The Social Contact Centre

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

Posts Tagged ‘collaborative innovation

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

Yammer Clamour

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My objective is to try and build a social contact centre: A multichannel environment which thrives on using social techniques to communicate internally, with stakeholders, and with clients. We will develop product sets which address the needs of social media customers and build processes which are efficient through social networking techniques. I am doing this because I think there is a huge amount of untapped potential, knowledge and new thinking which will create a unique, agile capability.

With this in mind I began looking at collaborative tools a couple of years ago and struggled to make a reasonable business case. The capital expenditure seemed high against quite soft returns and this made me rethink what the strategy ought to be. I then stumbled across Yammer through a conversation on Twitter where @DanSlee told me about the best social project he’d done with zero budget. My ears pricked up!

One Friday afternoon I decided to launch in a low key way – remember those words LOW KEY. Now this is against a background of working hard to improve communications in the contact centre anyway. We have been through five years of improving the way we do things and trying to increase engagement through building a social knowledgebase (FAQs but also sending e-cards to each other, publishing all results, strategies etc), blogging regularly (team managers, account managers and me), Agent forums with published minutes, staff satisfaction surveys, interactive chat with coaches and managers,  encouraging the independent creation of  an alumni Facebook site, and using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for the business. Collaboration was launched against a context not cold into the team.

On this Friday afternoon I set up an account for the free Yammer service and was confronted with a “who else do you think would be interested” screen and entered some email addresses in the company that I though would be interested. This triggered invitations to the Yammer community which also invited them to suggest other people that may be interested. By late afternoon there were 100 people on the network who were curious as to what it was. I immediately began to wonder about security and bandwidth issues and sought clearance from our IT department and my Director. What I realised immediately is the absolute thirst to communicate. People want to help but they aren’t given a voice enough. By the close of play the network had Executive attention and questions of policy came into play very quickly with some people being advised by their managers to withdraw. Remember, at this point no-one had had any instructions on what the product was or what it did, and the numbers kept growing.

I created some groups – obvious ones to discuss particular topics and also departments but very quickly other departments began creating their own groups. One particular thrill was the Payroll department opening for business and asking for feedback on the service they provide – when does that happen normally? How could it easily happen?

The obvious nervousness was around the look and feel of the site. It feels like a social media environment because its easy to use and potentially easy to abuse. I am aware of other launches where the site fizzles out as just another Facebook group or becomes a subculture. I have a feeling that because of the preparation work on communication the early adopters at my company knew how to behave and why the capability was launched. As a result they conformed with the crowd from the start and so new joiners had role models to copy. We had a couple of private messages in the early days asking people to moderate the wording of their profiles but no posts had to be removed. We had a couple of Facebook like greetings as new members came online but they soon picked up the house style.

We now have around 260 members, 20 groups, 2 external networks and membership covers all departments and all levels (including the Board). People use the system in different ways but we now have consistent steady, focussed use rather than initially we needed a little crowd entertainment and “hosting” to get things going. Most importantly we have a platform to drive change and to collaborate and we haven’t had to rein it back which could potentially lose momentum or goodwill . We’ve bought the main client external network and we see the potential with clients and stakeholders.

Written by greencontact

January 26, 2012 at 9:26 am