennessy, made a statement that questioned the value of social media for customer service. He argued that according to analysis he’s seen about social customer service, the return on investment for time spent is not there. I disagreed:

Here are some other key takeaways from the responses.

Become Truly Multi Channel
All of the speakers agreed that consumers are embracing newer contact channels, such as virtual agents and self service, at a pace never seen before in the contact center world.

This doesn’t mean customers are choosing these new channels instead of voice. Rather, they are using self service, FAQs, mobile and other channels in addition to the telephone.

In response, companies need to do more than just make these channels available. They should leverage each to better serve the customer. For example, can you tell what a customer was looking at in your FAQs before they called your 1-800 number? Do you know if they interacted with a virtual agent? Having these answers can bring context and personalization to the live response experience. This increases efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Accommodate the Customer’s Contact Channel Choice
Technology advancements have had a huge impact on the way organizations interact with customers. Advancements such as intelligent virtual agents and self service can finally devlier on the promises from five and six years ago.

These contact channel improvements have leveled the playing field as far as user experience. The customer is now empowered to choose the communication channel they want, when they want. It’s up to the company to “right channel” their business–to determine which channels are most important to its customers and invest in those technologies.

Ready Your Agents for the Reborn Contact Center
All of the speakers agreed that customer contact preference is shifting away from voice. But this won’t kill the call center because it’s already dead.

The concept of a call center comprising phone agents has evolved into a contact center comprising ”command teams” who manage customer interactions through multiple channels. That’s because today’s consumer demands instant gratification, and the reborn center is expected to support those demands, whether they come through Twitter, live chat or a phone call.

 

The Power of the Social Business – Why this is where your business needs to be

Social Media BingoBy michaelpace on September 26, 2012

If you have been consciously or unconsciously playing Buzzword Bingo around the office, the term social business has probably been at the center of your board.  “We need to be a Social Business.” Or “I went to an event recently where everyone was talking about Social Business.”  Or even “People say we need to become a Social Business or die.”  While I agree, social business will be the next big business innovation (see more here), you probably won’t die.  So what is Social Business and why is it important to your company, customer service, and the contact center?

I am a big fan of not reinventing the wheel.  My online friends over at SideraWorks have developed an excellent explanation of what is Social Business.

“Social Business is the creation of an organization that is optimized to benefit its entire ecosystem (customers, employees, owners, partners) by embedding collaboration, information sharing, and active engagement into its operations and culture. The result is a more responsive, adaptable, effective, and ultimately more successful company.”

Social Business is broader than social media; social media is just one of the tools of Social Business, just as your phone system is a tool of customer service.  As SideraWorks definition describes, Social Business is a way of working.  It can and should involve every level and department of your organization, your partners or vendors, your community, and your current and prospective customers.

Traditional work organizational models have siloed departments, working on their individual goals to hopefully achieve a greater sum for the sake of acquiring and retaining customers.  This model, generally, approaches internal and external customers as someone to talk at or to be spoken to.  People, whether internal to your organization or external, are tired of being spoken to.  For example, how do you feel when you see a corny commercial telling you to buy a diaper brands latest “innovation” in dry-lock protection?  Or how do you feel when a senior leader in your organization says there will be a process change without any understanding of why the old process is in place?  How many times have you worked with a partner or vendor and have an email chain when printed could circle the earth twice?

Social Business is inclusive, collaborative and open.  I believe people and relationships are every company’s most important and underutilized asset.  We now have the technological ability to act/work/socialize/create relationships like we do in “real life”.  By leveraging the relationships, new technology, and process, we can unleash the ultimate power – PEOPLE.  I love this quote from John Hagel III’s book The Power of Pull, “There are a lot more smarter people outside your organization, than inside it”.  It doesn’t mean your company or department doesn’t have smart people, it’s just there are so many smart people outside of your immediate perspective.  What if you could leverage the power of the people in your contact center, and their vast networks to achieve more and faster?

Typically a contact center is one of the largest departments within an organization.  Each one of those associates have a network outside and within your organization.  Why not start the revolution from within?  Your senior leaders are always looking for ways for the contact center to become a “profit center”.  What if you could aide in both top and bottom line revenue or cost avoidance?  Just one example is recruiting.  Traditional recruiting primarily uses websites to pull in attractive potential hires, and often scoops up high amounts of unqualified wastes of time.  A pull model, it’s like a the Death Star’s tractor beam sucking up everything from Millennium Falcons to space junk.  Social recruiting leverages the relationships of your associates to find potential hires matching your cultural fit.  And by having large numbers of separate people from separate departments, you also reach a more diversified candidate pool.

The benefits of a Social Business are almost countless, but just to name a few:

  • Individual personal associate development
  • Lower operational costs
  • Stronger interdepartmental collaboration
  • Faster innovation
  • Improved customer satisfaction and trust
  • Vision & culture sharing
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Brand reputation and awareness

Some great resources to learn more about Social Business:

SideraWorks – http://www.sideraworks.com/

The Community Roundtable – http://community-roundtable.com/

Edelman – http://www.edelman.com/

Are people talking about Social Business in your immediate circles? Senior Management?

If you are not, what is holding you back?

The week of October 8th, I will be speaking about this subject at the Contact Center Conference – Fall 2012 in Miami, FL.  Below is similar presentation given earlier in the year:

 

How to Develop Rockstars in Your Organization

Bon Jovi Boston 2011By michaelpace on July 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Development Template

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

 

 

 

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

By michaelpace on April 23, 2012

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

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

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

 

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

Change Management Assessment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.