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March 29, 2017

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.

Social Star Wars Saga Episode II: Attack of the Clones

By michaelpace on November 9, 2011

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

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

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

The Clone we all know

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

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

The Clone that is US

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

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

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

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

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

May the force be with you, always.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Crawl Creator

Attack of the Clones - Social Star Wars

Top 5 Reasons Why Customer Service is Avoiding the Social Media Wave

Waiting for the social wave

By michaelpace on August 19, 2011

Ok, show of hands (and be honest, I can see you through your webcam), does your company provide social customer service through your actual customer service department?

Or does Marketing handle it; or some other department or combo? During a webinar hosted by Jeremiah Owyang (a must follow) earlier this month, he stated that roughly in 70% of the cases, Marketing handles social media, including customer service inquiries. In my own experience speaking with customer service executives and at conferences, I estimate less than 10% of customer service departments handle support related inquires or comments. Why? Why are you not riding the Social Customer Service wave or are you waiting for the wave to crash into you?

Reason #1: Marketing owns and handles social

Background or Myth: Marketing should handle social media stuff because of possible public relation issues, social media is a marketing job, or it’s just always been that way.

Reality: Social media is a tool of social business, similar to your phone system being a tool for your customer service. You probably don’t own the phone system, and Marketing probably doesn’t need your permission to use the phone. If individuals are afraid of a public relations issue being created through social media, do they monitor all of your outgoing emails and chats? An email or a chat is equally “socialable” through their own technology or in combination with other social networks. Similar to email and chat technology channels, best practices, process and clear roles and responsibilities are needed to execute effectively. Your customer service team is best equipped to handle service inquiries and provide content that helps educate your customers. And anytime someone tells you it’s always been done that way, you know it’s time for a change.

Reason #2: If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?

Background or Myth: You know there are millions of people on social sites like Facebook, but they are not talking about our brand or service (or at least we haven’t heard it).

Reality: If you are not listening, how can you know if someone is talking about or to you? Have you ever put your company name (or variations of) into Google Blog Search or into Twitter’s Search? There are tremendous amount of free tools to use to listen to understand if people are talking to you or about you. I prefer Hootsuite for Twitter and Google Alerts for everything else on the web. It’s now common place for people to express their opinions to their friends, family and followers on the web, and it will only become more common. Per Socialnomics, ½ of the world’s population is under 30, they do not know what life was like before the internet (think about it).

Reason #3: Not a valuable use of time or resources

Background or Myth: As compared to our other channels, social media related channels are such a small percentage of our overall volume.

Reality: The previous statement is both true and false. It is true for an actual physical count of tweets, Facebook posts, blogs commenting on your business, and LinkedIn discussions, but it does not accurately reflect the impact. For example, at Constant Contact (where I work), the average person tweeting positively or negatively about us has approximately 1300 followers. Over the course of 2010, there were almost 1,000,000 impressions of positive or negative commentary. Now not all of those impressions were influential, but even if a small portion (10% or 100,000) were influential, doesn’t it make sense for you to be a part of those conversations?

Reason #4: We are in a regulated industry; we could break laws by talking about personal accounts publicly

Background or Myth: In many industries, such as healthcare and financial services, public “discussion” of personal information can land your company in a heap of legal and compliance trouble. This statement is true, but there are reasons to still get engaged.

Reality: Probably the most valuable aspect of social customer service (at this point) is pure acknowledgement of being heard. If someone mentions you on the social web, you should still acknowledge their message and then offer to take it to a more secure channel. If you need to track even these minimal conversations, you can do it manually or if you have the scale, most CRMs now are available with social tools integrated into their workcase management. Regulated industries are typically complicated, which also makes them ripe for proactive outbound communications to your customers about your products and services. Blogs, branded communities, Twitter, Youtube and LinkedIn provide fantastic platforms for educational content that can be pulled from existing sources like your knowledge base or marketing materials.

Reason #5: Getting started is too overwhelming

Background or Myth: There is very limited data or information on how to get started in social customer service, let alone operationalizing it.

Reality: Yes, getting up and running in social customer service is a sizeable task, but like other large initiatives, if you break it down it can be less daunting. Below is my high level work breakdown structure:

  1. Get yourself involved in social media
  2. Know your business strategy/what are your objectives/guidelines More information on steps 1 & 2
  3. Listen to your customers
  4. Customer Conversation
    • Develop SLA’s
    • Know your brand (big difference in Tiffany & Co.’s & Zappos corporate voice)
    • Engage your customers
  5. Workflow, Catalog & Tracking
  6. Developing & delivering proactive contentSocial Wave

Customer service leaders have a choice, try to stand strong against the incoming wave, and hope it does not knock you over (or provide a competitive disadvantage), or pick up your board, paddle out and ride the wave. This trend may not have all the same tools at the end of the day, but the premise of social business will remain, and become more prevalent in our lives and the lives of our future customers.

To chat with a bunch of other smart people about the topic of social customer service, and getting started, join me, Brad Cleveland, Bob Furniss & Todd Hixon for a tweetchat presented by ICMI on Tuesday, 8/23 @ 6:30 pm CST – follow hashtag #CCDemo11 for up to date details and more information.

 

Wave Image Credit http://flickrhivemind.net/Tags/people,solitary/Interesting

Surfing image http://juice-up.blogspot.com/2010/11/surfing.html