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CRM, CX, RightNow – A Perspective

October 19, 2010 9 comments

It was a great few days at the Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs, CO. RightNow invited me to attend their annual, US, user conference as well as the preceding influencer day leading up to the conference. During the first day, we heard from many members of the RightNow team, from executives new and seasoned. We talked about Call Centers, Contact Centers, Communication Centers, Social Hubs, Social Media, Social Communications. We touched on Cloud (Private and Public), SaaS (I asked about IaaS and PaasS), Chat, Email, Twitter, Facebook, Web Experience, Knowledgebase, Self-Service, Forums, Communities and Social Experience…and after the first hour, then we really got movin’.

Helen Hunt Falls (No, not that one)

Being at a user conference (versus general industry event) is a great way to hear what the customers are actually doing with a specific system. RightNow scheduled time for me to speak with Lisa Larson, Director of Customer Care at drugstore.com and beauty.com and MaryEllen Abreu, Director of Global Technical Support at iRobot. In addition to the scheduled talks, RightNow did make it easy to get together informally with other customers. I was also able to have a quick lunch with Boyd Beasley from Electronic Arts, informal chats with DirectTV and an in-depth conversation, which I hope to continue with some smart folks from the Naval Federal Credit Union. It is important to note that conferences like this are a good opportunity to spend time with industry folks, who we can bounce opinions off of, and share ideas. Denis Pombriant, added his thoughts soon after the influencer day, and his perspective is certainly worth a look.

While many of my peers are talking about Social CRM, on blogs, in articles and through white papers, a few RightNow customers are actually practicing it (but they do not call it Social CRM). Beauty.com offers assisted shopping through Chat – with a 40% conversion rate – and engagement through Twitter (routing as needed). iRobot uses Twitter to engage with customers, and solicit feedback about their products, even extending invitations into the Beta Forums for co-creation and product feedback. DirectTV shared a great story about using Twitter during Super Bowl Sunday, posting the best way to rid your dish of 2 feet of snow (using a super-soaker won).  All interesting stories, but the way in which success is measured does vary a bit; some look at money, some look at advocacy while others are just doing it because ‘it feels right’.

I will be writing a follow-up post where I will be focusing on the cultural aspects of the call center, a fun and interesting topic. As a bit of a teaser, I asked practitioners their thoughts on the changes in culture, philosophy and knowledge workers within the call (contact) center in the past 10 years. If you have some thoughts, please drop me a note.

I wonder what SaaS providers could learn from Telecom?

I would also like to comment on some of the great additions to the RightNow team, as well as some behind the scenes (or not quite spotlighted as much as they should be) folks. First, Wayne Huyard was appointed President and Chief Operating Officer. Huyard is a seasoned executive with experience at MCI, WorldCom, Verizon and Cerberus Capital Management. I was particularly interested in his background in Telecom, as I see a convergence of the SaaS business model into what other service providers (yes, like Telecom service providers) offer. This was inline with the question on my mind (one I was able to ask Mr. Gianforte, CEO) and that is whether SaaS solution providers resemble traditional software companies or service providers. The quick answer is ‘there is a little of both’. Vendors in the technology space seem to be converging on a model all to familiar to the Telecoms of the world, just sayin’

John Kembel, Vice President of Social is not exactly new, but possibly from a CRM traditionalist point of view, he might be considered new. John came from the HiveLive acquisition, a little over a year ago. Hearing John’s thoughts about how to integrate community to, with and for CRM (or customer experience) was time well spent. John is a design thinker, which is a great quality and background to have in order to understand the how CRM fits into the Social Web. My conversation with John was enhanced by a discussion with Andrew Hull, Director of Product Marketing. Andrew was able to share some of the new features within the product, such as the soon to be released Facebook interface (allowing users to see a Facebook tab and contact center people to see what they need). From its roots, RightNow is still big on Chat, which does work for many companies, but not for all. Finally, and my biggest ding, if it is one, is the Agent user experience. I am not a huge fan of Microsoft Outlook, thus the RightNow UX, which is Microsoft centric is not how I would design the UI. I believe the knowledge worker of the future needs an experience similar to the people they are on the phone (Twitter, Facebook….) with. I have hope, and heard rumblings that the future may offer some choice here.

Among the hidden gems, or ‘not given the spotlight often enough’ were my many conversations with Nitin Badjatia, during the conference. I met Nitin through Twitter about a year ago, and we have run into each other a few times, most recently at the VRM + CRM conference in Boston. Nitin is a very smart, experienced, likes to fly under the radar kinda guy. Nitin is opinionated – in a consensus building sorta way.  His background in the Knowledge Management is awesome, bringing his experience from Knova and industry. Nitin (and others within the experience strategy team) add tremendous  value within the RightNow ecosystem. It is not always about spotlight, rather helping customers to solve tough problems, which RightNow seems to be in a good position to do. I wanted to extend my thanks to the whole RightNow team for including me.

(Disclosure – I was an appreciative guest of RightNow Technologies. RightNow paid for my travel and expenses pertaining to the user conference only. RightNow is not a client of mine, or anyone else within my firm. For some visualizations of the experience, please take a look. I did have a great time in Colorado, not something hard for a Vermonter to do 🙂

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.

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).

It is about the People, then the Product

June 24, 2010 2 comments

Paul Greenberg did a great job of highlighting some cool folks with his “Following on more than Friday” post. I am humbled to be on that list and Paul, right back at you. But you knew that and I do not think it is a stretch to suggest that we have all learned a lot from you! We all learn from different people in different ways, which is what leads to the variety and diversity of opinions. We also all have our own purpose for being here. No, I am not going all philosophical, I mean Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube and Blogs. While there are some great people who get it, there are a large number who don’t. Yes, that is a bold statement, bordering on ‘them is fightin’ words’.  I could call people out by name, but that would not be very social, not really interesting either.

What is more interesting is to extend Paul’s list a little, with some smart folks who live on the vendor side of things. These folks not only have some great things to say, but are also translating that into product; by listening, engaging, reading and thinking. My focus for this post is people who spend time thinking about small businesses and the issues they face. I also have a soft spot for people who are within the vendor world, because that was me not too long ago. I am not saying one product is better or worse than another, nor am I endorsing any one product here (disclaimer: no one on this list is paying me). I am focusing on the people not the products. Some have blogs, of these some are personal, some are company, some do not have blogs, but they still share. The common denominator is that they all have active Twitter accounts, thus that is the link I am providing. The path you take after that is your choice, like Social XYZ, to me it is about the people, so, that is my focus today.

They have more to offer than just a product! (in alphabetical order):

Jon Ferrera  (@jon_ferrara) Nimble (Product – Nimble, Beta soon)
T.A. McCann (@tamccann) Gist (Products – Gist, Google Apps Version too, Live*)
Pam O’Hara (@pmohara) BatchBlue (Product – BatchBook, Live*)
John Rourke (@johnrourke) Bantam Networks, (Product – BantamLive, Live*)
(* I am using the word “live” as they are all SaaS based applications)

Since I am focusing on the people, and not the products I can get away with not specifying a product grouping or market segment. All the products live somewhere within the CRM and/or Social CRM landscape, though Gist can live within, or as part of another application. The others may extend beyond what people think of as CRM as well. More importantly, each of the people focuses on solving specific business problems, and their products follow their lead. My interactions with each of these people came to be differently, some by research, some by twitter and blogs and some via a somewhat colorful Twitter conversation, but all is good now. I am appreciative for the time spent and more so, the time sharing issues and ideas, not only product.

Jon Ferrara has a long history within the CRM space, founding Goldmine 20 years ago. After interactions with Jon via Twitter, and Blogs we scheduled a call to talk. Here is the really neat thing, Jon was willing to talk to me the first time, while I was still with SugarCRM. He knew what I was doing, and of course what he was doing, but the interactions (including RTs ) were and are always positive. I have enjoyed the many interesting articles which he has shared, and learned from his comments. I look forward to the product. My sense is that Jon is more worried about the size of the pie, not the size of his slice. Jon has said to me on more than one occasion that if he focuses on the success of his customers, then his own success will just happen.

