You can run, hide, duck, turn, cover your eyes, plug your ears, maybe then you will have successfully avoided hearing, seeing or otherwise experiencing the Facebook IPO. I sometimes; no, quite often, wonder what the fascination is all about. What exactly has changed? What is really different? Is it that Everything simply happens faster. Yes that is one part, I suppose. I am not sure that is always good though. When presented with the opportunity to put our foot in our mouth, we see it as an opportunity not to be missed and take full advantage. We share (Tweet, Post, Email) without thinking, only now it is more permanent (Google never forgets). This raises the question, what role are these ‘social’ channels in customer service?
The words we grew up with, now mean different things; Social, Engagement and Mobile, new context, new meaning. Think about it, when we were young(er) a ‘Social Engagement’ that was ‘Mobile’ could have easily meant a dinner party on a boat. A set of recent articles also suggests highlighting the importance of human social interactions to our well-being (HBR). Things do happen faster and some of it is social, some is just not – how can a company understand what is social, where does customer service really fit in, what is not and respond accordingly…at scale?
Introducing my Version of the Digital Interaction Process
I had the opportunity to co-present with Steven Thurlow, (our very smart CTO) to a small and engaged audience on Thursday. The topic was Social Customer Service. It was largely based on recent research done with thinkJar we shared the findings and went a little beyond as well. We took the opportunity to poll the audience, always wanting to learn. Guess what, the phone and email are still still ranked as the most important customer service channels. Surprised? I was not to be frank.
Near the end of the presentation, I shared the diagram below and talked people through it.
First, before I discuss it, I need to give credit where credit is due. My own thinking was (and is) influenced by conversations with Brian Vellmure and Esteban Kolsky. In my opinion social is a way of being and acting. According to many current discussions, one cannot be social be without digital (yeah, I know, not quite true). If I send a DM (Direct Message) on Twitter, is that social? If I message you on Facebook, is that social? Any more than an email, phone call or heaven forbid knocking on your door? Getting to the diagram; on the left is ‘Social’ and public, on the right is ‘Engaged’ and private (1 to 1, you and me).
The influence that Brian had on this was to remind me that what everyone is calling ‘Social’ is really digital. Once the conversation is taken private (DM, SMS, Email, Kiosk) it is no longer ‘Social’, until one side or the other decides to bring it back into the public realm (vent, complaint, review, kudos). The influence Esteban had was that in a way, you could overlay his infinity diagram (here) on top of this as the processes are continuous. On the left is the outside world, on the right is the inside world. If you get the stuff on the right working, then the stuff on the left is positive and good. Conversely, well, I probably do not even need to say it. Each side is a closed loop in its own right, but connected to the other side – a continuum of sorts.
A note on overused words. I have many words listed within the diagram many are over used within industry publications, blogs and articles on social media. often they are not only misused but only industry insiders are the only ones who care about them and pick them apart. There is a need, however, to be clear when they add value. For example, I put in there the word ‘engagement’. I am actually not a big fan of the word, but it makes sense in this context because it says ‘one person interacting with another in a way to adds the intent, context and a personal touch’. If Engagement is used to describe the activities on the left side, I think that is where it is misused. Yes, I know a presenter or Marketeer wants to engage their audience, elicit a response…another day.
There, the other word that everyone loves to hate. We all want to break down the walls, remove the divisions between departments, make sure everyone has all the data. OK, I got it, thanks for the advice (I live in Vermont, the livestock would have nothing to eat during winter without silos, but I digress). How exactly should I accomplish this goal? Does marketing need the invoice history? Does the product team need to know there is a billing dispute? Each team should focus on that person they are working to create value with and for. Spend time working to understand what they need and what you can offer. They might be a customer, they might be a prospect, influencer or partner. The key point is that they are a person first. What I mean by engage is to speak with this person at a human level. This by the way is the influence of Paul Greenberg, check his post on Engagement Here is a quote:
” The social customer is no longer a customer to gawk at, just a customer to deal with – like any other customer, with one explicit difference. He/she scales. Meaning they know how to impact other customers on a large scale who are “like them” in interests, and use the social channels that are not controlled by the company to do so.” – Paul Greenberg
In my follow-up, I suggested that:
“If Social CRM is about a companies programmatic response, then engagement on the customer’s terms defines the format of the response. Therefore, Social CRM is different for every type of business. In order for it to work, both sides need to mature and be willing to invest emotionally and intellectually.”
What I believe the diagram does is to dissect the issue and puts it back together. I try to illustrate the point that we are shifting from a focus of trying to control the left, to working with the person on the left. Talk to that person, interact with them at a person to person level, be human and be humane. If you want to call this Social CRM, maybe it is, if it is not Social CRM to you, then no worries – it is what it is. The key point is that the strongest bridge between your company and customers (past, present and future) are people. If you try to talk to everyone, worse, at everyone, then you are just broadcasting. As the number of people who choose alternate digital channels increases, it is only going to get harder…
What do you think, am I close?
