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February 22, 2017

1 Social Business Post – 3 Feet – 3 Boobs

By michaelpace on July 25, 2012

What the hell happened last Friday in the social business world? Did the planets align to erase the business brains of people at the customer facing keyboards of 3 disparate companies? Alien hackers took over twitter and customer relationship accounts? Or did 3 companies just get lazy while working in the connected world?

While I do think weirdness happens outside of our little world, my money is on the latter (laziness).

Story 1: How to shove your own foot up your ass

I originally heard the story from Social Media Explorer in a post called Customer Service Isn’t An Act. It’s a Trait. To make a (interesting) long story short, @solve360 chose to pick a fight on their social network instead of helping a customer, and possibly a future business partner. See below: Solve360 conversation with customers

For more details head to Megan’s Meanderings

Lessons Learned:

In my opinion, this is a company culture issue. From bottom to top, this company does not understand service (which doesn’t bode well for a Customer Relationship Management software company). They choose to see service as an unwelcomed cost of doing business, instead of looking at it as an opportunity to help a customer, build a relationship, move a challenger to a champion, or even just retain a current customer. While this may be random incident or everyone was having a case of the Mondays, but Solve360 may want to take a step back, get clear on their Values and decide if retention and loyalty are critical to a cloud or SAAS company (guess what – it is).

Story 2: How to shoot yourself in the foot

This Twitter post is from the NRA (National Rifle Association) the morning of the Aurora murders.

@NRA_Rifleman tweet

On the surface, it appears to be horribly disrespectful and frankly disgusting. The post was deleted from their Twitter stream not long after posting, but what happens on the internet stays on the internet. However, I believe there is more to this story. My assumption is this was a scheduled tweet, scheduled well before we learned of the events in Aurora.

Lessons Learned:

Scheduling tweets is a perfectly acceptable practice of social business. It allows you to create conversations off hours, reach different sets of audiences, and smooth out the workload for your conversation agents. Scheduling is a shortcut; shortcuts are needed. However, every shortcut comes at a risk (otherwise it would not be a shortcut). Like any other area of business, you need to understand your risks, determine what is acceptable, transferrable, or worth creating mitigation steps. In the NRA’s (controversial) line of business, it is sad to say that incidents like last Friday’s massacre can happen at any time. While I would not stop scheduling, I would ensure they have a crisis management plan in place, and understand their roles in executing.

On another note, I think they were smart in deleting the tweet, but they missed an equally important step, admitting to their mistake. As of this date, I have not seen an apology tweet or link (it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist). They may have even deleted the entire account name, as it is no longer exists on Twitter. A simple, accountable explanation with an apology and thoughts toward the impacted families/friends would have gone a long way.

Story 3: You Put Your Foot in My Mouth

By now many folks have heard and/or seen the @Celebboutique tweet from last Friday, only a mere few hours after the horrific tragedy in an Aurora, CO movie theater. I think the picture above speaks to the shear ignorance of person at the helm of their twitter account. I am not here to beat a dead horse; I am here to help with the lessons learned. @celebboutique tweet

Post the immediate public uproar, @Celebboutique tried to apologize. @celebboutique follow up

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Lessons Learned:

It is clear that @Celebboutique outsources their twitter handle to an offshore PR agency. Outsourcing can be good; offshore outsourcing can be better. Outsourcing usually allows companies to move many overhead costs to parties who specialize in a specific operation, therefore opening up funds and/or space to move their business forward in other areas. I have a few rules of outsourcing effectively:
1. You never outsource your core competency or value proposition
2. Your relationship with your outsourcer needs to be ACTIVELY managed; it is not an “off the side of the desk” activity
3. Cultural compatibility is more important than all the money talk that follows in the selection process
4. Outsource customer facing solutions at your OWN RISK

Based on the follow up tweets from @Celebboutique, they did not heed to my rules of effective outsourcing.
Their last mistake in the myriad of mistakes was their placing blame on their foreign outsourcer. When I interact with a company, I see it as a single entity. For example, if I shop at Costco, I do not think about how it affects their supply chain department, marketing, or human resources; it is just Costco. As a consumer, I have enough brands occupying my attention; I don’t separate companies into divisions. Regardless, if @Celebboutique hit the enter key or not, it was their company’s mistake; own it.

