Archives for March 2010

Mister, Can You Spare Some Change?

Because change seems to be hard to come by; and it’s just plain hard to do.  Now, I appreciate that, for most of you reading this, change is actually quaint and a tad bit on the boring side.  If you’re anything like me (God help you), disruption is more your speed.  But, for the larger segment of business leadership, change is a difficult thing to envision, much less execute.

I got to thinking about this recently as I’ve been listening to several companies that are a year or so into their navigation of social CRM as a business concept/philosophy/fill in the blank (I won’t use strategy; as that is yet to come for many).  As predicted, many of these companies started off with tactical activities and tools.  And now, they are starting to think about higher level business considerations like strategy development and execution.  The one missing theme in the discussion still is that of the organizational impact of this new business model: the people dimension of our trusty “people, process, technology” mantra.

Flashing back in history a bit, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Back in the heyday of ERP, what was one of the biggest drivers of failed initiatives (besides under-scoping the complexity of the technology development)?  It was the cursory consideration given to change management.  Sure, we had change control to manage technical requirements modifications.  But, change management always seemed to be the sacrificial lamb.  The first negotiating point offered up to reduce the scope and price tag of the engagement; if it made it onto the client proposal in the first place.

History repeated itself during the height of the CRM hype cycle.  Technology led these initial projects.  Then we got smart and learned that business process and strategy were critical to success.  But, still identification and management of all the organizational and cultural upheaval of such initiatives typically took a secondary role in the project.  I remember my colleagues in the change management practice were typically paraded out prominently during the sales cycle, but then not provided their due place in the project organization or work streams.  And, the work products that were typically scoped were focused more around application UI training and tactical business process change.

Culture change is too often labeled as the ‘soft’ part of the work.  While in reality, organizational and cultural change is directly responsible for the long term, sustainable business improvement of these projects.  And, there are proven, quantifiable methods for driving sustainable change.  I explored a simple model for change a while back called the E-C-R Model: Expectations, Capabilities and Rewards in a series of posts starting with this one.  This model uses quantitative methods to align and measure these components of a business system to drive sustainable change.

Flash forward.  To the credit of many, much thought leadership has been focused over the past ten years on customer centric business models.  After the CRM technology craze leveled off, focus shifted appropriately from the company at the center of the universe to the customer as the bullseye around which each corporate function should revolve.  And, we all had great pictures of what that should look like.

Now, while most organizations haven’t even caught up to the vision of those diagrams, we’ re throwing social CRM into the equation.  Now, the customer is no longer at the center of the bullseye, with the company corralling and containing her.  The customer has escaped the pen and is charging off in whatever direction she dare, challenging the company to keep up.

If there is ever a time when organizations need to put change management a wee bit higher on the priority list, I’d argue it’s now.

Leggo My Legroom

Remember those Kellogg’s commercials for Eggo frozen waffles?  I’m no ad man, but I’m here to tell you.  Those Kellogg’s folks knew how to generate demand.  The frozen waffle as coveted icon, revered by everyone in the house.

I feel like I’m stuck in a bad dream back in the 1970’s, appearing in those commercials over and over.  Me on one side of the tug of war and the airlines on the other.  Now apparently, I’ve written more than a few times on the airline industry.  Like this diddy about Mr Smith and Southwest. Or this about my hometown flyboys in Philiadelphia .  I’m honestly not here to bash the airlines.  I believe to my core that people in general want to do well at their jobs.  But, when employees are pushed to the brink, their commitment to and ability to deliver service naturally suffers.  It’s human nature.  It’s dumb policies and business decisions that are at the root cause of the industry’s ills. 

So, just when I’m looking so hard to find the positives, my friend Christina Bentley shared with me this email she received that just made me hang my head and sigh.  This actually relates directly to what I argued was at the root cause of the whole Kevin Smith nonsense.    
Dear Elite Customer,

We’ll soon be offering a new option for customers during check-in and wanted to advise Elite members of our plans. On March 17, 2010, we will begin offering customers the choice to purchase seat assignments for unreserved, Economy Class seats that feature extra legroom.

As an Elite member, you will continue to have the same ability to pre-assign seats without paying additional fees, for yourself and any traveling companions in your reservation, including these seats offering extra legroom. 

This new offer will allow customers to purchase extra legroom seats when checking in at or at an airport kiosk during the normal check-in period, beginning 24 hours prior to flight departure. The price of these seats will vary depending on a number of factors, including the length of the flight and market.

As one of our most valuable customers, we wanted to let you know of the change and thank you for choosing Continental. We will continue to ensure that your loyalty is rewarded as we launch new offers.

Learn more about Extra Legroom Seats

Senior Vice President
Marketing Programs and Distribution

Clearly, the airlines are at a low point with respect to the customer experience.  My head is spinning though trying to grasp how this is helping.

A quick scan of recent trends should make you a bit dizzy too.

  • That legroom used to be mine as part of the ride. Airlines put in more seats and took it away.  Now they want me to pay to get it back.
  • Blankets and pillows used to be available. Then you were asked to pay for them.  Now they are gone completely
  • I used to be able to check bags for free.  Now I must pay and deal with added cabin tensions like Chris Reaburn experienced because everyone’s carrying everything on the plane.
  • Food used to be a base feature.  Now, your choices are restricted and you have to pay for it.
  • A new set of headphones used to be in the seat pocket on every flight.  Now they cost five dollars (and aren’t worth one)
  • Ok so now I’m starting to get WiFi on some flights, but I have to pay.  (I paid an effective hourly rate of over $20 on my last 40 minute flight).  But, I don’t have enough room between me and the seat in front of me to even open my laptop to take advantage of it.  
  • Pay toilets….they’re coming! You know they’re on someone’s whiteboard.

Now, I absolutely appreciate the fact that airlines are a terrible business.  All you have to do is consider the list of all star entrepreneurs that have dove in a failed.  But, I can not for the life of me come up with another industry that continues to take away features of its base offering, feed those same features back as for-fee add-ons and erode the customer experience in the way the airlines continue.

Ok, so maybe the cable t.v. industry is another.  And look at what consumers think about them.

Tree Frogs and the Social Ecosystem

Ok, this post has nothing to do with tree frogs, biology or ecology.  But, unlike Seth Godin, my brain only has a limited capacity for catchy, pun-filled blog titles.  I hope you can forgive me for that one.

A while ago, I wrote a post on strategic considerations that the social enterprise needs to address before diving into tactical execution; like launching a Twitter account or Facebook page or making investments in social media monitoring and engagement technology.

Apparently, several issues within that post resonated with folks over at The Social Customer  (i’m eternally grateful for their repost of that article).  So, I figured I’d better explore a few of those topics in further detail.  I’m a visual thinker and learner, so I’ll start with what I referred to in that post as defining your enterprise social ecosystem.  I’m putting this out there, not as any definitive or authoritative definition, but hopefully as a conversation starter where some of you that are a whole lot smarter than I can poke holes in these concepts and make them better. 

Just for fun, Wikipedia defines an ecosystem as the “combined physical and biological components of an environment”. My definition of the social ecosystem is the combined strategic, informational, human and technological components of a social business system. (opportunity #1 to poke holes)  

A while ago, I had started to sketch out a point of view; a picture.  But then I found this example from Dion Hinchcliffe over at ZDNet.  Dion approached this question from an Enterprise 2.0 technology point of view.  But what I found missing was the strategic, informational and human components of the ecosystem.  And so I’ve attempted here to combine some of his ideas with those other elements.  So, here goes (opportunity #2)

I’ll bullet point the highlights.

  • Its pretty clear, and I think most experts agree, that the social components of the web (what we refer to as web 2.0) are an ever-expanding subset of the entire world wide web. so, I’ve captured that here.
  • I’m lumping ecommerce sites that have a significant social component to them, such as Amazon, eBags and Netflix, into the category of Public Social Networks and Communities.  For the purpose here, I don’t think it matters where they are placed between the two
  • This is an enterprise view of the world,  So from that point of view, the ecosystem includes all value chain partners and customers.  Would the picture be different from the customer’s point of view?
  • Within the enterprise, there are several customer-centric 2.0 business processes that directly connect the enterprise and the rest of the ecosystem such as knowledge bases, traditional CRM and unified communications
  • The green arrows represent information flows between the enterprise and the other ecosystem constituents across multiple channels
  • Social CRM, I believe, is not just limited to the interaction between company and customer through the social web.  This is in contrast to the recent definition provided by Dr. Harish Kodadia, someone for who’s work I have tremendous respect.  My opinion (because I don’t have a definition of my own) is more aligned with Paul Greenberg’s – “Social CRM is the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation”.  However, those conversations are not just happening on the social web.  so, I’ve attempted to represent that by spanning “Social CRM” across all channels and customer-facing business processes  
  • Also, Social CRM is a business philosophy and strategy, combined with business process and technology.  Therefore, I’ve tried to represent that point here – that social crm cuts across customer communication and access channels and requires a radical shift in the construct of business models that connect the enterprise with partners and customers.
  • Where I differ from Mr. Greenberg is this.  Paul states that social CRM is but a small part of the enterprise business architecture.  I believe, as a business philosophy, it is broader and needs to be woven into the fabric of every corner of the business in order to produce results.

A final foot note on the term “social CRM”.  I don’t like it.  Never have.  The CRM part, that is.  I like the definition and what it represents as a business model.  So, for purposes of general understanding, I’m going with it.  But, since 1987 when I built my first SFA application and first heard the term, its always bothered me.  Customer Relationship Management is a company-centric term that implies the company can somehow manage the relationships with its customers.  And, the most troublesome part; it implies that customers actually want to have a relationship with companies.  Sure, companies what relationships with their customers.  But, again, this is company-centric and someone narcissistic, if you ask me.  I believe customers want companies to provide products and services that satisfy specific needs.  If that means better understanding of the customer on the company’s part, then I’m all for that.  But that doesn’t require a ‘relationship’.  If I never had to speak to companies I dealt with, I’d be very happy.  All that being said, that’s a whole separate conversation….over a beer or two.

Ok, poke away.  Or rip to shreds.  Enjoy.

Thoughts from the 1St Global Contact Forum

Last week, I attended, and was fortunate to speak at, the 1st Global Contact Forum, hosted by Instituto Mexicano de Teleservicos.  The event drew a broad collection of contact center folks primarily from Mexico and Latin America.   However, twenty one countries across 5 continents were officially represented among the participants. 

So, after Delta Airlines lost my luggage on the leg from Atlanta to Philadelphia and left it out in the monsoon on Friday, I was able to salvage a few notes and scraps of paper from my bag.  From that, along with my cloudy memory, here’s what I think were my key (albeit, random) observations and takeaways (disclaimer: reading runny, smudged ink is not my core competency)

  • In talking with Rodolfo Salazar he confirmed my opinion that Mexican and Latin American contact center industry is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-1.5 years behind the US market in developing social CRM strategies and tactics for leveraging social media as an effective service and support channel. 
  • In my talk on social CRM, I asked a question: “how many people have engaged a company for service via a social channel?”  About 20% of the audience had.  In response to the question ” how many of your contact centers provide service and support through social channels?”.  To that, about 5% raised their hands. 
  • In contrast, in a study that just came across my email this morning that surveyed US contact centers, 35% indicated they provide support via social channels.  Does that seem high to you?
  • Interestingly, the focus of discussions, presentations and hallway chatter was on providing near-shore contact center alternatives for US-based companies.  It got me wondering, if all these contact center BPOs are chasing the US market, who’s providing in-country service to their local customers?
  • Speaking of near shore opportunities for US-based companies, every Spanish/English bi-lingual contact center ought to be developing a strategy for taking advantage of the labor arbitrage opportunities available through the Latin American market.  Culture, language and proximity all make me wonder why more aren’t jumping across the Rio Grande
  • Tod Famous from Cisco gave a thought-provoking presentation and demo on their social CRM platform.  Many of the large enterprise vendors are developing and planning some initial release of such platforms this year, addressing challenges of workflow, multi-channel integration and unified communications.  I’m wondering what the response will be from vendors such as Radian6, Visible Technologies and the other “pure play” monitoring platforms  
  • IMT put up a bunch of video interviews on YouTube with conference speakers, including this one with yours truly This should give you a good overview of the conference topics and landscape of this exciting market. The full list is in the “related videos’ list on this link.

As my preparation for this conference was the driver for me to start seriously researching the Latin American contact center market, I’d be interested to hear your perspective on the future.

Policy Killed The Video Star

You started video rentals back in Eighty Five
Home movie business really starts to grow and thrive
I didn’t care to get my tape, I had to drive.

Oh-a oh

Cook took the credit for originally.
Rewritten by garbage men and technology,
And now you understand the problems I can see.

Oh-a oh

Along came Netflix
Oh-a oh

What did you tell them?
Policy killed the video star.
Policy killed the video star.

Expansion came and broke my heart.
Oh-a-a-a oh

And now you tell me all these rules and policies.
Expecting that they’ll please and resonate with me.
Not just new policies, but ever higher fees .
Oh-a oh

You were the first one.
Oh-a oh

Neflix’ll be the last one.

Policy killed the video star.
Policy killed the video star.
Your policies are so bizarre, you can’t rewind you’ve gone to far
Oh-a-aho oh,
Oh-a-aho oh

Policy killed the video star.
Policy killed the video star.

Your policies are so bizarre, you can’t rewind you’ve gone to far.
Viacom came and broke my heart, I guess I’ll play my DVR.

You were a video star.
You were a video star.
Policy killed the video star.
Policy killed the video star.
Policy killed the video star.
Policy killed the video star.

Policy killed the video star. (You were a video star.)

My lyrical tribute to Blockbuster’s new Total Access policy changes.  Zach Epstein has a great take on this here   A summary of the new Total Access T&C;.

Too much of a good thing

The Olympic gold medal hockey game last week between Canada and the United States was among the most entertaining sporting events I’ve experienced in a very long time.  In fact, the entire tournament was highly enjoyable. What made it such an amazing experience were the very things that are missing from the major professional sports leagues, with the exception of the NFL and PGA.

As a customer experience, the Olympic tournament excelled because it put the absolute best product in front of the fan every game.  Every game meant something.  And there there was a highly emotional connection between the fan and the experience.

Pro sports leagues, on the other hand, have largely lost that emotional connection with their fans that is at the root of any superior customer experience.  Sure, there are meaningful games.  And, fans are generally loyal to their team.  But, business decisions over the past twenty years in baseball, basketball and hockey have focused less on connecting with fans and more on short-sighted profit motives.  Product lines have been overextended and the quality of the product has been degraded through geographic over expansion, lengthening of the season and playoff systems where it seems every team makes the post season.  New features like billion dollar stadiums, fancy food and luxury boxes simply distract from the fact that the core value proposition, the game, has been diluted. Now even the NCAA is contemplating devaluing its most valuable asset, its tournament, by expanding to 96 teams.

Compare this approach to that of Apple; a company that has an uncanny ability to connect at a visceral level with its customers, while offering an intentionally limited product portfolio.

It’s an experience economy.  People buy experiences.  So, when your product is the experience, too much of a good thing is never a model for sustainable success.

(Photo: Multiplicity c/o Columbia Pictures Corp)