T.A. McCann has a neat background which goes back to working in the Exchange group at Microsoft. I do not have an extensive background with T.A. but have had some great interactions with Greg Meyer (@GregAtGist) and he set up the discussion with T.A.. During the conversation, T.A. and I talked about many different aspects of information, mostly social and aggregate, but the value of having it when you need it. He has a very pragmatic view, with the ultimate ROI of all of this – Time gained, time saved and efficiency. That is of course an over simplification, I will be writing up a post with more details soon. T.A. shared a passion for the space, which I look forward to seeing more of in the future. A passion and energy is good for us all.

Pam O’Hara has been thinking about small business for a long time. The CRM part came out of a need for the small business owner. I did recently speak with Pam, and had forgot that I had participated in a few of her TweetChat sessions (#sbbuzz). That is of course because those were a really long time ago, eons even (last year). Because of her focus on small business, Pam has an acute sense of time (spent, wasted and what it costs). Whether this is because Pam is focused on creating a better work/life balance for herself and her employees, or the focus is on the customers, it does not matter, we all benefit. Pam is constantly focused on efficiency, which is a good thing.

John Rourke is a little more colorful, could be the New Yorker in him (being one myself, I can say that). The first few interactions with John, were, let’s say interesting and direct. But, I take ownership for the escalation, and blame the channel (Twitter). Trying to understand someones personality, and objective in 140 character snippets without the context of ever meeting face-to-face is not a good idea. This is an example of ‘ I should have picked up the phone sooner’ After some time went by, John and I did pick up the phone and talk. John is laser focused on the business problem faced by his customers. He is willing to share his ideas openly. John might sometimes a little too focused on product, but it is not hidden or in any way obnoxious (really). Like me, John is a passionate person, and his passion for what he is doing is good for all of us.

I have been in the CRM space for a long time. When I spoke with these folks, there was very little talk of technology and infrastructure, at first this was surprising. Then it occurred to me that as an application for small business that is their problem not yours. Besides, these folks would rather talk about the business problems not the technology ones… I am constantly listening and trying to learn, in order to do that it is a requirement to extend the people you listen to, and be willing to contribute. The common theme here is that we are all overwhelmed with information, and time is a valuable commodity, making their contributions that much more meaningful. 10 years ago everyone was focused on real-time information, guess what, it happened. Another theme within this group is not about real-time information, it is about the right information at the right time.

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 $).

The Value of Social CRM to the Individual Employee

June 11, 2010 1 comment

I wrote a piece a couple weeks ago  where I referenced Laurence Buchanan’s piece “Measuring the ROI of Social CRM“, now, I am taking a look at it from a slightly different perspective, the value to the employee. How very ‘Inside-out’ of me, I know, but hang in for a moment, there is something here. My favorite quote from his post still stands, and sets the stage:

“The real question in my mind is not whether ROI is measurable or valid (it is), it’s whether ROI is the only metric worth evaluating? I would suggest that ROI as an isolated metric is not enough. In fact nothing like enough.”

Absolutely, ROI is NOT enough. There are lots of ways to look at return, how about employee empowerment? I have suggested myself, on the shoulders of many others that happy customers start with happy employees. Is it then a big leap to suggest that passionate employees might lead to passionate customers? If you are willing to make that leap, as I believe you should, then there is real value to the business!

Reap the rewards of a innovative and passionate organization!

Innovation can seldom, if ever, be measured in the time frame of one quarter. It is like watching your child grow, there in front of you every day, then suddenly, ‘wow, you grew’! If you encourage individual, or small team initiative, what your teams can and will do, if empowered to do it will surprise you. If you sponsor and enable, people within your organization to get closer to the customer through Social means, the payback (Return) will happen.

As an organization, you need to be flexible with regards to the return, flexible in what and when. I realize that some might take issue with the flexibility on return, but you might also be flexible on the cost part too – since people are the main cost, there are worthwhile, non-monetary rewards.

What are you doing to reward employees who take initiative?

