The Social Contact Centre

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

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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

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Call Centre And Customer Management Expo 2011 courtesy

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 – 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

First forays in SM

My first steps into the Social world were on a private basis. Having realised that I was already social networking I decided to use the media more frequently just to “acclimatise”.

The easy first steps were to wade into TripAdvisor more and to actually contribute reviews back. This just seemed like good manners to me – if you take information you should contribute equally. To date my reviews have had over 7500 readers – and quite frankly if I can spare some people the horrors and support the gems it makes me feel good.

I decided to raise my LinkedIn profile and get in touch with old colleagues, friends and university peers. This is one of the areas I find the hardest. To me a “friend” is a very specific term. I don’t have thousands of them. What I do have is lots of contacts and acquaintances. Once I got over the name I felt less embarrassed requesting a LinkedIn connection with clients, people I’d met at conferences etc. I have a clear view that my LinkedIn profile is my online CV. People judge me and I judge other people by who I know and I do the same with other people. I still find it difficult to ask for recommendations and don’t particularly like or respect the automatic exchange.

I expanded my Facebook friends and linked my Twitter account in so that I provide content. I still have some reservations about security and posting family pictures but I am getting over what is clearly my “generational” problem. My kids still won’t let me be their friend though!

Twitter and WordPress are my “natural” homes and I think this was a lesson for me. Everyone has their voice and after trying them all, will settle on a primary channel. I find Twitter natural, suits my mobile work and home life, and probably matches my attention span. With Twitter I very quickly saw the lie of the land – the different types of people who use Twitter – there are distinct clusters.

I’ve tried lots of others with different degrees of success – FourSquare (checking in at locations), Waze (collaborative satnav with a bit of Pacman built in), SoundTracking (a life through music), Showyou (watching TV together), Quora and Wikipedia (building and sharing knowledge).

The point is.. its difficult to contemplate a strategy without understanding the problem and the resources available to you.

Written by greencontact

September 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Some lies, damn lies and then some awesome Olympic statistics

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An Ashbourne Voice

Unavoidable Olympic conclusions – if you are an amateur:

Dorney Lake has faster water than Stratford or the Serpentine. Overall London is roughly 20% slower than Beijing.

If you want to get medals the easy way… learn to swim

Don’t bother watching the Olympics until Day 5.

Don’t pick a fight in Ireland, Azerbaijan, Georgia or Iran. But if you want to run away your best chance is in Jamaica, Kenya or Ethiopia

Olympic organisers said that around 90% of ticket holders for the Olympics showed up. This means there are 1.1m unused tickets somewhere.

Here is an excellent slideshow with some Olympic infographics open for interpretation.

Interesting Olympic statistics for the professional:

An awesome collection of infographics and stats:

China only had the sixth largest team at the Olympics – smaller than Germany and Australia. Team GB had the largest.

Relative to Population and GDP Grenada had…

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Written by greencontact

August 21, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Opinion

We all make Social Media mistakes. What happens next?

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There will always be mistakes – its how you deal with them that matters. I watched a comic situation develop recently due to some crossed wires with a Twitterer. The author was an experienced Twitterer with a resulting Klout score of 55. He’s profuse – by which I mean he often has over 50 tweets a day. He’s also got lots of followers – over 30,000. Most importantly he’s a professional – he’s doing it to make money – and they are always worth watching.

On the day in question I had a look at his communications. He has a newspaper, Linked In connections and an ebook that he is looking to sell. He promoted these throughout the day in different ways – roughly 20% of his tweets were adverts one way or another. About the same proportion were RTs and a further 20% were Interaction with individual twitterers – just chit chat. In the remainder he generated, or doctored RTs to look like, original content, he advertised some other people’s content for them, he grew his network and asked some questions. All text book stuff for someone looking to grow.

My Twitterer was looking for an opportunity to sell and spotted a three-way conversation (involving a celebrity with 500k followers) about comparing TV-driven PR with the cost of Google AdWords. He may easily have a Twitter feed scanner looking for keywords because he was straight in asking whether he could help them with managing their AdWords. One of the participants took umbrage to the interruption. Looking at it in the cold light of day it could have appeared like someone listening to a private conversation and butting in inappropriately. He followed it with a further enquiry about their management of search engines and then a cheeky “let me know if I can quote for you” which prompted a public rebuke along the lines of “this was a private conversation. Stop pretending to join in just to sell to us”. The offended party then followed it up with a tweet saying how rude it was for someone to try and sell to them who didn’t even follow them…which was then retweeted

The nature of Twitter is that all this is happening in public view. 30,000 of his followers are seeing the thread turn sour. The squabbling pair made up. My Twitterer abused him back (wisely dropping the celebrity from the conversation) before apologising and saying the offer wasn’t directed at him. The offended Twitterer apologised, said that he thought it was spam and offered general advice to ease off the selling without getting to know people.

This whole spat illustrates the dangers for even the most skilled practitioner of professional twittering and especially the fine line you need tread in the endeavour to turn social media into hard cash. His approach is to try and turn conversations into book sales, blog visitors with advertising royalties or consulting fees. To make serious money with this strategy you need to be profuse, attract big numbers of followers… and not mind a few casualties.

Written by greencontact

August 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Opinion

Tagged with , ,

Fashion in Social Media

Mention Social Networking to anyone in the pub and chances are their understanding is Facebook or Twitter. To me that’s the same as mentioning football and everyone immediately talking about David Beckham. Whether you like or understand football or not, around the world people know that David Beckham is a footballer. You don’t need to understand the offside trap, the Christmas tree or overlapping fullbacks – you can have a conversation.

To me the difference between Social Networking and Social Media is crucial. Social Media is trivial – it is the fashion, flavour-of-the-month, here today and gone tomorrow. No matter how popular or successful, individual social media brands are fighting for market share. If you doubt it consider the “fate” of MySpace. At its peak, just five years ago, MySpace was the most visited website in the US (more than Google) and was sold to NewsCorp in 2005 for $580m. This year the company was sold for $35m and was ranked as the 103rd most visited website in the US.

In 2005 Bebo was acquired for $850m by AOL. It was sold in 2010 for less than $10m due to huge reductions in unique users.

What is far more important than any individual social media product is the underlying benevolence which has meant that individuals have wanted to share, help and collaborate for centuries. Social media is doing to Social networking what the Agricultural Revolution did for agriculture and the Industrial Revolution did for manufacturing. If you focus on Facebook or Twitter you miss the point in the same way that if you know everything about David Beckham’s clothes, children or statistics you are a long way from understanding football.

I’d rather spend my time understanding Social Networking (with or without capital letters) than bet my livelihood on a brand.

Written by greencontact

July 30, 2012 at 11:19 am

Posted in Opinion

Tagged with , , , ,

Zeebox – co-viewing the Socialympics

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Image courtesy www.

At 8.45 on July 27th, like one billion other people, I switched on the TV and sat with my family watching the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. I was also one of the many “second-screeners” following events on Twitter at the same time. You can follow the events in Twitter using something like Hootsuite or Tweetdesk but there are also apps designed for the occasion. They group together the relevant hashtags and add content to enhance the experience. One of the most popular is Zeebox. I hadn’t used it for a while and the Opening Ceremony was a perfect opportunity to put it through its paces.

The application runs on smartphones, tablets and PCs. When you set it up initially it asks for the country you are in, the TV system you are using (Sky, Freesat, Freeview, Virgin) and then the region you are watching in as well. It brings up the display above to show you what is currently on TV. Against each listing you can see the volume of viewers – presumably people who have selected the option in Zeebox – and also the volume of activity so that you can easily see where the social buzz  is.

When you choose the TV programme it switches into a display with an information panel on the left showing details of the programme and related news items as well as things such as related opinion polls. The default centre column has a steadily ticking display of Tweets. This aggregates all related hashtags and word searches. Given the sheer volume of tweets on the Opening Ceremony this was going very steadily but you can scroll up and down to look at particular posts. A great feature here is the context sensitive options which appear at the top of the feed. During the Ceremony one option was “Funny commentary” which had all the tweet using the hashtag for the purpose created by Zeebox. There are also options to just see Tweets from athletes or celebrities as well as the main tweet. This is a really fun option, especially with the Opening Ceremony, making it easy to see what the athletes themselves were making of it as well as hearing where Billy Bragg was watching (in a hotel room with beer and curry).

On the right hand side are “Live Zeetags”; a constantly updating set of regularly linked topics. These indicate what the flavour of the conversation is and give a different dimension. As I write this the Olympic stream the zeetags include The Netherlands, Sweden, “Peloton”, Betting and some pithy quotes from competing cyclists. Overall the interface is really slick and fun and with something like the Olympics it adds a dimension to viewing – nothing gets missed and there’s plenty of funny twittering going on. I dare say its less entertaining watching a repeat on one of the more obscure digital channels and very confusing if someone is watching a +1 channel.

From a business perspective the advertising opportunities are clear, the audience is a tight demographic defined by the TV programme they are watching and the level of social media awareness they have.

Written by greencontact

July 30, 2012 at 9:33 am