Customer Service using Social Media Channels is a nascent discipline, which is good, because fewer customers than most people think are actually using it – but its time will come. Just look at the usage from the customers perspective, barely 17%. American Express and ECHO just published some findings that paint an interesting picture. I would also challenge some of the results, or methods, or both. Not because I know better, but because I am confused about what exactly they are asking and how they asked. When these results are compared with some recent research (company perspective) I conducted with thinkJar, there is a bit of a gap between what companies are spending time and money on, and what their customers are actually using.
OK, I am going to dissect the above a bit, and ask others to tell me I am wrong. My take on the data is that while 17% said “yes”, only 1/2 of those used social to “seek a response from [the] company to help [you] with a service issue”. It is obvious that is was not a ‘select one choice’ question, more likely a ‘select all that apply’, which makes piecing it together that much more complex. Even then, these are certainly not all customer service issues. For example, ‘praise’ is certainly not an ‘issue’, but could be tracked, possibly recognized. My point here is that no matter how you look at this data, it is 17% or lower, who are using social channels for something most people would call “customer support”.
A secondary issue I am having – it is all about me, sorry – is the stated methodology. I am hoping someone can help me out: “Research was completed online among a random sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 18+. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between February 22-29, 2012.” If this was truly an “online” survey, then the results are skewed. Meaning, when you ask people who are online if they use a digital channel you will get different results than if you stand on the street or call on the phone. But ECHO are smart folks, so I must be missing something. Any ideas?
Preferred Channel depends upon Complexity
Yes, Yes, Yes – Absolutely! It is beyond complexity too, it also includes the level of personal data involved. The complexity part makes sense, more on that in a moment. From a data perspective, at one end of the spectrum is ‘none’ the other end is that there is a social security number involved. It could be the simplest of issues, but if a customer needs to provide very private data, they will use the phone. According to the research, for a simple inquiry, ‘website or email’ was the top choice, at 38%. Now, I am going to pick on ECHO again, just a bit. There is a pretty big difference between a website view (aka; self-service) and email (please help me), but who am I to criticize? The major point to note here is that ‘Social Networking Site’ at 7% was tied for least preferred channel – even for simple!
As an inquiry becomes more complex, the preferred channel transitions to the higher touch, synchronous choices, such as face to face; 24%, up from 11%, and phone; 38%, up from 16% and (“speaking with a ‘real’ person” – love that). In the ‘more’ complex range, ‘website or email’ drops to 15%. No surprise, ‘Social Networking Site’ was tied for least preferred; 3%. Finally, for “difficult” inquiries, phone jumps to 46%, face to face up to 30%; Social finally has sole position as least preferred, at 3%. This is probably not a surprise. Is it?
Conclusion, of sorts
There is some interesting data hidden in the AMEX/ECHO report. There might even be some interesting information and a few insights, but you need to use this along with your own customer data. I wrote recently about trusting data versus your gut, and this certainly applies here. It is also very clear that while customer are increasingly using social channels for different reasons, the traditional channels are not going anywhere any time soon. Forrester data suggests that people often do not start on social channels, they start on traditional channels, switching only when the experience is poor. Are companies driving this initiative? Who let the Genie out of the bottle and who is trying to put it back in?
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
Twitter is an interesting beast, that is for sure. I am sure a few (or more) will suggest that it is none of the above. Or, better, that it is a monumental waste of time.
The nature of Twitter is that everything is open for the world to see, that does beg the question of how best does Twitter fit into your Customer Service processes? Some of the challenges are actually a bit technical in nature; Twitter is actually a Service Platform*, which acts like a Protocol, and should be treated like a Channel. In order to get there, maybe a little bit of review is in order. My review is timed for an event, close to home, where JetBlue and Comcast are planning to present to a small group here in Burlington, VT. The interest lies in the fact that by one measure, JetBlue is considered tops in Loyalty, yet are almost 3 times as likely (as the baseline) to see a negative experience show up on Twitter.
The question I began to think about a long time ago is whether by making a channel such as Twitter readily available, companies were ‘creating a monster’ or ‘letting the genie out of the bottle’ and wishing that they had not. This is very Inside Out thinking, and non-customer centric. I first published a post in October 2009 titled “Why do people think Twitter is a good Customer Service platform?” (link). Some parts of the article were a bit tongue in cheek, as Twitter in the support arena was quite new. In that article I suggested the following statement to be a truth:
The need to broadcast a problem to the world would not be necessary if the customer had confidence that their issue would be solved timely and to their satisfaction.
Almost a year and a half later, I am revisiting the same issue, to see if things have changed, or not. I also suggested that using Twitter for support masks a larger issue. Customer do not have confidence that their issues will be addressed when they contact a company or register a complaint. There was some good discussions regarding the post. No, not everyone was in full agreement either. There have been a lot really smart people (smarter than me) thinking about this issue, now 18 months further along. That said, while people have been thinking about it, data to support or to counter the arguments is hard to find. I am not convinced anyway. Looking at this problem from the more important customer perspective, if your customers are there, then you need to be there to, right? the comment from Parature hits the mark:
Regardless of whether or not it is a good customer service platform, customers are taking their issues social and they can’t be ignored.
