The Social Contact Centre

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

Posts Tagged ‘Business

Practice what you preach

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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: courtesy of Patrick Curl

Written by greencontact

July 25, 2012 at 9:20 am

Here’s to the rich social “failures”

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Some time ago I blogged about the rise and fall of social media “brands”. Not so long ago my children were addicted to Bebo, Friends Reunited and MySpace and where are they now? In a similar vein, Second Life participants rose from nothing to having four million citizens in 2007. It now settles down at just around 1 million repeat logins.

We need to redefine what we mean by failure I think. With a mindset that is educated on bricks and mortar this would look like decline and fall – the similar fashion-led business profile of the Rubik’s Cube or the latest TV show merchandise.

We really need to look at what has happened with these brands. There are a group of them which have gained enormous popularity and have then been superseded by the latest version. A good example is MySpace which was once the most visited website in the US. In 2011 it was sold for $35m. In my opinion the social media world is a great example of speeding up the business world. The rise of MySpace was fuelled by comparatively little capital expenditure compared to most other businesses. All the issues associated with recruitment, training, facilities etc did not really apply – the growth was driven by increasing subscriber numbers and the need for the network to scale quickly with it. Before it lost popularity it was sold for $580m to Newscorp in 2005. It is hard to imagine that a technology business could grow from nothing to be worth $580m in less than three years and that almost 10 years later it still has revenues of over $100m from essentially the same product. In my view MySpace is an enormous success story when compared with other businesses using a comparable currency.

Consider SecondLife – which remains profitable and with a huge customer base in any other terms. A traditional business which had undertaken the same roller-coaster journey would have been saddled with enormous and crippling overheads and would probably be in administration at this stage. SecondLife is an example of a mature and settled business riding the wave of popularity and settling into a development phase.

The message from Social Media and Social Networking is that the numbers of users and the pace of change are an entrepreneurial dream – huge markets and very low barriers to entry. People entering the market are not looking for businesses to grow and pass on to their children – they are using the pop-up shop and restaurant model – keep your overheads low and take the opportunity while it’s there. There are some very rich “failures” out there.

Written by greencontact

July 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Opinion

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Making the right noises

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image courtesy


One of the biggest fears surrounding social media is the fear of “getting it wrong”. After years of building a brand through traditional channels, some inappropriate Facebook comments or tweets can be front page news. Whereas in traditional above or below the line communications weeks of work and wordsmithing from professionals can create a polished message, social media really thrives on keeping it real. This means greater frequency and less polish.

None of this is completely alien. After all many customer’s experience is driven primarily by their own exposure to the brand. All the polished advertising in the world won’t offset a poor customer service experience or disappointing product reliability. The difference with social media is that the conversation and the experience is in the public gaze and for many businesses this is the reason why the first steps into social media are led by the marketing department.

Celebrities and politicians are accustomed to this and their experience has a lot of interesting parallels. They know that whatever they say is broadcast around the world and analysed in detail. As a result they have a team of scriptwriters and briefings to prepare them on the key points to make and the pitfalls to avoid. What seems like a wonderful gift to make a pithy comment is in most cases just the result of hours of hard work and practice. It is also clear that the most successful politicians and celebrities are the ones who are able to go the extra mile. We can all think of the gaffe-prone personalities who use it to their advantage. That public vulnerability is part of their attractiveness – by displaying weakness it adds to their trustworthiness – whereas the more polished performers are seen as “spinners”. The perfect social media voice embodies the brand values in a human way and by doing so makes the social media effectiveness move into the customer service and direct sales arenas.

Undoubtedly there has to be a clear strategy over what the “voice” is which is being portrayed but then the message has to be delivered by real people and not actors in my opinion. When social media is turned over to agencies it becomes anodyne. Consistent, well crafted and lively but ultimately uninteresting. The way to make it work well is to employ people who understand the medium but also who believe in the message and to empower them to make the right decisions. Much of social media communication is common sense and the  errors have been made either by people who don’t fully understand the medium or by people who are acting the voice. This is the attraction of some of the celebrity Twitterers for fans – to see the thoughts and ideas of people written in their own words. There is no rulebook yet in this area but some general thoughts are:

1. Always work to a plan – what are you wanting to communicate if you get the opportunity? What are the words you don’t want to use? Who are your friends and followers – make sure you constantly analyse the effectiveness of the crowd and what their characteristics are. You should know where they live, what proportion are active customers, what proportion are purely promotion-hunters, staff, journalists and suppliers. Who are your top 100?

2. Read everything twice. Typos shouldn’t appear in brand-representing social media

3. Encourage personality. To deliver the volume of communication is going to involve a team and ideally you want your audience to get to know them as ambassadors for your brand. Consider your social media feeds almost like a talk radio station and build metrics to back it up. Who are your audience at different times of day? For example as a retailer you can build up a pattern of when offers are going to be made and generate excitement around it while encouraging audience participation.

