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March 29, 2017

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.

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.

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

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

The Power of the Social Business – presentation

By michaelpace on September 5, 2012

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

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

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

 

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:

 

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

By michaelpace on May 13, 2012

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

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

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

Company Leadership:

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

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

Know Your Customer: Social Dynamx Agent Priority

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

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

Time to get Real:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Dynamx Agent RoleSocial Dynamx Supervisor Trends

 

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.

I discovered my Social Media ROI? Or How much is your personal development worth?

By michaelpace on March 30, 2012

Einstein quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not that big of a fan of the term “Social Business”. I love the broader concept of using social tools and networks to more effectively and efficiently achieve business goals. For a more complete understanding of social business, I recommend two sources: SideraWorks from Amber Naslund and Matt Ridings and The Community Roundtable’s State of Community Management Report from Rachel Happe and Jim Storer. However, I worry that the term “Social Business” leaves the act of working this way to the current few in a company “who do Social Media”. I prefer the term “Social Organization”, as I wrote about a couple months back. The “Social Organization” implies that is more about the people in the organization, all the people, using relationships, process and tools to accomplish broad business goals.

If your company’s broad business goals include the personal development of your associates, becoming a social organization should be one of your key strategic imperatives. One of my favorite quotes is from the book The Power of Pull by John Hagel, he said, “There are a lot more smarter people outside of your company, than in it”. This quote has nothing to do with the intelligence of the people in your company; it’s just that there are so many subject matter experts, students, and geniuses in any field you can imagine. Social networks are fantastic way to listen, connect and build relationships with the smartest people in the world. Encouraging your associates to seek knowledge about their passions (both professional and non) and use social tools to aide in their personal development can be a powerful way for them to improve. If you don’t mind, I will use myself as a case study in this matter.

When I started becoming interested in social media in 2009, I had a Facebook account to keep track of folks from high school (mostly who I didn’t like back then either) and a LinkedIn account (mostly to help in a job search I had just completed). My professional development, at that time, centered around three areas: Understanding Social Media for Customer Service, Community Management, and public speaking. Historically, I read a lot of books to gain access to information of bright minds. I still do, but as a compliment to other forms of media. I quickly began to understand the power of an RSS feeder. Twitter was next. I fell in love with Twitter, and still love it today as a professional development tool. Twitter, if used for no other purpose, is an amazing way to pull the world’s smartest people content into a simple and digestible form. Over time, I began to build amazing relationships, some digital and some in person, and conversations from these relationships have added incredibly towards my personal development along all three areas. Today, I speak regularly at Customer Service, Social Media and Community Management conferences about how to build scalable social media customer service teams, revitalizing fading communities, inspiring cultural evolutions in your organization, new ways to measure customer retention, and how to leverage the power of the social organization. You can see some of the presentations here.

So what is the ROI of social media to me or what is the value of my personal development?

The answer is simple, priceless.