The Social Contact Centre

to a social networking way of working through the eyes of a Contact Centre manager

Archive for March 2012

Tentative Social steps

So we’re past the sceptical stage – Social networking is not the new CB Radio and we can all relax. We’ve all got a presence – even the crustiest of the crusty FT500 execs are dabbling with Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and we’re feeling good that we’ve taken that first step. Ok, we may only have put a cryptic photo up and are treating our profile as a bit of CV but… hey we’ve done it. When people ask us in the pub what its all about we can gauge the audience and either deny all knowledge or be the instant expert.

All that means is that the laboratory is open for business and the hard work then begins to try and make it meaningful for business. Lets begin with the easy wins… millions of people in the UK choose to give hours of their time sharing, advising, tweeting and blogging. Some of these millions are our colleagues, employees, suppliers and customers. They don’t become completely different people the moment they come through the door at work. Wouldn’t it make sense to create a network which harnessed this energy for your business to make better products, better offers, and a better working environment?

And all these millions are commenting about your people, your brands, your offers and promotions and about you. Many organisations spend huge sums of money on focus groups, market research, PR, and press clippings. The very least you should do is listen to what’s out there for free.

And, while we’re on the subject of PR, the old model had PR mandarins who have built careers on their little black book of contacts in your industry. Movers and shakers have become movers and shakers by their track record and by getting noticed for what they have done. Many will be part of the millions who are happy to share and to listen through Twitter and blogs. It would probably make sense to know who they are and to try and spot the new voices who are rocketing ahead through the new media.

You’ve already broken the first barriers. Don’t be shy. The first steps to making social meaningful are in understanding the landscape.

Written by greencontact

March 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Return on Influence: Preparing the Ground

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You are a small business. You don’t have the advantage of an internationally recognised brand but you want to get your message out there to the people that really matter. What do you do? And can Social Media help?

There’s no doubt that momentum in the Social world can be enormously powerful but the effort needs to be very reactive and sensitive. I recently received a request from a local business to retweet a link to their latest video. Ordinarily I would show support and do so but when I checked the tweet stream of the business I found that they had less than 50 tweets in total and almost all of them were blatant advertising. Worse still, the rest of their morning was spent sending out duplicate emails to individuals asking them to retweet the same video. I didn’t retweet and they will shortly be blocked if the same approach carries on.

Social Media doesn’t behave in the same way as advertising. Advertising has a return on investment which is associated with hard measures – how often will the advertisement be seen and what percentage of viewers will respond to it? Increasingly the measure of Social Media success is Return On Influence. This is frustrating because the concept is challenging to grasp and there is a leap of faith that the return in sales is there. An Excellent Blog on this is by Amy Jo Martin in the Harvard Business Review. It’s controversial and there are some great comments below. One I particularly like is ” If we redefine influence as the ability to convert people from a spectator stance to favorable actions – you have the major component to the value of a social media resource.  Then you have to measure the cost of the resource against the value of the actions.”

Whenever I find a concept I am struggling with I always try to look backwards. Very little is truly new and human nature changes little. Networking has gone on for years and if a friend , acquaintance or business colleague asked for some advice or a favour I’d be inclined to help. We’ve built up trust over a common cause and they’ve earned the right to ask. I’d even go so far as to help them because I would trust their judgement that I would want to be involved. If I got a call out of the blue from a stranger asking me for the same I’d be inclined to be suspicious – Why are you asking me? What are you trying to sell me? Do I know you? I’d be concerned that my endorsement would reflect on me and so I would be cautious. And this is the reason that the request for help from the local business backfired…they were a stranger to me.

The right approach is to enter the Social Media room and introduce yourself gently and then listen to the conversation. Make friends with the kind of people you could find common cause with. There is no point chasing after the celebrities and industry gurus – they get this treatment all the time and can spot it easily. Relax and just participate. Remember the rule of thirds: a third original content, a third engagement and a third promotion. If anything, initially concentrate on engagement and content until you know your audience. The current term for the role is Community Management – participating in and growing an audience of people talking about the topics you want to talk about. This is achieved through:

1. Targeted following and friending (people that in your industry, your area, your customers, important prospects and your competitors)

2. Converting – when you meet someone new at a conference for example – add them to your community not just your address book

3. Attracting – try blogging as a good way to draw in followers and commenters. Tell people what you are passionate about, what you feel and inform them about important issues. Use appropriate hashtags, topics and categories to get noticed

4. Hunting – regularly search the hashtags, topics and categories to find new people

5. Engaging – listen regularly to the conversations and add your thoughts. Retweet, like and comment in a constructive way (not everything indiscriminately). Contribute regularly and at different times of day. Check the timeline thoroughly.