4. Don’t shy away from dealing with customer service problems. Don’t suppress, deny or make excuses. Apologise and put it right in the public glare. Everyone make gaffes but you must never lose trust.

5. Think about your crowd and how they can help you. If your social media just relies on special offers and competitions it is very superficial. What about asking your audience to help design your next advertising campaign by giving you slogans, success stories and even designs. What about building a crowdsourced service capability by harnessing their expertise on your behalf.

6. Always recruit the sort of people you want to communicate with. Remember, it’s not a numbers game. Think about the opportunities for acquiring and set this as a target. Which journalists would you like to be followers? What cars do your ideal customers drive and where do they live? Target your social media communicators to draw them in and make them engaged followers.

And finally, if you don’t feel confident in taking the first steps… ask yourself why. In my opinion social media highlights weaknesses which need to be addressed regardless of whether you choose to have a Facebook presence. Equally, if they aren’t addressed, they will always going to limit the “truth” in your communications; social or otherwise.


Written by greencontact

June 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

Collaborative Innovation… the mid-term review

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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

Fishing In The Right Places

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This is about creating the audience – the bit that is often taken for granted. How do you get the people you want to follow, friend or subscribe so that you can communicate with them in the first place?

I only ever went seriously fishing once. On a cold and grey Spring day I went with friends, sat down at the edge of an enormous reservoir and caught nothing. I had no technique, no special equipment, no idea what lay beneath the water and no local knowledge. I got precisely what I deserved and couldn’t wait to go home. Every weekend keen and skilled anglers compete and land huge catches at the same place.

The excellent Groundswell by @charleneli and @joshbernoff describes a four stage method called POST (People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology) and everything begins with understanding what your “people” are ready for. I take a little issue with this in that I think the Objectives may come before the People. The objective for social media interaction may not just/always be end consumers. In a B2B environment it could be other stakeholders such as employees, journalists, Government etc and unless the strategy for the social media effort is properly understood you may begin with the audience you have rather than seek out the audience you want.

Assuming the target audience is identified Groundswell then lays out the Social Technographics Ladder and a method for identifying how you customers are most likely to want to communicate and to identify the media and methods that are most likely to be successful. There are big differences between age groups, sexes, nationalities and interest groups. The key is to identify the social usage profile of your customers – in crude terms you want to be fishing with the right bait.

If Twitter or Facebook are suitable approaches here are some techniques I’ve used for finding the right people:

  • Use hashtag searches to find people who are talking about the right topics. Start with your own brands, products and markets. This method will also find a lot of suppliers and competitors. You need to decide how you are going to deal with these. At the very least you need to keep some form of segmentation of your crowd.
  • Read the trade journals. These can be a good aide memoir for when you are having a mental block. It also prompts names of journalists.
  • Some journalists advertise their Twitter names as a means of contacting them. There are also some quite dated lists on the internet. One other thing is to check out key names’ own follow lists. Often key journalists may have thousands of followers but only a smaller number of the people who influence them. Check out their Lists also.
  • Go through your contact lists and the collective library of colleagues and then try and find Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter contacts against them.
  • As you put out content (with appropriate hashtags) some of the people you want to contact will find you and you can close the loop be friending them or following them back.

Slowly your follow list will grow and at this stage this is the target audience. The next step is how to convert the non-followers into part of your crowd. Here are some tips for I’ve found to work in doing this.

  • Identify a small target list of the people you really want to follow you and comment in context with what they are talking about when they talk about it. This will make sure the comments are on topics they are interested in at a time they are probably watching the conversation. At times this may be quite time consuming but the result is worthwhile. Don’t tweet or update for the sake of it though. Less, better quality, comment is far better and will avoid the ultimate snub.
  • When you meet people try and add them to your LinkedIn group or ask them if they use Social Media immediately. It is far less awkward to issue an invitation soon after the event. Remember, with Twitter or LinkedIn each time you add a contact you also have access to their lists. Don’t abuse this.
  • Comment and talk about current topics in an interesting way. Just retweeting, interacting or banal comments won’t cut it to attract followers and it won’t keep them in the future. Keep your eye on trending topics.
  • Choose carefully who you follow back. It isn’t about numbers and at some point you may have to unfollow in Twitter to let more people in. The other thing is that the bigger the numbers, the harder the management of them. Are people in a different country, different industry or pure spammers really going to add value to your proposition? Are you really going to add to theirs?

No matter what else you are doing, keep a focus on the quality of your crowd. Even when you are busy with other promotional activity remember to look after your followers. You need to communicate regularly to keep them interested and notice when they want to interact with you. This is a social network not a sales pitch. Everything else tactically may change but your crowd moves with you.


Written by greencontact

February 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm