Clouds over San Francisco

Customer Insights, Collaboration, and Cloud in 2011

It’s that time of the year again, when we look back to the past and try to project what will happen in the future. Although I do not consider myself to be an analyst, I do have some ideas I’d like to share concerning my areas of interest.

Clouds above San Francisco

The year 2010 has seen a rapid adoption of the idea that companies should listen more closely what customers are saying in order to understand their job-to-be-done and work towards meeting their desired outcomes. These outcome can be an ideal customer experience, or adapting a service offering so that it better meets needs and expectations. Customer experience now increasingly includes using social media to find and exchange with like-minded individuals, creating de facto online communities. Customer Engagement strategies which integrate these channels is increasingly being accepted by companies for Voice Of Customer, to source ideas for innovation, and to scale support.

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Service Agility thru Adaptive Case Management

Who hasn’t been there? After waiting 20 minutes on hold with Customer Service, then 15 mins for explaining your problem, the Contact Center Agent says she is really sorry, but can’t do anything about resolving  it because something first has to be done by some other department, or it the system won’t let her do what needs to be done as this isn’t in the process, even though it should be simple and straightforward to do.

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Enterprise 2.0 And The Different Flavours of Social CRM

Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 are a natural fit. In an endorsement for the Enterprise 2.0 book, Leo Apotheker (now heading HP) said that “McAfee clearly understands the role of IT in creating superior customer value…”, and indeed, I very much agree with this statement. However, where I believe software vendors have put too much emphasis in their interpretation of what needs to be done, is that they have focused too much on the pure IT side of the equation. This is where the social CRM approach can bring balance to the discussion by looking at how innovative customer engagement strategies – enabled through employee participation and collaboration – can help deliver the sought-after superior customer value.

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Customer Enablement Technology

Enterprise Software Vendors have always focused on their enterprise clients’ needs when concocting their products. SFA, SCM, CRM, ERM, [insert your TLA] were all developed with the objective of optimising business from the inside-out, formalising and streamlining processes and connecting systems, and now with Social Software in the Workplace connecting people again. In parallel to that, we have seen companies build platforms that help people connect such as the now-ubiquitous Facebook, Twitter and consorts, bridging time and space to help people interact and reinforce ties with others like them.

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Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM Converge towards the Collaborative Enterprise

At the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Milan where Esteban Kolsky and I presented the “The New Era of Customer Engagement with Social CRM“, I spoke with Emanuele Quintarelli of Open Knowledge who organized the event – and he did a very good job I might add!.  During our conversation Emanuele made the remark that Social CRM has now become an accepted part of the agenda in comparison with last year. Participants attending the previous edition found it strange to even mention customers when discussing E2.0 and preferred to focus on the software solutions – but this year this seems to have changed completely.

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Data-Driven Social CRM

I have been reading some very interesting books about strategies around becoming a customer-driven organisation and also about the benefits of Customer Engagement Programs (more on that in later posts). In the discussion around Social CRM we agree that it is beneficial to business to engage the Social Customer, but what seems to be more difficult to articulate is the Business Value Proposition – why should a company invest in Customer Engagement Programs in conjunction with CRM? What value is in it for the company and what is in it for the customers? We also talk about the need to move from value-in-exchange thinking to value-in-use. What tangible benefits are there for companies to take a a customer Lifetime Value approach rather than concentrate on the sale? Or simply, how can Social CRM Strategies can provide a significant impact to the bottom line.

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Enterprise 2.0 Boston Bait and Switch

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Enterprise 2.0 concepts and tools are gaining more and more traction in “mainstream” Business Practices as this is seen as a good way to captialize on the human assets of organisations. To reflect this trend, and to spread awareness and understanding and also to provide a platform for exchange of expriences, a conference is being organised at the Westin Boston Waterfront on June 14-17, 2010.

Apparently it was felt that the base premise of the subject was not enough to attract attention that the organisers had to resort to Switch and Bait practices to generate Buzz and use Command & Control decision making (how very Enterprise 1.0…). I commented on the announcement to draw attention to the dichotomy between their message of “letting the audience decide” and their actions.

Apparently, my opinion did not go in the sense they wanted so I guess they decided against publishing it. Or they’re not monitoring and thus didn’t get round to moderating yet – in that case, why provide a comments area?

Let me elaborate on the dichotomy through the use ofPrem Kumar’s  Context, Content, and Intent -at least  in my opinion…

Context

For this edition the organisers decided to be innovative by enlisting the “wisdom of the crowds” to source Papers to be presented at the conference. They relied on the Spigit – which in my opinion is ideally suited for the task at hand (disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with them). The expectation that was set was that the all Conference Topics would be chosen through the principle of ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’ as stated in the ‘How Things Work’ section, with the Conference Management just making sure that the tracks were balanced.  Proposals with the most votes would be part of the E2 Boston 2010 Conference.

Content

The Call for Papers had potential speakers expose the their subjects of predeliction in a short summary and supporting documents in attachments (UGC). They were then actively encouraged to get people to vote for their subject (WOM), directing traffic to the site and generating buzz. The target audience was asked to add comments to the entries to instaur a dialogue – level 4 in Mitch Liebermann’s Social Interactions post

Intent

The original intent was to get a Conference Agenda that reflected the subjects the participants would be interested in and that would be rich and varied in teachings and facilitate the exchange of experience to propulse Enterprise 2.0 concepts and usage into organisations.

Although the programme put up is actually a very interesting one – the original context, content and intent were not respected. Out of the 30-odd sessions, only 8 are community-sourced - less than a third.  The Conference Management or Advisory Board decided to disregard their own selection process and make their decisions in a completely opaque manner. To my knowledge, none of them interacted with the potential speakers at any time to get details, or a better understanding, either through comments on the community site or even through other means at their disposal such as blogging about the subjects put forward by the candidates, sending twitter messages, or sending email. Voting was started in January, and the speakers were informed on March 30 – with a long zone of no communication in between.

The Top Two community-voted Papers did not get in, the third speaker did, but just one of his subjects. Of the top 10, maybe 2 actually made the grade according to the Board. People put a lot of effort into coming up with interesting Papers, and their peers thought they were interesting enough to merit reading through, understanding, commenting and voting for (full disclosure – we had put in a Paper up concerning bridging scrm & e20). By neglecting the votes, the Board is showing an extreme disregard and disrespect for the candidates and more especially their audience – their customers.

The voting process turned into a popularity contests, with people actively asking to be shown ‘Twitter Love’ by their followers to get more votes – followers who potentially would not be interested in attending the event because their interests lie elsewhere. This all turned into a real buzz machine, driving a lot of traffic and awareness that this event would take place. While this is all fine and understandable and a good way to build interest for Enterprise 2.0, it was done with the wrong Intent  and thus under  false pretenses. Trust has been squandered.

Through their actions, the organisers have also seem to think that:

  • collaboration and ‘wisdom of the crowd’ is not a valid way of selecting Papers
  • conversation is good between the clients of their ‘product’ but decisions should be made by a ‘Management’
  • feedback and management participation is absolutely not necessary

Now what was the Enterprise 2.0 way of working supposed to promote again..?

I am not saying that the ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’ is the most suited way for selecting interesting presentation subjects, but using the Switch and Bait technique is a deceptive Business Practice and reflects badly on the event as well as the validity of the Enterprise 2.0 Business Case. Although this is not at the scale and will not have the impact of the Nestlé debacle, the organisers are showing a there is a disconnect between their actions and the expectations they have set for the consumers of their product. It is kind of like saying ‘What is good enough for the customers of the tools we sell, is not good enough for us – we still manage our business as usual!’. The Advisory Board reached out to the consumers of the E20 Conference product to engage with them through ideation, but has done only half-heartedly. You need to go whole full nine yards! Moreover, in the public arena there is no hierarchy or HR to put a muzzle on the people that voice their opinions.

Transparency and authenticity can generate a lot of Goodwill and potentially a high level of participant engagement, but can just as easily backfire.  You can’t only just ‘pretend’ to be transparent by putting in a tool and not following through with actions – or ‘living the culture’, especially if you expect to be trusted in return. Changing the rules and not informing people about that when the result does not meet your goals is just Bad Practice. And thinking that people would not notice is just silly. I already know of some that will not bother with putting in a Paper for the Fall edition of the #e20conf…

It would have been so much easier to have been transparent in the selection rules, once the expectations set you can then meet them – the math is easy. This would have avoided the Bait and Switch and would have allowed the Trust Relationship to be continued. This is actually turning into a case study in Social Business; the need to coordinate Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 Strategies – thank you #e20conf!

When you Talk the Talk, you should also Walk the Walk!

I hope this is seen as Food for Thought. What do you think, am I right to bring this up in this manner?

Social CRM and Social Business

Last week had the privilege of attending the CRM Seminar on “Social CRM for Business” organised by BPT Partners, where Paul Greenberg managed to attract a large number the world’s thought leaders on Social CRM and market players during a two-day event in a snowed-in Westin Hotel in Washington DC. To the members of the #SCRM Accidental Community it felt like the culmination point (hence the term #scrmsummit ;) ) after many, many months of tweet conversation, blogging and commenting, skype chatting that have helped us shape our ideas of what a Social CRM Strategy could look like as well as the promise it holds concerning how business can be changed for the benefit of all parties involved. It was great to meet in person finally!

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Rethinking Sales in a SCRM Strategy

Before you start thinking “where the heck is he going to go with this, does he want us to ditch our Sales people?”, let me reassure you – it won’t happen so I won’t try to argue in that sense. All I’ll be talking about here is that we could take the opportunity that a Social CRM Strategy can offer to change the approach we have been taking to organizing for Sales activities. In this post I will concentrate on B2B Sales as this is what I am most familiar with (see Mitch Lieberman’s “Is B2B the new B2C” for more thoughts on the subject).

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What I’ve discovered about Twitter

Twitter has become quite centtral in the way that I go out and research subjects that interest me, and to exchange with people that have knowledge and insight about these. Before I used to turn to Google, but it was very difficult to find the nuggets of knowledge you’re looking for when you get 36 million search results (most of them irrelevant). Twitter has turned out to be an extremely effective tool as a community-based knowledge transfer tool.

I used to be a sceptic – proudly saying I did not tweet – as I did not see the value of telling the whole world that I was having double-twisted latté macchiato cappucino coffee or whatever at a Starbuck’s. Boy was I wrong! Twitter has been the most effective tool that I have found yet. I set up Tweetdeck and did one column that filters on the #scrm hashtag (my main interest), and another on #e20 (these are linked as Social Business, hopefully Esteban Kolsky and I can tell you more about it during the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Paris and Boston). Soon I found out who the most interesting tweeters to follow were (or is it twits? lol) and reached out.

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