Betting On Social Business


1. 70% of U.S. workers report not being engaged at work

2. 89% of employers think their people leave for more money.  While 12% actually do leave for this reason primarily

3. 75% of people voluntarily leaving their jobs don’t quit their jobs, they quit their companies

4. 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies will use gamification to boost engagement, retention and revenue

5. 90% of business leaders think an engagement strategy has an impact on business success.  Barely 25% have a strategy.

6. Only 40% of employees report knowing about their company’s goals and strategies

7. 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement

8. Companies who’s employees report being highly engaged average 2x revenue growth of those with low engagement

9. 87% of of highly engaged employees report being less likely to leave their companies than unengaged counterparts

10. Businesses with highly engaged employees report twice the net income percentage of those with lagging engagement

(you can find the infographic and all references here)

Social Media Usage Among Business Professionals

The vast majority of social media usage data and analysis we’ve been reading over the past year has been focused on trying to guess what the next big platform will be.  More recently, a lot of the information has been based on age demographics (e.g. the shift of teens away from Facebook to SnapChat).  For the most part, the primary purpose of the research seems to focus on helping marketers better understand how to allocate future social media marketing spend most effectively.

In collaboration with my friends Jared Romanski and Seth Goldstein, we developed this research survey to better understand the shifting preferences of business professionals with respect to their social platform use. This research is not for marketing purposes.  Rather, it is intended to better understand where business professionals are realizing the most value from social tools and their use.  With your input, we are eager to understand the following trends:

  • How has one’s use of social platforms evolved over time?
  • Where are business professionals spending their time on the social web?
  • For what purposes are business professionals leveraging social (eg. Content sharing, consumption, networking personal branding or selling)

We would be grateful if you would take just a few minutes to share your input on this topic by taking this short survey.

If the link above doesn’t work, you can cut and paste the link here into your browser:

We’ll be sharing the results here and every social network on which we can.  Thanks in advance.

Who’s Mining Your Enterprise Collaboration Data?

imgresI’m not sure exactly what triggered my latest bout of insomnia two nights ago.  You can pretty much pick a card from the deck and find a reason.  So, at 3:15 am, I did what any sleep expert will tell you.  I picked up my iPad to catch up on my reading.  Because nothing says “soothing lullaby” like an irradiating screen burning your retina from six inches away.

As my head began to clear a bit at 3:25, I came across this post from Dan Brown.  He did to Facebook what many of us want to do but just can’t seem to pull the trigger, despite Sheryl Sandberg’s latest assertion.  If you are on Facebook (the 6 billion slackers that haven’t felt the rush yet can disregard), you need to read Dan’s post!

I did, several times.  After finally closing my tablet, I thought I could squeeze out another 45 minutes or so of sleep.  But, Dan’s post kept swirling in my head.  Then, I had a thought that scared the hell out of me.  Sleep was done for the night.  Here’s why.

It’s year-end prediction time all over this great big media universe we live in.  Everyone’s taking their turn putting on the Carnac get-up.  One of the most prolific predictions in the social business galaxy is that social business, enterprise collaboration, E2.0, whatever you want to call it, will accelerate in 2014 and will start to become ubiquitous in enterprise operations, strategies and business models across a multitude of industries.  Enterprise collaboration and the technologies that enable these practices will start to become the norm.  Corporate culture will shift en mass from the idea that “he with the knowledge wins” to “he who shares his knowledge and builds collaborative relationships will win”.   And, I’m all for it.  There’s no “I” in team.  Nor is there one in my name.  I am an over-the-top, open collaborator.  And have been forever.

But, in order for this enterprise collaboration to really work, for people to find and share with others in the organization through which they can create mutual value for themselves and the business, by definition, people will have to form bonds.  They will have to find some common ground upon which to forge these collaborative relationships.  In the course of this new enterprise Dating Game, people are going to share, and want others to share with them, information about themselves.  In this social media-driven world, we call it “authenticity” and “transparency”.  But, its also basic human nature.

So, what happens when the Monday morning water cooler chatter ends up in the new stream of the company’s collaboration platform?

A typical post that is already a reality might look something like this.

“Hey Bill, I’ve posted a revision of that design here for you and your team to review for your presentation”

“Thanks!  BTW, I had a great time at the Packers game yesterday.  Thanks for the tickets!”

Fairly innocuous.  Right?

Then, a couple of days later, Bill comes back from lunch and checks his news feed again.  The first post he sees looks something like this.

Sponsored Link

Get the latest NIKE NLF gear from The Packers and support Green Bay in their charge to another Super Bowl”








Ok, that would never happen.  The Packers stink this year.  But, here’s the point.

As Dan Brown articulated, in Facebook’s eye’s, you are the product.  You are there to be sold.  Everything you do, either with your explicit permission, or implicitly because they have crafty attorneys that write privacy statements that you can’t understand and so consent to blindly, is mined, packaged and sold as data to marketers who use that data to hawk their wares to you.  In case you hadn’t noticed, your Facebook news feed is being overrun by sponsored posts and targeted ads.

So, what’s to stop your employer from doing the same?  Yes, I know.  Just like email or any other company-owned platform, whatever you say becomes the property of the enterprise.  But, this is different.  Email is email.  And while I’ve seen way too many people torpedo their careers by hitting “reply all” when sending a rant about their boss, a selfie showing too much flesh or other such stupidity, this is different.  As, organizations become more virtual and digital collaboration platforms become the default methods for all communications (if we are to believe the prognosticators), much much more will be shared across these platforms than would ever have been shared via email.

Facebook uses all this member data for one reason.  To make money.  While not even Walmart has a billion employees, some of the most progressive organizations in the adoption of enterprise collaboration are huge, global enterprises with several hundred thousand employees.  Not a bad data set for a marketer, if you ask me.

What happens when one of those smart brands approaches said progressive company and offers a lucrative revenue stream in exchange for access to it’s collaboration platform data and the ability to use that platform to pitch its products to all 400,000 employees.  What if ten brands do it?  One hundred?  One thousand?  This is potentially a temptation too strong for company leadership to resist.  Where does it stop?  The NSA is already there.  Credit agencies? Banks? Insurance companies?  Lifestyle is a significant variable in health insurance premium calculations.  What if an employer’s insurer offers discounts on group premiums in exchange for access to this data?

The past several years have seen employers spend countless monetary and human capital resources crafting social media guidelines that their workers need to follow as a condition of employment.  The focus of these guidelines for the most part has been to protect the company.  What about protecting employees’ privacy?  It’s not reasonable for organizations to incentivize, and even in some cases require employees to engage on these digital platforms and then provide them no reasonable protection from having what may seem mundane information used as input into some targeting or segmentation algorithm.

My goal in writing this ridiculously long post (sorry about that) is that someone reading this post can point me to advocacy work already been done in this area.  Or, if not, to raise awareness that this is a real and present issue that needs thoughtful dialog and consideration.  Let’s hope the dialog happens before unsuspecting employees find out the hard way.  Like Bill.

The Real Reason Social Media Has Changed Customer Service

imagesI may as well fire this shot over the bow right from the starting gate: Customer service as an enterprise business function hasn’t changed all that much in the 30 years since the introduction of ACD (automated call distribution) technology. This is when it became practical and cost effective to deliver customer service at massive scale.

For the ensuing three decades or so, the overall focus of customer service has been centered on responding to customer issues with greater efficiency, greater scale, and greater speed at lower and lower cost.

There’s no doubt there has been noticeable innovation in technology and in the introduction of expanding communications channels through which to deliver the service. That includes social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, community forums, and other peer-to-peer networking sites.  And there have certainly been shining examples of companies that do customer service better than the rest.

But the point is that it’s the same service, the same function, driven by the same mission and measured by the same performance metrics as a generation ago.

The Tipping Point

Customer service is at a tipping point. Real change is needed. Real change is possible. Real change is being demanded.  And social media is the catalyst for this change. And, trust me when I say, I’m not a hype advocate, zealot, nor pushing any social media agenda. For as knee deep as I am in social media, I’m probably more pragmatic than most when it comes to adoption and business value, particularly in huge, risk-averse enterprises.

That said, social media is driving profound change in social consciousness, political debate, medicine, government oversight, and virtually every other aspect of human endeavor. The reasons why social media is so able to affect change differ in all these scenarios. But one thing they all have in common is this; the veil of secrecy has been obliterated. And information, accurate or not, now proliferates at the speed of light.

So what does change look like for customer service? While the tactical components are many, and those are probably worth exploring in followup posts, they can all be summed up this way.

Social media is the catalyst to move customer service from efficient reaction to value-creating proactivity

I’ve tried to test this overarching paradigm shift against every conceivable example. Every element of customer service as we generally know it today fits: enterprise strategic mission, engagement strategy, operational KPIs, interaction flows, knowledge management, financial measures, talent & skill development, data management, analytics, channel mix, workforce management. And, that’s just a partial list.

Is there anything I missed? Is there some element of customer service as we know it today that doesn’t fit this paradigm? Or am I truly in denial about my zealotry? Tell us about it below.

Through the Lens of a Social Customer

[The following is a guest post by my friend and colleague John McCabe.  John gives an honest, no fluff look into how consumers really view brands and the experiences they deliver to their consumers.  We should all listen closely.]

imagesSo, I am sitting here thinking about my daily customer experience & interactions. What is it that I like? What do I dislike that will completely turn me off from your brand?

  1. First, I am a social consumer.  In other words I love being social. For example, when I begin a search to contact a company, there are some things that immediately get me “hooked”.  If the company offers me multiple options aimed at my convenience, I am intrigued, excited, and genuinely grateful that they understand that not everyone operates on a 9 to 5 schedule.   If I can contact a brand 24 x 7 by a live person answering the phone (yes, I do occasionally make phone calls) and the representative answering the phone is able to resolve my issue, I will make it a point to give that company more business.  In addition, if I can Tweet, text, IM, share, your company has it figured out.  Also, I will tell my  friends and family about your company and provide a very positive post on a host of various social platforms.  To all of those companies that allow me to interact with you on a 24-hour basis, I deeply thank you!
  2. To those companies who are the opposite of that which I described above, as a conscientious consumer, I will conversely post my feelings on a host of social platforms. Remember that old adage “a happy customer tells a friend, but an angry customer tells everyone?”

To those of you confused brands, the ones who do not understand or are unwilling to change, I will choose not deal with you. In fact, I hope brands understand that they are serving me (and all consumers).  That I drive their success or failure.  And, that I will tell people via multiple channels about my experience.  Companies with antiquated customer service operations, offered between the convenient hours of 9 – 5 pm will not survive in a social market.

The genesis of this post was an interaction I recently had with a local produce market.  The store is open 24-hrs.  But their customer service was not.  I was perplexed by this situation.  If you’re going to be sell 24-hours, why not service your customers 24-hours? I was so baffled I won’t go back.  To be fair, I did speak to someone behind the so-called customer service counter. But they couldn’t resolve my issue.  Let us not mention their poor attitude and shock when I asked a question regarding organic products.  In response to my inquiry was a feeble “that is a separate & outside vendor, you would have to express your concerns with them”.  Let’s remember that when we choose to sell services and products, we are also responsible for all experience integration points.  In short, consumers are not difficult to please.  It just takes some understanding of the buyer’s journey in one’s respective market.

Contact Us However You Please…I think

Every once in a while, a question pops into my head that appears to need an answer.  Not often.  But, occasionally.  A few weeks back was one of those times.

Over the past year, in several different venues, in conversations with clients and colleagues, this topic of “socializing” a brand’s contact us page has been percolating.  The “contact us” page, for those that have never experienced it, is typically the page on a company or brand’s website that provides all the various methods for…well…contacting the company.  Traditional information has included store locations, headquarters mailing address, hours of operation, phone number and a form that allows the visitor to enter their information and question to generate an email.  In my business, this email ends up in a queue in the contact center where an associates responds and replies with the requested information.

Pretty straight forward.

But, those of us that are more “social-leaning” think there is a better use of this real estate.  In a time when everyone is longing to, and often struggling to, create compelling, value-generating engagement with their customers, this contact us page provides a golden opportunity to do just that.

The thing I always have to challenge myself with however is this.  Is my point of view as one of those social-leaners, in line with or wildly out of touch from others?  So, I posed a quick two question survey to see if I could get a sense of where the prevailing winds were blowing on this topic.

Question 1


Question 2


While the sample size here is small (n=14), I was struck by a two observations.

First, to question #1, in isolation, the desire to de-emphasize email as a channel of communication was promising, while not unexpected.  The motivations, while I didn’t dive into those, are fairly easy to infer.  Email is still a human capital-based communication channel.  Or, at least it should be.  Because if you’re sending out auto-generated canned emails in response to a customer that took the time to write you with their live fingers skipping across the keyboard, we need to talk.  Every contact center continues to face ever-increasing pressure to reduce the cost of service.  The pendulum may be shifting to better balance cost and the customer experience.  But cost is, and will continue to be a variable in the service deliver equation.  So, the desire to leverage other, lower cost options is no surprise.  Also, as a socialite, my thought was that the other channels that would be promoted are more of the social variety, indicating a strong desire and emphasis to create more compelling customer engagement, between customer and brand, and among the entire customer community.

Second, I was not at all surprise to see that few would choose to totally eliminate email.  In an omni-channel world, there continues to be customer demand for this channel.

When I looked at the two questions together, this is where I was a bit confounded.  In question 1, the majority of respondents (57%) indicated a desire to minimize the prominence of email and promote other channels.  While, in question 2, 21% of respondents indicated they would promote email most predominantly on their new contact us page.  The identical number that indicated they would feature social channels as the predominant methods of communication.  And in this instance, live chat was the channel that would be promoted most.  Interesting that, while live chat can have some cost benefits from skilled agents handling multiple simultaneous interactions, it is still a one to one communication.  And, while an email can actually be shared among customers, in a quasi-social manner, chat logs do not lend themselves to this.

So, what am I do conclude from this highly unscientific poll?  Is the conclusion that the pendulum hasn’t swung far enough?  Is cost containment still the overarching focus of customer service and contact centers in general?

What would you conclude?

CRM 5 In 5

[We’re not all pretty yet over here.  But, I have things to say.  So, the window dressing will come later]

What better way to kick off my new home than with a reflection back at a story posted around this time last year.

The start of the new year is inondated with predictions of all sorts.  I wonder.  Are there more predictions than resolutions?  Does a similar portion of the predicting population go back and revisit their thoughts as do those that make resolutions? In other words, woefully few?

Well this is a tale of a different sort.  This story started in January 2011 with a post called the CRM 5 in 5, modeled after IBM’s annual 5 in 5 look into the future of technology.  In that post, Lauren Carlson from the site Software Advice asked some leading CRM thinkers for their views on the next 5 big trends in CRM.

In this follow up post, the Software Advice team went back to this panel for their follow up thoughts on crowdsourcing, mobile, curated data, open APIs, NLP & personalized predictive analytics:

  • Denis Pombriant, CEO of Beagle Research Group LLC
  • Brent Leary, owner of CRM Essentials
  • Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder of ThinkJar
  • Brian Vellmure, CEO and founder of Initium LLC / Innovantage
  • Paul Greenberg, owner of 56 Group LLC

Additionally, as a follow up to last year’s topics, Rachel Ramsey of the Software Advice team send me this commentary on the convergence of gamification and crowdsourcing.

Gamification was a huge buzzword in 2011. Companies providing these technologies promised increased community engagement, productivity and other improvements by layering in game-like tools such as leader boards, badges and virtual scoreboards. While popular, there was varying opinions about  success of these platforms at the time.

 In 2012, our group foresaw gamification moving from buzzword to business strategy. These programs proved real results increasing customer loyalty, brand advocacy and engagement. We touched on that topic again this year, but through the lens of crowdsourcing.

In my mind, that’s a pretty good list.  And who am I to argue with the group above?

I will add this though.  My prediction (and this is more like history repeating itself.  So, you have a better than average chance of being in the money if you bet on this one) is that a significant portion of the projects in the categories above will fail to deliver customer or business value, if the CRM table stakes are not addressed first.

What are those CRM basics?

  • Customer value, strategy and business process first
  • Technology second
  • Focus on customer insights, not data

My brain can only think in threes.  So, that’s all I got.  What’s your prediction?