How to Develop Rockstars in Your Organization

Bon Jovi Boston 2011By michaelpace on July 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Development Template

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

R & R Department (Retention and Referral)

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

Marketing:

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

Product:

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

Customer Service:

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

Sales:

  • Accountable for established relationship management, specifically in B2B sales

Acquisition Department

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

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

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

Aftermath

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

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

Is anyone actually organized this way?

What are the other possibilities with this scenario?

Am I a little crazy?

Image credit: Warner Bros.

My Own Personal Intersection

By michaelpace on November 30, 2011

I started this blog because I believe there is true opportunity at the intersection of Customer Service, Social, Business Process Management and People Leadership.  I also believe I can help.  We work and live in the most fluid environment since the Industrial Revolution.  The more we can have thoughtful discussions and fun about our surroundings, the more we will all learn.  The intersection is important because nothing exists in a vacuum anymore, and we should be leveraging the best practices of many areas to develop better solutions to our problems, opportunities and quandaries.  Today, I start the approach to my own career intersection.

In January, I will be leaving Constant Contact to explore what my next personal/career intersection has to offer.  Right now it is a bit of a blind intersection; however I am ready for the challenge.  I know the direction that I want to go, but there is no GPS for this route.  I desire to lead my own customer service organization to attain amazing heights in service, efficiency and people leadership.  Our service world is on the cusp of some incredible paradigm shifts, and I am incredibly lucky to be in position to lead those front lines.

I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am to have worked for Constant Contact.  This organization has enabled and sponsored me to uncover how to deliver exceptional broad customer service, social media support and community management.  More importantly, they had the faith in me to put in place a remarkable team that provides this amazing service with scale efficiency.  My role as Director of Customer Support and Community Management has opened my eyes and heart to the incredible power of the social world (both digital and in person).  They gave me the confidence to speak in front of hundreds of Marketing, Tech, and Customer Service leaders at conferences across the country, helping me to overcome some punishing public speaking fears.  Thank you Constant Contact.

Over the course of the next few months, I would love to understand how I can help you and more businesses tackle this new space, and deliver a holistic awe-inspiring customer experience.  Even as I write this post, I feel the rollercoaster ups (excitement of the unknown) and downs (fear of the unknown) that are to come.  But like any journey to a worthy destination, it all starts with the first step.  Thank you again Constant Contact, and thank you Mr./Ms. Reader for letting me express my thanks and discussing my new intersection.

Are we connected yet? If not, let’s get LinkedIn and talk.

Mike

The Next Innovation in Social will come from (wait for it) . . . HR

By michaelpace on October 3, 2011Herd Cats button

No, not some hybrid formation of technology from Hashable and Radian6 or something of the like, good ol’ Human Resources.  Yes, Human Resources.

Of course, new technology will continue to flood our lives in alpha, beta and full rollout versions, but they are mostly all incremental changes or consolidation of features.  Marketing departments and agencies will stretch our imaginations with fantastic ways of looking at products and services.  However, the most powerful innovation of the next generation should/will come from Human Resources.

The tools are only as valuable as the people using them (a hammer swung does not make a carpenter).  Human Resources focuses on the organization’s most critical asset: people. They are one of few departments with horizontal reach across organizations, goals and culture.  They also can be the catalyst to possibly the most important innovation of this era – THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION.

The Social Organization is a company/business whose majority of people use social business competencies, social tools (media), and social processes to achieve higher quality internal and external results more efficiently.  The power of the Social Organization is in the exponential leverage of diversified relationships and the speed in which information can be transferred.  A non-social organization uses more one to one conversation, limiting the accuracy and relationship distance information can be communicated.  Think of the telephone game as a child; one to one conversation, often inaccurate and limited in distance (or viral ability) by how many people are willing to wait or listen.  A social organization provides information to multiple people simultaneously, provides easy methods to share internally or externally or both, and allows for iteration in a shared space.  It is like the difference between trying to catch something with a 50 ft. rope or a 50 ft. by 50 ft. net.

3 examples of the difference in power of the Traditional Organization versus the Social Organization:

Brand Advocacy: Theoretically, the strongest brand advocates should live inside the company or organization.  A highly social organization will be able to reach more people, reach more people who are influenced by the sender, and deliver all with much greater efficiency.

social organization

The Social Organization reaches 87%+ more people with only 10% of the original population.  The same number of associates would equal a 18.75X difference (1,125,000 in reach).  Do you know of any one move that can change metrics by almost 20X?

Recruiting: Traditional recruiting primarily uses websites to pull in attractive potential hires, and often scoops up high amounts of unqualified wastes of time.  A pull model, it’s like a the Death Star’s tractor beam sucking up everything from Millennium Falcons to space junk.  Social recruiting leverages the relationships of your associates to find potential hires matching your cultural fit.  And by having large numbers of separate people from separate departments, you also reach a more diversified candidate pool.

Research & Development:  The most known example of a Social Organization leveraging social competencies and process to improve R&D efforts is Dell, and their IdeaStorm Community.  This community leverages the resources and thoughts of their enormous customer base to help identify future enhancement and product ideas.  Dell is able to iterate with the end customers on what those same customers would want.  I like to reference a quote from John Hagel’s Power of Pull “There are a lot more smarter people OUTSIDE your organization than IN it,”

The Social Organization is more of a cultural shift than a project.  It requires massive amounts of change management (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement) to be effective.  Just getting everyone to have a Twitter account or LinkedIn account will not transform your organization.  All that will end up happening is a bunch of silly looking Twitter eggs passing your company’s latest press release to each other.  Associates need to become socially competent, both individually and for social business.  Human Resources is in a unique position to help transform a culture, and they have the greatest opportunity to make the greatest impact on business in general.

Is your company a highly Social Organization?

How has Human Resources played a role in social competency development? Use of tools and processes? Social cultural shifts?

Photo Credit Blogging4Jobs

Stop talking about TRUST, measure it

By michaelpace on May 1, 2011

Sumo trapeze

This post is a piggy-back from Christine Perkett’s (@missusP) written thoughts after her discussion panel at the Social Media and Communities 2.0 Strategies conference, go to PerkettPRsuasion.com for more of the original conversation.

The topic of TRUST has been a personal soapbox item recently. I read 30-40 blog posts daily and attend a number of social business/media events each year, and just about every day I hear how important trust/building trust/earning trust/maintaining trust is to relationships with our customers and communities. However, nobody ever defines trust; it’s a subjective term like love or truth. If you don’t have a firm grasp of what it is, how are you ever going to be able to measure it?  And everyone knows, if you are not measuring it, you are not actively managing it. Finally, I come full circle; if you are not managing it, it’s either not important or you are missing something BIG.

I am assuming it’s the latter.

Just like I tell my reports, identification of an issue is good; bringing solutions to the party is great. So here is my take:

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.

How can you measure trust? The simplest answer is probably to just survey and ask your customers directly. This sounds a bit uncomfortable (for both surveyor and recipient), and may lead to biased results. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is also a viable option. Asking the question “How likely are you to refer Company X to your friends, family and colleagues?” implicitly asks for the level of trust in a party. However, the core NPS question can be interpreted to mean your product, your service, your price, or your value, and still will not let you know if you are a trusted partner.

Another way to measure trust (and possibly moved the needle) might be through the measurement of its core drivers, as I defined earlier – sincerity, competency and reliability. I like to think this methodology is 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).

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.

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?”

This is clearly only my perspective. I would love to understand if anyone else is questioning the TRUST verbiage, how do they define trust, how are they measuring or planning on measuring? Maybe this is just a personal rabbit hole that does not have an answer, but I like the question.

Hopefully, as more posts are provided, you will begin to trust me in my sincerity, competency and reliability to deliver insightful and thoughtful information to your inbox.

Image courtesy of http://verydemotivational.memebase.com/