Now all of this takes time but there really are no short cuts. Of course anything which takes time or is uncomfortable eliminates the lazy and uncommitted and strengthens your position. I come from a town which plays street football (more like rugby, sumo and occasional boxing than anything else). At the start of the game there are hundreds of players but the seasoned  participants try and get the ball in the river quickly because they know that only the diehards will stay involved. Its worth doing because, when you do have something to say, influence and engagement are the most powerful forces of all.

Written by greencontact

March 22, 2012 at 9:57 am

The Top 5 Things Marketers Should Never Say About Social Media

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The Top 5 Things Marketers Should Never Say About Social Media.

A great blog by Social +1. We’ve all heard them said!

Written by greencontact

March 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Articles, Images

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Social Networking making a financial difference

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ImageI asked my teenage daughters over dinner the other evening to tell me what significant things have been invented in their lifetime. Its a good question to ask and the results are enlightening. They pointed out that DVDs, the internet, MP3 players, digital cameras and mobile phones all came to commercial prominence during their lifetime. Going back a little further in my lifetime I could add the PC, colour television and McDonalds.

The point is that nothing is forever and revelatory innovation can transform our lives in a very short period of time. I look at my desk in front of me as I write this and the essential things I need to do my job have massively improved my productivity compared to the tools of yesterday. Just think of what was in place in the days before email. All you cynics who yearn for the old days just aren’t thinking hard enough!

For this reason, even with something as relatively new as Social Networking, we need to stay light on our feet. We have to keep thinking about the ideas and not just the latest technology to do the job. The ideas around my desktop haven’t changed. If I think about the email analogy – I could have imagined when I started working that there could be a faster way to get a letter out than visiting the typing pool with my handwritten notes. In the same way I know there are shortcomings with email in terms of security, reliability, complexity of email addresses etc.

The other point is to stop just thinking about Social Media. Twitter, Facebook and, yes, blogs are great but they will be superseded. The idea of communication, collaboration and benevolence rolls on. As I listened to Radio 4 this morning there was a small article that was barely picked up on subsequently. An official from the UK finance industry made a speech in New York in which he envisaged  peer-to-peer lending overtaking traditional banking for personal loans. Just imagine a world where the banking High Street is decimated and overtaken by lending between individuals.

There are many areas where Social Networking inspired business models are making huge strides forward away from the glare of Social Media publicity. In the UK Zopa members have lent £185m and currently has over £90m out on loan. Peer-to-peer loans represent between 1% and 2% of personal loans in this country and there are plenty of other companies following the same business model. The attraction for lenders is access to loans which otherwise wouldn’t be forthcoming and for borrowers, an interest rate well above the current rate offered by bank accounts. They address the market which is disillusioned by the performance of the Finance industry in the UK over the last few years and the shocking behaviour of exploitative Payday loans companies.

The financial world is awash with Social Networking in action. Some of the sites are, for me, some of the most uplifting and exciting. They are doing things which I hoped were possible but didn’t think could work. Check out sites like for a piece of joy.

Written by greencontact

March 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Social Media Customer Service – Acme widget problems

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Your community is active – you have tons of followers, friends and contacts and all is going swimmingly. Then from left field comes a complaint…what do you do? The social world is savvy and realises that Social is a pretty good way to complain in the same way that standing by the counter in a shop asking for the manager tends to have an effect. On that beautiful sunny spring day this suddenly appears on Twitter

@AcmeCustServ My widget has been broken for 5 days now. Its disgusting!

Here’s a quick checklist:

1. Do nothing in haste. Remember this is a public forum and you need to get it right. Someone else may step in and resolve the issue for you without you needing to do anything!

2. Identify the customer and treat them well. This is no different than any other customer service issue – you need to know who they are, that they are a legitimate customer and what product they own. That comparison with any other customer service issue is important. It is very easy to be too clever – the KISS principle applies here too. Treat it as a complaint – apologise and ask for a bit more information. Taking ownership of the situation in the customer’s eyes is invaluable. Social Media can be a great way to demonstrate the quality of your customer service in an open forum. You can also share resolutions which will save you some customer service cost for other customers with the same issue.

Lets assume this isn’t a quick fix. The customer will either come back to a fair question with the information you need (by private means email or DM if needed) or potentially just become belligerent. If the customer is happy to talk, the right answer is to resolve their concern in public (obviously not discussing any compensation or liability) or in private if it gets complicated and needs more time and space. In either case, once resolved the objective is to get an advocate willing to attest to how they have been treated in the public social forum. But what about the belligerent customer?

3. Look at influence. How many friends have they got and how likely is it that they are paying attention. If it’s a real celebrity you may need to be pragmatic and act quickly to rectify the situation; if its anyone else you need to go back to basics. The customer service principle means you treat each case on its merits and no matter how the customer behaves, if they have a point do the right thing. If they don’t have a point the crowd will work with you – they will see the unreasonable or unfair and back you up on it. The important thing is to take the conversation private if you can (ask for an email perhaps) and maintain a professional representation of your brand. Remember, there is no point in trying to suppress the situation because at least the customer is in open field, with you having an opportunity to reply, while they are talking to you. If you try and be too clever they will just pop up with their points on a blog somewhere or referring to you in hashtags.

Things are a little different if the complaint is about you but not addressed to you:

My #Acme widget has been broken for 5 days now. Its disgusting!

This is more interesting and challenging – to intervene or not to intervene? This kind of comment happens every day and its good to look at it through the customer’s eyes. If I was that exasperated I would contact the customer service team first – there’s a chance there is a case already underway. A quick check of the customer’s tweets may give some context to the problem. Of course the widget may be six years old and there is nothing you should or could do about the situation. In this instance it may be better to monitor the situation and see what happens next. The first tweet could be the last tweet on the subject (remember you’ve already checked the timeline for previous occasions). Alternatively it could be followed up by:

So’s mine. I’m now on my third #Acme widget…they are so unreliable.

In my opinion this is a sign to intervene. The tweets could actually be revealing some product issues but also could draw in a whole negative line of communication. Initially you should contact the first customer and offer to help them – make a customer service case out of it and treat it like the first case above. In these circumstances this is where you have a chance to shine. By getting in touch you are demonstrating that you are listening and wanting to help. Some of the best examples of social customer service come from prompt proactive intervention. You really have a chance to delight a customer, build your company’s service reputation and instill real loyalty. You should also look at influence. How many people are seeing this negative conversation and therefore how many more are likely to join in. How many followers/friends do these two have? Check their PeerIndex or Klout scores. You may consider putting a holding message out proactively such as:

We’re disappointed to hear we’ve got a couple of widget problems. Time for #Acme service to take control. If you have a problem call 0800 1231234 to talk to one of our engineers.

Just as important is the way you respond afterwards to any situation. Remember to feed back the outcome to the community to avoid future problems and to reinforce the brand!

We hear some people’s widgets are jamming in the current weather we are having. Remember to treat your widget with #Acmegard before the rain comes because this isn’t covered by warranty

Written by greencontact

March 13, 2012 at 9:24 am

Better Twitter hints

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Here’s some miscellaneous Twitter tips:

1. Try Tweetsmap or MapMyFollowers. These are great for analysing influence. They can really make you think again about whether sheer numbers really matter (they don’t)

2. Unfollowing can be a bit of a problem. When you hit 2000 follows without a similar number of followers you can’t follow any more until you have unfollowed. The bigger the number of followed tweeps, the harder it is to identify who is following you back and whether you should unfollow or not. Equally you can’t unfollow too many at once or Twitter gets cross and potentially suspends your account. There are two solutions I’ve found to work quite well. is a great tool that allows you to extract the list to an Excel spreadsheet with all columns intact and therefore you can filter/sort etc to your heart’s content. There’s a bulk unfollow tools as well. Another with a great interface is FolloworksHD on the Ipad. A bit of a pain to go through long lists but it does look at the probability of a follow back etc. Essentially I think anyone who hasn’t followed you back after three months is fair game for an unfollow.

