Web care Archetypes: The Firefighter

Situation

Some of the archetypes I would like to start with a personal story and this is one of them:

There was a service disruption of our TV signal. Since we are getting used to using Twitter as a service channel (sometimes the only way to get some decent service), my wife decided to sent out a tweet to our provider of our TV signal. Since my neighbour has a triple play subscription with the same provider (since he not only lacked a TV signal, but wasn’t able to call and didn’t had an internet connection) he too send out a tweet.

Seven hours later when I arrived home nor my wife nor our neighbour had received a reply, while in other situations they would have received a reply. So I decided to send out a tweet and within minutes I got a reply back from them, with just the message they we working really hard.

The next morning I contacted them again and asked if they could provide me a deadline when there work would be finished and when they could inform me about a refund. When I asked my neighbour what he would do with the money of the refund, he told me they hadn’t reach out to him and he didn’t hear anything about any refund. In the end he didn’t got a refund. It was like the provider just forget that my neighbor was paying five times more than I am for my subscription. However I was just of the few, more influential, customers that tweeted and got a refund.

Analysis

A spark neglected makes a mighty fire.  

Robert Herrick

When things are getting busy, you need to focus, that is the thing this provider probably did: focus on the people that could create damage on the short run. Given that I am more influential than my wife or my neighbour (at least on vanity metrics such as Klout, Kred and Peerindex), they might give me a higher priority. However they forgot about certain other important things. First of all my wife is journalist, I would say that is one demographic you want to maintain a good friendship with. Second of all is that my neighbour has the premium package and is paying way more for his subscription than we do. Third of all is that I told them in the past that if I had any opportunity to switch that I would so. It is not like giving me a refund would make me stay for any longer than I should have to.

Basically they made a decision on too little variables to just reach out to me. Both my neighbour and my wife noticed that they were ignored while they saw that I got a reply within minutes. It provides a whole different meaning to the word customer experience.

How to make it better

The key change that has to be made in this case is to know your customers better and make sure you treat everybody as equal as you can, or as important as they really are for you. In this case there was a disturbance of service in a couple of streets, people who live in streets together tend to talk with each other. Not taking that specific piece of geographic information into account is making it yourself very difficult, since conversations happen not only online.

In this case the focus is on the wrong people: importance is more than a Klout score. A small analysis just on names showed that me and my neighbour were both complaining, and since we are neighbours we are likely to be in touch with each other. Basically there is a need for better information and perhaps even a bit of workflow automation so decisions are made on data instead of on gut feeling and some arbitrary numbers.

It is important to have the context available, instead of just having a single tweet and a single number. N=1 is a sample size that is too small.

Web care Archetypes: The Schizophrenic

Situation

Some of the archetypes I would like to start with a personal story and this is one of them:

We ordered a solarium at a post order company. All went fine until one of the lamps broke down. Those things can happen so we contacted the customer service of this company and they told us they would fix this quickly. After two weeks, which we don’t consider as ‘quickly’, we decided to contact them again. Again the promise was that the service department would contact us almost immediate to make an appointment to fix it.

After a few days we decided to send out a tweet which triggered a very fast response and the Web care department called us. They discovered that they had the wrong phone number in their systems and changed it and after that it seems fine. However the service department, which was in a different silo so it seems, didn’t got an update on the new phone number and still tried to dial the old number. In the end, after some more tweets back and forth it was fixed, though the speed on how things were moving forward depended on which department we were talking with.

Analysis

This is the typical example of a company in which the Web care team has a bigger mandate than the traditional service desk. Or at least the Web care team can go the extra mile instead of a typical call centre that tries to make you hang up the phone after 1 minute and 27 seconds, since then they could do 40 calls per hour which is so great for their productivity. This also results that you not only hang up the phone, but also hang up on the company.

However the call centre in this case might not be performing below average in their market, the Web care team creates the perception that this call centre is just a poor performing piece of legacy that is always out performed by the fresh and the new: the Web care team. Just because they are allowed to do so much better.

Even though this establishes the much desired switching of channels by the consumer, since serving somebody via social media is often cheaper than serving somebody via a call centre, this is not a sustainable approach to make sure the switch on long term. The only reason your customer switches is because they are being mistreated in one channel and treated like kings in another channel. Not everybody will make the switch, since not everybody is willing to go for a second try on a different channel.

Again this is you losing clients by having a very schizophrenic approach towards service: cheap in the call centre and royal in the Web care channel.  The bitter taste of poor quality lingers long after the sweet taste of low price is forgotten. Having a great Web care is seldom really great on the long run in this case.

How to make it better

Fire your Web care department and integrate it with your existing service department / call centre. There is no need to differentiate these two, especially not in a way that ends up in a service schizophrenia. Make sure that all your service and care activities are aligned and have similar KPIs. If one group of people needs to solve issues within 2 minutes and the other group of people just have to make sure it is being solved, you create different experiences and your customers will notice. Don’t glorify the service department, since basically all they do is correcting failures that occurred in an earlier process and bother the customer, however empower them so they can work with the rest of the organisation to make sure those failures won’t happen again.

Call centres traditionally strive to a 100% utilisation of their people. From that perspective it might even make more sense to integrate Web care with the traditional service department. Since if there are no calls and utilisation might drop below this very much desired 100% you can handle the digital channel to boos the utilisation and vice versa.

It is wrong to use different teams for different channels, I just assume you never have a had a fax-team in your organisation. Your customer is reaching out to you because of something that they didn’t expect to happen. They don’t reach out to you because you are using a certain channel. Therefore make sure the experience is always brilliant, since you might not always get a second chance.

Web care Archetypes: The Lone Wolf

Situation

Some of the archetypes I would like to start with a personal story and this is one of them:

We ordered some birthday stuff for my son online at a German football club since he absolutely loves soccer. However after ordering it there was no communication, besides after 4 days an email that things were really busy now and things might be delayed (imagine telling your customer: thanks for your money, now wait for it when we feel like shipping).

After four weeks of no communication we tried a first message on Twitter to their main account. Still deafening silence. After that a second tweet, still no response, then a third tweet reaching out to the social media manager of this club. Finally a response (not s a solution though) and he provided us with the details of somebody who could help us. After a week of more silence all of a sudden the package arrived. Just a bit too late for this birthday, though our son decided anyways to not be a fan of this club, since he prefers a club that cares.

Analysis

If you are not responding to your customers, literally in this case your fans, you have a bigger issue than just Web care not done right. Since fans are the type of customers that tend to give you recurring revenues and by creating a poor first experience you make sure the next time they won’t bother at all and won’t spend their money on you. The only reason this case seems to be solved is because of an individual that cares enough to go into the organisation to try to solve things.

In this specific case it was his job to do something with social media, however I guess service was not part of his job description. In many other cases it is somebody who is just passionate about the job he does and thinks that everybody that interacts with the products and services of his company should have a great experience. Those people go beyond their job description and make deep impact for the organisation often outside regular working hours. However it isn’t scalable and sustainable so it won’t work on the long-term or with high volume.

It might be clear that this approach (by lack of a better word) of Web care doesn’t help companies in turning Web care into a profit centre. Even worse the result of this way of working gives people a reason not to buy anything from you, because you don’t seem to care after the transaction. Also when you have just one lone wolf (or just a couple) you are running the risk that people are burning up, since they are doing so much stuff besides their day job , that you have to wonder if this is still healthy for them. This unstructured approach turns people away and creates burnouts. Neither of these two items are things you like to happen.

How to make it better

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Abraham Lincoln

It is plain and simple: make sure your service works. This soccer club is lucky to have a guy who is so involved to invest time in solving issues caused by others who don’t even care to reply to an email. He is probably one of the unsung heroes, however given that he is just alone he will scale poorly in the end and burn up.

This organisation needs to scale up and make sure there more people just like him and that they become pro active, instead of reactive. By becoming pro active you solve issues sooner in the process, providing the organisations and people with more time for other things, such as the proverbial ‘sharpening the axe’. Cherish the Lone wolfs, though more important let them build a pack of wolfs to make it scale. Often the Lone wolf himself is so busy he forgets to do that, so help him with this.

As soon as you have a group of Lone Wolfs most of your Web care issues are over and you’ll scale rather nicely while even providing a human face to service, instead of just showing a logo that blast out replies. By doing so, you are once again able to make a real connection with people reaching out to you via social media and by having such a connection you can increase loyalty which in itself could increase revenue in the long run. However the most important thing is that you really start caring about other people, instead of just firefighting.

The Nine Archetypes of Web care

This might be the last item I write about Web care, even though I find it very interesting to see how companies are pouring tons of cash into a brain-dead activity. Essentially, a lot of companies are trying to duct-tape their poor service online by being great on Facebook and Twitter. Because poor service is what it boils down to: you have failed with your product or service, either by delivery poor quality or make it difficult to understand it or to handle it. Seldom you see companies handling messages on social media from enthusiastic groups of fans that throw idea after idea to a company or any other positive feedback on why the products or services (or the brand in general) are so great.

Web care: the Shiny alternative for failing business processes

So the current state of Web care is pathetic, just for the simple fact that Web care is a way too narrow view on social business activities. Web care is now just playing help desk on social media. For now people perceive this as sexy because it is new. For now having a lot of people in your Web care team is something great, however if you frame it correctly it is often the sign of a company in demise that unfortunately still has too much money to spend to really see that their world is colliding.

Having a big Web care team shows that you have a lot of activity to handle. However if all you do is answering questions of your customers day in day out and these questions are nearly the same, you have an information issue: you seem not to be able to offer the right information on time to your customer: Instead of fixing the real problem you are duct taping this issue with Web care: the shiny sexy alternative for failing business processes.

Is it a thing or does it matter?

However you might realise that the thing you are doing with Web care is just that: a thing, not something that matters in one way or another let alone that it can be a profit centre for your organisation or drives real change. However it is hard to go from a thing to something that makes a difference and matters. To be able to transform this, you have to know where you are at, what you are doing wrong and what you need to do to move away from hiding process failures with the shiny new thing and move into the next stage: social business transformation; transforming your organisation towards a social business in which social adds value, instead of hiding your issues.

To make you more aware of what might be wrong with your current Web care activities, I have created a list of archetypes of the ways in which Web care is executed within organisation. With these archetypes you are able to identify your pitfalls and show what you can do to make a change. Since if you want to move forward you need to make a change, with Web care you are just running round in circles, instead of making a real substantial and sustainable change in your way of working and interacting with your ecosystem.

These archetypes are:

In the upcoming week all of these archetypes will be published and you will find links to the articles here. If you want to keep the articles as soon as these are published: scroll down and subscribe to these articles using your email.

Start transforming your business now

Coming to the end of the introduction, I realise that this is probably not the last thing I will write about Web care, just for the simple fact that there is still so much work to do in transforming  so many organisations into a social business. Although so many business already think that they are already there because they have a Web care department. Therefore there is a lot of work to do, and basically it starts here with the identification of the archetypes of Web care.

Enterprise Collaboration: what would Super Techies do?

Suggest a modern collaboration system that supports effective internal and external engagement and is highly accessible, secure and flexible. 

That was the challenge provided by Edsel Perreira, Vice President – Information Technology at Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd, to the participants of the Capgemini Super Techie Show, the first technology-based reality game show for IT professionals. I was invited to be a part of this show as a member of the jury in this show and listen to the solutions the participants and it was a true privilege to do so.

The question Edsel Perreira raised might seem to be a generic one, however there is always a question behind the question. The real question is:

How can I use such a system within my organisation on any device while I can be compliant with all rules and regulations and while increasing productivity of my employees.

The solutions

Without going into the details of the solutions of the participants, I would suggest that you watch the show for this it will be well worth your time to view their great ideas, I would like to provide you with a list of items you should at least think of when wanting to get started with such a solution.

  1. What issue are you solving; a collaboration system is nice, however what are the use cases you are going to use it for.
  2. Where is the money; implementation will cost money, is there an ROI and if so how will you measure it.
  3.  How will you make people use it; The business case might be clear for the corporation, however how will you get the individual employee to use it.
  4. Technology; There is enough technology available, however what fits the needs of the customer and does it have a good fit with the existing application landscape
  5. Hosting; On premise, public or private cloud or a hybrid solution. Data has to be stored somewhere, given the rules and regulations in this market what is the best solution that provides both flexibility and security.
  6. When will it be implemented; Ideas are great, reality is better, how much time will it take to get it up and running.

I was impressed by the extensive knowledge of the participants and how they approached the challenge that was provided by Glenmark. Each of the teams came with their unique perspective which provided Glenmark with several different solutions they now could be able to choose from or to use a mix of the three proposed solutions. Since in my experience there is no doubt that Enterprise Collaboration Systems will provide companies such as Glenmark with a huge strategic advantage just by connecting and sharing the knowledge within the company.

Follow the Capgemini Super Techies Show

If you would like to keep up to date on the Capgemini Super Techies Show you might visit the site, follow the show on Twitter or like it on Facebook and of course you can view the show on our YouTube Channel.

The first episode you can view right here and my views and those of Edsel Perreira directly after the show can be viewed in the videos below the first episode:

My views directly after the show

Edsel Perreira’s views directly after the show

Congratulations Community Manager: You Have Saved your Job, but Killed your Community

A lot of community managers are not managing communities, they are just managing their own job security, they are ensuring that they have a job and the success of the community comes second (at best). In general it almost looks like a natural behaviour, since it happens so often, though if you look a bit deeper it is either based on fear or on ignorance.

Symptoms of a focus on job security and not on the community’s well-being

There are a few symptoms that show that a community manager might be more concerned about his job than about the community. These symptoms are:

  1. Treating your community members as toddlers. Even though common sense is not that common, there is no reason to assume that your community is a collection of morons. Empower your community members, help them, though do not belittle them, they can think for themselves. Community managers that are treating their members as morons do so to show that without them it would be a complete disaster, since the worst thing that could happen is that people start thinking for themselves and come up with some intelligent suggestions…
  2. Coming up with endless lists of rules, visions, strategies etc. A typical way to avoid any work is by making plans instead of taking actions. It is good to make a plan, however a plan doesn’t run your community. Some community managers take also the rather isolated approach with this item, as in: they work on these things by themselves without involvement of community members or other stakeholders. Community managers that make a lot of plans often actually don’t know what they should be really doing and therefore keep making plans to create validate their work. Plus like I said before: often making plans is perceived as real work, while most people do it just to avoid the real work.
  3. Using vanity metrics instead of focusing on business goals. As long as lines in charts are moving upwards to the right things are perceived as doing great. Therefore tons of reporting in communities is done on number of messages, number of members etc etc, numbers that always increase. However what kind of business value does it generate? If you cannot correlate (and preferably directly relate) your community with business outcomes you are managing somebody’s hobby, not something that adds value to the business. Community managers often report on vanity metrics because they are easy to measure and always look good and sometimes also because the organisation itself has no idea and the community manager doesn’t take the lead to guide the organisation on what to do.
  4. Keeping the lights on, even if nobody is there. Kill your darlings, especially as a community manager you shouldn’t be afraid to stop doing thing, to close down parts of the community or even to discuss the viability of the community in general. Community managers think that their job is just managing the community, though it is about generating business value which happens to be with a community as. Just having a community for the sake of having a community is the most desperate job security measure.

 How to overcome this and be brilliant in your job

If you only know what you shouldn’t do, or what you are doing is wrong, you still don’t know what you should be doing. So let me counter the four earlier points with the things you could be doing instead. And more important with which you would make a bigger impact on the business and its goals.

  1. Empower your community members. Your job isn’t to to micro manage community members, it is to make sure that can do what they should be doing and be great at it. That is not something you do by holding hands, at least not if you want to make it scale. Think of what you can do to let your community members shine and derive value out of the community. You’ll see that is not you that have to be in the spotlight,  you are more like the person behind the scenes: connecting people, stimulating people to participate etc etc. A community manager is facilitating most of the time and less  (micro) managing. The community is about putting your community members in the spotlight, not yourself.
  2. Focus on business goals. If something is not contributing to a business goal it is a hobby subsidised by your employer. There is nothing wrong with hobbies, though subsidising is not something that is very sustainable. If you want to measure if a community is truly successful you need the connection with business goals, also because this can help in providing you with more budgets for activities on the long run (since if you earn more for the company you can ask for more to make it even better). If you are able in helping to meet business goals you are proving the real value of the community and you are doing a service to both the company and the community members, since you are also then creating a sustainable place for the latter group. If your company has no views on what business goals could be achieved with a community, help them in defining it. A community manager should lead, not just follow.
  3. Challenge everything / kill your darlings. Don’t take the community success for granted and don’t settle if you meet certain success standards, since your community is not standard and most likely never will be. Only if you challenge nearly everything you can move forward, if that means that you have to kill certain features in your community do so. Nothing is more disastrous for success than trying to please everybody. By challenging everything it is not just about challenging what you are doing, but also what others are doing and whether you could do it better (more effectively for example) with a community than it is done currently. A community manager should be able to inspire its surroundings, not just the community managers, but also the other stakeholders since that will be one of the ways the understand the added value.

In the first four points the community manager is a follower, somebody who just does what other people say so and doesn’t try to be remarkable or challenge the status quo. Though in the last three points you see that a community manager is a leader, somebody who make things happen, not by putting himself in the centre but by helping others, either the community members or the other stakeholders. A leader doesn’t have to be in the spotlight and especially when it is about community management it about letting other people shine and helping people to meet their (business) goals, it is never about making sure that you still have a job in a year from now. Since if you do your community management really well you might have a job for life.

Your Company is Killed by Meetings

Imagine: you are asked to spend two hours of your day with 7 other people in a room, doing nothing. Just be in the room listen and then leave. If you are working in a bigger than average organisation most likely this has happened to you more than just once. Even worse: it might have become a daily habit. Spending hours on end with a bunch of people talking about stuff, without actually doing anything and making any impact. That activity is an enterprise killer, which is known by the term: “the meeting”.

The inconvenient truth: most meetings are just a way to please the ego of the organiser of the meeting. The organiser needs attention and the easiest way to get your attention is to book a meeting and since most of us are just conditioned to show up, we just show up to please the organiser. The worst thing is: nobody asks questions about how you spend your time. Being in meetings all day is a perfect excuse to most managers that you are at work, while the only thing you do is the opposite: avoiding work.

A meeting is never just an hour of your time, it is an hour of every participant’s time: having a meeting with 7 people and you is a full working day of productivity that is going down the drain just by one meeting. That is just the meeting time, worst case you have to do some travelling to do to get at the meeting place, though there is at least switching time involved to get in a somewhat productive state over the meeting itself. It is more like 1.5 working day lost due to that one hour meeting.

How to overcome  being killed by meetings and become productive once again

Old habits die-hard and meetings are one of the worst habits we have developed over the years. Let’s start to break this bad habit:

Do you really need the meeting

Always ask these questions first:

  • Do you (the organiser) need to consume other people’s time?
  • Do you (the participants) need to attend this meeting?
  • What value will this meeting bring to its participants?
  • Is there an other way to solve the issue besides scheduling a meeting?

Know the goal of the meeting

Is the meeting for information sharing? Cancel it. Meetings are either for problem solving or for decision-making, nothing more. If you want to share information with a group, just make sure you have an enterprise social network solution available in which you can share the information (or request to share information) with the group. This is by far more efficient than stealing everybody’s time and put them in a single space. If there is no goal mentioned for the meeting, always cancel it, poorly prepared meetings are timekillers.

Don’t accept default durations of meetings

Why should a meeting be 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 60 minutes? Scheduling software offers these standard durations, however do you need 30 minutes? Would 18 minutes be sufficient? Why not schedule 7 minutes if you only need 7 minutes. Plan for the time you need, create a constraint and me sure that  you finish within the scheduled time.

Only concrete things are worth having a meeting about

Abstract things don’t exist and therefore can be discussed for days on end. Only have meetings about something really concrete (a product, an issue that can be reproduced a piece of design) are worth having since you can do something with it.

If the meeting is about an issue and the issue has a location go there, not to a meeting room

Issues become more tangible if you experience them, not when they are conveyed in words on a Powerpoint slide. Meeting rooms are just isolated places from reality, nothing really happens there besides meetings. If you can go elsewhere which has a better connection to the subject of the meeting, go there.

No agenda, is no meeting

If there is no agenda, there is no structure, no preparation and absolutely no value. If people appreciate your appearance and added value of you in a meeting, they should appreciate your time first. Appreciation starts with preparation so that you waste as little as possible. Also preparation helps to come to the insights which people must attend (as little as possible).

Meetings end with actions, owners and deadlines

If you don’t end up with actions you’ve had a conversation, not a meeting. A meeting ends with a set of actions in which each action has an owner and a deadline. Reporting back on these actions doesn’t require a new meeting, it requires communication and an agreement on how to update others on the progress.

Actual things you could do tomorrow to reduce your meetings

Over the years I have introduced, experienced and heard about many successful solutions to adapt your workaround in an easy way to become more effective and to spend less time on meetings. They might inspire you to take action and to start changing the way you work right now.

Meeting credits

The issue with meetings is that everybody can schedule them, it isn’t a scarce resource. Well your time is scarce, though when it is managed by somebody else it is not perceived as scarce. To create a better understanding on what you are wasting by scheduling meetings make time a really scarce resource. You can do so by creating meeting credits. One meeting credit is one hour of one person’s time. So if you want to schedule your weekly look-at-me meeting with 10 people it will cost you 10 credits. By limiting the credits you force people to think critically about meetings in general and specifically in who should be attending the meeting and who not, since if you invite too many people or organise too many meetings you’ll be out of credits and you won’t be able to organise yet another meeting.

The standup meeting with a twist

Stand up meetings are supposed to be short meetings, however since some people improved standing into an art form they can go on for hours. There is a simple change you can apply I heard of: ask all the participants to drink a big glass of water before the meeting starts. As soon as the first person has to go to the bathroom the meeting has finished. Drinking water is healthy and not having meetings for hours is also healthy, so why not combine both?

Record and repeat

One alternative I just heard from my friend Björn de Visser was to record and repeat. He is always thinking when he has to do a meeting with a repeatable topic: “Can I make a Webinar out of it”. Indeed, why would you do a meeting more than once (or repeat parts of the meeting) even though the audience is different. That is just poor time management from your own side. Focus on the new things in a meeting, everything that could be repeated could be used in the preparation of the meeting or to consume it afterwards, this way you can have a really focused meeting on the things that really matter.

Socialize

Just talk with each other more often. There is the Allen curve that shows that the more we are apart, the less we communicate. However it is not when we have a meeting that we communicate more with each other, we talk to each other, however that doesn’t imply that there is real communication. Social platforms are a great way to keep in touch with each other and to overcome the Allen curve and to keep the communications going. Meeting can then be used to make decisions, instead of just catching up.

In the end

It is about you managing your time, not the time of others by scheduling meeting in their calendars. That goes of course both ways, others shouldn’t be managing your time by scheduling meetings in your calendar.

6 Social Business Trends

Before firing off some trends at you, let me explain to you why Social Business is important. Social Business is important because we are leaving the era of industrialisation in which we closely rely on technology to create large scale manufacturing solutions that consisted of mainly routine tasks. As you might have experienced yourself and what researchers have uncovered more clearly: work is becoming more non routine. Take that combined with a more equal playing field in publishing, since in the past you used to have either the money or sources to publish via a printing press or it successors, and the world has changed. What not has changed over the last few years is organizations. And you cannot blame them for it, all them are, as my colleague Gopal Padinjaruveetil puts it (to quote him freely):

We have a situation where the Business Users are in the 21st century, the Enterprise IT Department is in the 20th century and IT – Business Processes are in the 19th century.

And the result of it is that organisations that are using social media, aren’t using it for business purposes. They try to catch up with their business users, their customers, however they forget that in every organisations some things are limited: resources and time. They are just copying their old processes on the new platforms and still have the illusion that things are going fine. Therefore one of the oldest business mantras is still in place: if you spend money you should make money, or at least spend less money than you would had to do in the baseline scenario. Or more concise: it has to serve a business goal. The presentation below will give you and idea on what to do next. Since images is just one part of the story I’ve written out the voiceover I’ve used during this presentation below the slides.

The slides

The sweet spots of Social Business

There are four sweet spots in Social Business and keep those in mind when we go to the six social business trends:

  1. Increase employee productivity. The traditional do more with less approach. Since most knowledge workers are stuck for 28 hours a week in either their inbox or in meetings, you can imagine that there is tons of productivity we can gain by reducing this. However there is also a big opportunity in reducing duplicate work, improving communication and by removing decentralised or hidden communication at all.
  2. Increase customer satisfaction. At the same time you can reduce the cost to serve. Which might seem to be a contradiction, however if you think of something like peer 2 peer support in which customers support other customers it might become more clear. By having customers picking up the support role, you can reduce your service costs and if you provide the right incentives customers become more satisfied, have to wait less time to get an answer and become more loyal to the brand since they can make a difference themselves by helping their peers.
  3. Increase lead generation and up sell opportunities. And reduce your marketing spend, since marketing is not the only driver for your sales efforts. You can bolster your sales team by having more information available for them to base their decisions on, but also create a better view of your customer and therefore better tailor your offer to their real needs.
  4. Increase employee satisfaction. Satisfied employees tend to stay longer and that alone already reduces your recruitment costs. However bonding with talents early on and hire the right people early on can be a great benefit as well, since the War on Talent is going on right now. Also maintaining a successful alumni community can help your business with a good network and also for re-hiring purposes.

The six trends

The six trends I am going to describe to you are all trends to you can apply right now, perhaps some fo them you are already doing or experiencing, though overall these are practical trends, nothing long-term or really futuristic. Just realistic trends of today and trends that all fit the four sweet spots I described to you before.

1. Privacy as a Currency

Imagine that you can go to a hotel and get a room without paying any money. The only thing in return is a 24/7 broadcast of you in your hotel room. Everything you do is broadcasted to the world. Might sound scary, however in a way we are already exchanging our privacy for things we want to have or want to use. By using services such as Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare your exchanging part of your privacy for functionality. In some cases you might to do same with companies. They ask you for certain information and you are providing it to them to get for example better service or better offers in return. Basically as soon as you are authorising a social platform with a platform from a business (such as a retailer), you are giving a bit of your privacy to the company, since they can get access to your information. Privacy as a currency would fit in the sweet spot of lead generation and up sell opportunities.

2. Insights are the new oil

Often it is stated that data is the new oil, however oil is scarce and one thing isn’t scarce anymore it is data. However insights are very scarce. Though you can use the social data that is already available for you to create insights for your customers. For example C&A is using the number of likes to show popularity of a certain item of clothing directly on its hanger. You can use social data to do predictions on what the next step can be for your customer or what kind of need he really has. Or you can use social proof to persuade customers to buy a product they normally don’t buy instead of trying to persuade them with a discount (which basically just costs you money). Insights are the new oil basically fits across all the aforementioned sweet spots since these insights help you to excel in all areas.

3. Frictionless sharing

If you are regular reader of my site, you probably have read a lot about frictionless sharing and you can read the collection of articles on this matter on this page. Frictionless sharing is the approach that the user sets up sharing permissions just once and after that content is shared automatically based on other behaviours  For example in Spotify the default behaviour is that all of the music you play is automatically shared with your friends. Imagine if you could do that with your products or services, what would be the meaningful experiences that could be shared with friends and could in the end drive a higher awareness of your products and services and to have more customers in general. Frictionless sharing would fit in the sweet spot of employee productivity, since if they have to think less of when to share, they can focus more on doing things, also it fits in the upsell and lead generation sweet spot.

4. Task completion

People are not using a search engine to search, nobody wants to do searching, people want task completion. Most social media efforts by companies are gimmicks, campaigns that just waste time and doesn’t help anybody in completing a certain goal. If you can design your social business solution that it helps task completion for either your customers or your employees the adoption rate is a lot higher. Elements of Gamification can help to get to task completion in a different way. If you are interested in gamification I would suggest to read the site of Andrzej Marczewski. Also keep in mind that you are not your product. You might sell shovels, though you are basically selling the opportunity to make holes in your backyard. Focus on task completion and focus on what you are actually doing, not on the thing you sell. Task completion of course is obvious to fit in the employee productivity and employee satisfaction sweet spot, also it fits in the increase of customer satisfaction since your customers will get things done quicker.

 5. Death by Marketing

One of the most concerning trends is basically marketeers getting on Social Media using as a new platform to get their message out. Basically the are just using it as a mechanism to shout to their customers how great they are and why you should buy their product. Even worse they are asking you to do the same. They offer a relatively small incentive and asking you (in different words) to spam your friends with their offers. It is a sad state of affairs and it is basically what Hugh Macleod already said in 2006: “if you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face”. Now with Social Media: people do punch in the face and the best thing of it: everybody sees it happening. Death by marketing is a trend, however not one you should adopt but one you should avoid. If you don’t avoid it your customer satisfaction will decrease as well as the opportunities for lead generation and up sell will diminish.

6. Don’t do it yourself

Being a Social Business means that you don’t put yourself into the center of the ecosystem. It is no about you, which also implies that you don’t have to do everything for everybody. It is a common pitfall in web care that companies think that they are the ones that should answer all questions that are out there. Please don’t. Think of your business goals, think of what your product actually is and think on how you could empower your customers and future customers to help you in making you scale while you can focus more on your core activities at the same time. Don’t do it yourself is just as insights are the new oil a trend that fits across all the aforementioned sweet spots.

What will you do on Monday?

After reading more than 1600 words of this article, what will you do with it. What is your next step now? Do you already have your business goals defined, do you know what the ROI could be, or are you just great on Facebook and will you start your next like+win action in a few hours? If you want to know how to make your social media efforts worth doing, please read this article.

Using Social Analytics and BI to be a Smarter Social Business

I presented this topic during the ‘Jaarcongres voor informatie management professionals’. Since the slides require a voice over I have added this voice over below the slides:

If you are talking about Business intelligence in most organisations, it is about organisational data, data that is a result of business processes of organisations. It is the organisation taking another look at themselves in order to, based on historic data, to predict the future and make decisions that might influence the future of the organisation positively. However as every mirror this only reflects one side of the picture of the organisation. Let me explain you how can go through this mirror, the looking glass, to get your organisation into a better world instead of being Red Queened.

There is a whole world outside of the organisation, such as social media, that can provide you with valuable information. This data is superfluous, instead of well-defined and limited based on your business processes, it is information created outside your organisations by people not part of your organisation. It can help you by creating a more complete picture than the just the one you see in the mirror, the looking glass, it can provide you with a 360 degrees view of yourself, your organisation and your stakeholders. However if all you see is just additional data, then it is most likely you are suffering from the Red Queen effect. You are just competing in an arms race with data, a race you are bound to lose as soon as there will be a another player that not only uses the social media data, but also changes the rules of the game.

Red Queen Effect

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.” “A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to go somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

The basic premise of the Red Queen Effect is: do nothing and fall behind, or run hard to stay where you are.  It is just playing a catch up game with the competition and trying to be one step of ahead of them in the same way they try to be a step ahead of you. However you could use the data  and the insights derived from it to transform the circumstances and the ecosystem to really move forward, instead of just running to stay in the same place.

Escaping the Red Queen using the Social graph

There is so much information available in Social Media and that information is already so well-connected to one another it can create a very valuable sets of insights in what you could do next. There is information available on what is being shared by people, people check-in on certain locations to let their friends know where they are. Items online are being recommended via Facebook or other services to other people. Everybody seems to be connected to everybody and something like six degrees of separation has been brought back to 3.74 degrees of separation. And as in every network there are super nodes, individuals that are having a deep impact ont he network itself, not only by being connected with a lot of people, but especially by being able to mobilize people in order to take action.

How Social Media Data can help you

If you are using Social Media data just for history based predictions you are doing yourself a disservice. You now can know what your customer is thinking since they share their thoughts on social media. What your customer is doing, since they share their activities on social media. And you can know what your customer wants, since he is also sharing this on social media. It is beyond just Facebook and Twitter, there are numerous platforms that provides people with the ability of creating wish lists, diaries, activity streams and all other sort of sharing mechanisms to share things about themselves or about their friends. It is becoming possible that you can know more about an individual himself than the individuals knows or at least has realised you could know.

This is instantly the difficult part: how not be creepy. If you know everything, or at least a lot it can be very attractive to use all the information. Target didn’t even use the Social Media Data that was available to cross the creepy line. They use the information from the consumption patterns of their customers to discover pregnancies, even before their customers knew. Now that is scary and that is something you don’t want to do.

Four Examples on what you can do know with Social Media Data

If you shouldn’t be using Social Media Data just as yet another data source, what is the thing you should do with it now? Let me provide you with four tangible solutions you can start implementing right now.

Stop Discounting, Get Social, Sell More

Every retailer has a certain set of customers who buy a lot of most of their products but refuse to buy a certain set of products. For example the grocery shopper who buys a lot of delicious high-end food, however he refuses to buy wine at the supermarket since his perception is that it is a low quality product not living up to his standards. What retailers normally would do is to coupon this person to death. It seems that price is the blocking issue to try things out, at least in their perception. However discounting items to make sure somebody is buying them, is not a sustainable behaviour. Not only are you losing money (or not making as much as you could), you are also conditioning your customer in that if something is cheap he should buy it, otherwise he should way.

Stop couponing, start using social proof. If the individual is reluctant to buy something because his perception is that it is a poor product, why not show him friends who like this product. Friends who already have bought this product and have a positive perception about it. This scenario takes some time to implement, however you can start tomorrow by collecting feedback from your customers on your products. That is the first step: collecting feedback.

Stop Doing Web care, use the data to make a difference

A lot of organisations are doing something they call web care, which is in fact hate care. You can read more about this in one of my previous articles on this matter. It is often a wasteful activity since it is both costing money and still not really solving an issue. However it might be a great marketing show case, though in the end even marketing is a wasteful activity. Web care is typical result of the Red Queen effect: everybody is doing it, so now are your.

In the end you don’t want to do web care, you want your customers help you in helping other customers. Since if people really care about your organisation, they care about their fellow customers as well. However this is a long-term scenario which might you take more than a year or even two years to make it happen. Though you can start eliminating wasteful activities right now. You can use the data on social media to fix the issues that are being reported by your customers. That is something your customers really want: something that works and is not broken. They appreciate the free money you give them and the attention you provide them, however a seamless user experience might get them even more excited.

Tear down the Ivory Tower of Product development

Often new products and services are thought up by a R&D department or an innovation department and if you are looking there has been a customer panel involved to validate assumptions. The downside of the departments and the panel is that it is just a limited group of people who most often share the same opinion. Plus validate assumptions with only very little people only leads to potential disaster, you only know when something will be successful if everybody can get his hands on it.

Stop trying to innovate in this way. Of course it is good to have a customer panel as part of a constant feedback loop, it is good to have people thinking up the next big thing since most customers still cannot predict something they want to have that not already exists in a form or shape. However customers already have a very clear view on what they want and especially what issues they are facing. In the end you want to do probably full co-creation in perhaps even a kickstarter.com way with your customers. However now you can already tap in their stream of thoughts on social media and use that input to think up the next big thing that will solve a common issue.

Sampling, stop analysing behaviour, start using connections

The easiest way to get a customer to buy something new, whether it is a product or a service, is to let the customer try it out. We currently decide which group of customers is most likely to convert in buying the product or service afterwards based on their current consumption behaviours. Which is a very limited view, since you have at best the behaviour of these people based on interactions with your organisations combined with some data how they behave in general. However you don’t have insights in what they think, want or do with other organisations.

So buying behaviour might definitely give you something, however it is not the complete view you need to increase conversions and increase customer satisfaction. Now Facebook has released their Open Graph Search, there are endless possibilities, which you can read in my previous articles here. However there is a first step you have to take before you can harness this information in a good way and that is by making sure there is a connection between you and your customer. As soon as the connection is there, you can get more insights. If the customers allow you to do so.

Don’t be Red Queened, become a Social Business

Instead of running to keep in the same place and just using Social Media Data as yet another data source. You now have the opportunity to escape the data arms race and to become a fundamentally different type of business: a Social Business. You can use Social Media Data to create a different and new connection with your customers. You can serve them better, you can empower them to help other customers and you can involve them in your product development processes.

Instead of being a business with just some more data that is still doing the same, you have to opportunity to become a better business, a social business. However will you take the time to stop running and choose a different direction? I truly hope so, since Red Queen organisations are doomed to lose their business to new players that decide do it differently, whether is has been the music industry, the photo industry or any other industry. The ones not participating in the arms race win, that can be new competitors that do not already exists, or it can be you.

Stop running, start transforming your business.

Why you should be able to code if you work in Social Media

Before I explain why should be able to code while working in the Social Media industry let me explain how I acquired this skill and how it helps me.

My history

Just after I got a cable internet connection at home which allowed me be online 24/7 I learned to code. Before I really learned to code I used to maintain a website on Geocities (it was the late nineties after all) with immense animated GIFs (created with Xara3d) created with Frontpage Express. However at a moment in time it didn’t fit my needs any more, I wanted to do more. So I went to a bookstore and bought this small book. It promised me I could hand code my own website within 20 minutes. It was my first experience with building real stuff for the web and discovering how to make things really work.

From Mark Up to Code

After a while I noticed that writing good mark up was nice, though it scaled rather poorly if you wanted to do a small change and you had to edit hundreds of files. Therefore I was looking around at one of the biggest forums in the Netherlands: Gathering of Tweakers for some help. Instantly there was one guy, named cutter, who was willing to help me by providing me some code snippets and a few sessions on ICQ for additional help. That was the way I learned how to write PHP and work with MySQL.

From there on I had my own company that helped organisations in creating content management systems and I wrote a very scalable blogging engine for one of the biggest websites of the Netherlands (which was decommissioned just a year ago after over approximately 6 years of service). Still I am every now and then playing around with PHP and also some Ruby on Rails just to try out things, build stuff and see if it works.

Now let me explain why it is important for you to learn to code.

There is more in Social Media than being Social

Knowing how to push a button on Twitter or Facebook might look like your core activity when doing something on Social Media, however it isn’t. Neither isn’t being great in PowerPoint to create a strategy or talking with people on how things could change when applying social design or how to integrate a Facebook widget in their website.

Your job is making things work. Your job is problem solving. If all you know about Social Media is what you see of Facebook and Twitter, you’ll miss 80% of it, meaning that at best you perform at only 20% of your level. You need to know what is under the hood, not in detail, nor do you have to be a code ninja. However if you are not aware that there is something under the hood and how it works and how you can make it work, you are doing yourself a service.

You might think it is not your job to build things since you are mainly an advisor or consultant, however you should be able to at least build a quick and dirty solution just to validate your assumptions. Plus you’ll get better on your job if you’re experimenting and creating real stuff. If you only wait till somebody else already has built the solution for your problem so you can include it in your PowerPoint, most likely that other person is becoming more credible and knowledgable in this area since he has:

  1. Build the solution
  2. Spend probably quite some time in analysing everything to be able to build it
  3. Gained insights on what is the next step for the product / service he is using as a platform

So not only has the creator an advantage of having the product, he has also the advantage of having more knowledge than you since he acquired that knowledge during the creation process. Plus he most likely gets a better overview on how things work and could predict easier what the next big developments will be for the platform he has worked on. Overall he gained more knowledge quicker than you did making charts in PowerPoint. Actually knowing how things work is such a valuable experience.

That is only the business side, however wouldn’t it be great that you can finally solve your own problem by just developing your own solution? I know I enjoyed it when I wanted to sync my Google Reader with Delicious, or when I wanted to automate some stuff to be automatically shared on Twitter. Now there is ifttt.com to solve these problems for me, however there is not always a solution available. Why wait on it, start solving it for yourself. Worst case is that you create a solution which is used by 1 billion people.

Your Next Step in Learning to Code

Start coding in just a few simple steps:

  1. Go to Code.org or to Code Academy (or to one of these many other sites) and start a course.
  2. Pick the problem you want to solve
  3. Start solving it in small iterations
  4. Share it with somebody and ask for feedback
  5. Learn somebody else to code
  6. repeat

If you don’t have the inspiration for 2, just ask people who are near you what they would like to do with social media. I am sure they have some demands that aren’t solved already by a solution.

Write code, improve your problem analysis, solve problems, get better in your job, have more fun.