The Social Contact Centre

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

Archive for October 2012

Metrics for Social Commerce success

leave a comment »


Infographic courtesy Bazaarvoice

I really believe that at the end of every working day it is important to know whether you are winning or losing. It’s a viewpoint that ensures you stop doing pointless things and push harder on the things that work. When times are tough it puts it in perspective if you can look back at previous victories and can see that the current challenges are only on the journey to something good – showing the light at the end of the tunnel. Fundamental to this are very clear objectives and targets.

Social media is no different . We’re putting in the effort for a reason and it is important to understand, and more specifically for our bosses to understand, what the return looks like. I’ve blogged previously to indicate that the Social Media metric is Return on Influence. The emphasis on monetising social media is spawning the term social commerce.

In my mind the challenge is to think of social media as a channel. With my contact centre manager hat on I am used to understanding the return on investment of my activities. My clients understand their customers and they believe that the right balance of cost and service for their customers is to target me on answering 80% of their calls within 20 seconds for example. I know that to achieve this Erlang calculations tell me the number of people I need to have answering telephone calls at each part of the day. I can calculate my total costs by considering the amount of shrinkage I need to allow for holidays, sickness, lieu days, training, toilet breaks etc. Looking at it from the client’s side I can consider the value of each sale they make and the conversion rate against inbound calls. By factoring in the margin they make on each item I can work out a return on their investment in my contact centre. The important thing about inbound activities, whether they are telephone, white mail, web chat or email is that they are demand driven. In a purely inbound world the handle on the sausage machine turns and 1000 contacts produces x number of orders and so x number of products need to be manufactured to meet the demand. The emphasis in call centre operations these days is to minimise cost through first time resolution and to focus on customer satisfaction (which may require a few more touch points).

Social media turns the model on its head because, used well, it seeks out the conversation. I will discuss the merits of cars many times more than I will contact an automotive company’s help line. The challenge for automotive manufacturers is to build a relationship with me so that when the time comes to monetise my interest I understand the brand. It is much, much more complex though because I have a part to play in the influence of others too. Everyone likes to be seen as a clever consumer and so we tend to think that the car we drive/the holiday we chose/the clothes we wear were the best choices and we rate them accordingly. Bazaarvoice research as indicated by the infographic shows the difference between the Millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000 also known as Generation Y) and the Baby Boomers (1946-1964) in the importance of User Generated Content to their purchasing decisions. The bottom line is that the smart social commerce players want the potential purchasers of the car I drive to talk to me about my experiences, not send them a brochure.

So coming back to targets, the objective of the social commerce practitioner is to create and grow a carefully focussed community and to groom it with a light touch. Whereas my contact centre with its traditional channels is governed by demand, the perfect community would be the place where THE conversations happen. Only the Community Manager fully understands that the Community exists, its scale and its influence because it is built on layers of blogs, websites, Twitter feeds, Pinterest pages, and Facebook pages. Original content is created to feed the interest of participants but also the movers and shakers will participate. Taking the automotive example, it’s a big day when Jeremy Clarkson comments on your blogpost. And here is a further challenge; while it may be a great day if he likes what you have to say, woebetide it if he decides that today is the day to vent his spleen. Of course Mr Clarkson is subject to social pressure too – he wants to be seen building brand Clarkson by being Clarkson-esque but carrying some serious weight too. If your offer great cars and great service he is going to face a backlash if he decides to buck the trend.

I like to think of social media like water. It is a very precious resource that needs protecting and keeping pure but it is also an unpredictable natural resource – you will never master it. At best you can protect against the extreme damage and channel it to provide benefits in a wide range of ways but knowing that your best laid plans at some point have to change due to either drought or flood.

Initially your community of customers will be hugely grateful for the supply of fresh water you have provided for them to bathe, drink, create water features, enjoy as a natural spectacle, fish, swim, sail etc The moment you become complacent however they will start to scrutinise what you are doing more closely and challenge the price and service you provide!

So, at the end of today, how well are you managing the water? Market research is a key measure which indicates how well you are doing. You will never get the precision of knowing that a particular advertisement played well but the brand perception should move in accordance with your activities. There will be instances where the influence of social media can be captured precisely. Within the contact centre we regularly capture which specific advertising treatment triggered the purchase and the same crude mechanism could identify those customers who are following on Twitter for example. The customer database will grow with today’s name address, telephone number and email address being appended with Twitter name. Permission to contact by mail with carefully chosen offers could be altered to requesting permission to “friend” on Facebook.

Your customer satisfaction scores should also improve if you are proactively listening and engaging rather than relying on them getting in touch for help. Associated with this will be the day-to-day little wins – the new customer who takes the time to explain that the reason they are purchasing was a positive review they saw on Amazon or recommendations from Twitter followers.

The growth of PeerIndex, Klout and other social influence scores are becoming more and more relevant as they add social media platforms and work on the weightings and measures they use. I can see a day when Klout (or its future equivalent) is a reliable and meaningful metric that social commerce practitioners can treat in the same way a FTSE 100 board treat the share price. Accordingly I can see the time approaching where industry publications publish a regular index. In case you think it is a long way off, have a look at Dachis Group’s Social Business Index page http://www.socialbusinessindex.com/

 

Written by greencontact

October 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Leave everyone to their own devices – even Apple’s iPhone 5 will become soooo last year

leave a comment »


As a call centre manager it’s easy to slip into the lazy habit of  imagining your customer holding a telephone to their ear in their hallway. This wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t that we tend to design all our products and services around a particular image and the image in our head can often be from times gone by. We have been programmed to design projects with a payback over a number of years but our world and our customers are changing.

30 years ago the typical customer communication was via post. In my first working office I remember the telex machine stood as a silent reminder of a channel dying out. The fax machine was used regularly as a way of sending images. I wrote letters which went through the typing pool before being sent, hopefully to receive a response within a week. We prospected in those days by sending an introductory letter followed up by a telephone call a few days later.

Then came email, a wonderful invention geared towards improving communication within our business, and shortly afterwards came the web with access to some interesting bulletin boards of information. Around the same time the first handheld devices I remember – the Psion organiser – emerged as an alternative to the Filofax. It incorporated a diary, contacts database and clock. The smartest sales reps around would flip one open at a moment’s notice. The original model in 1984 cost £99 – around £285 in today’s money and I remember being extremely envious of them but being unable to justify such enormous expense. At the same time the PC was developing and I remember selling a proprietary standalone computer, second-hand, for the equivalent of £2,500. It could just about run a spreadsheet and a word processing package. The first mobile phones were enormous and they were rationed like gold dust – expensive to buy and expensive to use. This was at the back end of a generation who were grateful for telephones, never mind mobile phones, and were brought up to ration their use. I worked with Americans at this time who were astonished at the British cultural aversion to using the phone.

Over the years the handsets got smaller but still did pretty much the same thing. Their usage became more widespread but I still remember the shock when teenagers started to get mobile phones. What would they use them for – who would they call? They were clear luxury items.

The IBM PC launch started a revolution too. The difference with the IBM PC was actually the Microsoft operating system and the access to software it enabled – at that stage no-one knew about Microsoft and everyone knew about IBM. The thing that impressed me about the first IBM PC I saw was the graphics rather than the machine itself. The disks, the chips and the graphics capabilities improved rapidly. The first laptops I remember were actually “luggable” devices used by auditors on the move. Very heavy and with very poor monitors. Compaq launched some comparatively tiny machines and a new market was created.

Around the mid 1990s I began to really dabble with gadgetry and I had a string of pretty good but very expensive HTC and HP devices which involved using a stylus and could access mobile websites in a text only form using WAP. HP had an online shop of apps – there must have been a couple of hundred to choose from at one point. The growth of the mobile networks in coverage and bandwidth and the development of broadband with wireless internet have changed the face of technology in the 2000s.

The launch of the iPhone happened in 2007. Since then there has been the meteoric rise of the Blackberry, now tailing off. The seeming dominance of Apple based on vastly more apps and ease of use is now being eroded first by Android and potentially by Windows 7. The phones at first got smaller and are now getting bigger. Tablets have been around for at least 20 years but the iPad transformed their market and now tablets are getting smaller.

The point of my story is threefold:

1. At the time, each of these stages seemed revolutionary. You couldn’t imagine wanting or needing anything more. The first Psion Organiser was every bit as groundbreaking and revolutionary as the iPhone.

2. The pace of change is phenomenal and it is impossible to pick long-term winners. The days of a dominant supplier are numbered.

3. While much of the change is driven by technology making things possible, a significant part of the change is driven by consumers.

While we need to spend a significant amount of time thinking about a social media strategy based on applications we also need to think about where and how the applications are being used. We need to build strategies and platforms to take advantage of opportunities with customer behaviour across all platforms and not try to pick winners. Anyone who doesn’t adapt their website to serve customers using a mobile device is missing a trick. Service strategies reliant on customers quoting a long account number from memory or a recent bill, making a phone call, or writing an email are completely outdated.

 

Written by greencontact

October 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Pinning your hopes on a new social media product?

leave a comment »


ASOS’s Pinterest page

One of my mantras is that “Social Networking is permanent, Social Media is fashion”. Regularly new social media platforms emerge and get publicity and some of them gain momentum. MySpace, Friends Reunited, and Bebo had their time in the spotlight and were superseded by Facebook and Twitter as the dominant platforms. This year has marked the rise of Pinterest and Instagram.

In the Social Media B2B world you can’t afford to ignore anything – any strategy based on any one platform or anything anchored to just Facebook and Twitter is bound to founder sooner or later. You need to keep monitoring the blogs, checking the statistics and talking to customers to understand what’s hot. Trying to make sense of what is happening is more challenging. Is the growth of Pinterest based on new social media users who have found the platform they like, switchers from Facebook and/or Twitter, or does it serve a need which isn’t being addressed elsewhere so that it is a true addition to the social media? It’s too early to tell in my opinion and the best practise is to wade in and try to understand what Pinterest is about. As with most Social Media platforms the concept is really simple and the applications are really easy to use. The big question is always Why? What is it that drives people to move beyond just registering an account and into becoming a daily user and contributor – a content provider rather than a lurker?

The figures speak for themselves. Development started at the end of 2009 and in 2010 the first users were invited to use the controlled beta version. By the end of 2010 there were 10,000 users. The site really took off during 2011 with the launch of an iPhone app so that by the end of the year there were 11 million visits a week and the site was listed as one of the top ten social networking sites. In August 2012 the site was made available to everyone without invitation. There are now 29 million weekly North American visitors and the company is valued at $1.5 billion.

So what’s so attractive about a pinboard all of a sudden? Like most social media applications there is nothing revolutionary about the concept but something has absolutely struck a chord. The company says “Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people.”  Unlike Facebook which is geared around linking up with people through friends, and Twitter which is about sharing what you are doing or thinking to strangers, Pinterest is about linking people together through things. People say that you can tell a lot about someone by seeing their record collection, bookshelf or wardrobe and Pinterest is building on this. It is also building on the growth of scrapbooking and the standard practice of creatives to collect pieces of inspiration in a book.

The applications are interesting and are part of what drives lots of social media usage – they are the way that social media moves from being a passive page to something much more interesting and creative. The examples on the Pinterest home page are of people gathering ideas either for personal inspiration or to crowd source opinion – weddings being organised with input from friends and family, designers gathering inspiration online in a way which previously would have involved a scrapbook.

From a B2B perspective the challenge is then whether to and how  to use Pinterest in a way which is sympathetic to your business objectives and the Pinterest user community. With anything new the risk is that either companies pitch in because they feel they need to have a presence or conversely shy away because they don’t understand what it does. Retailers have been pioneers in this area – they have latched on to the vibrancy of the platform and the behaviours of younger fashion customers leafing through magazines for inspiration. It’s still early days but ASOS are pioneers on many things Social http://pinterest.com/asos/. Does it work in terms of money through the till? It’s too early to say but it does have 14,000 followers. The biggest brand on Pinterest, with almost 300,000 followers is The Perfect Palette. The biggest user is Ez Pudewa, a blogger, with 2.8m!

There is an excellent article assessing the power of Pinterest from a marketer’s point of view here http://www.zazzlemedia.co.uk/blog/assessing-pinterest-for-uk-marketers-do-we-really-need-to-care/ by James Carson of Bauer Media.

Written by greencontact

October 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm

leave a comment »


Nice piece from SocialPlusOne. I like articles that occasionally revisit building a community from scratch.

Written by greencontact

October 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Opinion

Call Centre and Customer Management Expo 2012

with 2 comments


Call Centre And Customer Management Expo 2011 courtesy http://www.callcentre.co.uk

In a world where social networking plays an ever-increasing role I visited Call Centre and Customer Management Expo at Olympia recently. There is always a place for “physical” networking and ultimately in the B2B world physical networking is the goal. CCExpo is the event in the UK for contact centre professionals to meet each other and suppliers. There are other membership events which are more about benchmarking and sharing experience such as the CCA and PPF conferences but in the current straitened economy they are less accessible than CCExpo.

The prepublicity is geared around making the most of your visit and over the years there have been various different ways that the organisers have attempted to get people talking to each other. Their success depends on footfall of visitors (who will attend if they know about it and if they get value from their visit), exhibition stand takeup from suppliers (who will attend if there is sufficient footfall of prospects) and sponsors (who will also attend if the sponsorship packages are attractive enough). The problem that pervades all these events is how you get the most from your investment of time/money/sponsorship to justify the visit. In a cyber world, trade shows suffer in the same way that high street retailers do: there are many more ways of getting the information you need in this day and age. The old exhibition stand is being replaced by webinars and, as in all industries, the new method often is more effective and at much lower cost.

As a networking event I think that Call Centre and Customer Management Expo is tricky. My benchmark for networking is the TMA event which used to be held every year in Brighton. It was the place where everyone would be there – customer and supplier alike – and possibly for the whole event. The Marketing Forum on the cruise ships was very similar with the same industry gurus holding court in the different bars around the ship. If you weren’t there, you weren’t part of the industry. The changing attitudes meant that TMA ended in 2002 after 25 years but the Marketing Forum continues. The Marketing Forum is by invitation only (a free cruise to Jersey on a luxury yacht isn’t offered to everyone). Suppliers pay a hefty price to be involved but the threshold to entry does mean attendees feel honoured and suppliers feel they are getting their money’s worth. The agenda is made up of some heavyweight research and industry topic discussion interspersed with mandatory 1-2-1 meetings with suppliers. If you don’t attend your quota of meetings and treat them seriously you won’t be invited back again. The result is a highly personalised, high energy and highly focused event which is possibly the benchmark for all conferences.

I’ve attended CCExpo in the past as an exhibitor. What always struck me was how the tone of the show changed year on year. The themes people wanted to talk about were different, the calibre of attendee changed and the other people exhibiting was always different. Some years you would groan internally as yet another student or supplier sidled on to your stand wanting to talk. In other years you would be overwhelmed with the number of good quality leads captured. You do still see the same faces as you tour the stands and watch presentations but the continuity is less powerful than it used to be and I think this is representative of most trade shows.

What is interesting is to see the use of social media before during and after the event. Claudia Thorpe, the editor of CCF, the title behind the event has been active with Social Media for many years and has championed a multichannel approach rather than just the printed word. She has created forums and executive groups amongst the readership to try to further engage them. The Call Centre Focus magazine itself is now an electronic online resource – callcentre.co.uk. The resource is active in LinkedIn and Twitter as well as having an extensive web presence. Claudia is a very active and creative community manager who regularly networks herself across all industry events. She was active during the event as @CCFClaudia but also the @callcentrefocus was tweeting throughout. The #ccexpo tag was established and was used by suppliers before and during the event. Suppliers monitored the use of hashtags and interacted with prospects throughout. They also attempted to grow their social media followers and establish their own event related hashtags through on-stand competitions. A category of visitors was identified as VIPs and they were given a set of benefits including a lounge area to relax (an excellent idea) and priority access to some presentations. This was a good compromise on the Marketing Forum model. It identifies potential decision makers and spenders for suppliers in a slightly subtle way and makes the event an easy place to visit. One puzzle that never seems to work is an area set aside and sponsored by a supplier for networking meetings. I haven’t seen this successfully carried off anywhere yet and the area which is designated for some kind of business speed dating becomes another seating area for tired punters.

And my day? I find the event to be an example of trending. Every year there is a hot topic. I remember the years when outsourcing, offshoring, speech analytics, and social media were the hot topics. You could tell by the mix of suppliers exhibiting, the products they were displaying, the themes chosen by speakers, and even the words adorning the stands. The trending theme this year was The Cloud. I try not to see any suppliers throughout the year other than those I already use – I could easily spend a lot of time learning about technology I can’t afford and would not use. I do like to occasionally go and see other sites and learn about their experiences.

I am always surprised at the poor practice of some exhibitors. You’ve paid all the money on a stand and a location and unbelievably you then man it with people who are either intimidating or look like you would be disturbing them. I’ve seen people eating their lunch, texting and reading a paper rather than try and engage with passers-by. One stand was set up with advertising boards either side of a door sized gap and the guy looking after the stall stood right in the gap like some kind of bouncer. It is still disappointing to see the number of very attractive young women on stands who can’t answer questions and immediately pass you to one of the few people who know their subject. The other stereotype appears to be alpha males who also don’t know what they are talking about but have no-one to pass you to –  a little team briefing wouldn’t be too much to do? The best idea this year were the two people in really good police uniform who were able to engage pretty much whoever they wanted in conversation – brilliant… if I could remember which product they represented.

When it comes to Expo I like to go with a problem and visit a few stands and presentations to get a rounded view of it. I also like to meet up with people who may be able to give me some of their knowledge and visit my regular suppliers. This year I wanted to get a better understanding of how a hosted switch could operate in my environment. How would it integrate with my existing technology and what are its weaknesses. By discussing the situation with half a dozen suppliers and seeing a couple of presentations I think I have what I need to see me through until next year.

 

Written by greencontact

October 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm