Archives for April 2010

Twitter Follow Friday #2

More great twitter folks and why I follow them.

You Should Too:

@KristinaEvey – The tag line of Kristina’s consulting firm, Centric Strategies, says about all you need to know about her: “Focusing on the Customer”.  And, that she does.  Kristina also writes extensively on leadership accountability and employee empowerment and its link to customer advocacy and profitability (a view she and I share and have jointly written about)Check out her blog. 

@guy1067 – In my mind, Guy is a pioneer in the practical application of social media as a customer support channel.  As the social media customer service manager at The Carphone Warehouse in The UK, Guy was blazing a trail, along with folks like @comcastcares here in the U.S. while most of us were still learning to crawl.  Heck, @DrNatalie , while at Forrester, even wrote a case study on Guy and The Car Phone Warehouse.

@JohnFMoore – John, besides being a tremendous supporter of mine (for which I am very grateful), is an amazingly prolific blogger on many aspects of social media and social CRM.  One of the first blogs I turn to every day, I always end up spend more time there just surfing and reading.  Plus, he’s from Boston.  So, he’s got that going for him.  Here’s John’s blog.

Hope you check out these wonderful folks, follow them and stop back next week for more.

What Do You Say?

Remember when your mom used to say that to you as your prompt to say “Thank You”?  Well, it was one of my mother’s favorite lines.  Maybe it just seemed like that because she had to say it so often.  Ok, so I’m a little slow on the uptake.  Take heed mom.  It worked.

Anyway, as I reflect on my recent trip to the SOCAP (Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals) conference in Atlanta this week, this was my big take-away.  Sure, there were plenty of learnings, many great people I had the pleasure of exchanging ideas with and loads of content.  But this little nugget from David Alston, VP of Marketing at Radian6, was the winner in my view.

David was a panelist on social media in customer service that I had the privilege to moderate.  Also on the panel were folks from Omaha Steaks, Mars Chocolate, Gallo Winery and The Coca Cola Company.  The discussion was robust, as we covered a myriad topics from engagement guidelines and staff skills to organizing around social media and coordination between customer service, PR and Marketing.

In the course of the discussion, it dawned on me that the general concern in the room was focused on connecting with and finding solutions for social customers in need, whether those customers be angry and dissatisfied or simply reaching out for answers.  But, David raised a point that has potentially been overlooked by customer service professionals.   And I’m not so sure it didn’t sail quietly by many in attendance this week.

Social media has provided companies, and in particular customer service, a unique opportunity to engage with happy, satisfied customers in a way never before available.  So, unless you’re company is so universally despised, I have to assume you have more than a few customers that like your company and its products and service.  I’m not even talking about the advocates or raving fans, just those that generally dig what you do for them and are talking about it somewhere on the social web.

David’s recommendation? Find them and say “Thank You”.

In customer service, we have been programmed over time to be in constant problem solving mode; to turn those dissatisfied customers around through our skill and passion for the trade.  So, it might just be a simple issue of opening our eyes more and spending time looking for and engaging with a few more happy customers.   Social media gives us that opportunity.

Make engaging with those customers a priority within your social customer service engagement plan.  You deserve it.  Your happy customers deserve it.  They’ll thank you for it.

Twitter Follow Friday #1

Since there are so many people that I gain value and learn from, I’m adopting this Follow Friday blog series from Tim Sanchez (@DeliverBliss), who in turn got the great idea from Chris Brogan.  I’ll try to keep it to a manageable list (won’t promise a number).

I Highly Recommend You Follow:

@DeliverBliss – Tim and I connected by chance, like most on Twitter.  And since then, I’ve been witness to someone who combines a unique insight into the customer experience with a direct communication style that is refreshing.  Just check out his blog.  As a business partner, Tim will challenge you and your ideas.  And, you’ll be smarter as a result.

@tedcoine – Ted is one of the most positive, inspirational business leaders I know.  His writing at his blog Five Star Customer Service demonstrates that good will and thinking of others first really do lead to business and personal success.  If you ever need a lift during the day, tweet Ted and he’ll get you going.

@Reaburn – Chris knows service design and the customer experience.  And, he has a keen comprehension that we all live in an experience economy.  Just check out this latest from his blog Service Encounters Onstage.  I have been humbled on several occasions from the intellect Chris has brought to comments on my blog.

@WriteTheCompany – If you want to laugh so hard you have an accident…all while gaining a rare look into the ways in which various customer service organizations respond to customer inquiries, follow him, on Twitter, on Facebook and on his blog!

More great people to follow next week!

The Ninja in a Parallel Universe

Ted Coine has been kind enough to allow me a guest post, “The Ninja in a Parallel Universe” on his outstanding blog Five Star Customer Service.  This is my follow up to his post here “The Ninja – Power of Expectations”  Thank you kindly, Ted!  Please visit and check out all the great content.

The Ultimate Question

Is this. Has anyone actually read this book?  Or, engaged Fred Reichheld or Bain & Co.on a consulting engagement?  Now clearly there are more than a few that have.  The book is #7,260 on Amazon’s sales ranking.  Behind The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at #6,799.  But still, not bad.

So why am I even raising the question when this topic has been pretty well exhausted?  Its because there seems to still be an increasing number of customer service practitioners talking about NPS and staking a significant portion of their customer service time and resources on collecting it.  At the same time, oversimplification of the concept is epidemic, creating a clouded view of the company’s performance vis-a-vis the customer’s perception.  And, like I’ve experienced in responding to over 30 customer satisfaction surveys this year, I’m having a hard time finding anyone that knows how to create specific action from the information; beyond the quant jocks at behemoths like American Express, P&G; and BearingPoint.  Ok great! So, Mr Jones is a net promoter.  Now what? 

Sure, there’s a one sentence definition.  “Net Promoter is a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships”.  But, come on.  Mr. Reichheld didn’t spend the rest of the 210 pages of the book waxing about migratory habits of Emperor Penguins (March of the Penquins – awesome movie! I’m a naturalist.  Forgive me).  There is some heavy stuff in here; serious statistical analysis.  Not to mention, since originally published in the 2003 Harvard Business Review article, there has been much research that has poked gaping holes in the statistical validity of the theorem.

So why, 8 years later am I finding more and more organizations asking customers variations of the question.  It seems every question on every one of those surveys I’ve answered is based on an eleven point scale.  Not that those questions have anything to do with net promotion, but now that scale has taken on a life of its own and has been adopted for every conceivable type of question.  

When it comes to the customer experience and loyalty, don’t you really want to know how you connected with that individual customer, at that particular time, during that single interaction?  Isn’t that the point?  Not, “hey can you go pitch us to your friends”; like we’re running some sort of multi-level marketing program. (disclaimer: I believe in the power of word-of-mouth)

How about “Did we delight you and exceed your expectations today?”  Think about the actionable information available from the answer to that question!

We need to take a cautionary lesson from Deep Thought, the super computer from The Hitchhiker’s Guide who oversimplified the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything with his answer “42”.  Net Promoter Score is not the end all, be all key to understanding customer loyalty.  As in Deep Thought’s case, the ultimate question is often ultimately meaningless.

Venn Does Social CRM Become Business As Usual?

When enterprise business functions stop staking ownership claims and start working in a coordinated fashion to execute on the social CRM strategy. I’m still witnessing too much conversation in the enterprise around this topic.  In June 2009, Jeremiah Owyang proposed his now well-referenced “Hub and Spoke” model for organizing the enterprise for social media.  The following is a thought starter at a more tactical level that explores the specific activities on which customer-facing functions should collaborate. 

I first suggested social strategic planning guidelines in this post that actually seemed to garner some attention over at The Social Customer.  Go figure.  So, I thought I ought to explore some of the topics raised in greater detail.  I started with the idea of the social ecosystem and proposed a framework for that.  And gauging by the reaction, or lack there of, that concept apparently went over like a bit of the wind in church, if you know what I mean; except of course from my friend Tim Sanchez, who slaughtered it.  In a good way, Tim.  I mean in a good way.  Your commentary was hugely appreciated.

So being a bit on the stubborn side, here I go again.  Peeling back the ecosystem onion several layers exposes what I see as the internal coordination needed to enable an effective social crm business model.  In fact, I’d suggest this model could be applied to any customer-centric business model, social or otherwise, regardless of channel.

The way I see it, the three key players that require intimate coordination in a well-oiled social crm machine are Digital Marketing, Public Relations and Customer Service. 

This model may seem too simplistic for some here.  But that’s entirely the point.  As disclaimer, I’m a customer service guy.   So, my point of view is from that perspective.  So from the conversations I hear on a daily basis, leaders of customer service are looking for that straight forward recipe book.  While this model specifically calls out the activities where coordination between groups creates value, a critical point I have intentionally not addressed is the role of each function where no overlap exists.  For example, as a stand-alone entity, customer service also needs to do what they do today: solve customer issues within multiple channels including social media.

All that being said, what I would suggest to fellow customer service folks is, in order to create value within your social crm business model, you’ll need passionate, risk-seeking leadership that is willing to take this model and assert the customer service point of view.  No Venn diagram will get you in or keep you in the game without that.

To quote Seth Godin’s most recent post: “Heretical thoughts, delivered in a way that capture the attention of the minority–that’s the path that works.”

What would you suggest?

The Ninja – Power of Expectations

The following is a guest post from Ted Coine.  Ted is an author, speaker and CEO who is passionate about service delivery, culture and leadership.  Ted writes about Five Star Customer Service on his blog at The Savvy Capitalist
You can also follow Ted on Twitter @tedcoine

Charge $599 or more for a hotel room and your guests are going to anticipate phenomenal service. You’re going to be hard-pressed to knock anyone’s socks off, because your customers are already expecting to be wowed.

But what about when you’re only charging $3.99 for an all-you-can-eat buffet? The expectation now is, “Service? You mean the staff doesn’t spit on you as you go through the line?” Lack of spitting in-of-itself becomes a plus.

It’s the undeniable Ninja-Power of Expectation. Like the stealthy Japanese martial-arts masters it’s named after, the Ninja-Power of Expectation will take your customers by surprise and render them helpless to resist you. …Although in this case, they won’t want to resist you, because you’re taking such good care of them.

The Ninja-Power of Expectation is one of the most immutable – and therefore most useful – tools in the arsenal of any but the most upscale firms.

The two preceding examples are from the real world; from two businesses situated only a few miles from one another in my hometown of Naples, Florida.

The first is the Ritz-Carlton, a perennial top-ten among resort destination properties in the United States. And it lives up to its reputation. In terms of service, location, and amenities, our Ritz really is “all that.”

The second example is the Naples branch of CiCi’s Pizza. The décor isn’t fancy in any way. The food isn’t exactly delicious, although the pizza is better than Domino’s, and the salad beats Olive Garden’s.

But if CiCi’s isn’t fancy and its food is far from mouth-watering, its service is shockingly terrific. Seriously. For example:

  • The manager introduces himself by name and welcomes each guest as they pass through the buffet line.
  • He engages your children in conversation as they pass in the aisles. He makes them feel so special they call him “my friend Paul.”
  • He comes by to check on you at your table.
  • His staff asks if they can make you any special orders. You say, “No, I was looking for mushroom, but I’ll take this pepperoni instead,” …and a few minutes later, they deliver three fresh-from-the-oven mushroom slices to your table anyway.
  • They all smile, and really seem to mean it.
  • The manager and some of his staff thank you on the way out, and invite you to come again.

This kind of service happens all the time at the Ritz. So what? At their prices, it’s only what we all expect.

But what about CiCi’s Pizza? The power of surprise, of expectations far exceeded, has customers eager to come back, friends in tow.

…And what about your business? Would you be able to tap into the Ninja-Power of Expectation? Would that have a positive result on your earnings?

Something to think about, isn’t it?

In Crisis: Customer Service as Compassion

I had a post ready to publish today.  But, after a conversation I had last night, I thought it more important to share this story with you.  Forgive me in advance for my writing as this one is from the gut.

Assuming you didn’t see my tweets yesterday and today, I shared some information about the aftermath from the rainstorms in New England this week.  I grew up in Rhode Island and my family and many friends live there today.  As I have been getting more information, the extend of the devastation and impact on peoples’ lives is making my head spin and my heart break.  I’ve followed, like we have all, the tragic events in New Orleans, Haiti and other locations around the world.  But, I guess it’s true that tragedy doesn’t quite resonate until it happens to you.

This time, it did.  My parents, after 50 plus years in the only home they ever owned, were forced out due to rising flood waters.  The house can be saved, but they’re lives, in the form of photos, mementos and the various collection of stuff, has suffered a mortal blow.  I’m giving you this information just to set the stage to say “thank you” to the folks at Boston Market in Cranston.

As my family is trying to get our heads around what’s next, my father just wanted some chicken for dinner.  Hey, we’re pretty simple folks.  So, my sister went to pick it up for him, after carrying the burden of the past week and putting the family on her back as I am not local.  She walked into the store only to be told they were completely sold out.  At that, my sister finally broke down.  Seeing her in distress, the manager of the store immediately went to work to find a solution.  He did.  He found the food and delivered the order as requested and refused to accept payment.

Maybe we spend too much time talking about technology, strategy, process, training, employee profiling and data as the tools to understanding customers and delivering a superior customer experience.  Perhaps, we’re missing the point.  The burning desire to serve others; to provide an experience that connects with customers at a deep emotional level requires the service deliverer to give a part of themselves.  Maybe the art of service can’t be analyzed, taught or improved upon.  Perhaps its just ingrained in some.  Perhaps its in their DNA.