The Social Contact Centre

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

Posts Tagged ‘Call Centre

Call Centre and Customer Management Expo 2012

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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

Real Twitter reach and influence

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Most social media comment is abstract and this is the weakness in the argument so far. For the sceptics, an argument based purely on numbers of users doesn’t wash because the newspapers are full of negative comment. It can all be too easily dismissed as a fad. A very small number of articles attempt to get into the numbers and playing Devil’s Advocate is never a bad thing. Here’s my analysis of my own Twitter account @greencontact.

I have 564 followers for @greencontact and I follow about 1100 other accounts. Its objective is to gather contact centre and social media followers so that I can learn, share and influence on a personal level. My ideal goal would be thousands of followers including authors, journalists, suppliers and bloggers. On Klout my score is currently only 13 against an average for Klout of 20, and a score for my personal Twitter account of 38. My @greencontact account score is on a real recent slide from around 19. I do think it is harder to get leverage with a business account with a tight focus than it is for a personal usage where you have more “freedom to roam”. Klout thinks I am “influential” on Social Media and Business which is encouraging because on my personal account it thinks I am influential on Sausages and Jewellery (really). I am classified as an Observer – “You don’t share very much, but you follow the social web more than you let on. You may just enjoy observing more than sharing or you’re checking this stuff out before jumping in full-force”. I feel a bit aggrieved about this bit if I’m honest – like most business users it is hard to find the time to up the activity levels and it is harder to find something to say.

Over the last 90 days I have sent 79 messages, had 16 mentions, been sent 21 messages (almost all “thanks for following”), and had 18 retweets.

One of the things I do is to assign followers to lists so that I can understand geographically and by subject matter what my real audience is so that I can tailor my tweets and be more targeted. I only follow people that I would like to follow me back – no celebrities, sports stars etc – all on topic. Of my followers I know that 144 are in the UK which is not as high as I would like it to be. This is one of the challenges of Twitter profiles – I am looking for people who tweet on contact centres or social media enough to declare it as their interest in their Twitter profile AND state they are in the UK. Sometimes you have to dig through the tweets to understand what their background is. There are also 31 journalists or authors from around the world which is good – these are the pros I want to learn from. As you may expect there are around 110 suppliers or competitors (I work for an outsourcer) also. Some of these are included in the UK total figures. Overall then I am looking to grow the number of UK-based commenters on contact centres or social media who are not competitors or purely suppliers as well as journalists and authors from anywhere. I don’t want to discourage other followers but I think it is important to have a direction and measures for what you are doing in any sphere of life.

One thing is obvious – the more you put into Social Media the more you get back – I don’t tweet often enough to attract the followers and get noticed. Assuming other people use Twitter like I do i.e. they dip in and out, then typically they view maybe 200 Tweets at a time depending on the level of activity. This is one full load and maybe two or three “mores” going backwards in time on either the PC application or the iPhone app. This may be roughly an hour’s worth of tweets. Just checking the stats at the moment (8.30am in the morning), my follows have tweeted approximately 150 times in the last hour. Now bear in mind this automatically may mean I never see tweets from some parts of the world or only see North American tweets in the afternoon or if I browse the North America list – lists can really help out with this. OK, so 150 tweets in the last hour may equate to 1500 over the full day from people I follow. I am tweeting just over once every business day and so the odds are that other Twitterers like me may only actually see 10% of all tweets through their viewing habits and my tweet may not actually be in their viewing window. The chances are that only one in 7 of my tweets in the UK gets noticed by each of my followers. Of course, the most influential Twitterers may have thousands more follows and so a much smaller proportion have a chance of “connecting” with the target audience. Its worth bearing these raw stats in mind when creating posts in a business environment – they have to be effective almost like direct mail. One good point about this is that these are actually pretty good statistics – the reach of social media amongst social media users is very cost-effective. Looking on the positive side I am having something I have written read by my target audience possibly once a fortnight. This kind of analysis is vital I think. The vast numbers of social media reach come down to actually quite small figures when we begin to look at influence. One final point is that the chances of success can be improved by publishing tweets in other places. I post my tweets through my LinkedIn account and my blog.

So the next question is influence. We have already whittled down large numbers to quite small ones and this then puts the figures for retweets and mentions in the spotlight. Depending on the nature of these tweets they are the nearest approximation to influence you can get. Of course a mention may just be a “thanks for the #ff” which is courtesy rather than influence. For me retweets are the real benchmark and indicate that you are “moving the pile”. To get retweeted you must publish tweets which make sense, have immediate impact (use those characters wisely), and you need to be one of:

  • Topical – ideally news
  • Funny – again originality is key
  • A gatherer – if you find good stuff and share it you may be retweeted as the middle man
  • Hit a personal button for one Twitterer. This can be enormously effective but sometimes you write a tweet and can almost predict who will latch on to it. This comes down to knowing your audience – again the lists become increasingly important as the scale of your Twitter presence grows.

So you need to be a journalist, comedian, librarian or really skilled on a one-to-one basis. What you can’t be is bland. This is one of the criticisms from the sceptics; the “what I had for breakfast” brigade. The point is that if you tweet on that basis you may have a few conversations in your personal account but it won’t cut it in business social media.

And what if you are successful in getting retweets? What’s the prize? Its unlikely you’re going to sell anything as a result but you will attract more followers and speak to more people. Imagine you attended a trade show or conference. You will get a lot from the presentations and demonstrations but you also benefit from networking. Networks mean that you can always find something out when you need to – I discovered an excellent collaborative innovation tool through conversations on Twitter, you build your brand which in turn increases the chances of your brand being front of mind when tenders come around, you also will be in a position to hear about new opportunities sooner and get a feel for future threats or problems sooner. The big benefits are below the line, maybe not as sexy as direct marketing but full of long term benefit.

Written by greencontact

January 24, 2012 at 9:25 am