Core to this discussion is trying to figure out exactly; what is Twitter? During the recent history that is modern customer service, the channels of communication have been controlled by the organization (for the most part, of course there are exceptions); In-Person, Phone, Letter, Fax, IVR, Email, Website, Chat. These are protocols/channels, which a company decided to offer, or not. Unless something went really wrong, and it made the news, or trade press of some sort, the results of communication were ‘contained’. With that in mind, Esteban Kolsky had the following to say on the previous post:
Any channel a customer chooses to contact an organization is a channel the organization should be listening on – or have a clearly stated and well-known reason not to (example: you cannot contact your broker about a trade via email due to latencies)…. Despite the novelty behind it Twitter remains a simple channel you add to your lineup of channels to serve customers. If you understand the basic rules of engagement for the channel, and how to deliver value best (e.g. tweeting the answer in 14-consecutive-tweets versus posting a link to somewhere) to your customers, then you should be able to deliver against those expectations – after you set them at the right level.
We have not Answered the Question
As noted above, Twitter is not a Customer Service Platform – it is only part of a Customer Service Platform, maybe. That does not mean people do not use it as such. Coca-Cola is not billed as a rust removal system either, just saying. Some believe that Twitter should be an open protocol, but that is not likely to happen either. Therefore, a channel of communications is what is left, that is what Twitter is, and how it should be treated. This does not take anything away from it, just calling it like I see it. Your customers are there, and therefore you need to be there as well. Some old rules are broken though, unless I am missing something important. For example, if JetBlue has that many negative issues, then their loyalty number could not be that high if it takes “12 good things for every bad”.
The follow-up question is how well is this (or any) channel is integrated into the rest of your customer service processes? According to some recent research (Brent Leary analysis), 35% of companies surveyed said “Yes” when asked “Is your social media/social networking fully integrated into traditional customer service problem-resolution processes?” I need to be direct and question that particular statistic, as I have yet to run into many (any?) companies at all where the processes are truly integrated from end to end. The simple point is about a technical challenge or limitation, your customers will know if they systems are integrated, or not. Even so, 65% of companies recognize that social is not integrated, therefore each is an island of process and of information. Your customers deserve better than this, no? I spend a lot of time thinking rhough these types of issues for Sword Ciboodle and our customers.
(*For the technical minded in the group, Twitter seems to be tending towards a service, offered by a private company, as a 3rd parties can typically build on top of a platform, but those rules seemed to be changing as well (who can and will make changes)).
The Tinkerbell effect describes those things that exist only because people believe in them (source wikipedia). I wrote a post last spring while blogging for my friends at SugarCRM where I talked about Social CRM succumbing to this phenomenon. I suppose I could make this really controversial and slam Klout. But, Klout is simply supplying the ‘fix’ of choice; popularity, to the Social elite. While at the same time emphasizing some really bad life lessons (ego and elitism, to name just a couple). It goes without saying that Twitter likes it. To “get more” Klout, just use Twitter more; that according to Klout Chief Executive Joe Fernandez, as seen in the Wall Street Journal:
Last year, Britney Spears’ managers, Adam Leber and Larry Rudolph, requested a meeting with Klout Chief Executive Joe Fernandez in San Francisco. Over a lunch of Chinese food, they grilled Mr. Fernandez on why Ms. Spears’ Klout score, then around 64, was lower than Lady Gaga’s 78 and Ashton Kutcher’s 77.
“What are these people doing better than us?” Mr. Fernandez says they asked.
Mr. Fernandez says he advised them to tell Ms. Spears to tweet more frequently and to send more tweets herself instead of having others tweet on her behalf.
Let’s Fast Forward a Bit
I really wanted to try and avoid writing a post on Klout, but temptation simply got the best of me. I saw – on Twitter of all places, go figure – a link to a post on Klout, where Trey Pennington shared the following:
Klout’s founder, Joe Fernadez, is both a genius and a gentleman. He recognized a need in the marketplace and has been working aggressively to satisfy that need. The business press is taking note and is given him and his company earned recognition (and venture capitalists are giving him/them the big bucks to back it up).
In reviewing some of Trey’s recent posts, I realized I had jumped in, in the middle and missed the context of the series, where Trey first talks about how people can game the system, and ends (well, at least as of this writing it seemed done) with some real words of wisdom.
Many people recognized the humor and absurdity of my four keys. I’m glad. If you’ve heard me speak, read my blog, or engaged with me online, you know I cherish Zig Ziglar’s oft-quoted axiom, “You can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.” You’ve probably also heard me state and defend against all challenges the admonition, “Follow back every person who follows you on Twitter.” Even though that suggestion STILL ruffles some people’s feathers, I still advocate accepting another human being’s out-stretched hand.
Which brings us back to the real issue of increasing one’s influence. Is that a worthwhile goal? I wonder if influence, like corporate profits, is a by-product of rendering valuable service to others. Render enough valuable service to others, and you’ll have all the influence you need.
In my exploration, using Social means, I have found that the people who have the most influence are the ones who are truly humble, the ones who would prefer not to have influence. If you really want to dive in deep on the science of influence, spend some time reading Michael Wu’s posts, starting with this one. Michael started the series last April, and readily admits that it is in its infancy:
Influence marketing today is in a state of experimentation that scientists call the pre-paradigm phase or exploratory phase. During this phase, everyone is trying different approaches based on experience. There are incomplete theories about why some approaches work and others fail, but there is no underlying fundamental principle that explains everything.
The idea of Klout is not bad, but in its current form, it actually is bad. There is no context to the influence. There is no shortcut to getting to the right people. People who I know are, or should be, more influential on a particular topic have better things to do than to hang out on Twitter, so guess what, their score suffers. I also know that many others will do a better job at analyzing this topic.
The Conclusion? Klout is not here because people are confused nor because people really need it, in its current form. Klout is here because they have marketed it well.
I am torn between two topics this weekend – one is the subject line above, the second is is the fun topic of “Creepful”; the awkward combination of being insightful and sharing so much information with the person you are speaking with that they believe it is actually creepy. I will come back to that one, and post it over at CRMOutsiders, as a follow-up to Martin’s great start to the conversation.
Are you Listening, or just Hearing?
I am hopeful that most of you who are reading this post realize that there is a difference between hearing and listening. It is possible that it is one of those topics that you do not think too much about, but now that I am bringing it up, it makes sense. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of hearing is “the faculty of perceiving sounds” whereas listening is to “take notice of and act on what someone says.” So, hearing is the physical part, but listening is a cognitive or conscious response to what has been heard. Said simplistically, for those of you with kids, we know they heard you, the question really is did they listen to what you said. In the age of the Social Web, I will suggest that hearing be extended beyond just sound to include what is ‘said’ via the written word, on both standard (mail, email, fax) and Social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs).
The mirror image to the listening versus hearing discussion is the open versus transparent discussion. I made my feelings pretty clear on that topic, Transparency is a Characteristic, not a Goal. In this post, I suggest that transparency is the ability to witness with an unobstructed view. Suggesting further that these organizational characteristics will lead to an increased level of trust, or the ability for people unfamiliar with you, or your organization to build trust more quickly. To me, transparency is a little bit like hearing (but a little more sophisticated), it is important, it needs to happen, but in isolation, it will only take you so far. So, what is the listening equivalent? Being open. Open is transparency plus participation, which leads to trust and value creation.
How do these pieces fit together?
There are hundreds of Tweets and Blogs, presented by ‘experts’ where listening is ‘strongly recommended’ as the starting point. While I agree that listening is important, I fear that what is actually happening is not really listening at all. If you do not plan to take any actions based on what you hear, are you really listening? Does Social Media monitoring really start with listening? You could say that all I am doing is playing a game of semantics, and you might be right (but, I would disagree with you). In the world that Social Media, is there such a thing as ‘Social Hearing’? Yes, it is called Social Media Monitoring. That said, monitoring and hearing are pointless if you do not plan on doing anything about what you find. What is really needed is Social Media Listening. There, I said it – but I am not going to suggest another TLA. What I am going to suggest is that if you plan to monitor, then prove to people that you are listening, not just hearing.
There are two ways to prove that you are listening. One way is transparency, allowing people to see inside the organization where they can witness what you are doing. The second, more interesting way to prove that you are listening is to be open. As I have stated previously “Open suggests that I can not only see through the window, but I can walk through the front door and participate.” I am not suggesting either that this conversation is over, I am suggesting that you need to make sure that you are doing more than just hearing, and that in order to do that, you might need to be more than just transparent. Happy Sunday – please do let me know if I have missed something big (or even little).
Huh?! What?! – Certainly not my last run down the moguls this past week, that is for certain. I was lucky enough to enjoy some time on the slopes, time with family as well as some time to read from actual books, not even an e-reader. I stayed at a great Bed and Breakfast, in Waitsfield, Vermont (near Sugarbush) with my family (minus one). Somehow, a book on Complex Adaptive Systems ( John H. Miller and Scott E. Page) made it into my overnight bag, and I began to read. Before long there was a particular area which I wanted to dive a bit deeper into, an interesting phenomenon called ; The Standing Ovation Problem (SOP).
Staying true to my electronic hiatus of sorts, I decided to do a bit more research when I got home. The SOP, at a qualitative level, is straightforward, easy to understand and has relevance in modern business. Specifically, the SOP can be used as a real world metaphor of outcomes often generated by the tools and technologies which are used by modern businesses, who are trying to be ‘Social’. A better understanding of the ‘why’ or ‘how’ could help to explain some of the issues encountered by a Social Business, both externally (Marketing, Support, Communities) and internally (Enterprise 2.0 tools). I am not saying I will be able to accomplish all of that here, but it is a start, and I so welcome your opinion.
What exactly is the Standing Ovation Problem?
