Go With The Customer Flow

21 02 2012

An interesting statistic caught my attention about customer interaction through  Social Media; these interactions represent only 1% of company-customer interactions, and are expected to grow to 4% in five year’s time in France (Les Echos). In other words, 99% of interaction take place outside of Social Media! This to me leads to a very fundamental question about whether we are suffering from the Shiny Object Syndrome with regards to Social Media and customer engagement. Because we now have access to customers and prospects through these new channels, there is a real temptation to focus only on these without looking at why and how people are using these media in the first place, and where they fit into what I call the overall flow of getting to their desired outcomes.

We get distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents – “you need to increase your Likes on FaceBook”, “customers expect answers on Twitter” – whilst at the same time neglecting the Contact Center experience or the in-store and post-sales ones (think Twelpforce and IRL stories). The bigger picture in this case is the Customer Journey, which from your point of extends beyond the lead-up to the sale to post-sales activity that closes the loop in the next round of the buying cycle.

There are many touchpoints on that Journey – some where you are involved and that you can influence, and others where peers are preponderant and where at most you can only facilitate. You need to identify where those touchpoints are – and they could be on many different channels and customers will merrily hop from one to another) – and where it makes sense for you to create or help create the desired outcomes. And this should be linked to how much you’re willing or able to invest at each to have the optimum impact – so it’s back to pure CRM and also CLV calculations, folks :).

This is how I like to picture  Customer Engagement – how you’ve created/co-created value along the Customer Journey to help them (and yourself!) get to the desired outcomes (HT Mike Boysen). For this you need to map your customers’ journeys, identify the touchpoints and find out what customers need and expect at each of them to determine your service blueprint (Design Thinking and JTBD), whilst at the same time prioritizing your own resource allocation based on Customer Lifetime Value, and not just on whether someone will like your brand on FaceBook if you give them a coupon.

To conclude, “going with the Customer Flow” entails reducing the frictions in the flows that leads to the confluence of your business’s and your customers’ desired outcomes. That means getting the big picture of the customer journey, understanding how they ‘hire’ the different tools at the various touchpoints such as social media, opinions from friends, their peers, your Salespeople, Marketing and Customer Service and how you can organize your internal flows to optimize the outcomes at the various touchpoints. We should certainly not lose sight of the fact that there is a whole world out there beyond Social Media that impact the Customer Experience!

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22 responses

21 02 2012
Brian Kling (@briankling)

Great points Mark, focusing on customer journey and experience through the entire path ensures real value. Social Media is but a part of that path and one access point.

21 02 2012
Mark Tamis

thanks for commenting Brian :). Indeed, focusing on Social Media as the ‘only channel of Truth’ can lead to dangerous situations – potentially you’ll only listen to the ones who shout rather than the ones who are really important to your business!

21 02 2012
Scott Rogers

Great post Mark.

Totally agree. It is only when we understand the customers journey – both the value journey (from JTBD to value in use) and the experience journey (those interactions in between) that we can make the changes necessary to achieve mutually beneficial value – a win-win for both parties.

21 02 2012
Mark Tamis

Hi Scott, thanks and thank you for all the backchannel conversations that helped me get to this point in my thinking. Now the question is which ‘tools’ do we as companies ‘hire’ to better understand customer needs at each of the touchpoints of the Customer Journey? How do we know that these tools reach the best outcomes. A fun journey ahead :)

23 02 2012
Graham Hill (@GrahamHill)

Hi Mark

A very timely post. And one that exposes ‘social’ for what it is; a growing but still very small part of the customer journey. If anything, the 1% statistic is probably a huge over-estimate.

We tend to think that the only contacts the customer has with us are where the customer contacts us or one of our proxies directly. Or where we contact the customer directly. That’s why CRM typically only covers marketing, sales and customer service touchpoints.

From the customer’s perspective these touchpoints often do not create much value at all. In fact they are mostly non-value adding costs. Remember the last time you gave up trying to contact your bank after being stratnded in the middle of IVR hell? Much more value for customers is created through the continued ownership and use of products. services and experiences. Either directly or through what they enable. Yet these touchpoints are rarely counted in the statistics and even more rarely acted upon.

Maybe it is time to take a proper view of the entire, end-to-end customer journey, including those all important usage touchpoints. Only then will we really understand what customers want, what touchpoints they hire to get it and where we can help them get more of it. All at a handsome profit of course.

Graham Hill
Customer-centric Innovator
@grahamhill

23 02 2012
Ludo Raedts (@LudoRaedts)

Hi Mark,

thanks for your insights.

I do wonder: when you say only 1% of the interactions is on social media that is a direct contact. That is not the same as a touchpoint: customers do read and see a lot about companies on the (social) web although they are not directly in touch with a company.

Remind that customer orientation often starts at the internet and social media (especially blogs, forums, review sites) have a lot of impact.

So I do think that contact via social media as a direct channel (twitter, facebook) is Hyped right now, but the impact of mentions on other social media is underestimated.

I do agree with Graham that those touchpoints should be part of the customer journey to understand not only what our customers want but also what they expect, because expectations are often based on marketing (but few customers who still believe wat marketing tells them) and in peer recommendations.

23 02 2012
Mark Tamis

Hoi Ludo,

Indeed, touchpoints are in many different places on the Customer Journey, on- and offline, between you and the customer or between the customer and his peers. From a company perspective, regarding the touchpoints they have in common with the customers (in-store, contact center, thru social media and the like), of this only 1% represent Social Media contacts.

Don’t get me wrong, Social Media is an important channel and I’m not saying that you should neglect it – but currently only represent a very minute amount of the contacts that are currently happening between the company and its customers. There is certainly potential to increase this percentage drastically and possibly with impressive results – but currently the maturity is not there yet on the side of the companies.

Ciao!
Mark

27 02 2012
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1 03 2012
Christopher S. Rollyson

Mark, thanks for reminding everyone that, yes, the legacy business exists—and earns the lion’s share of revenue for most enterprises. A couple of points for your consideration vis à vis social business.

CSRA encourages clients to pay attention to social business metrics only when they are couched within a trust and relationship context because trust increases interest, involvement and business. “How many followers” is one of those social media Coca-Cola metrics, devoid of nutritional value. To get to business-real, we recommend process mapping client workflows and identifying how to touch them appropriately, and encourage other clients to interact in certain situations. But with a specific objective and quantitative outcomes that, thanks to digital social, are fairly easy to measure.

Secondly, all “customer interactions” are not created equal, as your post seems to imply. I would drill down and identify the kinds of interactions, prioritize them and allocate resources to them (I get the feeling you’re an old hand at this).

Lastly, social business interactions often take place in transparent social venues and offer tremendous leverage. Therefore, other clients discover the conversations when they have similar issues. The firm’s attention and commitment to serving people is seen by many. Often far less costly than phone customer service and far more useful. By no means do I assume social business is appropriate for all kinds of issues, either. I have even argued that “customer service is the new marketing.” http://bit.ly/csnewmktgsbs

1 03 2012
Mark Tamis

Hi Christopher,

Thanks for your pertinent comments, and I like the term business-real you employ here. Basically the idea is to rationalize your spending at the touchpoints to optimize the customer experience and outcomes there where you can add and/or co-create value.

You also say “drill down and identify the kinds of interactions, prioritize them and allocate resources to them” which is interesting, and I would add that you should prioritize based on CLV and CRV rather than the shotgun approach that seems to be in favour at the moment – I’d suggest you take a look at Jim Novo’s Drilling Down, and Commitment-Led Marketing by Jan Hofmeyr.

Fun times are ahead! We need to put things in perspective, better understand the customer jobs to be done and understand the desired customer and business outcomes and then organize accordingly. I’ll be announcing a new venture around that soon hopefully :)

Thanks again for your comment!

2 03 2012
Mitch Lieberman

Mark,

Good post, apologies for not coming along and adding my $.02 earlier. From a reader viewpoint, wearing a social hat, your data suggests a 400% increase in just one year, correct? Now, you know that is simply an attempt at humor, but it does highlight the kind of thinking which might have brought us to the point we are at.

I have had the great opportunity to spend time in Australia this past week, and I am excited to see and hear the tempered, rational approach being taken. Organizations are not simply ‘jumping on’ social and they are asking (of themselves) the critical questions which need to be asked. In conversations, some are almost a bit nervous in taking the slightly controversial viewpoint – for example “After I jump on, can I jump off?”

Your post also speaks to some of the recent conversations around social ‘this and that’ – your continued diligence in focusing on what customers actually want and need to do is critically important – thanks.

Mitch

2 03 2012
Mark Tamis

Hey Mitch,

Actually, the data suggest 400% growth in 5 years. No doubt the growth is there, but I think the low percentage actually reflects more on the resistance to change of companies rather than customer expectations.

Now that I have started to really take a step back and look at how my interactions go with organisations – from airlines to public services to cinema chains – I am struck by the low level of interaction possibilities. In order to get through and have a meaningful conversation you really need to be very determined to peel back each layer to get to the core.

I keep hammering the message because I see Social cRM drifting to being limited to interactions – or worse, just communication – through Social Media, and I fear this will lead to another bubble of inflated expectations. Social Media has tremendous potential to fundamentally change the way customers interact with companies and with each other, but it requires a completely different mindset from what is prevalent in current businesses.

Thanks for your comments!

Mark

4 03 2012
Graham Hill (@GrahamHill)

Hi Mark

As is often the case, the comments about your post are almost as interesting as the post itself.

I was particularly taken by @Ludo’s comment and your response to @Mitch’s comment.

@Ludo’s comments highlights that customers have many more social touchpoints with brands than the 1% through formal social media. In fact, evidence suggests that they have far more touchpoints through their social network of real friends than through social media. Chistakis & Fowler show unequivocally that the influence extends beyond their real friends, through their friends’ friends all the way to their friends’ friends’ friends. To people they don’t even know. Most of these contacts are not measured, and are probably not measureable. That’s where the real power of social lies.

Your response to @Mitch’s comments highlights how difficult it is to enter a meaningful social conversation with most companies. Unless there is a sales opportunity in it for the companies, that is! Most of my work is with top-tier multi-national banks, telcos, auto manufacturers and so on. I get to see both the social tools they offer to customers and what they really do behind the scenes to deliver the social promise too. It is very hard to start a social conversation with any of them. They don’t provide mechanisms that are relevant, where they do they don’t work when customers really need them, and when you look behind the scenes, the companies are as CUSTOMER-UNCENTRIC as they have always been. Their SocCRM is six parts slick PR (read: lies, more lies and damned lies), three parts self-delusion (read: “we are doing social, aren’t we?”) and only one part meaningful social conversation.

SocCRM has huge potential. But it will be limited if it is implemented as purely social media, or worse, just technology. Only when companies start to look at the entire customer journey and identify where they can provide AND deliver more value using social at key touchpoints during the journey can it hope to deliver all of its potential. From the customer’s perspective, very few of the touchpoints will probably have anything to do with marketing or sales.

You know it makes sense.

Graham Hill
Customer-centric Entrepreneur
@grahamhill

4 03 2012
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5 03 2012
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6 03 2012
kristinzhivago

Hi, Mark. You’re right, the comments are very interesting. I have to jump in here with two conclusions I’ve come to (and spell out thoroughly in my book, Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy).

1) If we’re talking about selling – converting, not just conversing – all that matters is OUR customer’s journey. And, more specifically, what questions/concerns they have and where/how they want them to be answered. If we meet this expectation successfully, changes are excellent for us making the sale. When we think of this as a buyer – how often we go to a site or salesperson with questions and walk away with them unanswered – we can see how far all businesses still have to go in this regard.

2) Thousands of customer interviews have convinced me that our current customers can literally teach us how to sell to future customers – to meet the requirements I just stated in #1. They have been through the process of buying our product/services, and have experienced our products/services/company, and they have so much to teach us about them – and us – and what we could be doing better to support and streamline that buying journey. Buyers won’t tell us what they’re thinking when we’re selling to them, but afterwards, if you ask them the right questions in the right way (again, in my book), they open right up and lay everything out for us.

We don’t have to follow the herd; we don’t have to waste time on stuff that won’t pay; we don’t have to guess or test endlessly, groping around in the dark. We can get very sure, very fast, even with only a half-dozen in-depth interviews. Yep, I see absolute, bankable patterns by the 5th to 7th call.

So everything you say about touchpoints is correct. I just know from experience that we don’t have to guess about what they want. We can call current customers and reverse-engineer successful sales to be ready with just the right answers/concepts at just the right time, for future customers.

Great article. Your thinking is right on the money.

kz

18 03 2012
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31 03 2012
Frederique Garzon

Great post and some really great thoughts in the replies.

Its actually interesting though to see how people refer to social media channels as social. Which is fine really but my point is that WORDS MATTER.

Ultimately that’s part of the issue at hand with people misunderstanding and focusing on only the social media channel.

Because even if we all agree SCRM isn’t just about social media, we interchange social media with the word social. And how ridiculous is ‘social media’ term really? If I go to a party and I talk to you, am I not being social? As someone who loves to socialize… It’s social whether its through social media or by phone or other. ☺ We should just call it online interactions or WEB networking. Personally I preferred Web 2.0 (even if some would argue its too TOOL-centric). SOCIAL is human and has nothing to do with channels.

And that’s why the term SCRM is misleading.

Why not just stop saying SCRM and just continue or go back to just calling it CRM? Because ultimately, SCRM is the same thing as CRM.

Additionally, it seems to me that « S » in SCRM is redundant with the « R ». Doesn’t a relationship with a customer ultimately mean you’ve had some sort of interaction with them through some sort of communications channel : in person, phone, email, fax, social media, etc.

Drop the S!

And while we’re at it, we should also drop “Social Business” though I admit to using it regularly. I preferred Enterprise 2.0 (even if some would argue its too TOOL-centric or too INTERNAL sounding).

Its as though we’re saying that we weren’t social before… We have always been social, we just have easier ways of reaching each other now and there are opportunities as a result.

Again, great post… and I’m glad I got the opportunity to vent my frustrations with the misuse of the word “social”.

Cheers

F.

25 05 2012
Jennifer

Very interesting post. Your stat of 1% is from a report in France specifically? Or the increase to 4% is from a report on France? I couldn’t quite figure out who had the 1% and which country was expecting the 4% increase. I guess if it’s a very narrow assessment of social media usage in France then I would want if companies in France have a corresponding level of Social CRM efforts underway.

25 05 2012
Mark Tamis

Hi Jennifer,

Yes indeed, these stats are from a French report called “Vente en ligne et Digitalisation de la Relation Client”, November 2011, by CCA International for the FEVAD (Trade organisation). This is specifically about France, and the increase to 4% is what is expected in France in 5 years time.

Currently the social CRM efforts in France are nascent, at best experimental. But think about it, take stock of all the touchpoints your have on your customer journey. How many of them are digital?

27 06 2012
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24 08 2012
Caroline Marsh

Hello Mark,

I really loved reading your article. It’s true that a lot of business tend to focus a lot of their attention to social media, with the rapid growth of social media as well as new technologies shaping the way a business does interacts with its customers, marketing, advertising and closing the deal. And sometimes, we do tend to forget that social media is only one of the touch points.

And I really believe in this”you need to map your customers’ journeys, identify the touchpoints and find out what customers need and expect at each of them to determine your service blueprint (Design Thinking and JTBD), whilst at the same time prioritizing your own resource allocation based on Customer Lifetime Value, and not just on whether someone will like your brand on FaceBook if you give them a coupon.”

We do really have to carefully map out the touch points and do what we can to provide what they need from us. Great article, I really learned from this. I am a franchise partner of a well know property investment group in the UK and I am also a business mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals. I really enjoyed reading your article and since I learned from it, I would also love to share to you one of my articles which is about “entrepreneurship – turning possibilities into reality”. Very great for those wanting to start up a business. Here is the link: http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Be-an-Entrepreneur:-7-Traits-to-Turn-Possibility-Into-Reality&id=7231815

Thank you and God Bless!




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