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A Conversation with a Friend

February 26, 2011 2 comments

Earlier this week, I was able to catch-up with friend Graham Hill via Skype.  Before you get too far, this is not an interview style post. This is an extension of the sharing of ideas to a broader audience. I first met Graham, in person, about two years ago, his insights into CRM, Design Thinking, Innovation, Co-Creation and a broad variety of both business and technical topics is simply awesome. We touched on many different topics, and true to form, after the call, Graham shared links and resources, which I thought would be worthwhile to share beyond just our conversation. I do have a lot of reading to do, that is for sure! We did spend a fair bit of time talking about SMS as well, in relation to some research I am currently working on – post forthcoming.

First a new approach / framework for requirements gathering with a focus on the agent/user call the i* Framework. The framework takes a new approach to designing systems based on how work is done and how value flows through work systems. Graham was passionate about this particular framework and it sounds very interesting and valuable to designing systems.

The i* framework conceives of software-based information systems as being situated in environments in which social actors relate to each other in terms of goals to be achieved, tasks to be performed, and resources to be furnished. The i* Framework proposes an agent-oriented approach to requirements engineering centering on the intentional characteristics of the agent.  Agents attribute intentional properties (such as goals, beliefs, abilities, commitments) to each other and reason about strategic relationships.  Dependencies between agents give rise to opportunities as well as vulnerabilities.  Networks of dependencies are analyzed using a qualitative reasoning approach.  Agents consider alternative configurations of dependencies to assess their strategic positioning in a social context. The framework is used in contexts in which there are multiple parties (or autonomous units) with strategic interests which may be reinforcing or conflicting in relation to each other.  Examples of such contexts include: business process redesign, business redesign, information systems requirements engineering, analyzing the social embedding of information technology, and the design of agent-based software systems.

The Second link which references the part of our conversation which touched on Value Networks and Collaboration. A new approach to modeling collaboration within an organization.

Work life is completely changing as social networking and collaboration platforms allow a more human-centric way of organizing work. Yet work design tools, structures, processes, and systems are not evolving as rapidly, and in many cases are simply inadequate to support the new flexible and networked ways of working.

Value Networks and the true nature of collaboration meets this challenge head on with a systemic, human-network approach to managing business operations and ecosystems. Value network modeling and analytics provide better support for collaborative, emergent work and complex activities.

Third – We both get a bit passionate when relationships within the business world end-up being unequal. The following talks about companies are managing customers for value over their whole lifecycle, not just at sales touchpoints. This topic is particularly important to me at the moment in my new role. Here is the link (It is an HBR article and is a PDF)

Companies have powerful technologies for understanding and interacting with customers, yet most still depend on mass media marketing to drive impersonal transactions. To compete, companies must shift from pushing individual products to building long-term customer relationships.

The marketing department must be reinvented as a “customer department” that replaces the CMO with a chief customer officer, makes product and brand managers subservient to customer managers, and oversees customer-focused functions including R&D, customer service, market research, and CRM.

Any conversation between two passionate people within the CRM domain, which did not spend just a few minutes talking about loyalty, would be a missed opportunity. Thus, true to form we spent a few minutes talking on the topic, with more reading for me on the topic! The following is an excerpt from another PDF, this time from the Economist, shared by Adobe and of course, part II (also a PDF).

Most companies today face a two-fold dilemma. In many product and service categories, competition based on both price and quality is increasing. Customers, faced with so many good choices, are making decisions based on a variety of complex factors. Even in business-to-business sales a similar dynamic is evident, as loyalty and relationships play less and less of a role in many contracts.

In this environment, the enterprise interested in winning, retaining and deepening customer relationships can no longer do so simply by creating a better product or even by holding down costs. For many companies, both strategies are essential simply to stay in the game. Increasingly, executives are finding that the winning differentiator is no longer the product or the price, but the level of engagement—the degree to which a company succeeds in creating an intimate long-term relationship with the customer or external stakeholder.