I previously used the Twelpforce initiative by Best Buy to make my point. Are there others? There must be, what are yours. How do you reward the employees? For businesses of all sizes, employees with passion are a great asset. Allowing these impassioned employees to get close to and help customers get their jobs done builds stronger relationships, and dare I say leads towards loyalty. I had the chance to chat with the smart folks over at SpigIt a few weeks ago, and they have some great ideas on how to reward initiative from a ideation (sharing ideas) perspective, I bet many of the same concepts would work here.

I highlighted this sentiment with a post on ZDNet this past week, with the following ideas:

Innovation, the Kissing Cousin of Initiative
One path to solving this is to make, foster and push people to shine. Innovation is directly related to initiative, and you have everything right there in front of you. If you encourage and empower individuals, or small teams, the results can and will surprise you. Taking it a step further, to sponsor people within your organization, specifically to get closer to the customer through Social means, the value to each side of the equation will amaze you. The return on initiative will pay dividends well into the future, for both you, the employee and the customer.

How to get it done:

Tackling the hard problems Ask people within the organization to focus on their role in the customer experience, they have one, it might be obvious, or a stretch to figure it out. How can they improve that experience? What do they find frustrating? By taking initiative, focusing on, or even directly helping customers, employees will elevate their visibility, and gain personal satisfaction as well.

Taking a chance Do not make it taboo to take risks, calculated risks of course. Do not punish for initiative, or even failure. A Social Business needs passionate employees, ones who do not always wait for their boss. Yes, they must be willing to be accountable for their actions, and have sound business logic behind their ideas.

Voice of the Customer The hope is that as many people as possible are talking to customers as frequently as possible. Within an organization, you are always knowledgeable about your products and services. Add this knowledge along with something you learned about your customer and tell someone, become an advocate for the customer!

Create a Company of Entrepreneurs The best employees are self-starters. Giving them the freedom to do what it takes to get the job done. Using their best judgment in all situations enables them to express their individual creativity. By encouraging and supporting a culture of freedom and trust, employees will naturally assume a feeling of ownership – ownership in delivering a remarkable customer experience.

All initiatives need to be supported by a business case. It is possible to measure return by more than dollars, but cost has only one measure – or does it? As an organization, you need to be flexible with regards to the return, flexible in what and when. If employees are allowed to put a little bit of passion into their own work, the payback is going to be very powerful. They will become the new shiny object.

In a response to the post, Maria Ogneva, of Attensity360 suggested that “companies are starting to realize how important voice of customer is. However, most still fail to realize that voice of employee is just as important.” She also pointed out that barriers are a problem: “Putting red tape in employees’ way, making them feel stifled and unappreciated will definitely not result in any kind of passion or excitement.” What are you doing to make sure that your employees feel empowered?

Why do so Many People think Social Media is only about Marketing?

I do not get it, I just don’t!! Please pardon the outward expression of frustration, my apologies, sort of. Apology made, I do want to know the answer: why is it that so many people believe that Social Media will live or die based on Marketing. I am not making this up, here, read for yourself:

“Social Media is business can go one of two ways, it will either skyrocket or cave in.  The next few months will be crucial in determining the direction the social side of online marketing goes.”

The author further goes on to state:

“We all must be extremely open to sharing and this is the only way in my opinion social media marketing and business will work together. Business owners need to share and share often.” and asks “Can social media and business co-exist?”

There is a link to the whole article further down, but I am still wondering about the question posed by the author. Of course they will co-exist. The real question is will your business be able to co-exist with Social Media. If all you do is Market to, Share with and Talk to, “NO” they will not coexist. If you use Social Media for what it was intended and begin to leverage is as an engagement platform, a place online to connect with your customers, well, then now we are on to something.

If you are able to focus, as a company, to  build and offer better products, while developing better, more engaging and longer lasting relationships, how could anyone wonder if they will co-exist? Social Media is an available channel and a powerful tool, if you screw up, by losing trust and using it as just another bullhorn, sure, you are hosed. The collaborative Enterprise, or E20 looks inwards which also leverage Social Media tools, and technology.

Let’s not forget, it is about the Customer

Friend Wim Rampen recently wrote:

“..marketers continue to focus on explaining to (potential) Customers what value they are providing or adding. Firms seem not to understand that the other side of the table is not deriving value FROM the product. The other side is trying to get a job done and your product or service is a means to that end, thus they are creating value WITH the product. And – this is really important – they can’t do that job without themselves.”

Wim’s article is quite good, and you should take a look, (after you finish here:-). But putting another part of the article together to further make my point:

“Actionable insights are not only derived from good analytics, you need to understand what it is you want your Customers to talk about too, and then see if you can get them to do so.. Don’t wait for the feedback to come to you, but actively seek the feedback you need.”

You cannot even get to this point if all your doing is using Social Media to broadcast messages, there is so much more you can learn from your customers, if you start listening and engaging, then acting. I apologize again for the rant, but it just seems so obvious, am I missing something?

Here is the article I am referencing. I usually suggest that people read it, but today, I am not so sure – your choice.

Can the Value of Social CRM be realized in the absence of a Collaborative Organization?

In short, no, it cannot – that simple. Disagree?

The essence of Social CRM is about inviting your customers into your organization, like you invite an old friend in for dinner. But, in order to invite them in, you must be prepared. The preparation will require change, both cultural and technological. From a technological perspective, tools (yes, tools) that support social networks are going to be key. The support, or the backbone, will need to enable, and even foster collaboration between and within companies and increasingly, with customers. This doesn’t mean a technology-first approach. But it does mean selecting the right technologies (and only the right ones) to enable a natural collaborative ecosystem. “Natural” is a fun concept, here, it means, hang out with your customers where they are, not where you want them to be. If they invite you to dinner, that will work as well, just mind your manners.

It is about the best use of technology, leveraging what is present, or expanding what you have as needed. It is not about the platform, but about the people who are the platform.  If tools and technology can be used to leverage the knowledge within and across your organization, then make sure people understand the tools. If you are a small agile organization and this is not about technology, but experience, then make sure your team gain experience at every possible opportunity.  If your teams are able to adapt and communicate efficiently, then  meeting the needs of the customer will be that much easier; then, and only then can SocialCRM can be realized. Wait, is the objective to realize Social CRM or the value, independent of the name? And does technology need to be involved at all? No, asking the the right questions, at the right time, in a caring and sincere tone is Social (we have been living with that for the past 1000 years).

Friend and sparring partner Esteban Kolsky wrote a post “What comes after Social Business” recently where he shares a concern with trying to match internal transactional data with collaboration data. (no he is not really a sparing partner, I actually learn a lot from Esteban)

“The idea behind social business of bringing internal collaboration together with external interactions has one major flaw – it attempts to integrate an action (collaboration) with information (data) as if they were equal.”

I think Esteban gives more credit to businesses than is deserved, no one is there yet – thus we are not ready to figure out what comes next.  We need to think about what the customer wants to do, and enable it. You know the royal “We” this is going to take some work to figure out. These are important aspects of your business, no one, nor a tool can direct you to nirvana. It might take some long hours, and lots of thinking (and data analysis) to get there – think about your customers, put yourself in their shoes. Even better ask other parts of the organization to do it, it is worth the time!

If a customer wants to collaborate, cool, let’s work together. If we are focusing on transactions and information, then that is good too, just another type of good. If I am a small company, with a unique clientele, then there is the possibility that we can achieve both at the same time. In other words, let’s do business together and work towards increasing the value of the business for each of us. I cannot do it alone though, other members of you team, organization or enterprise need to be involved.

In short, I stick by my first statement, if you cannot help, allow or enable your organization  – large or small – to be collaborative, work together, then the value of trying to be Social within the context of CRM will be lost. How are you going to get this done?

What is Twitter for Anyway?

The dynamic of Twitter has changed, it is different, and I am struggling to put my finger on exactly what that change is about. It is possible that I am different, or that my needs and wants from Twitter are different. But, Twitter must be more to people than just a place to whine, or vent, unfortunately, that seems that is what makes the news. Twitter is an acquired taste. You cannot tell someone to like it, they just have to figure it out for themselves, find their own best use. This does need to be an active decision. Twitter is the bridge between Social Media and Social Networking and the recent change, the new dynamic, seems to have made that chasm wider, and that bridge harder to cross.

Twitter was my introduction to Social Media. I joined and starting using it about the same time as Facebook and the time I started blogging. Yes, I watched and maybe created a few YouTube videos, participated in instant messaging, but this was the real start. On Twitter, I started slow, asked me wife to look at my Tweets, just to be sure someone was watching, isn’t that how everyone starts? I was not an early adopter, by any stretch, but I think I was an early adopter from a collaboration perspective, eh, maybe.

Is Twitter for Sales, Support or Marketing?

Yes.

There is no really good answer here, ask 4 people and you will get 5 opinions. There is certainly value for sales people to leverage Twitter. Specifically, it can be a valuable intelligence tool even research tool. But, it could also be a monumental waste of time. A sales person will not close a deal on Twitter, not in the B to B space anyway. It must be part of a broader strategy, and caution is advised. I believe sales people need as much, or more guidance than others to use it effectively.

Talk to Frank Ellison (@comcastcares) and Twitter is good for customer support. Or at least for customer complaints, there is a subtle difference. Is Twitter really good for Customer Support, or do companies simply tolerate it? There was a good discussion on the Social Pioneers Google Group, feel free to peruse the discussion there. If your customers are not likely to be on Twitter or using Twitter for support type issues, no reason to encourage them to move here. Martin Schneider wrote an interesting post about whiners on Twitter, Jacob Morgan talked about the issue as well. but, at a higher level, Social CRM not just Twitter. Support needs to solve this problem, of the whiners, and not reward them. But, if you really want to solve problems, you need to take the conversation somewhere else.

Marketing, of course, loves Twitter. It is a way to broadcast messages, first and foremost. The ones that are doing it right, are using it as part of a multi-channel strategy, to engage with the ecosystem and participate in conversations – listening more and talking less. If they are talking, then the hope is that they are talking about something else other than themselves. People are doing this, brands not so much. I am not going to go deep on the marketing use, hundreds of articles have been written and read. Twitter is a place where Marketing can begin the conversation, but is not the place where a relationship can be built.

Twitter is for Collaboration, and it is where things begin

I asked my Tweeps (Friends on Twitter) what they thought, and the answers support my thesis (statistical sample is small and skewed, but work with me). Collaboration is my favorite use for Twitter, it is very powerful. I have met fascinating people, and have continued collaborative relationships which extended much beyond Twitter. Brent Leary had a great way to put it. “@mjayliebs I like 2.0 and what it allows us to do, but 1.0 is still where relationships began w/ 2.0 become 3D – richer, more meaningful…”

  • Allen Bonde, a management consultant and marketer said: “Twitter is great for alerts, listening and offers for followers. It’s a good discussion starter – but a poor discussion finisher”,
  • Jason Falls, a thinker, blogger and consultant in the media relations domain said “Twitter is for Conversations”,
  • Esteban Kolsky, an analyst and consultant, said:”twitter was the blueprint to evolve collaboration platforms… can it continue to be relevant now? time will tell – gut says meh”,
  • Venessa Miemis, a futurist, philosopher, thought architect, metacog said:”Connecting, sharing resources, network weaving, learning, expanding consciousness, growing, discovery”,
  • Heather Margolis, a Channel Management and Marketing Maven using social media in a B2B world said: “Connecting with those in your industry/eco-system but maybe not in your direct circle of contacts”,
  • Brian Vellmure, a Customer focused strategist said ” 1) People Sampler 2) Learning Tool 3) Relationship/Conversation On ramp 4) Info distribution channel”,
  • Ann Hadley head content, editor Marketing Profs,  said “Twitter is for connecting. Also, whiter teeth.”
  • Mark Frazier – President, Openworld – said “a) scans of torrential innovation, w/links to dive in b) sense of ‘whole person’ via their tweet traces c) map of influence nets”,
  • Mike Boysen, a CRM purist, said “Twitter is a novelty. I found new friends. We quickly moved to another medium. Nothing left to say”,
  • Mark Tamis – with a Enterprise 2.0 and BPM background a said “finding and exchanging information and insights relevant to my interests and further the thinking around them”,

I might be hanging with the wrong crowd, or the right crowd, my preference of course. But no one said “whining”, why is that? Is it because the people who responded actually listen, as well as talk?  Of course Esteban Kolsky wrote a great post just yesterday, helping me to formulate my own thoughts:

“Twitter is a microcosm.  Twitter is a world in itself, and it has dramatic representations of what happens in the real world as well.” He then goes on to say “Twitter is a representation of the real world, no more and no less, and it requires the same commitment to get value out of it as you do from the real world.”

This is crucial to those of  you out there that just love to yell and scream when something happens. Just ask yourself, if you were at a cocktail party, or at a neighborhood BBQ, would you broadcast as loudly? Has it changed for you? Are your teeth whiter? Just asking….

A CRM Lesson Learned, from a Gardener

(Trying something different – this is a cross post from one done earlier this week on CRMOutsiders. The idea is to incorporate some feedback from comments on the post and discussions I have had to enhance the topic)

So, what exactly did I learn from my Gardener? (Gardener not Gartner) And, how in the world can I apply it to CRM, or further, a CRM implementation? In a nutshell, I learned that proper planning for application development, deployment and just many initiatives seems to be a lost art. This seems to ring especially true for Social Media initiatives.

Plant a $5 shrub in a $10 hole

When I am not in front of a computer screen, (which seems to be a little too often) I long to use some of the handy skills, which my dad taught me when I was young. Build it, fix it, rinse and repeat. About as close as I come is reading my monthly issue of Popular Mechanics, looking at all the cool things I should be doing, or getting some advice on topics such as gardening. The inspiration for this post is the May 2010 issue, page 126 (yes, I bet it is online somewhere). The simple statement, in bold above, “Plant a $5 shrub in a $10 hole” really just sunk in (bad pun, sorry). The small blurb goes on to say: “In other words, your extra labor will be repaid with vigorous trees and shrubs.”

I hope that you, the reader are able to make the leap. If the focus is too heavily skewed towards technology and not the planning, requirements gathering, analysis, design and then implementation – not too mention people, culture, process changes and role changes – then how can you expect success in deploying a new system of any kind? Spend the time, up front figuring out what you need to do in order to make the project a success.

Mark Tamis had this to say about the topic:

Not only is the problem not understanding the problem you are trying to solve, the problem is also in thinking that the technology will solve the problem. This is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The shiny object may look nice, but if it doesn’t get your job done and lad to your desired outcome, why waste the time and the effort?

This is not only about something new

The article referenced above is not only about a new ‘hole’ for a new ‘plant’, it actually starts with a question about what to do if a plant does not seem to be doing well after a long hard winter. Hmmm, I wonder if I can get away with calling the economy we experienced during the past 2 years a ‘long hard winter’ – yeah, I think I can. So, in this scenario, do I just say ‘out with the old in with the new’? I am not only talking about CRM, I am talking about technology of nearly any type. Extending the metaphor just a little further, if I simply swap the plant, without checking the soil, making sure there is enough water, or proper drainage, putting in another plant will likely lead to the same end result.

When I shared these thoughts with Reem Bazrari from SugarCRM, she  offered the following as important to the conversation:

More importantly, the provider should sell its technology with that understanding as well:
1- Educate the customer on standard or industry process that would help them improve their business
2- Provide the technology with a ramp-on plan and explain how it will tie with those processes
3- Continuously monitor the customer’s feedback

Simply replacing technology with newer technology often seems like the easiest solution. But ask yourself, and your team, what is the real reason we need to do this? I have read from many highly respected sources, that technology is rarely the problem, it is properly preparing for the technology that is the problem. Again, I am not talking about net new here, I am talking about ‘rip and replace’ because of that new shiny object in the corner over there.