To help me to understand the problem at a deeper level I found a 2004 research paper, The Standing Ovation Problem, by the same authors. The timing of the research and paper is interesting, as it predates the explosive time line of the Social Networks we know of today. The paper takes a very mathematical approach to the problem. However, a dissection of the problem, approach and theories makes extending the metaphor quite interesting. As the paper states:”The SOP has much to offer as it (1) is easily explained and part of everyone’s common experience; (2) simultaneously emphasizes some of the key themes that arise in social systems, such as learning, heterogeneity, incentives, and networks; and (3) is amenable to research efforts across a variety of fields. These features make it an ideal platform from which to explore the power, promise, and pitfalls of complexity modeling in the social sciences.”
Stated simply, a standing ovation is at the end of a lecture, presentation or performance (stage or athletic) certain members of the audience stand up and clap for a long(er) duration, which leads to other audience members doing the same. While a 10 year old might be able to explain what it is (mine did); why it happens, is another issue altogether. The reason this phenomenon is intriguing in the context of Social Business, is because there is a Social Media equivalent to the phenomenon . Actually, there might be more than one. Via Facebook, Twitter and Buzz, we make public proclamations of likes and dislikes. Whether is a good or bad experience with a company which we make make public or an article or YouTube video which we Retweet. Within an organization, this type of ‘public’ opinion are certainly commonplace, now more than ever.
What are the components, and who are the Actors?
From a systems perspective, Use Case modeling may not work all that well, but I could not pass on giving it a shot. Though trying to ascribe mathematics to SOP, modeling is required: “In modeling the SOP, one must explicitly account for many aspects of social interaction. Here, we shall discuss just three: the spread of information, the timing of events, and the behavior of the agents.” (to simplify, I will treat an agent as a person in the SOP). Is the author talking about SOP, or could it be Twitter, Google Buzz or Facebook? I believe that there are definitely social media equivalents, therefore understanding why these events occur is worthwhile.
I am not a marketer by trade, nor a social scientist, but the picture in my mind of the audience, is very similar to how Twitter is organized, maybe Facebook or Buzz, not sure. In the real world, we are all there to watch something, our interests are close enough that we came to the same event. We may or may not be ‘friends’ with the people in the audience. We might be very much in alignment with some members of the audience, though not sitting next to them. How does this relate to articles we read, videos watched or experiences we have, which are then forwarded or shared?
While I might actually know some of the others in the audience, for the most part I would suggest that I am not heavily influenced by them, with one exception. In a pure social sense, if everyone begins to stand and I do not, then I it might be ‘awkward’. Social Media has its equivalents as well. I might be trying to both impress (a Retweet), influence others AND there is less of an ‘awkwardness’ if I do nothing. This is referred to as simply conformity, however, this is not too interesting, but does occur. There is also an interesting difference between the people at the front of the theater, and those at the back. Those at the front are not influenced by others (they cannot see them), while those at the back can see everyone else. The analogy to Twitter would be people with lots of followers and those with fewer. This simple concept could be a whole post in and of itself.
Get with the flow, audiences exist within the enterprise as well.
The paper has a nice section on mathematical theories. The suggestion is that by using the SOP as a “backdrop” many different agendas can be addressed. These might include information aggregation, conformity and information cascades (I think of information flows). As practitioners, vendors, consultants and influencers expanding horizons and pushing back on businesses who claim “we are unique” just a little, is important to help them grow. A deeper understanding of why people – peers – act or react in certain way when new ideas are presented. As businesses work hard to become social, what are the impacts to other groups and departments as the silos are broken down?
Will you be the first to stand, sending a strong signal, when an idea is presented? Are you at the back of the theater, or the front (Leader or Follower)? The comment about being awkward is interesting as well, as one can be awkward in the beginning, by being the first to ’stand’, while it may be equally awkward at the other end to be the only one sitting. In an enterprise, if you are the first to stand then you are taking a risk, no? If you are the last to stand, then you might be taking a different kind of risk, yes?
Without diving into the mathematics, it is a little tough to do justice to the sections regarding information cascades. My reasoning for even addressing them at all, is that an understanding of the social dynamics within the company/enterprise are important. Within a theater, a person can send a limited number of signals, stand, sit and applause. Within a company, you can send these as well as many others. Even in the public timeline, you are able to send extra signals. Studies show that words such as “Great”, “Read” and “Loved” enhance the Retweeting of something, most often pointing at some form of content.
Where does that leave us, is there a conclusion?
The model and this discussion would certainly need to be extended, but the social aspects of an enterprise cannot be ignored. Words such as ‘transparency’ and ‘open’ mean that more and more people are making their opinions known in a very public way. This will change the culture within an organization. My sharing this blog, and the research behind it is a way of suggesting that the foundational research may already be there, if we look around a bit.
Here are a few of the conclusions reached by the authors. The fun question is how do these relate to a Social Business?
- Most people might be standing, even though they do not necessarily agree with the extra praise offered by a standing ovation;
- There is a greater pressure to conform, which leads less “efficient of information”. Could this be considered group think problems?;
- People in the front may “have a large impact”. Is this the follower count issue? Just because you are in front, are you smarter?
