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Archive for the ‘Email’ Category

Do Customers Want or Use Social Channels for Service?

May 11, 2012 1 comment

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.

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A Healthy Diet of Email

January 5, 2012 1 comment

Here is the question: How does Email communication fit into your 2012 corporate diet? Specifically, is there such a thing as a healthy diet of Email? Within your organization do you encourage email use, discourage it or leave well enough alone and go with the flow?

I know some would like this to be a really simple answer, but it isn’t. With New Years resolutions top of mind (back to the gym, lose weight and all that), if someone asked you to associate Email to a food group, which one would it be? How about: “Email is the carbohydrate of the corporate diet”. We could say that there are good carbs and bad, right? We could easily talk about reducing carbs, but not getting rid of them completely (Atkins anyone?). Many (corporate) citizens are addicted to email (and M&Ms), clutching their mobile devices in cars, meetings and trains, turning them on instantly when their plane lands, wondering (hoping?) if someone sent them something very important.

We could label Email to be Fats (Think Burgers, Fries and Ice Cream). Again, there are some good, necessary, fats as well. We could talk about Email weighing us down and clogging our arteries (disrupting the flow) some even causing our blood pressure to rise. Does Email help or hinder the information flow in the modern corporation? Every once in a while, something awesome comes along in Email, just when you were ready to toss it. Ice Cream, for example; ah now there is something to sink my teeth into! I would love to be blind-copied on a Ben and Jerry’s delivery, wouldn’t you? (Blind copying, by the way, is the devil, never do it, it will come back to haunt you I promise).

Email is definitely not protein – Hard Stop.

As you can tell, I have been doing a fair bit of thinking regarding Email (communications in general really) and the impact on my day-to-day world. Maybe I have been thinking too much about food as well. My conclusion is that for all the power it provides, Email is the single biggest necessary evil that exists in the modern technological world. Try as we might, we are not going to get rid of it, even internally, not for a while, too many people use it, like it and that is that. Our kids will be having the exact same conversation in 20 years – tell me I am wrong.

Email for Companies of all Sizes

The framing of the conversation about email has changed in the past few years and will change some more; email, has split into a channel with multiple purposes, maybe even multiple sub-channels. In other words, the problem will get worse before it gets better. At the moment, here is an incomplete list the different personalities of email:

1 – A messaging / notification channel – Alerts, reminders, very simple, not really 2-way communications; “Honey, pick-up some milk on the way home”

2 – A (mis) communication / conversation channel – This is that multi-person, let’s talk email, with threads hard to decipher.

3 – An information / marketing channel – Here, read all of this great stuff I aggregated just for you!

4 – The best way 90% of the population know how to share a file – Within the corporation, this is getting better – but we are a long way from solving the problem.

5 – The ‘I have lost my password’ recovery channel – With the number of sites we all use, come-on admit it, this is a once a week use case for you.

6 – The ’10 best ways to get the best use of this new all social platform’ message/aggregation

For those of you who have Gmail, this is basically what it is now. The filter allows us to put the important messages up top; those are usually the communication type of messages. These are conversations, usually with people or contacts of some importance. The messaging channel often lives up on top of the heap as well, especially this time of year. These are short notifications; maybe an SMS type message or an order confirmation. The actual length of the message might be a little longer, but the essences is that of a short notification, with supporting data. Finally, it is what people use to share files – there in lies its greatest strength and its greatest weakness – and why we cannot seem to stop using it.

So, What is all the fuss about?

The core issue is that the channel is misused and often abused. Email is a lousy collaboration tool, but the use of email for collaboration is extremely high, much higher than people want to admit and certainly higher than it should be. This is the area where people would like the predictions to come true. Sometime this past week, I sent out a note on Twitter where I challenged myself to reduce my personal use of email by 50%. Some of my network peers challenged me back asking what if a prospect wants to email me; or all prospects want to use email? Well, the answer of course is that will certainly not be a problem, I will use email as the channel that my customers want to use.

Going back to my point above that Email is really going to be further split into multiple channels, no question. Do not confuse the technology with the functional job getting done. Let me ask a question, if I am looking at something in an email client, does that really mean that I am using email? If you read a Twitter DM using the Twitter interface, then it is just that a DM, but what if you read it using Gmail (like I do?) Does that make it an Email. The key point is that for the next number of years, we are each going to find our own balance, we will all be different, and it will change quickly. Many platforms start with email notification, hoping to drop them and keep you within the platform (think Facebook, Twitter). Some of the best, latest and greatest social (CRM) platforms have begun to use email to encourage usage (Nimble, Linkedin).

Why is Email such a challenge?

My point was reinforcedrecently, regarding the complexities of email and the need to consider best use. A long email is like someone talking for 3-5 minutes, going through multiple points, often building upon each other without the opportunity to ask questions and request clarification.  We have all read (or most have anyway) that emotion does not translate in email. What about culture, that is completely lost in many more ways than emotion. The approach someone takes to communication of an idea or concept might simply turn people off (which I have seen). If the email goes on and on and the reader stops – that is a problem, no?

Another example is something as simple as trying to coordinate a flight and schedules. In my mind I had communicated what needed to be done, and what the potential issues were going to be. The recipient responded with some thoughts and ideas that did not align with the potential issues – they were issues. Who has the problem here? Me, not really a question. In the end, it is the perception of what was communicated not the design (sounds like customer service now). The answer was simply to pick-up the phone, problem solved.

BTW – You cannot answer just one email, you have to go through the whole list, I mean have you ever tried eating just one M&M?

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.

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