3. List management. is pretty good in this respect too as a way of organising your lists. The problem is that the bigger the number of follows the harder it is to see what anyone is saying. At peak, with around 1300 followers I receive 9 new tweets every minute. There’s little chance of seeing what you want to without some kind of filter. At the very least you want to categorise who its important to see every tweet from and then maybe just view that list, occasionally dipping into the rest. This also makes it easier for retrieving tweets later. Remember to set the security on lists according to what you need (you may add someone to a visible list who may not see themselves in the same way. Be careful what you call visible lists). Tweetdeck is good for monitoring multiple lists simultaneously.

4. Use favourites. Every now and then you get a tweet which is funny, inspiring or just something you want to refer to later. Favourites are the way to keep these to hand.

5. Use blocking and reporting spam. This seems to be getting worse of late with some nasty “viruses” trying to capture your login details by deception e.g. “have you seen these hilarious photos of you?” which takes you to what looks like a Twitter login page. Sign in and you’ve just handed over the farm. Every time you get a new follower look at them and decide to follow back, leave, block or report for spam. This keeps Twitter a better place for everyone. If someone has 1000 followers, is following 2000 and zero tweets report them. If someone has thousands of tweets but they are all links or adverts either block them or report them for spam.

6. Learn from what you do. When something works well keep a track of it. See how many people are reached via a tweet that gets lots of RTs – you can get a conversion rate which can be compared to other media. When you ask a question see what the response rate is and how that differs according to the way you ask the question. Try the same tweet at different times of day and compare responses. See what the impact is of using hashtags and mentions in tweets. Remember we are trying to get better at this!

7. Tweetdeck is great for setting timed tweets. This is meant to be manageable, pleasurable and not disruptive activity. You can load up tweets at your convenience and then let them be posted through the day. If things change you can also easily edit them in advance.

8. Link  your Twitter to Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs etc. You need to think carefully about this but Twitter provides additional topical comments to the rest of your Social Media footprint. You can also set Twitter notifications from the other media. I think this can be really effective and draw people to follow you wherever they touch your social presence first. Just think about the volume and tone of activity overall and what it would look like in each of your social media locations. You may sometimes choose not to link some tweets. When you are linking from blogs and use Twitter notifications the title of your blog may well be the subject of the Tweet and, with a lengthy link url, there may not be many spare characters. Think about the titles of your blog posts in this context – pithy and encouraging people to click the link.

Written by greencontact

March 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Turning Social into Physical

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The cynics see Social Media as virtual reality or a computer game. “You’re not really meeting or talking to people” is the typical comment. And they are right to an extent. Much of social media usage can appear like collecting butterflies – aesthetically pleasing but ultimately a listbuilding exercise.

One of the things I have been looking at is how to break out of the virtual and into the real world. After all, in the real world sometimes an email, or even a phone call, can’t replace the benefits of a face-to-face meeting. In some ways this is the real opportunity. Social Media is fantastically easy to wield as a way of getting introductions to like-minded people (Facebook Groups), huge crowds of people happy to communicate (Twitter) and large numbers of business contacts (LinkedIn).

I’ve gone up to people in shops and in the street and introduced myself as a Twitter follower (I really have), and I’ve arranged meetings from LinkedIn contacts to discuss general topics and the response has been favourable. In some ways it would be impolite to not say hello if you have the opportunity – you’ve already learned quite a bit about each other.

So here are some tips to help ease the process along:

1. Create the links in the first place off something concrete and make the invitations meaningful. If your first introduction refers to a conference you both attended some years ago the link is more tenuous than making it your policy to see if people you met yesterday are on LinkedIn.

2. If you are an Engager in Social Media it will clearly be far easier than if you are a Lurker. If you lurk a physical approach is only saying “Hey, we’re both on Facebook” whereas if you are already engaging in dialogue its more like “Nice to meet you finally, lets carry on the conversation”.

3. As with all communication you need to have a context. Why are you wanting to say hello? If the answer is just that you want to sell them something you can join a long and fruitless queue; if you want to learn and share most people will be happy to join in.

The most powerful networks, virtual or real, are the ones which are actionable. Try testing yours….

Written by greencontact

March 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm