MAD Perspectives Blog

What's Up With Customer Service?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Here we are, in the midst of the holiday season. It's supposed to be a time of good cheer, yet we are all feeling the stress of find just the right gift for that special someone, while we try to balance work demands and holiday social commitments. In the midst of this, I have been exposed to an appalling amount of poor customer service. Doesn't every business know, that it now takes very little for someone to share their dissatisfaction with friends, family, heck - the world, with just a few keystrokes?

Whether it is the online arm of a brick & mortar storefront whose website doesn't seem to allow you to enter your credit card information, or the furnace repair company who can't seem to return phone calls (or solve problems), or the grumbly girl at the department store checkout - you are the frontline of customer satisfaction for your business. Unhappy customers wlll turn to Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums to share their concerns in an attempt to find answers. This is the age of social media.

Angie's List has evolved to be the social forum for home improvement specialists. It serves, not only as a destination to seek recommendations but also to be cautioned about shoddy workmanship or poor customer services.  YouTube videos have been created by individuals who have been poorly served by airlines, restaurants, shipping companies or technology.  Twitter has almost become the default social network for complaints including a hashtag calling out the perpetrator of poor customer service.

Customer experience has become an overused buzz word, yet it's an apt description of where businesses must focus their energies. Our ability to complete transactions, to feel as if our needs are met or our concerns addressed are the keys to customer loyalty - and revenue for any business. Many large companies have turned to social media to augment their customer engagement efforts. This is a good step if it is well though out. Most companies have a LOT of data collected by their call centers.  However, this is data collected after a problem has occurred. The challenge may be determining how to prevent that challenge from occurring in the first place.

This can be done through education and communication.  and, this is where social media can make a difference. Rather than posting documentation to a website that no one ever reads, even though it provides valuable insights - repurpose that document as a series of blogs. Highlight best practices via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Host a group on LinkedIn specific to products and customer support. Analyze your call center volume and identify the highest areas of concern. Get ahead of those problems by alerting customers to potential problems that you know you can easily solve. Post solutions to recurring problems. Pay attention to social activity - listen for problems, acknowledge and address them quickly.

Social media can't solve every problem, but it can help with many. The manner in which your business engages its customers reflects their importance to you. A friendly voice is a plus, but it is meaningless if they cannot provide answers. The key to success in customer services is to listen, acknowledge and respond.  Give credence to your customer's concern and find a solution that works for them - and your company.  

It's the same in the social domain. Use social monitoring to listen.  Establish a policy for how to acknowledge and respond to customer concerns. The key is to act quickly. The longer a wound is open and festering in the social domain, the more likely it is to become deeply and widely infected.

What's your perspective?

Recommendations vs. Endorsements, The Winner Is...

Peggy Dau - Monday, October 29, 2012

LinkedIn introduced a new feature earlier this month. Like any social network, LinkedIn is constantly tinkering with its features and functionality to find the right balance of benefit and usability for its user base. They've revamped the home page layout, added LinkedIn Today to curate news relevant to you, expanding Company Page functionality and enabled integration with other social sites.  Their most recent enhancements seem to focus on influence.  The first influence enhancement, endorsements, is the subject of today's discussion. The other, the ability to follow influencers, will be discussed in a future blog.

LinkedIn has long enabled users to request recommendations from their connections.  These recommendations usually speak to the value knowledge, interpersonal skills, work style and value provided by the individual being praised.  And, yes - recommendations are usually positive in nature, reinforcing the overall profile.  For recruiters, it adds and extra layer of insight about a candidate, if the recruiter actually reads the full profile.  I usually advise and assist clients in developing robust profiles, including recommendations. The best profile I've seen is for a sales representative who had recommendations from customers, colleagues, admin support staff, partners and competitors.

A key element of a complete profile includes a listing of skills.  These can be related to roles, capabilities, industry knowledge and more. With the addition of endorsements, connections can now validate specific skills simply by pressing an online button. There is not context to the endorsement other than the fact that one or more connections may feel you have that skill. 

Here's how it works and how I believe endorsements are inaccurate.

1. You login to your profile

2. LinkedIn presents 4 connections with one randomly selected skill for your to endorse

3. You believe you are doing your colleague a favor and click the endorse button

4. HOWEVER, is the skill referenced really the skill you want to endorse?

If you want to review ALL the skills referenced by your connection, you must view their profile.  Scroll down to their skills and review them.  The skill presented by LinkedIn may not be relevant to how you know that person. To provide relevance and value to your connection, endorse the skill(s) that you truly believe them to have. The skills section of a profile was added sometime last year.  Up until then, their had been a specialities section included as part of the profile summary.  Skills is intentionally separate and in my opinion, used to help search engine optimization for recruiters. With the addition of endorsements, skills start to carry greater weight, but do we (or recruiters) understand the context of the skill.

Imagine a skill like business development. Does the person really have outstanding biz dev skills or was that simply the skill presented by LinkedIn.  Or, a skill like telecommunications, which should actually be a specialty. What does that skill, or its endorsement, say about an individual?  Do they understand the industry or specific technologies? For me the difference between recommendations and endorsements comes down to the following:

Recommendations are about the person. They are thoughtful, intentional and provide context.

Endorsements are about the technology. They are reactive, casual and simply reinforcing keywords.

How do you want to influence the way others perceive you? I'm happy to see colleagues endorse me, but I'm even happier to have them recommend my capabilities specific to how we have engaged professionally. Don't give up seeking recommendations in favor of endorsements. Your influence is worth more than a few clicks.

What's your perspective?

LinkedIn Outperforms Email Marketing

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A colleague forwarded an email to me a few weeks ago. It was a LinkedIn message he had received from a consultant connection requesting that he share a new white paper, accessible via a website url, with interested parties. We're all working in fast paced environments and often get emails, tweets and status updates about new white papers and presentations that may be useful to us. We ignore a lot of those messages, don't we? However, because this request came from a colleague, via LinkedIn, this white paper had increased value. As a result, it also had more click thrus.

I spoke to the consultancy distributing this paper, BackChannel. They had recognized the value of LinkedIn to help keep track of contacts and colleagues.  They had previously used email marketing to announce new services or content. However, they decided to test the power of LinkedIn.  They understood that everyone that they were connected to directly or via LinkedIn Groups, understood that their purpose for using LinkedIn was all about business. They decided to use a direct appeal to their contacts to promote the white paper. They referenced their professional connection to the recipients, the target market for the white paper and their goal to get the white paper into the hands of those who could benefit from it.

389 emails were sent within Linked In.  The results are as follows:

     - 158 contacts opened the message (40%)

     - 42 of those who opened the message, clicked on the white paper link (26% of messages opened; 9% of messages sent)

These are impressive results, considering that MailChimp (BackChannel's email marketing tool of choice) indicates that the open rate and click thru rate for campaigns in the consulting industry, are 16.3% and 3.3% respectively.  More interesting for BackChannel was the fact that over the next several days, a further 90 direct downloads occurred as a result of connections sharing the LinkedIn mail with their relevant colleagues.

Backchannel found that the power of LinkedIn, and its concept of six degrees of separation delivering value to business people, provided a unique outlet for sharing content. When a community understand a goal, share a common interest, they will promote and share content fulfilling the needs of the community.

Have you used LinkedIn to promote your content? Are you aware that you can integrate content from SlideShare (now owned by LinkedIn) into your profile? You can expand your personal or business' visibility, by sharing relevant content, through links and updates in your profile, your company page or groups.

What's your perspective?

Social Media + Big Data = Demand for Analytics

Peggy Dau - Monday, October 01, 2012

The technology watch word, regardless of industry application, is BIG DATA. Whether it is patient data in the health care industry, customer data in high tech or consumer data for packaged goods companies the collection of data and the storage of that data is attracting a lot of attention. Every storage company is touting the value of their products and their ability to store your valuable data. Why the focus on data? Perhaps it is because even more data is now available about our customers, be they business or consumer. Where is this data coming from? It is found in every social network, blog, video and slide sharing site.

Even as I was roaming the exhibits at the International Broadcasters Conference (IBC) in Amsterdam, last month, I noted the attention to BIG data and social media. The broadcast industry, like others, is rife with data. In its case, the data is internal - meta data - describing every media asset. And, for the first time, thanks to social media, broadcasters are able to directly gather data about their audience. Why? Because their audience is tweeting, updating, liking, gaming and interacting about their new, sports and entertainment programs. Rather than having to rely upon the insights of Nielsen, broadcasters can tap into the volumes of social media to understand the needs and demands of their audience.

Extrapolate this for every industry. Companies will collect, gather and store petabytes of data about their customers - raising the next big challenge - how to analyze and gather actionable insights from social monitoring tools and data gathered via other sources. Big data is not so precious, unless there are analytics to help companies understand the hidden value. Analytics will extrapolate the information necessary to support business strategies, marketing programs, financial decisions and R&D. Just as social networks will continue to evolve, social analytics companies such as NetBase, Evolve24 and Kontangent will emerge to disseminate meaningful insights beyond volume of likes, sentiment of comments and numbers of followers.

Storage companies, large and small, are hailing the importance of big data. they provide the hardware to store the data and the software to optimize the storage of it and manage the access to it. Social media will influence the rise of BIG data. Your social media plan must consider the volumes of data that will be uncovered and what to do with it. While social media efforts are often owned by marketing, the impact on IT resources is often neglected. Big data forces a collaboration between marketing and IT.  With that collaboration will come the assessment and use of analytics tools to create real value for companies engaging in social media strategies.

What's your perspective?

What's Your Backchannel?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I've been busy researching the topic of Social TV (more on that in a few weeks) and was intrigued by the use of the term - backchannel.  Social media provides a backchannel for conversations around many topics.  For news, it is all the side conversations around a topic such as the 2012 political campaign, the Olympics, unrest in the middle east or whether the Yankees will make the post-season.  These backchannel conversations happen for B2B as well.

These are the discussion that still happen on the golf course, over dinner or at a conference.  However, now social media provides additional mechanisms supporting those conversations. Whether it is discussion of new products, market trends, customer support or stock price, there are a myriad of conversations related to your business. The question for small, medium and large businesses is - are you listening to those conversations? 

Data provides the keys to the kingdom in understanding your customers. Huge investments are being made in BIG DATA. Social media provides even more data points than previously existing marketing and data collection solutions. If your big data analysis does not include social media,you are missing out on the information that reveals what your customers are really thinking about.

In the broadcast industry, Social TV platforms are enabling content producers to engage with their fans in a way that has not been possible. They share content with their fans and in return, their fans share thoughts, opinions and desires.  Broadcasters and producers are learning how and audience becomes fans and how fans want to engage with their shows. The next step, of course, is translating that knowledge into revenue.

Imagine the backchannel around your business and industry. What data are you missing because you are not listening to social conversations. There are many tools available to help you monitor and analyze customer conversations.  Check out my post on customer support to learn about a few of them.  Listening is important for more than customer support. Your customers will tell you which product features matter most to them; which competitors are making inroads; how they are being treated by your sales teams; whether your marketing is hitting, or missing, the mark.

Check out the back channel, you'll be amazed at what you can learn.

What's your perspective?

Social TV Rescues Live TV

Peggy Dau - Monday, August 27, 2012

If it’s not mobile, then it’s probably not Social TV.  Social TV is the rapidly growing interactive experience that complements TV viewing. 

It is primarily a live TV experience, which may disrupt the  on-demand TV consumption trend.  Think of Social TV as the replacement for the water cooler conversations that used to occur in days gone by (when we all actually worked in offices and desperately needed a break from our cubicles).  In the 80s we dissected Dallas episodes.  Today we will engage around reality TV, sports, dramas and comedies.  And we’ll do it via second screen apps using our mobile devices.

The Viacom Social TV Study, May 2012, defines Social TV as the ability for viewers to communicate, access content and interact with friends via a second screen.  The dominant screen is the smartphone with 82% of respondents, in the study, indicating it as their preference.  The tablet is a distant second at 18%.  It’s not surprising that these devices are in use while we’re watching TV. Nielsen indicates that 69% of tablet users and 63% of smartphone users are on their devices multiple times per week, while watching TV.

There are an increasing number of Social TV apps appealing to the avid TV viewer.  These apps complement the live TV experience by providing access to proprietary content, interaction with the cast and crew, and rewarding interaction with trivia questions or other games. Reality shows, like American Idol and X-Factor, have recognized the power of social media by enabling voting via Twitter, in addition to texting, calling or online voting. However, Social TV takes this a step further by delivering apps designed to enhance the customer experience.

The pressure is on for apps that are intuitive and quick-responding, with slick user interfaces.  They must be fully integrated with the live episode in terms of content, plot and cast.  Social TV is driving increased viewing of live TV content through adjacent conversations specific to the live event or episode.  The second screen has been denounced as a distraction, but in fact it may be the saving grace for live TV.

What's your perspective?

We All Want to Be Connected

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We've just finished watching the most connected Olympics ever.  Who didn't tweet or update their Facebook status about an event, a team or an athlete over the past 17 days. We connected to friends, family, media outlets, journalists, athletes and coaches. We shared thrilling victories and disappointing TV coverage. We questioned online strategies and discovered alternatives based on feedback from social networks. China's Sina Weibo managed 393 million social posts around the Olympics.  The opening ceremonies inspired 9.6 million tweets. And, the Spice Girls closing ceremony performance surpassed Usain Bolt's 200M race with 116,000 tweets per minute vs. 80,000 tweets per minute.

Don't you want to be this connected for business? Of course you do! Connectivity is at the heart of all communications, from the telegraph to the telephone, from the TV to the internet, from email to social media. The challenge for business users is in understanding who, what, when, where and how to connect. The key is in thinking like a journalist. Connect to friends and colleagues who have common interests or inspire you to success. Connect when it makes sense for business and when you have something meaningful to share. Your audience desires certain types of information. Think about that content and deliver social updates that fulfill that need. Connect in response to customer demand. If your customers are asking questions about products or support, provide answers. 

Where to connect can be overwhelming, but it always comes back to your customers. Where are they? While there are many social networks that fulfill both business and consumer needs, not everyone is on these networks for the same reasons. Your customers may enjoy Pinterest, but are they pinning for business or personal reasons. It's the same with Facebook. Identify where your customers are and create appropriate content. Sometimes its as simple as a heads up on product functionality. Other times it may be a hurrah for a valued business partner.

Managing your social connectivity for business is often the most daunting aspect of a social media strategy. Simplifying listening and posting across multiple platforms requires time, attention and the help of social media monitoring/measurement tools. These tools (e.g., Radian6, Visible Heat, TweetDeck) can filter the noise and help you hear the comments that are most important for your business. After all not everyone wanted to hear about synchronized swimming, but most Americans wanted to hear about the swimming feats of Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin.

The guidelines for external social connectivity also apply for enterprise social communications. Connect to colleagues who share your goals, influence your success or provide meaningful content. Follow discussions that broaden your perspectives. Engage to learn, educate, share, simplify, collaborate or simply to connect. In many companies email has displaced a phone call. Will social chat displace email. Probably. Consider how we will be connecting for business success in the future. Don't be a laggard. Social media may make your business as successful as the London 2012 games!

What's your perspective?

Social Media is Killing My Productivity!

Peggy Dau - Monday, July 23, 2012

Productivity: the ability to generate, create, enhance of bring forth goods and services. The economic success of nations has been defined based on productivity. 'Advanced' countries are those who used to lead in productivity. Why? Because they had invested in technology innovation, which help create efficiencies. According to a Harvard Business Review blog in May 2012, the United States enjoyed the greatest productivity increase from 1980 to 2000 thanks to the deployment of enterprise-wide IT. However, technology only improves productivity if it is aligned with changes in how work is done. The bottom line on productivity is to maker more using less.

Enter social media. Loss of employee productivity is one of the most frequently mentioned fears when considering adoption of social networking platforms. Executive perception has been that social networking is a recipe for disaster.  

  •      -  Employees will waste time or share proprietary corporate data 
  •      -  Corporate networks will be invaded by viruses and bandwidth will be maxed out
  •      -  Time will be consumed without a clear ROI

As mentioned in last weeks blog, fear is a powerful inhibitor. Given the current economic environment the focus on productivity is intense. In fact, global productivity has been in decline for the last few years. Corporations often capture revenue per employee as an indicator of efficiency and success. With overall productivity in decline, it is easy to imagine the fear felt by senior executives when faced with an unfamiliar communication platform that has infiltrated businesses by way of consumer adoption and success.  Social media was not originally designed for corporate use!

However, the rapid adoption grew due to a desire by customers for real-time, authentic engagement. Now, companies have the ability to adopt social media for external communication AND internal collaboration. Yet, the fear remains. How can businesses overcome the productivity concern? Be smart.  Align your use of enterprise 2.0 platforms (e.g., Yammer, Jive, NewsGator) or outbound networks (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) with how your business works. Every company has its own way of getting things done. These platforms should augment and simplify those processes. They may displace existing tools, requiring a learning period for new users.

More importantly guide employees on the usage of the tools. Keeping productivity as your target, consider advising employees to:

     - schedule time for managing social engagement
     - turn off notifications that may overwhelm your desktop
     - separate personal and professional use of social media

True social media aficionados will argue that meaningful engagement means listening and responding in a timely manner. However, not every organization can afford to dedicate personnel to monitoring social media full time. Barry Moltz blogs about how to Calm your Social Media Anxiety, with a focus on brands and consumers. His advice is also relevant to users of internal social collaboration platforms.

For those companies embarking on the use of social media to increase internal collaboration, understanding how and when to engage with colleagues will be useful. Many employees are already feeling overwhelmed due to persistent layoffs that increase existing workloads and existing platforms that can distract focus from the matters at hand. Most corporate employees are already a slave to their email inbox. Help them understand how enterprise micro-blogging can reduce their inbox clutter by resolving easy to answer questions quickly and allow others to see the answer to that question without creating and exhaustive email distribution list.

The fear is real. Concern about productivity is rampant. However, with a little education, patience and common sense social media can become a differentiator that improves collaboration, communication and ultimately, productivity!

What's your perspective?

Corporate Employees - Get Social or Get Out!

Peggy Dau - Monday, July 16, 2012

I love talking to my friends in corporate america. They keep me attuned to the fears surrounding the use of social media within the company and outside the company. I'm such a fan of communication tools that I may overlook these very valid concerns. My job is to help companies communicate effectively.  Their goals are to get their jobs done, be that product development, channel management, sales, marketing, etc.  Because they are so heads down in achieving their defined goals and metrics, they often only use social networks at home, while relaxing, to connect with family and friends.

However, more and more companies are implementing social media strategies to attain and retain customers, but also to encourage and simplify employee collaboration. The tools they use to enable these strategies are similar, yet different. These microblogging platforms (e.g., Yammer, NewsGator, SocialText) all consist of a simple user interface that allows users to login, make connections and post comments. The primary challenge for employees, in using these networks, is fear.

Fear, you say! What are they afraid of?  They are afraid of the time it will take away from other activities. They are afraid to be perceived as unavailable, too available, wasting time, distracting others or sharing inappropriate information. Depending on the demographics, they may think that they are "too old" to use social media - this is something their kids do. Or they may be afraid that if they don't use social tools that they will be considered obsolete and subsequently passed over for positions with greater responsibility. And the greatest fear mentioned to me is the "big brother" factor. Some employees are afraid that their every move will be monitored for negative purposes. Fear is a powerful inhibitor!

How can employees and their employers take fear out of the equation? It's simple.  It's all about communication. Employees are afraid to engage or not engage because they don't understand the guidelines or goals for using social networks. Social media is changing how companies communicate internally and externally. It empowers employees to have a voice. But, if they have not had a voice prior to the use of social networks, they may be uncomfortable. Companies can help by encouraging communication, by setting expectations for professionalism, by setting an example at the executive level or by rewarding social collaborations that benefit the company.

Like email and instant messaging before it, enterprise social networking (aka enterprise 2.0) has a learning curve. Employers should help employees understand the nuances of the tools through online training and best practices. Employees can start small and, depending on their role and their needs, determine how enterprise social media can best help them in their day to day activities. There are pros and cons to any new technology. 

One benefit, of corporate microblogging tied to existing enterprise applications, is the ability to store and retrieve activity streams along with any of the documents related to those discussions. However, some will feel this is evidence of the corporate monitoring of individual performance and behavior. This perception reflects a cultural concern and if based in fact, why would anyone want to work for a company that they didn't trust. 

The advantages of instantaneous communication can lead to new perspectives, reduced cycle times, rapid decision making and great innovation. The opportunity to expand networks beyond existing business silos to access thought leaders, decision makers and experienced peers will benefit the organization. Employees may need help overcoming their fear of new technologies, but they must adopt these new communication tools or they will be obsolete. Studies show that those university students just entering the workforce, no longer consider email a primary communication platform.  Their influence cannot be underestimated as they are the future managers, directors and CEOs.

What's your perspective?

Enterprise Social Software - Another Distraction?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A colleague complained to me last week about her company's use of a social media platform behind the firewall. She wanted to know why she would use this platform and wasn't it a distraction to her getting her job done. She also wanted to know why so many people felt compelled to spend so much time on social media. This raised a few concerns and questions for me.  I will address these thoughts over the next few weeks.

Why are we compelled to be seen online?  My colleague's thought process was that by being available on a social network, it shows that you are at work. Would her peers and management think she was not working if she was not available on the social network? Alternatively, could being available mean that she was "wasting" time on social media? 

We live in an online world. In the business world, emails are used to inform and request. Recipients are engaged due to a organizational or functional requirement. Information is shared. Questions are asked. Demands are made. Timelines are set. When emails are sent there is an expectation that they will be answered immediately. Instant messenger services stepped into the corporate world several years ago and enabled employees to quickly reach out to each other. 

We want to be part of the conversation, yet we are committed to completing our projects and fulfilling our goals. Enterprise social software provides the forum for quick, trackable, retrievable online conversations. Like general social media, individuals can choose who to follow or "friend". It is possible to be available or not. It is possible to initiate ad hoc conversations to find a quick answer to a challenge. It is possible to gain insight into new products, engage with sales teams (wherever they are), or, find quick fixes to customer concerns.

Enterprise social software (e.g., Yammer, NewsGator, SocialText) is here to stay. It enables collaboration between one or many individuals. These services pose the question "what are you working on?" For increasingly geographically dispersed organizations it provides another channel of communication. It breaks down departmental silos, allows light conversation between teammates not in the same office, enables simple polling on a hot topic. It is often integrated with other corporate applications, like Microsoft Sharepoint, with the intention of enabling conversations specific to existing documents. The benefit is the ability to tag and store the activity streams. 

Like email, social media takes some getting used to. Remember we didn't always talk about how full our email boxes were. We used to complain about voicemail! We, as individuals and employees, are responsible for finding the best ways to achieve our goals within our company's given framework. If email is the mode, then so be it. However, an increasing number of corporations are adopting internal social platforms. Employees may share RSS feeds and invite comment on competitor activity, market trends or customer announcements.

It's up to you to set expectations. Only you can decide how quickly you will respond to email or whether you will engage socially. We should not feel compelled to be online - but we are. We don't have to engage - but we often do. We use email to check the availability of others for meetings. Instant messenger services and now enterprise social software allow you do the same, instantaneously. Perhaps we will be more productive. Perhaps we will be distracted by the increasing flow of content.  Time will tell - and it will vary by individual. However, like email, we will adapt. 

Companies such as LG, HP, Cisco, Deloitte, Ford, Kraft Foods and Weight Watchers have adopted enterprise social media. Has you company adopted an enterprise social software? How are you using it?  

What's your perspective?