There are lots of interesting places to take this type of conversation. I am inclined to ask some friends very specific topics, but will wait to see if people find this line of thinking interesting. Are there other areas we can all learn from this type of application of research to the ‘Social’ world? I am a firm believer that we all need to reach out and learn from other disciplines. Basic, sound research can be applied so many ways. What do you think. Have I gone astray….?
That is the title, I am sticking to it, but I do not really like it. The title should be “Who I have discovered because of Twitter”. A slight bit of ‘who I am’ might be in order, to make my point. I tend to take a more pragmatic, with a dash of logic, approach to most things. Even my kids are acutely aware of this point… Recently, my oldest (18) noted to the youngest (9), during a father daughter ‘conversation’: “Watch out Emma, dad just went logical on you, you have no chance”.
Twitter is anything but logical or pragmatic, defining exactly what it is depends upon who you are and what you do. Many have noted that personal acceptance of Twitter (as useful) may take a while, and may be a little steep (and you may not get there). Considering the value I place on my time (work life balance and all that), I look back and I am a little surprised I made it through…
Since Venessa Miemis started the trend topic, I figured I would quote her, to start (a Tweet): “imagine twitter as the collective ideas & knowledge of everyone on planet. trick is to build ur network so u can access it” So, with that as my backdrop, I prefer to talk about ‘Who’, not ‘What’, there is a chance that ‘How’ will enter the conversation as well. The members of the network have had a greater impact on how I use the application. It is possible that an interesting outcome might be what I have discovered, but that is for you to decide.
The list (of who) is not huge, but the broad spectrum (background, location, interests) of cool people is impressive. The type and level of engagement runs from people I already knew, but I learned a whole lot of new stuff about them, to people I had never met, and I doubt I would have! I have been fortunate enough to turn 140 characters into dinners, drinks, social breakfasts, blogs, comments, business, questions, answers, collaboration. It sounds a bit like community, as @ekolsky notes in his post
Twitter is a community. Shocking, I know. There are no forums or ideas or structure (well, you could try hashtags — it worked very well for the #SCRM Accidental Community), but it is a community. I wrote about this a couple of times. The main difference, and the great part about it, is that each person gets to build and mold their own community
From a geographic perspective, I have met dozens of people who live in my own backyard (Burlington, VT) to regions far an wide. I have been lucky enough to begin collaboration projects with great minds from Virginia to California, and London to Bangalore (noting Amsterdam and Paris fit in there somehow). Which by the way, leads me to my favorite Twitter description, Mark Tamis @MarkTamis – A “Parisian Dutchman with Enterprise 2.0 and BPM background. Management Facilitator. Excited by potential of Social CRM as an organisational change agent!”
To further help the point hit home, I was hit by a little bit of writers block, and noted to Esteban last evening (through Skype, the next ‘what have you discovered’ post) “I promised myself I was no longer going to write about Twitter”. I went on further and said, “I am unhappy with what I have written. I may or may not post on the topic – I am going to stick to Social CRM” – Yep, an excuse. Unable to get a good nights sleep, I awoke to find that both Esteban and Wim Rampen (@wimrampen) – one of the great minds who I have been lucky enough to become friends and learn a great deal from – wrote his post (excellent Wim) earlier than me there are points which warrant repeating here, no need to reinvent the wheel.
..it has been Social Networking in the fourth dimension. It has brought me new friends, connections, thoughts, insights and ideas in a pace I could not have thought possible as little as one year ago.
You could say that I cheated a bit and borrowed from some like minded folks who, by virtue of living 5 or 6 timezones earlier allowed me the luxury of taking a peek at what they wrote first. Uh er, wait, Esteban live 3 timezones behind me, oh well, he does not sleep anyway. Based on some other types of interactions, I may put a motion on the table to rename the “Accidental Community” to the “Sleepless Community”. But, I digress… The key point is that Twitter has allowed me to expand my horizons, learn, collaborate and engage. Is that a ‘What’ or a ‘Who’ I guess I am not really sure.
I feel a bit guilty in not sharing more specifics on the many many folks who have influenced my thinking as of late. I suppose the list is longer than I thought, a good thing.
Have a Twitter story to share? Please do so on our own blog or in the comments . Don’t forget to tweet the link and tag it #MonTwit
I am not a Social Media Guru nor an expert in Social Engagement. That said, I do spend a fair amount of time working through the issues related to these topics, as they relate to Customer Relationship Management. In a sense, I am a customer of the many folks who are more knowledgeable in Social Media, and Engagement. Learning, so I can bridge the gap. I guess you could say I am an unsatisfied customer. So, I figured I would put the shoe on the other foot, and blog about it!
I find it curious that the very people who are constantly talking to us, telling us to engage are not practicing what they preach. This is of course not true of everyone, and I would be remiss in not pointing out those who have day jobs, many many followers yet somehow manage to engage. The ones I am not happy with, seem rather full of themselves, using Twitter as a bullhorn, not a conversation tool (“look at me, read my blog”). I am not talking about the spammers, nor the ‘follow me and make $10M’ folks. I am talking about the ones who talk about engagement, yet forget to practice it.
It Can Be Done!
My favorite answer to the fabled “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Is: “To prove to squirrels and skunks it can be done” So, with that in mind, I would prefer to share those that are truly impressive and engaging, first, to prove to the others that – It can be done!
Anne Handley – @MarketingProfs – I met Anne once (face-to-face, the old fashioned way), at a Tweetup in little ole Burlington, Vermont – Very gracious, smart and a offers a whole lot of value, in her own writing and those that she suggests. Every once in a while I will reply to Anne, ask a quick question – Anne responds, engages, asks me what I think. Wow, impressive – really! with 50k people following I am honestly impressed.
Jeremiah Owyang – @jowyang – I have never had the pleasure of meeting Jeremiah. But he puts out some really great content. Oh, and he responds, willing to admit when he is not 100% correct (he is usually close though!). He engages and practices what he preaches, open and transparent – again impressive. He responds to comments on his blog posts as well, all this takes time, but Jeremiah engages – again, over 50k.
There are certainly others, lots for sure. Please feel free to point out the ones who you think do it right – please, they deserve it! I have debated whether or not to call people out by name who are not as engaging, actually, not even close to engaging.
In the end, it is far more important to recognize those whom I believe do it right, than to call out those that do not. Those that do not, you are starting to act a little like spammers. Before you say “it is hard I have 25k follows I cannot respond”, take a look at the two examples above. You might recognize yourself here, then I have done some good, Until then, you have lost serious Whuffie in my book…
Funny thing is this was started by a Tweet, which I responded to and never heard back on, oh well. Am I wrong? Let me know your thoughts.
I was fortunate this past week to be able to attend a Cloud conference put on by the 451 Group, down in Boston. While I have fine tuned my focus during the past year, less on the infrastructure side, and more on the business application side, this was time well spent. I believe that from a maturation – ability to offer measurable business value – perspective, Cloud, Open Source, Social and Enterprise 2.0 are growing up together. Sometimes they act more like siblings during a long car ride, suffering from “Are we there yet” and “Look at me, look at me”.
Even given my slightly different focus, I do try to stay true to the brief description I have on Twitter, “I am passionate about the intersection of people, process and technology”. Luckily, SugarCRM, where I currently hang my hat, sits right in the middle of that that triple witching point:
- People/Ecosystem – Customers, Employees and Partners,
- Process – Who speaks, When they say, How to engage, What channel,
- Technology – Open Source, Clouds, SaaS, Social (Yes, Social is technology)
Just because you can, does it mean you should?
Ok, now to the point – my theory is that the technology has made it is just too easy to do make bad choices – a crazy, maybe, silly statement, but tell me I am wrong – I dare you. There is a place and a time for the Nike moment – “Just do it” and then there is the ‘take time and think about what you are about to do’. What is the correct balance? Just because you can, does it mean you should? Some are probably saying that about this blog at the moment.
Back in the day (sorry, I love that phrase, my 18yo pulls it on me all the time), when you wanted to get something done, you had to do the ole ‘budget justification’, think through it, present to senior team members – Yes, ask for money, too! Part of this was also a required “Check with IT, I am not sure what you want to do is part of the standard”. This last one was especially hard for the Open Source applications. Combine a pent up demand, economic pressures, getting tired of the perception of IT blocking progress with SaaS, Cloud and Online Social Media channels – and it is a perfect storm and excuse to just IGNORE the IT dept.
So, before anyone beats me up too much, this is not what I am suggesting, just saying what happens, what I have seen happen and the end result. I have seen many companies take the route of using SaaS – Take a Look at Phil Wainewright’s Blog He talks to Conformity – An interesting company who has the business model to help clean up this mess, but I am not going to deep here, just a reference to justify this post.
My key point is that it all just to dam easy. The ease of spending $20 to get a server in the cloud – yes, I said $20, standing up a system, setting up a blog, putting together a YouTube account, FaceBook group, Newsletter, Forums, Chat, Twitter. Awesome, let’s hope all the choices are successful, lots of people, lots of prospects, lots of eyeballs – Maybe some customers too. That would be great, right? Way too many times, I have heard the statement – “Hey that would be a great problem to have” – Really? Unless of course it is your problem to solve. Remember, once you are on a channel it is much harder to leave.
I do have to ‘tip-toe’ a bit, after all I do work for SugarCRM. A company that does make it very easy to get started, and take advantage of a structured CRM application. I am all for making things easy, but job one is success! I also believe this is much more prevalent with respect to Social Media applications – too many people saying “Just do it”. Is anything really free, no, as people and time are the most expensive part of running a business.
I am suggesting that a little bit of planning – just a little – is time well spent – Just sayin’
Because Twitter helps customers solve problems and they can vent – there a simple answer. But, the current approach will not scale!
I believe the following statement to be true:
The need to broadcast a problem to the world would not be necessary if the customer had confidence that their issue would be solved timely and to their satisfaction.
There are lots of and lots of good reasons to broadcast, this post is not about all those good reasons: Co-Creation, Innovation, Community, Collaboration, to name a few. This post is also not about Service Communities like Lithium and Helpstream, Parature and others. While not about them, they might be part of the solution.
Using Twitter for support masks a larger issue. Therefore I believe the following also to be true:
If your customers are trying to get your attention on Twitter to solve a specific ‘me only’ problem, your processes are either horribly inefficient, broken or you have product issues.
Twitter is not SocialCRM. Twitter is immediate gratification meets CRM
There are lots of companies who are taking the opportunity to try and make things right, by watching for issues on Twitter and helping those in need. Unfortunately, this also promotes bad behavior, let me paint a mental picture:
In order to get your cable box fixed you needed to go down to the local service provider office. It just so happens that you have your 5 yo daughter in tow. The drive is 20 minutes, you figure the line should not be too bad – ooops, wrong, you need to stand in line for an hour or more. While in line, after 1/2 hour the person who just came in the door starts to yell really loudly about poor service.
In the real world, we all know what would happen (or what should happen anyway). The person yelling would be asked to quiet down, or leave. This would be done nicely of course, but that is what would happen. Right? How do you suppose it would go over if after the second ‘rant’, the best technician in the company walked over and opened up a new station at the counter, and called that individual over, fixed their problem, then left? <rhetorical>
But, this is exactly what happens on Twitter, day in and day out. No scenario or metaphor can perfectly represent the Twitter scenario in real world. Are Twitter users playing the system or cheating the system? Or simply taking advantage? I am aware of the United video (this fits into the broken category), as well as some really great uses of help and support, like Best Buy.
Companies who are responding well are putting the best and brightest Customer Support people in the role of Marketing and Support, and calling them Support. They have a direct line to anyone who can help solve your problem. This will work for a while, maybe even a year or two – but then everyone will have the secret number – and we will yell and scream, but still be stuck in the queue. Support communities may very well help here – but not for all industries, company sizes or geographies.
The key is turning the data into information and turning the information into insights, then the insights into action. When this really gets mature 3-5 years, we will be able to predict – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As the Twitter user population grows as well as Facebook and others, the call center and help desk models will simply not be able to scale. Organizations use predictive models to determine staffing and there only so many ‘A’ players (the ones the vendors are using to filter and watch Twitter).
Take the opportunity to learn and figure out what is broken or wrong, and fix it. In order to learn, you need to put processes in place to learn. Am I wrong?
- Rethinking the Customer Journey
- The Simplest Thing I Ever Had to Write
- Context Integration, the Future of System to System Interactions
- The Evolution of Customer Community
- The Fine Line Between Personalization and Creepy
- Experience Innovation
- Maybe We are Using the Wrong Words to Describe Collaboration
- Enterprise Customer Experience, A Convergence
- Context, the Difference between Information and Knowledge
- Who is the Clutch Player on your Team?
- RT @rhappe: Great TED video & example of #cmgr creating behavior change: Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LA. http://t.co/8… 2 days ago
- Interesting conversation with @Brandthropology this morning. The customer data path is really important #VTExpo 2 days ago
- A Leader’s Test: Balancing Drive and Compassion wearewatermark.org/blog/member-sp… #Leadership #CEO #Startup #CX 3 days ago
- support.vtcarcommunity.com/vtcars/topics/… #Vermont #Driving 5 tips for safe Winter driving, share yours! 3 days ago
- TheVarGuy with @lmaugustin think about the future of #SugarCRM thevarguy.com/business-techn… #CRM 3 days ago
- Known Issue: Subscriber Counts and Stats 3/18-3/20 March 21, 2013
- Known Issue: Subscriber Counts and Stats September 21, 2012
- CRM and IIW #futureofwork October 30, 2011
- How 'content curators' are connecting consumers | Changing Advertising Summit | guardian.co.uk October 21, 2011
- Facebook friend tally is associated with differences in brain structure | Science | #futureofwork October 19, 2011
- Strategic Ambiguity « Mitch Lieberman – A title would limit my thoughts October 19, 2011
- One on One: Jeff Jarvis, Author of 'Public Parts' | #futureofwork October 18, 2011
- Fly Fishing in Facebook | thinkJar October 18, 2011
- 'Creepy' Path Intelligence retail technology tracks shoppers | #futureofwork October 14, 2011
- 7 Secrets About Social Media Users, Revealed October 14, 2011
- Facebook: the Law Says You Can't Have Your Data October 13, 2011
- Are Workers Too Productive? #futureofwork October 11, 2011
- Companies Adopt Gaming Techniques to Motivate Employees - WSJ.com #futureofwork October 11, 2011
- LinkedIn Acquires Social CRM Company Connected - Forbes October 6, 2011
- 3 Ways to Use Social Network Analysis for Marketing | #FutureOfWork October 6, 2011