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Posts Tagged ‘Social Business’

The Value of Social CRM for Small Business – Take One

May 31, 2010 1 comment

I had the opportunity to speak on the Vermont Business Expo 777 panel last week,  to a full room of 80+ smart folks gathered to learn about Social Business. The panel covered a wide range of topics, the focus was on what it means to be a business, in this new age, call it the Social Web, or Web 2.0. The panelists, listed below all had great insights, from Social and  Mobile to Legal and from Cloud to Geo Location. My focus was on Social CRM and what that really means, specifically to a small/Vermont business. We each had 7 minutes, before a scoreboard buzzer (think NCAA basketball type buzzer) sounded.

The Highlights:

  • Social CRM is an extension of CRM, the biggest change is a Focus on your customers, not a focus on you
  • Organizations are not properly aligned, any Social CRM strategy must include strong guidelines for alignment (around the customer)
  • Social CRM is based on the principle that you will invite your customer into the ecosystem and interact with them based on their needs, not your rules.

For Departments:

  • Service and Support: Keep the ordinary, ordinary; Social includes public channels; include more personality in your interactions,
  • Sales: The value-add of you and your company’s expertise, not just your product are important, show your knowledge beyond just your product,
  • Marketing: Learn to listen, engage and create with your customers, highlight facts and value along with personality

Finally, Social CRM can and will go beyond technology. For small businesses, think about the clerks who work the check-out line, delivery personnel, finance who speak to customers about invoices. All these people represent your business and represent a Social Network.

The Panel included: Karen O’Niell, Gravel and Shea, Rachel Carter, Rachel Carter PR, John Burton, Network Performance Inc., Jessie Angus, Angus Media Services, Tom Jaros, Empower Mobility, Me, Comity Technology Advisors and Joe Mescher, http://www.joemescher.com/

Social CRM, Perspective Matters

April 25, 2010 3 comments

When you take a look at the picture below, what do you see? Do you see an older woman, or a younger woman? In case you have not seen this picture before, they are both there, trust me. OK, what is the relevance? The realization I have come to, and it is likely that others are there ahead of me, is that much (not all) of the debate regarding definitions – nit-picking words is simply due to our own myopic perspectives.

When an experienced marketer, social marketer, CMO or someone within traditional public relations looks at Social CRM, what do you/they see? I suspect, based on what I have been reading for the past year, is they see an old school system that is going to suck the life out of modern, cool, hip and social marketing efforts. When the more traditional information technologist, CIO, or 15 year CRM veteran looks at Social CRM and they see the young beauty – something that will finally breath life into what CRM was supposed to be 15 years ago – Customer Centric. There are a spectrum of perspectives, I chose only two, to illustrate my point. We need to bring these perspectives into alignment, and stop trying to prove we are right.

Know Your Audience and Lead them to Success

When someone tries to explain what Social CRM is, it often starts with a definition, followed by a talk about what it is, or does, surrounded by a few examples or case studies. Looking objectively at this, if the audience is mixed, then each person may leave the discussion with a very different idea of what exactly is Social CRM. The unfortunate truth is that within each organization there will be a bit of battle surrounding who should own this new “Social CRM” initiative. Before many people work to understand what is in it for their customers, they are likely going to ask “What is in it for me?”, sorry, tell me I am wrong. Friend and colleague Graham Hill wrote a post about 9 months ago: Who Should Own Social CRM? Graham suggests the following:

“In a business new to social CRM, this may be a disparate social network of individuals doing their own thing across the business. A self-organising group with no formal authority, but a lot of social authority. In a slightly more advanced business it might be a cross-functional team formed specifically to look at Social CRM and containing many of the earlier social network. Further on it might be a formal Social CRM Coordinator given the role, responsibility and authority to promote Social CRM across the business. In some organisations, it might even be the Chief Customer Officer (although organisations have a few hoops to jump through before they get that far!).”

Maybe you should figure out first what Social means to you

Another friend and colleague, Esteban Kolsky spoke about Social Business and specifically, he keyed in on the word ‘Social’.  You can find the full post here, but, my biggest takeaway is that we all need to figure out what Social means to our business, then we can figure out what Social CRM is and who should own it. My favorite line is “Social is not about Kumbayah”, ok, that is what it is not, but, what is it?:

“Social is about leveraging the customer willingness to work with us, as a business, to achieve better products, better services and have better relationships.  Social is about collaborating in a win-win environment where both customer and business achieve maximum value in each and every interaction, regardless of how it was planned and executed.”

This description does not force social efforts into one department. The ownership, in my opinion is by the business, for the business. We all need to be able to view the topics from other parts of the organization, as well as here in the blogosphere, other disciplines. What is your perspective? Have you been guilty of looking at this from only one perspective, and are willing to share?

Does Control of the Conversation Equal Control of the Relationship?

April 19, 2010 3 comments

Starting with the basics; If Social CRM is about the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation, I suppose we should first ask: Does it matter that the customer is controlling the conversation?  Of course it matters! However, your response to the conversation matters more.

Keep the ordinary, ordinary

As Paul Greenberg reminded us last week during his keynote at SugarCon. “Keep the ordinary, ordinary”. When conversations happen, there is a time to jump in and time to leave it alone. Listening in for while is important, to gauge trends and build up experience. If someone (Prospect, Customer, Partner) asks a question or makes a request in  a public channel, answer appropriately. My point is simply that controlling the conversation is not the same as controlling the relationship and that sometimes letting the conversations happen without you is ok, really (please do not interpret this as ignore).

Are customers like your kids?

Before I get lambasted for suggesting such a thing, work with me for a minute. This is more about communications than anything else, I have a ton of respect for my customers (as well as my kids). I have 3 awesome kids, really! – I am a lucky man. Are they perfect? No. Do they complain about me and/or their mother (my equally awesome wife) to their friends or to each other? Yes. Why, because we are not perfect parents either (or, we are being parents and saying “no”). Now, when they are talking among themselves or their friends, should I jump in and try to make sure things are ok? Sometimes, I suppose, more often than not, ‘no’, actually, but it depends. Sometimes an immediate reaction is necessary, sometimes it is not.

(Yes, I am a bit of a geek, but no, I do not have neither a KRM  or a Social KRM system – you can figure it out)

Taking a bit of leap, this begs the question ‘do you need tools to practice Social CRM’? My answer is the following: No, they are not required, but they will certainly help. The consultative answer is ‘it depends’. I would suggest that sometimes the tools are not new tools though. I can share with you the need to engage on the channels where you customers are talking. This is a lesson learned from my kids as well – My 15yo son shares a whole lot more with me (especially when I am traveling) via text messaging than voice (btw – email, NO WAY). Talk to your customers where they are comfortable!

Social does not demand a public conversation.

At SugarCRM, where I hang my hat, if someone writes something on our forums (4+ years of Forums BTW), answering there, or changing channels is fine. In other words, our forums are still quite active (we are thinking of making some changes though). If your customers are not on the new fancy channels, Twitter Facebook, yeah I am talking about you – then you may not need to be there either. This is a slight word of caution to companies – if the marketing group decides to jump onto a new channel, then you will need to listen appropriately on that channel as well.

A good practice would be for the whole company to agree on the social channel strategy. According to Denis Pombriant (someone who I have great respect for), the proper balance of talking to listening is around 25/75; plus/minus. As he states “The ratio of outbound to inbound need not be 50/50, in fact, most of us don’t want to provide input to our vendors most of the time, and vendors don’t want all of that input. ” Kira Wampler, of Intuit, shared the example that the most important Social Channel for Intuit is Amazon – where customer reviews happen. That channel has been around for a long time, it is where their customers are, makes sense to me.

In further reading Denis’s post; The Relationship Entity he also makes a great reference to the old CRM 1.0 world, and offers some sage advice: “When CRM was a new idea companies — large, respectable companies — ran out and bought Siebel for no other reason than it was what other large, respectable companies were doing.  I know because I asked them.” Skipping ahead, I love this line from the post, so I needed to include it “I just reading the labels looking for nutrition” – As a vendor, the message to me is ‘I better be part of a balanced diet’

I do believe there is a difference though, this time around the customer is driving the change. Companies are put in a position of needing to change, exactly how is not 100% defined yet. The change is both cultural, internal processes as well as technology. Does this change mean Social CRM for everyone? No, probably not. Friends have said to me “If you are a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail” – point taken. From a Social CRM perspective, there is buzz and hype – I am on record as stating we need to get past that, but companies are already doing ‘it’. Sometimes the effort is organized, sometimes, not so much. The key question is, who is doing the organizing?

By the way, I most certainly did not answer the question – but control is a very strong word. I suppose you could say it was a bit of trick question, as I do not think there is a right answer because independent of the first clause, no one really controls the relationship, because ultimate control is ending a relationship, and either side can do that.

Wow, that deserves a standing ovation!!

February 28, 2010 14 comments

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). Creative Commons

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….?

Final part of the Social Business Engine series – People

February 15, 2010 6 comments

People are the fuel that makes the Social Engine run

Remember, that the Social Engine is my own metaphor for what drives Social Business. My objective is not to cram the word “Social” into the first paragraph as many times as possible, it just looks that way. Social is top of mind, and many people are simply trying to put it all together. So, how about this – I have my networks, my media, I talk about CRM, and I do business with people (left that overused word out). Whether you are talking about Collaboration, Relationships, Knowledge Flows, Engagement, Expectations…It all comes down to people. At the core, Social simply means sharing with other people, in the digital sense, it is done in the open.

“People are the platform”

I wish I could take credit for that statement. Proper attribution goes to Michael Fauscette from IDC. We both attended the #scrmsummit last week in Washington, DC. The statement is not some esoteric, bigger than life hyperbole. It is quite simple really.  You cannot have any of these things without people. A Social Business employs people, just as a Social Customer is reliant upon people. A Social Business is one that recognizes the amplification effect – the amplification of value by continuously meeting (or exceeding)  the dynamic expectations of the social customer. If you do a good job, other people will hear it. As we are all well aware the converse is certainly true as well.

Co-Creation takes people

Co-creation is another one of those terms which seems overly complex, people throw it around, seem to be scared by it. Paul Greenberg reminded everyone that is does NOT have to be complicated. Friend Wim Rampen writes about it often. I will be honest, it is a term that has scared me. I will give a simplistic example, surely to be corrected (but write and learn right?). Say you are at the local Pizza joint and you select a few cool toppings from the ‘make your own’ section. You also suggest a new topping, say Pineapple. The restaurant does not have Pinneapple, but makes note of it. As it turns out, when talking to other patrons, Pinneapple is an ingredient that is more popular than they thought. Within a week, the restaurant not only adds the ingredient to the menu, but offer a special rate of a pre-made pizza that has Pinneapple as a topping.

Relationships with people generate value

Wim Rampen wrote a great post on this topic a few weeks ago, along with some great dialog and conversation after the post. My favorite theme is that Customers (People) do not value a relationship with a company, rather the outcomes that can be generated by such a relationship. The one addition I make here is that it may be not only customers, but potential customers, influencers, partners and communities (groups of people). Strong, value driven relationships are crucial components for the fuel that drives a Social Business.

Communities are a critical component

So, if I say that people are the fuel, then communities are increasing the Octane content. This is very well stated by friend Michael Krigsman, in his post Social CRM and enterprise business:

“Social CRM recognizes that current technologies enable customers spontaneously to form large, ad hoc interest groups at remarkable, sometimes even viral, speed”.

Esteban Kolsky commented here that these “impromptu communities” are going to help “advance social CRM faster by not  worrying about the channels (Facebook, Twitter,  Forums) and focus on the behaviors and data.” I will extend Esteban’s comments and say this is beyond Social CRM, but will help fuel the value derived by all members of the ecosystem for any particular Social Business.

People have experiences, and they matter

There are many factors which drive experience. I am not going to call it customer experience, as the Social Business it needs to go beyond the customer. Customer Experience Management is nearly an entire discipline, one that I try to be well read, but tepid to weigh in strongly on. I will speak more from a logical viewpoint, people enjoy (or not) an experience on a relative scale. The scale is based upon their expectations. Esteban recently wrote a post, where we did not comment enough, so we did not meet his expectations. I am not a customer of Esteban, but we work in the same ecosystem. I am using this to simply illustrate the point that experience within a Social Business happens many many ways, beyond just product and service. By the way, he wrote a second post, just about expectations (I took the bait there).  ‘Meeting’ or ‘Exceeding’ is an interesting conversation, for my purposes here, there is a bar, you need to get over it. Where the bar is placed changes, and ‘it depends’.

Are people a new kind of fuel?

No, of course not, just one we have not been leveraging very well. Why, because people are passionate, if they are not, they want to be, and we want them to be passionate.  John Hagel wrote a nice post “Shifting Identities – From Consumer to Network Creator“. It is a post worth reading for sure. Again, the title sounds a bit complex, but it is not really. The post talks about many things, the last part focuses on the mounting pressures at work. Unfortunately, not many employees are passionate, this will become a problem for Social Businesses. As a business, you will need to encourage employees to find passion, otherwise people will struggle to cope with the pressures.. By the integration of personal and professional lives people will be able to become passionate and passion shines through.

We are Social, we are people and when we all truly recognize that, we will be able to realize a Social Business. Is this a change in business culture, probably…your thoughts?