Posted tagged ‘Twitter’

TSIA’s 5th Annual Social Support Survey is NOW OPEN!

December 1, 2014

Social support is becoming a standard part of technical support operations. 73% of companies now have an online community in place for customer discussions, and 46% of technology companies are supporting customers via social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. This is the 5th year that TSIA has launched a survey to measure adoption of social support and identify best practices related to staffing, training, service level agreements, and program ownership. The survey is open to all support professionals, will only take 6 minutes to complete, and everyone who completes the survey will receive a copy of the resulting research report, “The State of Social Support: 2015,” to be published in Q1 2015. The survey is open until midnight, December 31st.

The survey contains three sections:

  • Demographics. These questions ask basic questions about yourself, including how social savvy you consider yourself, and which channels you prefer to use when needing support for a product problem.
  • Community. These questions ask about your online customer community or discussion forum, such as how many resources are required for forum moderation, if you have a service level agreement (SLA) for community posts, whether registration is required to read community content, and some technical questions such as CRM integration and single sign-on.
  • Social Media. These questions ask about your approach to supporting customers via social media channels, addressing staffing, training, social channels supported, incident handling, and overall obstacles to social support.

The survey is open to everyone, not just TSIA members, so please consider participating. The more data the better! I look forward to identify changes since last year’s survey, particularly with social media channels expanding and many company’s programs now maturing. There is also a focus on social listening in this year’s survey, which has emerged as a hot trend in member inquiry conversations.

Here is the link to take the survey: 

I’d like to give a special shout out to Carl Knerr, Director, Services Offer Management, Avaya, and Doug Pluta, Project Manager, Customer and Business Insight, Cisco Systems, for the input they provided on social listening for this year’s survey. Greatly appreciated!

Thanks to all of you for reading, and please tell your friends about the survey!


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:


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!

Announcing the 2013 TSIA Social Media Survey: Now Open!!!

December 3, 2013

Earlier this year I took over TSIA’s social media research. In previous years, we did a social support survey that collected information on how technology companies were using various social approaches to interact with customers. What became obvious to me from last year’s survey data, as well as my annual spending and adoption survey, was that while most technology companies (over 80%) now have a customer community in place, less than half of B2B tech firms were doing anything support related via social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). My goal for 2013 was to split TSIA’s social research into 2 streams: one for online communities, where we have a lot of momentum and can begin establishing pacesetter practices; and another for social media support, which is earlier in the adoption curve with many companies still trying to understand the use cases.

As 2013 nears its end, I’m happy to say I’ve accomplished this goal. At our recent Technology Services World Conference, I launched a new Community Benchmark program, allowing TSIA members to take a brief 50 question survey and receive an in-depth look at how their online community program compares to their peers. If you’d like more information on the Community Benchmark or want to know how to participate, here’s a link to an OnDemand webcast with all the details.

The 2nd part of the goal was to launch a new annual survey specific to social media. Today that goal is also complete, and I declare the TSIA 2013 Social Media in Support Survey NOW OPEN! Here’s a link to participate:

This short, 20 question survey is open to all customer support personnel in all industries, in all geographies. The survey is also open to all in regards to social media use:  whether you are currently supporting customers via social media, are considering social media support for the future, or have no current plans to introduce social media support, please take the survey.

And here’s the carrot for participating: a free copy of the resulting research report, “The State of Social Media Support: 2014,” to be published in Q1. Normally non-members do not have access to these “state of” reports, but I will personally email a copy of the report when published to everyone who participates in the survey. (Make sure you don’t have TSIA in your ‘spam’ filter!)

So whether you think Twitter is the new customer service channel, or the whole social media topic grates on your nerves, please take 5 minutes and complete my survey. We are still in the early days on this topic and I know I still have a lot to learn. I really appreciate your time and participation!

Happy Holidays, and thanks as always 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!

Your Opinions Can Get You Fired: Think First Before Posting, Texting, Tweeting and Emailing

June 19, 2012

When I published my first book, Lessons Unlearned, last month, I didn’t intend to start a conversation about free speech in the workplace. But I’ve received a number of comments about 2 sections of my book related to how sharing your thoughts can threaten your job security, and there are some items in the news this week that made me think this a worthy topic for a blog, even if it is outside customer service.

Here are the two topics in my book that people keep commenting on:

  • I talk about using a “magic slate” for stress relief when dealing with difficult customers because you can scribble a word that describes the customer, show it to your cube mates to elicit empathy and release some stress, then lift the plastic sheet to erase what you have written, eliminating any audit trail. This hit a nerve with multiple readers, who say it is politically incorrect to criticize customers at their company, regardless how irrational their behavior is. I learned early in my career that making rude, however accurate, comments about customers in case notes will definitely get you in trouble.
  • In the chapter on startups, I talk about the importance of establishing company culture, and how one company I worked for destroyed its culture by shutting down the email system one weekend, reading everyone’s email archives, and firing anyone who had made a negative comment about management in an internal email. While clearly this company had some unhappy employees, this didn’t fix the problem, it only inflamed it, making all employees paranoid and distrustful of management.

I think most of us have an internal editor that keeps us from going too far in emails, blog posts, Facebook posts, Tweets, text messages, etc. We’ve all probably typed something in anger and regretted sending it later, and I try really hard to not hit ‘send’ on ‘flame’ emails until I’ve had time to calm down and re-read my text. As a manager, I’ve certainly encountered problems when employees were rude or indiscreet in written communications, and typically I am pretty understanding and counsel them to go ahead and write down the frustration, which helps purge you of the stress, but definitely don’t send or post until later.

There are two things in the news this week that make me think this is going to be a bigger problem for future managers than I ever experienced in the past. The first is a story in today’s San Jose Mercury News that a sales executive is leaving a major Silicon Valley high tech firm for texting opinions about the company that not only weren’t outrageous, they reflect the opinion of many analysts and technology reporters. I suppose I can understand why the executive needed to leave, but this wasn’t a company email or statement to the press, this was a personal text message he never intended anyone else to see. Definitely worrisome, and I hope the company learned something about the importance of internal marketing.

The other story in the news this week is that Facebook is exploring options to allow kids under 13 to join. Now, my friends with kids tell me they are all on Facebook already, registered using 5-10 year lies on birth year to get around current restrictions. Be that as it may, if I, in my 40s, have yet to learn to self-edit 100% of the time, how can we expect kids to know what is safe to post and what isn’t, knowing that every single word and picture will follow them around on the internet for the rest of their lives? There is even pending legislation being discussed because some employers and schools have demanded that applicants hand over their Facebook passwords so they can view their profiles before hiring or admitting them. Big brother is watching.

As a child of the 70s, I grew up being told to express myself and revel in free speech. And I do. But there were also some common sense limitations to this, such as not discussing topics that are incendiary (politics and religion), and not to put anything in writing you don’t want your mother to read. Those common sense limitations don’t seem to have made it to the younger generations.

I’m sometimes shocked at the political and religious comments made by people I’ve known for years. In polite conversation, we usually avoid topics that are controversial, but that internal edit doesn’t seem to apply to Facebook. I’ve “unfriended” several people who I genuinely like, and interact with in real life, because I can’t stand to read their off-the-deep-end political views. I have one friend who spends his days at work posting comments about how much he hates his job and how stupid his boss is. When I asked him if he was concerned about being fired for those posts, his reply was, “I don’t share my posts with my boss.” Well, all it takes is someone to print out pages and pages of those posts and mail to him, and next stop is unemployment. I’m sure the software sales exec who lost his job this week had no idea that the personal text message he sent would come back to haunt him.

Bottom line, be careful what you post, email, Tweet, whatever. Here are John’s rules to not letting social networking destroy your livelihood:

  • Think before you post. Writing your frustrations down is a great way to vent, but take an hour and think about it before hitting ‘send.’
  • Don’t social network after drinking. On Mondays I look at pictures and comments posted by friends over the weekend, and there is usually something really embarrassing from 2am on Sunday morning. Once posted, it is really hard to delete.
  • Steer clear on overly controversial subjects. If you wouldn’t express that opinion in the company lunchroom for all to hear, maybe Tweeting it isn’t the best career move. You can believe what you want on your own time, but realistically, people will judge you for outrageous views, especially narrow-minded views. If you really believe “the earth is flat” keep it to yourself.
  • Your ultimate distribution list is larger than you think. Don’t think for a second that your text won’t be forwarded or that ‘non friends’ will never see your Facebook posts. In 2012, that is extremely naive.

What do you think? What are your rules about what to post and what not to post? What are your pet peeves about “over sharing?” Have you changed an opinion about a friend or co-workers based on social posts? If you have kids, what advice do you give them? And as always, thanks for reading!

The Trouble with Twitter: Where’s the Business Use Case?

June 11, 2009

One of the challenges of being a technology analyst is most people assume you are ripe to jump on every technology bandwagon that comes along. And I admit, I’m often ready to jump on board and go for a ride. So at the risk of being labeled a Luddite, I’m going to ‘come out of the closet’ with an unpopular opinion:

I am not a fan of Twitter, and have yet to find any viable business case for a Twitter integration for customer service and support beyond brand monitoring.

I was suspicious about Twitter from the beginning, when the main people I knew adopting Twitter were ego maniacs who assumed everyone was dying to know what they had for breakfast, how long they waited in line at Starbucks, the price of gas from their latest fill up, and how hard they laughed at Dilbert that morning. (The same people whose Facebook status shows what song is currently playing on their Internet radio station.) Sure, maybe there was an insightful message now and then, but:

  1. Tweets are 1-way. Yes, you can reply, but I don’t think anyone wants to argue that Twitter is an excellent 2-way communicator. It is primarily outbound.
  2. Tweets are out of context for the reader. Sure, they are in context for the sender, but the stream of consciousness blather doesn’t come at convenient times for the reader, and they are unlikely to remember important information when they do need it days or weeks later.
  3. Fads don’t last. First everyone battled to see who had the most MySpace friends. Then MySpace became déclassé, so the same group started trying to win the most friends battle on Facebook. And now that even your parents are on Facebook, the contest turns to who has the most followers on Twitter. By next Spring, some new channel will have emerged and Twitter’s impact will fade as well.

Bottom line: With the amount of information I have to consume to do my job growing exponentially, this is not a thread of content on my priority list.

Then, multiple service and support vendors starting talking about Twitter integration. (more…)