Sharing thoughts, information and resources is how we all learn and get smarter. Graham has a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience. In a social world where too many people are trying to replace experience with book knowledge, Graham strikes a great balance (with more of both, than most) – and most important, he is willing to share. As you can probably gather, we touched on lots of different topics and and the discussion was quite enjoyable. I am looking forward to our next conversation, and getting together with Graham in NYC this summer – Enjoy!

Building Bridges

September 25, 2010 1 comment

This post is a collaborative effort, not interview style, nor highlighting individual perspectives. While attending the VRM+CRM conference, we decided that if we were really going to build a bridge, it needed to be done together. Lauren Vargas and Mitch Lieberman

There has been a lot of talk, ‘he said she said’ unproductive sort of talk with respect to the different perspectives people take when talking about new technologies, buzzwords or business themes. There have even been some attempts to try and show people the other side, their perspective, the dark side (nope, not saying which is which!). We had the opportunity to spend a few days in Boston, at the VRM + CRM summit and decided we would try and do our part. The image below speaks so well to the issue at hand. The Flipper Bridge (part of the in-construction Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, link below) connects Hong Kong; where they drive on the left, with mainland China; where they drive on the right. Our goal here is not to talk about the differences, left or right, right or wrong, but what it will take to reach business harmony. We are not expecting people to join hands and join in singing a rendition of kumbaya, but different departments (sales, marketing, support) along with vendors, consultants and partners working together to understand each other and place the needs of the customers above petty in-fighting.

When you go to a meeting to state your position about a product, are you carefully listening your own words from the perspective audience? Are you considering what others could bring to the table, how they might approach the situation, problem, objective? What is great about the picture above, is that it not only needs to help drivers get across; pragmatism, but the bridge needs to put the drivers on the correct side of the road, safety. If the architects and designers did not consider the perspective of the drivers on the other side, this project would have failed. We know that seems obvious, but we believe in your daily work lives, the issues are equally obvious.

VRM + CRM Taught Us a Few Things

We each had the opportunity to attend the VRM+CRM conference hosted by Doc Searls and a few others at the Berkman Center.  Our attendance was an explicit gesture by the VRM leaders to reach out to the CRM side of the house and implicitly state ‘we can try to solve this on our own, or we can do it together.’  CRM is Customer Relationship Management, while VRM is Vendor Relationship Management. To some, they are mirror images, to others, they are hand-in-glove. One thing became clear, to move forward they need eachother.

VRM + CRM illustrated that this is not a problem unique to CRMers, marketers, PR folks and technologists. Having the opportunity to be a part of the work that is happening in the social business space is extremely invigorating. However, as hard and as much we push for faster development and evolution, we need to juggle the hats of a historian and an anthropologist. It is important to know where we have been, the mistakes made and lessons learned that have occurred over time, before we can progress to successful future. And in this future, it is essential we progress with caution and learn about the new developments and behaviors that have become reality in this online dimension. Bottom line, we need to understand the basics of history and current business functions before we can rush full speed ahead. Without such perspective, we risk jumping the shark and the maturity growth of our own industry and customers.

Can you put yourself in their shoes? Are the buzzwords, acronyms and terms helping or getting in the way? Acronyms and industry lingo were established to define processes within our specific business functions, but when carried to the extreme, such terms box us in and limit growth. We become so caught up in the term we have coined, we are oblivious to the walls we have build up around us and exclude others from experiencing the term as we do or exploring it in depths we could not. Throughout history there has not been one word or function that all people have agreed upon or experienced the same way. Diversity in thought and definition is how we evolve. This should be no different in business evolution. We are not advocating the extreme abolishment of acronyms and industry lingo, but encouraging all to be open and accepting of other interpretations, as well as, stepping outside our own comfort zone and learning the terminology and context surrounding other business functions within the organization and industry.

Let’s Lead By Example

We are all trying to accomplish the same thing. Goals and Objectives are the same (or they should be). You (company) cannot solve this problem in the best way possible without help and input from all sides. Your customers come in all shapes, sizes, gender. They have different needs, and they offer different perspectives, shouldn’t you do the same? We need to keep in mind each department within our organization, just as our customers, will adopt social business functions at different speeds. Sniping at each other about definitions and roles of responsibility will not replace the need to put theory into practice. A culture shift is evident, but it does not occur overnight. It is essential we each support the discovery process of our sister departments or industries. It is only in this collaborative approach we can truly see what will succeed and fail without being at the expense of our customers or community.

Fast Company wrote a piece on the flipper bridge, as did Wikipedia.The flipper bridge, as far as we can tell is being built, but the facts are not completely clear to me. That said, it makes our point quite nicely!

A Social Business Power Nap

August 13, 2010 1 comment

I could not help myself, apologies to Dion and the rest of the folks at Dachis, you do great work, the title just sort of came to me. The driver for the title, and for this post, is Dion’s post The 2010 Social Business Landscape. I do want to thank Dion and the rest of his team, you came really close to getting it right (I am not going to be so bold as to call it wrong).  I am not really a purist, but I am sticking to Paul Greenberg’s definition for Social CRM and Andrew McAfee’s definition for Enterprise 2.0. For Social Media itself, I am sticking to “Social Media is a set of technologies and channels targeted at forming and enabling a potentially massive community of participants to productively collaborate”.

In the post, Dion references his previous thoughts to help redefine Enterprise 2.0 (just a little). Here, he shares with the readers, that Enterprise 2.0 as the freeform social tools in the workplace, with a concentration on developing solutions to achieve specific business objectives. Great, I am all about achieving business objectives. Wait, what freeform tools are we talking about? Dion also warns the readers, suggesting that we focus way too much on the tools, organizational change and new collaborative approaches, instead of focusing on the business problems.

Close but no Cigar #1: How can Enterprise 2.0 be the furthest element to the right, if none of the supporting technical elements (along the Enterprise axis) are close to the same level of adoption?

Looking at the charts is interesting, it might even valuable to some. But how does understanding this chart help ‘Me’? Not me, as in Mitch, me as in a business. We all have jobs to do, how does understanding this chart, even with the description help me to get my job done? As I was writing this post, at this spot, Jon Ferrara referenced, via twitter, this post on Forbes

“Just developing tools doesn’t mean everyone will use them, and certainly not always for the intended purpose. When Edison invented the magnetic recording disk he thought the main use would be for business dictation rather than music recording.”

The point it makes to me is that in order for customers to make sense of how we plan to put these tools to use, we better tell them the value of the tool. It matters to some that others have adopted them, but why and how are much more important.

Close but no Cigar #2: Putting concepts like Crowdsourcing, Social Location and Social ECM on a picture without really (sorry the ‘blurbs’ do not cut it)  describing the business problem each is solving adds confusion, not clarity.

Just a quick note before I hit my last topic – I just do not understand the Cloud/SaaS v On-Premise Overlay at all. I will post that particular one on the base post. Seems artificial and unnecessary, IMHO.

The Social CRM Afterthought

Saving the best for last, the miss here gets the rest of the box (of Cigars). As I noted above, I am sticking to Paul’s definition of Social CRM. If we can get past the slight of Social CRM being the only topic on the image without a ‘blurb’ in the post, then we can really dive into the topic.

Social Media Monitoring, Social Media Marketing, Customer Communities, Crowdsourcing, Mobile Social, Crisis Management are all extensions of standard CRM – why, because the help businesses go from inside-out to outside-in and focus on the needs of their customers. We need to listen, learn and engage our customers, we are not just managing them anymore (as if we ever did). I would agree that many of these disciplines are well into the adoption phase, as they have matured enough to actually solve business problems. If the companies actually have a business use for all of these technologies, then they in essence have begun to adopt Social CRM.

Further, as Paul mentions in another great post today, it does not matter what I call it, what matters is that I can help my customers solve a problem. We could (and should) take every core point of his post and exchange Social CRM with Social Business and re-post the entire article (yes, some of the facts and figures might just need some tweaking). I find it difficult to believe that the level of adoption of Enterprise 2.0 is as high as the picture suggests.

Customer Enablement Technology

If we really want to help people to figure this out, then we should pay attention to this recent post by Mark Tamis – Customer Enablement Technology. Here is my favorite part of the post:

“Although these approaches give us new ways to get to the Voice of Customer, In the age of scarcity we need to find new ways of creating value that go beyond creating value for the company alone, as Wim Rampen states here. The issue with VoC is that you are still looking through the lens of your company that has a particular colour. Rather than nurturing a collaborative relationship with customers, employees, and partners that feeds on itself and leads to the closest approximation of the desired outcome for all parties involved, there is a fair chance that idea&s and insights just get bounced around the walls of the company to either get lost in its meanders or come out looking quite different from what was actually needed.”

Friend and colleague Paul Sweeney commented on Mark’s post, which adds something that the Social Business folks really should focus on:

“What I really like is that customers need tools-methods-processes by which they can define how they wish to interact with your organisation. We are some way down that line, but its still very enterprise centric isn’t it? (In our company we refer to this approach as generating “edge processes” i.e. processes that don’t want to “look into the enterprise data/ systems” but which can enable / empower the customer by placing the processing, tools, and methodologies into the hands of the customer AND the enterprise user”.

I will leave with the final thought. The entire goal here are for business to create sustainable organizations. Ones where people like to work and customers like, value and appreciate the products and services offered. I will suggest that we spend more time helping companies to isolate the tools and components they need to accomplish their goals and less on definitions and generalities. If we focus on what our customers need to get done, and efficient methods to accomplish that, we will be good!

I am off now to take a nap, enjoy your day.

The Absence of Noise

In my previous post, I focused on Listening versus Hearing, a distinction I feel is very important, others seem to as well. Friend and colleague Scott Rogers expanded the thought to Listening versus Understanding. In his post, Scott relayed  the following; the dollar value the average person thought a minute of their time was worth comes to well over 3 times the national average income.  In other words, we must cherish the feedback customers give us, because it shows how much value it had to them to provide that feedback.

Customer feedback comes from those whose desire to give feedback exceeds the personal constraints for giving feedback – time, place, personality traits, etc

What about all the people who do not want to talk?

I am working hard to back into shape, so I have been getting up a little earlier and going out for a morning run. This morning was one of those classic Vermont mornings. A little crisp, but not too bad, very little wind and sun would duck behind some high puffy clouds every so often. It was really quiet, as well. During the run, I was actually thinking about what post I should write today. What I noticed was it was a little too quiet. I can usually see and hear the morning airplane traffic leaving from Burlington, headed to either NYC or Detroit. The reason is simple, and nothing to worry about. When the wind is out of the North, that is the direction the planes take off and not towards my neighborhood, thus it is quieter. But, the key point is that the planes were still flying, I just had to look a little harder to see or hear them.

We have all witnessed the never ending supply of blogs, articles, white papers (yeah, I am guilty) telling us to listen, engage and converse. What about those people who either have nothing to say, or do not want to spend the time, as it is not valuable to them. Or, all those people who are a little social, but are really hard to “engage”. In doing a little bit of research, the folks at ExactTarget always seem to put out fun and entertaining infographics, like this one:

Here is the thing with this particular graphic, and I might be reading WAY to much information into what is presented. I am not going to jump on the obvious, rather try to look at this from another perspective. One part that I believe people need to realize is that it is difficult to call email ‘engaging’. My comments with regard to engaging are to take my thoughts on listening over time, that is engagement. Email is not even hearing, it is talking, even a call to action is questionable, but I am sure I will get beat-up for that one.

Absence of Noise

If we were to think of this graphic as a classroom in grade school, would that help the conversation? The Subscribers are the ones paying attention, but not saying much. The fans are the kids paying attention most of the time, but they are doing some talking, you could say that they are more engaged. The followers, the ones on Twitter, are more interested in picking out the pieces they think are important, and honestly, talking more than listening. What is missing here? That percentage of the class who do not appear on this graphic. What percentage of the class is not represented, I am not sure, but it is likely a big number (40%, 80%+, anyone care to hazard a guess?)

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post  – Do Giraffes Make Noise – In the post I put forth some facts, which I think are worth repeating:

  • The average business does not receive complaints from 96% of its unhappy customers;
  • At least 9 out of 10 non-complainers will not do business with the company again – they are gone forever;
  • Of the 4% of unhappy customers that do complain, 7 out of 10 will do business again with the company so long as their concern in handled properly, and 19 out of 20 if the grievance is dealt with swiftly.

Another great meme, one that has crossed the Twitterverse and Blogosphere and back many times is that “you cannot manage it if you cannot measure it”. What exactly are we supposed to do if we cannot measure it? Is all lost? A lot of information – data which provides insight, is gathered by taking surveys, <shutter> NPS and other metrics. Are all of these data elements skewed? If the customers do not want to talk to us, then they do not want to talk to us. Is there evidence that suggests a breakdown of the people who do not answer surveys fit a particular demographic profile?  This is where doing things the right way, the way we used to do it remains critical to success.

Michael Maoz, from Gartner stated the following, just the other day:

Customers will tell us a lot. Let them ‘control’ the conversation, but do this by providing the guardrails, the train tracks, subtly. Your customers will like the transparency of you saying: “Hey all! We are supporting, aggressively, your conversations….Social CRM is different than Social Media or Social Networking in that it is highly intentional – focused on customer advocacy and excellence. Not conversations or engagement generally.

The great monitoring solutions available to us (like Attensity and Radian6) are additional elements which need to be used. Just as Social CRM is an additional element on top of CRM. Social Media monitoring is not a replacement for good practices. Whether they are customer care, customer service or customer support. Has the pendulum swung to far in your organization, to the point that you putting too much energy into looking at the Social elements? Do not get me wrong, I like where we are going, just want to make sure that we do not forget where we have been!

Social Hearing Versus Social Listening, There is a Difference

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).

Transparency Is A Characteristic, Not A Goal

I have been witnessing some strange things lately, not sure if you have noticed it too. For one, it is nearly 95 degrees outside, and I live in northern Vermont. I am not used to the heat; however the heat wave might be having a impact, making people do strange things. The strangeness I am witnessing is that people are nitpicking on every single word used or being contrarian, just to be contrarian (some blog reference guide suggests this is a good way to get page views). People suggest that if a word is used too much it is a buzzword. If it is used way too much it is hype. If you really go overboard (by buzzing the hype),  you have jumped the shark; “a moment of downturn for a previously successful enterprise” (a Happy Days reference, so it has to be cool).

The subject line of this post is something I tweeted earlier today. Actually, the whole Tweet was “Reputation is a goal, building Trust is a goal; Transparency is not goal, it is a path to each”. This was in response to a typical contrarian post, someone picking on the word, but this one bothered me. For starters, transparency is not a goal, it is a characteristic of a person or if you have a strong leader, an organization. I believe it is a very important characteristic, one that often leads to building trust and then a supporting element of a positive reputation. I take issue with selectively being transparent, you are or you are not. That does not mean that for security, competitive or privacy reasons, certain information does not need to be held close. Stating that certain things cannot be shared is transparent, as long as everyone is treated equally and it is stated.

When doing just the slightest bit of research today, I came upon a good post, which quoted The 2010 Edelman Global Trust Barometer:

For the first time trust and transparency rank as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services.  In fact, in the U.S. and in much of Western Europe, those two attributes rank higher than product quality and far outrank financial returns.

In other words, I am not making this up, this is real and you should probably pay attention. I could pick on the wording a little, as I did with my Tweet, and suggest the modest differentiation between trust and transparency. Trust is something earned. There are many things which go into earning it, and it trust is one of (maybe the core) the components which make up reputation. Many believe that transparency, the ability to witness with an unobstructed view, what is going on, helps organizations to build trust – maybe even more quickly. If I can witness how an organization treat others, for example, I may be willing to take a risk and ‘trust them’ sooner than if knew very little about them. Just for completeness, ‘open’ is not the same as transparency, open is one level deeper. Open suggests that I can not only see through the window, but I can walk through the front door and participate.

What led me to this post this week, in addition to what I mentioned above? The FastCompany influencer project, which I talked about in a previous post here. In addition to everything I talked about above. Is it possible to be influenced (positively) by someone who I do not trust? Is trust a binary thing – I do or I do not? For example, I can trust that you want to do the right thing, but that does not mean I trust you to do the right thing (just try getting in a car with a new driver). The topic of influence and trust are aligned, this is an area I hope to explore further, but it is not simple. I do know that Trust can be fragile, and gaining it takes work, but it can be gone in an instant.

Misplaced Focus, a Failure by Red Roof Inn

July 5, 2010 1 comment
I had the recent misfortune of spending a night at the Red Roof Inn, located in in Hurricane, West Virginia. The property is a dilapidated, unhealthy, don’t waste your money hotel property. Why then did I spend the night at all?  My son had the good fortune to make the Region 1 Soccer Championships, and the policy by Region 1 is that each team is required to stay at the assigned hotel, or be subject to a $500 fine. All travel arrangements need to be made through Certified Travel. In doing a little research, I did come upon a recent award won by the Red Roof Inn along with their design agency, “Top Honors at the Interactive Media Awards“. Per the subject line of my post, the emphasis is clearly in the wrong area. This is even more clear by the statement within the blog post (link above) talking about the website award:
“360i approached the redesign project with Red Roof Inn’s long-term strategic goals top of mind. In order to more fully understand the brand vision – and the persona of their customer base – we worked closely with the internal Red Roof Inn staff and utilized market research to ensure an optimal customer experience on the new site.”
I will say that the website is pretty nice. I will take the word of the agency, regarding the “increased engagement”, though I am not really sure what that means. There are no humans there, so it must mean more time spent on the site. They also point to “higher conversion rates across the brand’s search marketing campaigns” (reservations I am assuming). I wonder what will happen as more web savvy travelers do stay at the properties and see what they are really like. Be careful what you wish for, a web savvy person (like me) will take the “brand” to task if Expectations are not met, which they most certainly were not.

This post is NOT the opinion of just one Person

Even before entering the property, the group (16 soccer players and families) was concerned. The rating for the property were not very good, but we were stuck (Certified Travel??). The quality of the hotel was “verified” by Certified Travel, as the tournament brings in $12M to the local economy during a 5 day period, so they try to raise the bar for this week at least, oops, a failure there too:
  • Non-smoking rooms were rank with smoke – “We have a lot of construction workers, we do our best” front desk clerk.
  • Mold and cigarette burns in the bathrooms
  • The beds, well, not even going to go there….
  • Cars on jacks, for days on end (members of the team could not move from the location I went back for 2-3 days)
  • Drunks wandering the property, literally staggering around.
These are athletes, who chose to sleep in the car (some parents did as well). So, the question remains, did 360i meet their goal or the strategic goal of their client, or that of the brand: “a more efficient and engaging digital destination for web-savvy and cost-conscious travelers”? Probably, the digital destination was ok, too bad the real life one was not. The question is what is Red Roof Inn going to do about this? I say nothing, they do not really care, that is my experience with the brand, in real life. If you are going to go up-market with the brand, you better make sure it is ready for it, no?
For me, the brand of Red Roof Inn is tied to this agency. Did anyone from the agency actually stay at a Red Roof Inn (what about the team?) Survey’s and statistics are great, but first person is better. As for Certified Travel, I will be talking to them as well, as I love this line from their website: “Our leveraged negotiating position means lower group hotel rates ” – the rate we paid, was more than the locally advertised rate. Oops…

CRM in the age of the Social Web

June 18, 2010 1 comment

I was invited to give a talk in Montreal this past week, by SugarCRM , which coincided with my attendance and participation at Enterprise 2.0 in Boston. I also had also just released a Guide to Understanding Social CRM, a white paper produced with Chess Media Group. Personally, I am growing tired of the definitions, the spin, nitpicking on what is a strategy (yeah, probably mine too). I have been working really hard to remain objective and balanced. I do not really care what we call it either, I just use an umbrella term which simply allows people to understand at a glance the general topic. So, if I stop using the term, what will happen – for one, I might miss out on what Gartner releases in their MQ (which I am concerned is going to really confuse things). The main issue, which is the key to the presentation below and the supporting white paper is that things have changed, therefore you need to change too.

What is really new?

The one area I did not really touch upon in the presentation is The Social Customer. The Social Customer is new, I know some will agree with me, and some will not. OK, so the Social Customer is not really new, I will disagree with myself right there, done. Let’s move on. What is new is the ease (time and energy spent) with which this type of individual can make an impact (Vast and Fast as friend Brent Leary likes to say). What is also new is the amount of information this individual has instantly available on a wide variety of topics, including your products. How do you respond? Some people are happy to refer to this as a strategy, some suggest this is not the case. Again, I am a a bit tired of that battle. My objective is share that things have changed, and let’s work to respond to that change. Here is a quick example, showing why I think things have changed:

In 1984 Ben and Jerry’s successfully carried out a campaign, which at the time was almost unheard of, but it worked. In 1984 pre-Web and certainly pre-Social Web the campaign took a lot of effort (6 months – 1 year, selling t-shirts 1800 numbers and an airplane over a football game), but that special type of customer certainly did exist. Ben and Jerry’s “beat the establishment”. The funny thing is that my next example is also a Vermont based controversy. Fast-forward to 2009 and a small Vermont Brewery, RockArt, ended up in a similar battle with “the establishment”. This battle time line can be measured in weeks, not months. Why? Because of the social web. In both of these scenarios, the ‘small guy’ would not have survived if it were not for vocal advocates, customers, influencers (US Senator Bernie Sanders sent a letter in the Beer battle). I bet if the issues were reversed in the historic time line (Beer in 1984, Ice Cream in 2009) the relative time to impact would have also been reversed.

So what does this prove? It proves that a special type of Customer did exist prior to the Social Web. Now, is it the Social Customer, I do not think so, but feel free to disagree. The Ben and Jerry’s advocate did not have text messaging, much less a cell phone, no email, no Facebook, myspace, youtube – you get the point. I know that I am going to hear “well those are all technologies, so Social is just technology”. Social Technology has changed the culture of a generation or more. A response to this change will require more than just technology.

Very Detailed Thoughts on Social CRM and the Value it Provides

June 14, 2010 3 comments

“Social CRM is based on the simple premise that you are able to interact with your customers based on their needs, not your rules. It is an extension of CRM, not a replacement, and among the important benefits is that it adds value back to the users and customers.  It is the one part of the social business strategy which addresses how companies need to adapt to the social customer and the expectations these customers have with respect to companies they do business with. With a focus on strategy, customer engagement and relationships, Social CRM moves beyond management of customers, transactions, and money.

Social CRM is a strategy first, but it will not be successful if it is not supported by people, processes and technology with defined goals and objectives. The way customers are interacting with companies and a companies’ brands is changing and this poses a challenge; a challenge of volume of new data, scale and speed.  Social customers are now in control of a significant part of the business ecosystem, not just as purchasers, but as influencers.  Individuals are influenced by friends, friends’ friends and friends’ friends’ friends. For Social CRM to be successful, and by extension the businesses who employ the strategy, we must recognize the power of social networks.”

A balanced approach is a critical success factor

We believe that one of the most important extensions that Social CRM adds to traditional CRM is the inclusion of a business strategy (maybe even a Social Business Strategy), specific to customer engagement and customer experience, beyond just an implementation strategy. Traditionally, CRM has been thought of as just a technology framework, thus Social CRM is often discussed as simply new tools on top of that framework. We work hard to build the case that Social CRM has value beyond simply social technology. Yes, social technology is a big big part in many instances, but it is more about how you, as an individual, and as a company, interpret information and communicate. If Social CRM goes the way of CRM and simply becomes a technology platform with bolt-on utilities and some new channels, I will personally be disappointed. I do not believe that is the way it is going.  Social CRM is not only about strategy either, it is about a balanced approach to modern business problems – modern problems are driven by modern customers, who are hyper-connected and smart (in other words, they started using the technology first).  The balance includes many many elements, and as an organization you should make active decisions on what to use and when to use it. Choosing not to do something is different from simply not doing it.

A Social Business will likely begin at the department, or even individual layer within an organization, the tools and technology will aid the executive office in adding cohesion to the strategy.  It would be preferable, moving forward, that the Social Business strategy would begin from the top with executive support and from the bottom with a willingness to try new things, working towards the middle, together. Social CRM and online communities might be different from the internal parts of the organization and their collaboration efforts, but as Social Business matures as a practice, the two concepts will continue to merge. Each organization will not need to completely rebuild (retool), but they will be able to build upon the solutions already in place and extend them to meet the demands placed by the consumer, partner or supplier. Important to both, crucial even, are the cultural issues which will likely arise due to a lack of understanding, a resistance to change and the earlier struggles which a more than likely to occur due to uncoordinated efforts to track the connection to revenue (Yes, in all this Social, business do still need to make $).

A Social Business Strategy needs Teeth

June 12, 2010 1 comment

Sometimes it is a good idea to keep things simple, and work to hide complexity. This type of exercise can be valuable for people trying to grasp new concepts. That said, oftentimes if you are not careful you can actually do a dis-service and cause issues. With something new, like Social Business, Social CRM and quickly evolving concepts like Social Customer and Social Relationship Management you actually need to produce something with teeth if you are going to recommend people have a strategy. Something that you (or they) could build upon, or take an executive and execute against. If the simplicity takes away all meaning or steers people in the wrong direction, then it really needs to be, well, challenged. Sorry, if this is too harsh, but just calling it like I see it.

A Social Business strategy needs to be more than just a plan that takes into account a modified definition of Social CRM so you can maximize your ability to meet specific goals. That may sound strange, but it was recently done, and I felt the need to address the trend. Something like this does not offer anything of real value to anyone (except me who can use it to try and make a point).  If you really want to help businesses and prepare them for what is needed dig deeper, analyze the problem and add value on top of it. Include the work of Graham Hill, specifically his post a Manifesto for Social Business. Or, dig a little deeper on the recent post by Michael Fauscette, the Social Customer Bill of Rights. Engage with Brian Solis and agree, disagree or modify his thoughts on Social Relationship Management. Pull up a chair and talk to Esteban Kolsky about part 2 of his Roadmap for SCRM, which talks specifically about the changing nature of relationships “Shifting Relationship models”. If the relationships are your focus, how can anyone not read and reread Wim Rampen’s stellar post What Relationships You Should Care For, And Why, along with many many great comments.

I am not trying to go academic here, we have others who are much better at that than I am, really! However, a constant dumbing down of critical concepts does not help implementers, businesses nor push the thinking forward. Taking the works referenced above, and the embedded concepts contained within (including the comments and dialog) would be a hugely valuable exercise (I might just do it when I have some time), but there is no way to summarize a strategy for all of it, in one sentence. Never referencing the work of anyone else, suggests either a lack of research, or disrespect for people’s work who came before. Never commenting on posts, unless they are  your own bugs me…sorry, just sayin’. It is not all about people who agree with me either. Bob Thompson, host of CustomerThink and some newer communities (SocialBusinessOne and SalesEdgeOne, two I am part of) has challenged me to dig deeper about why I am suggesting the things I am suggesting. He questions  whether Social <this or that> is new, or not and needed or not. I have great respect for Bob, we do not always see eye to eye, but the challenges are respectful and thorough – and I am the better for listening. I also have great fun going at with someone I am happy to call a friend; Mike Boysen. We do not see eye to eye on many things (the fact that he is 6’4″ is only one reason). Mike is the pragmatic one in the group, and shares his thoughts on his blog – he keeps me honest. When I learn something new, I reference other who taught me, whether by name, article or twitter handle.  I could have and should have mentioned more people here, I will be sure to do so in the future.

It is not about winning the battle, or the war…it is about pushing the conversations forward together for the betterment of the ecosystem. BTW, the USA won the game 1-1 😉