The Social Contact Centre

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

Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

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

Doing your Social homework

with one comment


So imagine social networking  was Biology. My daughters have spent a couple of months and I feel extremely sorry for them. I remember revising some subjects where I wasn’t quite “getting it” and feeling very vulnerable. There is a danger that we think we know it all and stop doing our own revision. Social Networking is developing so quickly that we have to keep learning, benchmarking and testing. Imagine it was a subject with an exam next week. What would you do differently if you wanted to be sure of passing?

One way is to read the literature. There is no easy textbook but I would recommend Wikinomics – How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams http://www.wikinomics.com/book/. It was written in 2006 but has been updated since then. It lays out the principles of social networking and Web 2.0 with some excellent business examples. It demonstrates clearly the difference between social neworking and social media and is timeless because of it. Its references to  MySpace bely its age but it doesn’t matter because you can just replace the references with Facebook and not lose the power of the story. As with many worthwhile projects like this it doesn’t end with the book. It has been updated but there is also a wiki around the Playbook. @dtapscott is on Twitter and has 32,000 followers!

You then need a playbook. In a world where everything is even now still quite new I really like Groundswell http://empowered.forrester.com/groundswell/book.html by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. It lays down the principles but then defines a simple framework for businesses to follow. I say “simple” but that’s surely the hallmark of a great business book.

This highlights a need to use your personal social networking presence for learning and collaboration as well as for your own business development. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience to take advantage of and to contribute to. There are some visionaries out there with some huge ideas which are worth looking at and Web 2.0 has encouraged them to share. One of my favourites is www.managementexchange.com/hack/social-architecture-manifesto by Luc Galoppin (@lucgaloppin) which is beautifully written, thought provoking and quite wonderful.

Written by greencontact

July 27, 2012 at 10:09 am

There’s medals up for grabs in the Socialympics

leave a comment »


On Friday, the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony takes place and we continue a long summer of sport with the Paralympics to follow. For Social Media observers though there are some fascinating events already underway.

In the long build up it is interesting to monitor the depth of interest as the opening ceremony approaches. The Google Trends tool shows this well by monitoring the Google search term “Olympics 2012”.

Image courtesy Google

You can see the long steady buildup and the impact of news coverage. The last 30 days show the trend in detail:

Image courtesy Google

Underneath that general interest though is a fascinating battle of the hashtags both from a business perspective and from the general public. One of the most publicised is the #savethesurprise hashtag created by the LOCOG team to try to get the participants and attendees of the opening ceremony rehearsals to keep the details of the show confidential. The hashtag was displayed on screens inside the Olympic stadium along with a personal request from Danny Boyle, the show’s organiser. As a result the hashtag trended but the meme element is clearly there. The hashtag conveyed with it an expectation of something very special but also a real desire developed that keeps the press in check that we really do want to see the show on Friday without having the surprise element spoiled.

There is an interesting battleground emerging. While the nickname Socialympics is emerging to reflect the timing of the Games and the growth in use of Social Media, there are also very tight controls over the branding of the Games which are being policed. The usual social media laissez-faire is being tempered. One athlete has already been sent home for misuse of Twitter and there are sure to be further controversies. There are a number of official Twitter and Facebook accounts to follow from the IOC, the London Games organisers but also from individual national teams. For UK followers the @TeamGB account has accrued over 222,000 followers. If you want to get the inside track on tweets from athletes, check out who @TeamGB follows – all 800+ of them. For coviewers it will be a rich source.

The hashtags are beginning to emerge – all incorporating versions of the London, Olympic, 2012, but there will also be #openingceremony and a number of spinoffs from it as the Games progress which indicate people’s specific interests and views. This Olympics is also being branded the first “Second Screen Olympics”. Broadcasters such as VH1 and MTV have already launched apps that allow a split screen approach on iPads and iPhones – where viewers can watch the action and also the social media activity surrounding it. According to Kenny Lauer, in an excellent article http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2183148/-screen-olympics while the TV audience for the opening and closing ceremonies is likely to be around 4 billion people, 46% of Americans will be holding a tablet device while they watch. If ever there was a killer “red button app” this is it (working in the same way that subtitles do).

Mediacom has been running a league table of Olympic sponsors http://www.mediacom.com/en/news–insights/olympic-twitter-tracker/july-2012/daily—24th-july-2012.aspx and their Twitter performance during the Olympics. On the 24th July Adidas head the table but on the 23rd they were 3rd. In what other league table could you juggle the brand in this way through judicious related promotions and hashtag creations. The rankings are based on “Performance score = POSITIVITY of comments x ENGAGEMENT by the
people commenting x Potential REACH of those comments.”

The Olympics represent a tremendous opportunity for businesses to play with social media – to find niches which are large in their own right, to identify memes and learn how to relate to them, to gain relevant followers from the millions available and to try to get RTs and favourites. Kenny Lauer summarises it perfectly “My personal digital motto is the three C’s: “collapsing distances, connecting people, and creating behavior.” The Olympics is a perfect opportunity to practice this. Collapsing distances isn’t just physical distance; it is emotional, cultural, and ideological distances as well. Connecting people requires using campaigns and digital strategies that encourage participation and engagement, not just as a flashpoint but ongoing. And always remember that it is a marketer’s job to create and drive specific, ideally measurable behavior.”

Written by greencontact

July 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Practice what you preach

leave a comment »


It still strikes me that there is an element of “cobbler’s children” with some Social Media vendors and consultants. How many believe, participate and innovate themselves? If they can’t do it for themselves how are they going to make you stand out? The first question for anyone trying to sell anything to do with Social Media should be “So tell me about your own personal social footprint and your success with it?” Here’s a great article written by a Social Media consultant:

http://www.quickonlinetips.com/archives/2010/03/first-social-media-consulting-gig/ courtesy of Patrick Curl

Written by greencontact

July 25, 2012 at 9:20 am

Don’t get Blogged down

leave a comment »


Courtesy Eloqua

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all read blogs and any search in Google will probably come up with a few blog references on the front page. A huge part of the growth of Web 2.0 is about user-generated content. The barriers are down and anyone can join in. The excellent Eloqua infographic above just shows the breadth and influence of bloggers in the UK – some of these names will be familiar to you.

Blogging is growing in influence and brands and pressure groups centered around blogs are becoming more prevalent. To me as a newbie to social media the barriers to entry on blogging were far higher than other media. What would I write about? Who would read it? It is far easier to be passive with Twitter or Facebook and just observe other people. You can and do just read other people’s blogs but making your own blog an effective tool can make a significant contribution to business success.

I started blogging with a personal blog using Tumblr and really using it as a journal. I thought the look and feel of it was OK but I did realise that most of the business blogs I was looking at either had personalised urls or used other platforms. My daughter was the one who advised me that Tumblr is geared more towards images and short comments and that I should really be on a different platform. Thankfully migration tools are available and I settled on WordPress as it seemed to have good tools on the iPad as well as online. All blogging platforms these days give you a really easy interface but if you have any html skills you can certainly be more creative. What I liked about the WordPress platform was the range of free “looks” and the choice of widgets to bring it to life.

As with all social media you need to get the mission clear from the start. What role does the blog play and how does it link with all your other activity. In my mind I see the blog as the centre of my activity and so my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn activity will occasionally signpost to it. Each posting on the personal blog creates a tweet and for this blog it creates a LinkedIn update. If I had a website I may use the blog to direct customers and prospects to it. My objective is to generate blog subscribers and reblogs first, comments and likes second and page views third.

So you have a blog created, how do you fill it? There’s no doubt that you need to be able to write. This isn’t an exercise in creative writing but readers expect punchy, interesting and original content I think. There can be a balance of original content, reblogs and links but there must be a healthy amount of original content. This can be generated by guest contributors or the workload can be spread across a range of people in your business if you are lucky enough to have the support. If you have one good writer they can edit the rough submissions of others as a ghost writer if this is easier. In my view as well the blogs posts need to be honest and heartfelt rather than over-polished advertising pieces.

Frequency is a significant challenge as we all lead busy lives and blogging is definitely a slow burner with a big payoff. You won’t get huge readership quickly unless you happen to be a celebrity or have something enormously radical to say. For the rest of us mere mortals stick with it. The pleasure of getting interaction and knowing you are being seen makes it worthwhile. Try to find a routine which results in regularly adding additional original content – weekly if you can – and then use reblogging to draw in other good material from other bloggers. When you have built up a good library of material you can also repost some of the old material – maybe with a bit of spring-cleaning first. Some other tips for getting the writing done :

1. Write when you have a good and fresh idea but don’t always post straight away. Use the options to post the blog later which are in most platforms. That way you get ahead of the game and not feel deadline pressure. Timing is also key to ensure readership. You may get your ideas late at night but your readers don’t necessarily want to read at that time. All your automatic promotion may be triggered at the time you post

2. Try testing ideas in Word first. There should be a good few ideas you discard as not strong enough and if you create in the blogging platform you’ll be tempted to publish when you shouldn’t

3. Blogging is about personality so don’t write about too restricted a topic. This gives you more subjects to go at while also making your blog a more attractive read

4. Ideas don’t always need to be long essays. Think about just posting lists, short ideas or reviews.

5. Use content you generate in other areas – for example use the Twitter feed widgets, press releases etc.

It’s then about growing the readership. Use your other Social Media platforms to signpost to the site but respect your followers by not bombarding them. You also need to think about each blog post and how you can attract people to it. The topic itself is part of it but also use the tags to make it easily searchable. If you’ve had a great idea, and you really think people will enjoy reading it, don’t be shy…advertise. Think about what other bloggers you would want to reblog your content. Read their pages and comment on their content honestly and constructively. When people comment, apart from spam (of which there is a lot), always approve the comments regardless of their support or otherwise and engage in a conversation with them. Make them know you value their contribution. You can also stimulate interaction by running polls or expressly asking for opinion in your content.

Blogging is not for everyone. If you don’t enjoy it and get it, don’t do it. It’s not compulsory but can be enormously rewarding.

Written by greencontact

July 11, 2012 at 9:45 am

Collaborative Innovation… the mid-term review

leave a comment »


Some time ago I blogged about our experience with Yammer as a  collaborative innovation tool. My company is an  contact centre outsourcer working for a wide range of clients. I wanted to find a way of improving communications and allowing much greater participation in the business decisions.

In 2008 we introduced a social intranet site to be the central repository of information (FAQs, stats, training notes etc). The social element was through encouraging interaction by loading agent and manager-generated content, sharing congratulations through virtual cards, and blogging. I started blogging in 2008 and also incorporated interactive chat as a further channel.

The lesson learnt very early on was that people want to have a say, they want to engage in their employment if they are given the opportunity to do so in a flexible and easy way. Through researching social media I identified some of the companies who were offering collaborative innovation tools and began talking to Spigit. I really loved the concept of engagement and gamification – as a fan of Freakonomics and having spent a lot of time in Sales I understand the power of motivation. The bit I struggled with was the business case. All the case studies seemed to be from those mythical mega corporations with unlimited budgets who just have to have the latest thing. I’ve also already covered the challenge of the sceptics in the world of social networking. When I was looking at the tools available they all had a not-unreasonable but nonetheless “leap of faith” price tag.

After researching for a while it became one of those “nice to have” projects which was on the back burner. There wasn’t an obvious payback that I could express in a business case and also it was incredibly difficult to explain to people who didn’t even have a Facebook account, let alone those who have teenage children that do!

Then came my own leap of faith – the Yammer Friday when we launched the free version of Yammer. People loved it, user numbers skyrocketed and people started to create their own groups and then…. we had a lull.

The reservations we had about Collaborative Innovation, aside from the business case, were:

  • Could it be self-propelling or would we need to cheer lead?
  • Would it be time-consuming; taking people away from real work?
  • Would our community keep the distinction between personal and business social media?

The experience was interesting. The initial burst was definitely followed by a lull as people ran out of the initial energy. We were caught in a hinterland where people couldn’t use Yammer knowing that the people they wanted to communicate with were going to be there because we still only had around 120 users and at any one time only 20 would be online. There were two things we realised here. Firstly this is a different type of communication – much more like email than instant messaging. When people relaxed about this everything ran more smoothly. Secondly, expecially when there are low numbers you do need a “cheer-leader” someone Liking, responding and asking questions to tease out usage. We now realise that over time your generals-on-the-field emerge and do the job without thinking about it.

The time-consuming response was a difficult one. Some people think of social media as exactly that – a waste of time. In my mind I think of social media as a natural activity which has inherent benefit through communication. We haven’t done any detailed study to show exactly what the impact is. I use a time monitoring tool – RescueTime that tells me I have spent (as one of the more active users) around 2% of my time in the last month using it. Yammer’s own studies show that there is an offset in that the time to complete collaborative tasks can be reduced and  there is a clear reduction in emails.

Finally, the crowd has performed exceptionally well. We have found that as long as the groundrules are clearly defined, people conform and contribute. We have had discussions about personal motivation, staff satisfaction survey techniques, dress code etc and the tone has been totally professional, informed and sensitive. As a manager what I have found is that the crowd sorts many of the day-to-day issues amongst themselves without needing managers to intervene as the party pooper. We have also seen that the most regular users are people that otherwise would not have registered as the big contributors to our business – they have a lot of experience and opinions which wouldn’t have come to light in any other format. We are now also in the more mature phase of implementation and seeing users take the technology and apply it for their own purposes. Imagine my delight to see a developer posting different colour schemes for reports and asking the crowd which looked best!

We now have well over 350 users and are engaging with external stakeholders in our networks. Our next project is to make collaborative innovation a more structured part of our business and to drive KPIs associated with it.

 

 

Written by greencontact

May 29, 2012 at 9:40 am

A lesson in Blogging…. from an unexpected source

with 2 comments


The social lines between business and personal are blurred – when you share you share. In my view you shouldn’t control followers, readers and friends other than to control the activities of abusers and spammers. As such, I use my personal social activity as a learning point for my business activity and vice versa. I can test things in one environment and compare with what happens in the other.

Blogging was a new thing for me and I waded in wholeheartedly as ever. The research indicates that Blogging is the social activity that can have the most direct influence and is therefore potentially the most powerful in a business environment. In my mind, it is also the hardest to execute. With this view my efforts were almost exclusively focussed on content as I started my first personal blog. It began almost like a journal – extended ideas and opinions and trying to follow the same format as I use for Twitter (1:1:1).

blogging

[Picture source: Barry D via The Book Of Worlds]

What I found was that it doesn’t work in the same way – there isn’t immediately a community to write for or respond to in quite the same way. It takes much more to attract people. The writing is much more demanding because to me, there is a greater need to be interesting. It’s harder to maintain an overall theme and structure – and harder to visualise the goal. For my personal blog, this is fine – I don’t mind if no-one follows me and its both cathartic and fun for me to write. In the business world a blog has a greater significance and can be either brand-building or brand-eroding.

It took my avidly social daughter (who follows my social activity with an amused eye) to read my personal blog and to give me the killer consumer feedback. “Dad, you need to lighten up” she said – “change the format a little and do some shorter, less opinionated pieces. You are also using the hashtags wrongly. If you want to attract an audience you need to use the right ones”. This from a girl whose blogging on fan fiction topics is very popular. “And you’re using the wrong platform – Tumblr is for images and microblogs”. I looked into it and found a useful summary of the platforms: http://www.lifed.com/7-best-blogging-platforms. It figures that not only do you want a platform where the functionality enables what you are trying to achieve but also you want a platform where your potential followers and customers are likely to be (there’s no point banging away at MySpace if everyone is on Facebook).

I’m lucky to have the insight and I’m humble enough to listen, I’ve changed the format of my blog and I’m finding it easier to write and more fun as a result. I’ve transferred everything across to WordPress (some good conversion tools by the way) and I’ve tidied up my tags (the tag clouds are quite a good visual sense check).

Written by greencontact

April 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm