Posted tagged ‘communities’

Hot off the Press: “How Companies Succeed in Social Business”

January 15, 2015

I’m very pleased to announce the arrival of a new book, “How Companies Succeed in Social Business: Case Studies and Lessons from Adobe, Cisco, Unisys, and 18 More Brands.” Shawn Santos, who initiated social research at TSIA around 2009, was the driver and editor of this book. Shawn reached out to experts among tech companies who have successful social business programs, as well as thought leaders in the social world. I’m happy to have contributed a chapter to the book, “Chapter 7: The State of Enterprise Social Technical Support.”
socbiz front
There are 22 contributing authors in all, including TSIA members Adobe, Cisco, Unisys, Bentley, BMC, Infor, Oracle, IBM, ServiceNow and Symantec. Francoise Tourniaire of FT Works, a longtime TSIA partner, also contributed a chapter.

I know there are a lot of books out there on harnessing social media for business purposes. But the majority of those I’ve read are by self-proclaimed experts–with little or no real-world experience–pontificating about how you must embrace social or die. This is not one of those books. “How Companies Succeed in Social Business” is by real practitioners, with stories from the trenches about what works, what doesn’t work, and how to increase the success of your social programs. If you are looking for self-promoting pontification, this is not the book for you. 😉

For my chapter, I shared TSIA research showing best practices and Pacesetter practices for online customer support communities, as well as leveraging social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter for customer support. Most of this data has not been released outside of TSIA membership, so I’m glad to be able to share some of our intellectual property with a larger audience. I made an effort to include as much data and analysis as possible–not just opinions.

socbiz data

The book is available via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/How-Companies-Succeed-Social-Business/dp/0134036484

Thanks for reading, and I hope you order your copy today!

Interview with Cisco’s Doug Pluta: Social Media Pacesetter Practices

April 14, 2014

TSIA’s Technology Services World is just around the corner, May 5-7 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. On the opening day of the conference, we are doing a flight of Pacesetter sessions, with presenters from some of our most progressive members giving insight into successful programs. Topics include customer experience, analytics and automating service delivery. I’m hosting a session on Social Media for Support, with two Pacesetting members, Doug Pluta, Project Manager, Cisco; and Tim Lopez, Social Support Manager, Symantec.

I became familiar with Doug when he published a white paper on social media monitoring, “How Cisco Services Uses Social Media Listening to Improve Internal Efficiencies and Customer Support.” As supporting customers via social channels enters the maintstream, I’ve started receiving more inquiries on how to include social media and communities in voice of the customer programs. At most companies, this is still in the marketing domain, but service is increasingly including social in survey and voice/text analysis work. Here’s a link to Doug’s paper:

cisco_socialsentiment_whitepaper

Last week Doug and I had a chance to talk, and I wanted to share our conversation with you. Here’s how it went:

John: Thanks so much for agreeing to participate in our Pacesetter Session on Social Media in Service!

Doug: Thanks for asking me John. We’re doing some exciting social media projects within Cisco’s Technical Services unit, and we’re happy to share our experiences with the Eye on Services blog.

John: I’ve been reading your whitepaper, “How Cisco Services Uses Social Media Listening to Improve Internal Efficiencies and Customer Support.” Most B2B companies think that monitoring social media conversations is a marketing job, but you make a good case for why service executives should care about this too. Can you talk about that?

Doug: This effort has been in the works for over two years now. During that time we’ve focused on developing a working process that includes stakeholder buy-in and executive support. Our outage and disaster monitoring initiative has been recognized by our executive team as a strategic resource that is vital to our ability to service our customers in a proactive way. The work we do with other internal stakeholders is consistently recognized as an important contributor to our ongoing conversations about improved service to our customers and Ease of Doing Business initiatives.

John: I’m very pleased to see you’ve actually developed a process for social listening, the “Social Sentiment Internal Engagement Process.” How did this process come about, and can you describe some of the key process steps?

Social Sentiment Internal Engagement Process

Cisco Social Sentiment Process

 

Doug: Cisco Technical Services has been keenly focused on enhancing internal stakeholder engagements and this includes using Social Media listening as an important data point. Initially, we did not need to seek out stakeholders. The first groups we engaged were asking for this data and the Customer and Business insight (CBI) group recognized the opportunity to provide this type of data along with traditional survey data. Social Sentiment is one of several “Listening Channels” that provides solicited and unsolicited customer sentiment data to several key internal stakeholders. Our expectation is that we will increase our stakeholder base and continue to evolve our data sets.

John: In the whitepaper, you document both internal and external impacts of the program. Great to see you measuring results! Can you highlight some of the impacts for our readers?

Doug: Over the last year, Social Sentiment has moved from being a data provider to also providing robust analysis. This includes more detailed information that follows the history of cases and how they were ultimately closed. For instance, we did a detailed analysis on one of our internal content developers. Their audience is significantly large and they have a direct impact on Cisco’s Technical Services unit. With the level of analysis that we provide, we can tell them the top areas of the business that are seeing more negative social sentiment and even which products are being impacted. This allows them to focus their efforts on content that is generating readership and is important enough for people to mention in Social Media.

John: One of the questions I receive from TSIA members is how do you know which social channels to monitor. Do you have any guidance on deciding where to focus your attention?

Doug: The Social Sentiment team gets the best data from Forums and Twitter. Forums provide us with the detailed history that we need to develop metrics that can drive action through a business unit. Twitter gives us the emotion that we need to gauge acceptance (or not) of new or existing tools and processes and of course to find out about any Twitter-based outage or disaster mentions that we can leverage to the benefit of our customers.

John: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, and I look forward to seeing you in Santa Clara!

Doug: Thanks again for asking me John. I’d like to recognize my teammates Michele Budden and Angela Wilson for the cutting-edge work they’re doing within the Social Sentiment team.

Thanks to the whole Cisco team, and thank to you for reading! Hope to see you in Santa Clara!

Social Day at TSW: Customer Communities Providing Strategic Value

October 23, 2013

Yesterday at TSIA’s Technology Services World Conference we featured a full day’s worth of social content, consisting of presentations, case studies and panel discussions around online customer communities and social media. I’ve heard some of the sessions were standing room only, so I look forward to seeing the actual attendance counts for the sessions. (Stay tuned for a post on top attended sessions from yesterday.)

I moderated 2 sessions yesterday that were both interactive, and it is always enlightening to see what questions are asked by the audience. The first session was a panel discussion, “Stump the Panel: Empowering Service Organizations to Take Community to the Next Level,” with some real-heavy hitter panelists. Rob Shapiro drives social strategy within Oracle services, and has lots of hands-on experience managing expert communities. Joseph Cothrel from Lithium Technologies has been a community advocate for a decade now, with a deep understanding of B2B support communities. Scott Hirsch from Get Satisfaction rounded out the panel; Get Satisfaction won the 2013 Vision Award at Service Revolutions at our Spring event for their innovative community platform.

Each panelist gave a short presentation, then we opened it up for audience questions. We had a good discussion on topics including how to screen and recruit social savvy employees, how to encourage use and adoption by both employees and customers, private vs. public communities, and a lot more. We awarded $25 casino chips to the audience members who asked the most thought provoking questions.

My 2nd session was “Social Media: The New Customer Service Channel,” with Carl Knerr Director of Services Offer Management for Avaya. Carl gave a great overview of social media channels and use cases for customer interaction. What I took away from the session was even though B2B companies don’t have as many use cases for supporting customers via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., there are customer conversations about your products happening in these channels, often with very visible and influential customers, and you are ignoring them to your peril.

I believe that customer community management is a key capability that service operations have to master. While I’ve talked to a few companies who have executive support and guidance for social programs, unfortunately many companies have yet to see the light regarding social, viewing it as just another channel. But at this conference I’ve heard example after example of how communities are becoming critical elements in customer relationships, identifying passionate customers to help you in renewal cycles, providing valuable insight into customer impacts to help prioritize bugs and enhancement requests, as well as some early data indicating customers active in communities are more satisfied and loyal than customers who are not socially engaged.

And as I always say, if your customers aren’t demanding this today, tomorrow’s customers will absolutely be insisting on community collaboration, and we are hearing that more firms are evaluating a vendor’s community as part of product selection.

Thanks to everyone who attended our social sessions and asked questions and participated in discussions! Always great to see passion around a topic! And as always, thanks for reading!

TSIA’s Newest Member Program: Community Benchmark Is Now Live!

October 22, 2013

Yesterday at TSIA’s Technology Services World Conference I launched a new program for members, a community benchmark program. Targeting online customer support communities, TSIA member companies can take the survey and then receive a one hour meeting with me to see how their community processes, technology and performance metrics compare to the industry and their peers.

With 72% of members now having a customer community, I felt we had enough adoption to start drilling down into the details of the programs to identify best practices and pacesetter practices. The TSIA benchmark philosophy is linking practices to results: if you look at the companies with the highest performance metrics, what are the tools and processes they have in common that are enabling this success? To my knowledge, there is no other source for this information currently, so I’m hoping my new benchmark program will be a unique data set offering valuable insights.

To develop the survey, I started with the data I had on what social metrics companies tracked, then asked my Social Champions co-chairs to send me the lists of metrics they tracked for their communities, and I also asked 2 of our partners, Get Satisfaction and Lithium, what metrics they recommend their customers track. After a few rounds of reviews and edits, I launched a pilot in September to test the survey, and yesterday in my Power Hour session I launched to the entire TSIA membership.

The survey consists of questions in the following categories: Contact Information, Demographics, Community Size, Community Activity, Reputation/Influence, Issue Resolution, Community Staffing, Cost, Community Practices, and Technology. In total, there are 47 questions, meeting my goal of 50 questions or less.

TSIA members who want more information can check out this OnDemand webcast which goes into detail on each survey question and how to participate. Hopefully by our Spring conference I’ll have some initial data to share.

Hope to have you join the community benchmark program. And thanks for reading!

Doing a poor job on social media support is worse than not supporting social at all

March 19, 2013

I’ll probably catch a lot of flack for this column title, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it. I just finished reading an article in today’s San Jose Mercury News about a study done by cloud vendor LiveOps about social media support, claiming that 70% of customer complaints on Twitter and Facebook are ignored; the average response time for Facebook questions is 2 days (opposed to 2 hours, which is the customer expectation), and that more than a third of companies have deleted a customer question from their Facebook page they didn’t want to answer.

Unlike phone calls and emails, social media support is very public. I always say that opening up a new customer interaction channel is like blowing a hole in the side of your corporate office. You now have a big gaping hole for customers and information to flow in and out, and if you don’t police that hole, including audit trails for traffic in and out, and service level agreements for who can use the hole and how quickly you must respond, you will get in big trouble.

Thousands of companies put very little thought into the decision to begin supporting customers via Twitter or Facebook, and I suspect many now regret it. Once that hole in the side of the company is open, it is all but impossible to close. And it is incredibly visible when you can’t keep up with the volume and begin ignoring–or deleting–customer questions.

Based on lots of TSIA data, it is clear that online communities/discussion forums are hugely successful for technical support–or at least have the potential for being hugely successful. But on the B2B technical support side, I remain unconvinced about social media channels. The typical use case for Twitter support is, “I called Comcast and was told there was an hour wait for an agent, so I Tweeted instead.” I don’t think any TSIA members have an hour wait for a phone agent. Ever. In the B2B, i.e., enterprise support world, in which you pay a very large fee for access to technical support, you don’t have long wait times. In fact, dedicated account reps are common for premium support. And the bottom line is, if a system administrator Tweets or Facebooks that their corporate ERP or supply chain system is down, that is not reporting a tech support issue, that is airing your company’s dirty laundry and a fireable offense.

There is also something in the article I laughed at. According to the survey, “customers are likely to spend about 30 percent more money” if the company has a social media presence. Well, I review RFPs all the time, and I’ve never seen a B2B purchase decision based on which vendor has the most Twitter traffic. It galls me that news outlets refuse to differentiate between B2B and B2C when they write things like this, and some wrong-headed B2B manager is going to bring this article into his boss and say, “Let’s start social media support and we’ll raise sales 30%.”

So, before you decide to begin supporting customers with technical issues via Twitter or Facebook, please remember:

  • Only a very small slice of traffic will have anything to do with a technical support issue. Most traffic will be about your latest commercial, your stock price, your CEO’s private life, the color of your company logo, etc. Technical support engineers are not equipped to handle these questions, and it is a waste of their time. But, if you are going to support the general public via a social channel, you need a strategy for these non-technical issues. If you don’t have an outbound marketing or PR group staffed to handle these posts, which will probably be 90% of traffic, don’t open the channel to begin with.
  • If you do insist on supporting customers via social channels, please leverage one of the many knowledge platforms now offering plugins to social media. For example, you can create a tab on your Facebook page that allows searching your self-service knowledgebase and shows lists of FAQs.
  • Record every interaction in CRM..or someplace. You need an accurate history of which customer asked which question, regardless of channel, and you need to understand which questions are asked and answered by all channels to make sure knowledgebases are current and accurate.
  • Establish SLAs. If you are going to support a new channel, whether it is social or not, you have to establish response times for the channel. And you must have staff dedicated to meet those SLAs. I’m not saying you necessarily publish the SLAs (“All Facebook posts will be answered within 2 hours”), but internally, you must have some SLA guidelines and the ability to measure how well you are doing in meeting those SLAs. Customers have expectations, and if you can’t meet them, you shouldn’t launch the channel.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Southwest’s “Unsource” definition only tells part of the story

December 17, 2012

Blog ideas can come from anywhere, but this is the first entry I’ve written inspired by an inflight magazine.  When TSIA’s VP of Marketing, Trisha Bright, headed down to our San Diego office last week, she ran across something interesting in Southwest’s Spirit magazine and forwarded it to me. Here is “entry 627 in the Spirit lexicon:”

unsource \ ‘ən-sôrs \ verb [trans]

1. To shift customer support responsibility back onto the consumer in an effort to cut costs. USAGE: No longer satisfied with the budget benefits of outsourcing their customer service to overseas call centers, corporations are savings up to 50 percent on such costs by embracing the cut-rate option of hosting enhanced discussion boards on their websites, where frustrated consumers turn to each other for answers to common questions.

After reading this, I went thru a wide range of emotions, from violent agreement to anger and frustration. Here’s my attempt at capturing those reactions.

Obviously, I get it from a consumer standpoint. I’ve blogged before about how difficult it is to find the solution to consumer technical FAQs. But for a company who is constantly introducing new fees to make higher profits from customers, one wonders if Southwest should be finger pointing on customer service. But let’s look at the two issues in this faux definition and see how they can be a blessing….or a curse.

First up is outsourcing. Let’s be clear: sending support interactions to a service provider, onshore or off, does not automatically mean poorer service to customers. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my 25 years in customer service, it is that not every company has it in their DNA to do customer service well.  Are there terrible examples of bad outsourcing deals? Yes, and I’ve experienced them. And I’ve written about how frustrating it is to deal with a support technician with few English skills. But I’ve seen many examples of companies that improve customer satisfaction scores by going offshore. Especially in the B2B world, outsourcing is common, and CSAT and loyalty scores are high and growing higher.

I just said to a member last week that outsourcing is like implementing CRM:  You have to get it wrong once to know how to do it right. We all remember the rush to offshore in the financial crisis following 9/11, and companies learned a key fact about outsourcing:  You get what you pay for. When a company asks me to recommend an outsourcer with the lowest cost-per-call, I know they are headed for disaster. Yes, you can save costs by outsourcing, but high quality providers (such as Convergys and Sykes), balance cost and quality. If they can’t do a good job for the price you want to pay, they won’t bid on the business. They have no interest in providing mediocre support–it isn’t good for your brand or theirs.

But while I can at least understand Southwest’s sentiment regarding outsourcing, I completely disagree that providing customer discussion forums is bad for customers. In my snarky opinion, whoever wrote that is clearly over 50, and in the demographic that still thinks that phone calls are the only channel customers really want. As I am constantly saying, channel choice is largely demographic, and the younger the customer, the more likely they prefer forums over phone. In fact, the 18-34 demographic which most product companies target rate phone as one of their least likely support channels, preferring self-service and peer-service (forums) over assisted service. Even “Google search” rates higher as a support channel than phone calls with younger customers.

Would companies prefer that customers use lower cost unassisted and peer-assisted options to cut costs? Absolutely. But what consumers may not realize is that phone call, email and chat volumes are NOT going down. Support volume increases year-over-year dramatically, and companies are trying to find ways to resolve more issues without live agents because they can’t possibly hire enough agents to address 100% of support volume. While assisted support volumes may go up 10-20% a year, TOTAL support volume, meaning all customer questions including those answered via self-service and online communities, goes up 50% or more a year. The more complex the technology, the more questions customers have. Providing options other than phone to get these questions answered is not “unsourcing” support, it is providing the channels that customers demand.

Now, about that $50 fee you charged me for being 3 pounds over the baggage weight limit even though I purchased an expensive ‘business select’ fare? That’s more frustrating to customers than offering a community discussion forum. I look forward to seeing that pop up in the Spirit Lexicon. How about “gouging” as next month’s term?

Workout Session: Proactive Channel Management

May 8, 2012

Today at Technology Services World in Santa Clara, CA I co-hosted a “workout session” on proactive channel management, with my friend and longtime TSIA member, Tarik Mahmoud from Cisco. Over the last two decades, customer support interactions have evolved from phone to a variety of channels, including email, web chat, self-service, and now social media. Support organizations have been largely reactive about these changes, adding channels as customers demand them and allocating staff as channel volumes evolve. But I’m beginning to see a very different approach becoming common today: companies will no longer sit back and watch channel volumes roll in, they are taking charge and helping manage volume by channel, nudging—and sometimes forcing—customers to move to more effective and less-expensive channels.

No one knows more about this subject than Tarik. In 2008, Cisco’s Linksys division made the brave decision to eliminate email support, which was their most expensive and least effective channel. Email has always been a challenge for technical support, with many back-and-forth emails required to get all the necessary details from customers. With the lag time waiting for email responses, average incident resolution time grows, and incident costs soar. With a careful strategy involving lots of marketing, Cisco eliminated email support without a single customer complaint, successfully transitioning the majority of email volume to an unassisted channel–the online forum.  The remaining traffic moved to the web chat channel. There was no impact to phone volumes. I documented this case study in a research report, “The Challenges of Tech Support via Email: Linksys Ends Email Support, Successfully Migrating Traffic to Forums.” TSIA members can find this report on our website–search by the title (or email me for a copy if all else fails, I know our search engine leaves a lot to be desired).

A workout session is not the kind of breakout in which audience members get to sit and listen for an hour. Oh no, you gotta work it girl! Tarik and I teed up the conversation, I shared data on average incident cost per channel, then we started a conversation with attendees around a few topics, such as:

  • Do you know your cost and satisfaction by channel today? What are your best/worst channels?
  • Do you know your volume by channel today? Which channels are growing/shrinking?
  • How do you influence channel adoption today? News letters, user groups, training classes?
  • What new approaches should you consider to influence channel adoption? What has worked for you?

The discussion was both fun and enlightening. We talked about how channel preferences are influenced by demographics, the importance of building use cases by customer type to establish which channels you should have, and how to encourage customers to try a new channel, such as chat.

Everyone was interested in the details of Tarik’s email story, as well as a new example of proactive channel management he provided. When the chat costs in a single country in Europe began averages 2x or 3x the cost of a phone call, chat was no longer offered in that region. When the customer selects that country from the pick list in the chat tool, they receive a message to please call for support. That way they are delivering the best experience for the lowest cost. So it turns out proactive channel management can be a very granular strategy. Each product may have different demographics, i.e., different channel adoption, and each country or region may have drastically different channel costs.

I hope everyone enjoyed the session as much as I did!