The Social Contact Centre

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

Posts Tagged ‘facebook

Social recruitment… the universities are doing a good job

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Image courtesy smuc.ac.uk

I’ve discussed before the merits of learning from your children: especially in the world of social networking. I recently observed at close quarters another excellent application.

My daughter is shortly off to University. Putting aside my own feelings at seeing her fly the nest, I remember my own university experience. I attended a sixth form college with very little contact with the outside world. I attended a couple of formal university open days, applied to a few and was given an offer based on achieving target grades. I waited until my exam results emerged and, if in doubt, rang the university for confirmation. I filled in some more forms for accommodation and then turned up on day one excited, bewildered and a little nervous.

The road to university is very different these days and much better for it. Along the way to acceptance my daughter has attended summer schools, sat entrance examinations, visited the universities through open days had interview days and corresponded with the academic departments. At each stage she has added Facebook friends and used the online student forums. This meant that as each was waiting to hear results or offers they were able to consult and console with their own support network. It’s much better not hearing anything if you know that no-one else has heard anything either! It also supplies a safety net for asking questions and setting expectations. For the universities this must undoubtedly provide valuable insight into the student experience which can only improve their recruitment in future.

Once she was accepted she was contacted by two students from her university who have been allocated as her college accommodation “parents”. They have introduced themselves and made her feel welcome. She will have two people to meet immediately on arrival who can show her the ropes, ensuring she gets fed and watered but also engaged with the social side from the start – University can be a lonely place for anyone not naturally outgoing. This has taken away a lot of the trepidation and given her something to look forward to and us a lot of peace of mind. She was then contacted by a subject “brother” – someone studying her course who will help her out with the subject – where the lectures are and someone she can ask about the workload. She has also been in touch with a group of other people who have now been accepted onto her course or her accommodation who are sharing the same experiences.

Although I am delighted for my daughter and relieved as a parent I am interested with the parallel with the workplace. The obvious links are with the recruitment process. How much better to welcome in a new employee through the interview preparation and then through their notice period by social networking. Could you get a quicker return on the salary investment and a happier new recruit who is more engaged with the company culture?

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Written by greencontact

October 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

Understanding the links


In 1929 Frigyes Karinthy summarised the future potential for friendship networks in a world where communications and travel were easier and cheaper. Six Degrees Of Separation was the model which suggested that two people anywhere in the world could be connected with each other by a chain of introductions. In the 1960s Stanley Milgram conducted experiments to prove the theory. Earlier this year Facebook announced that Facebook users were 4.74 degrees apart on average. 

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons by Dannie_walker.

It figures that if you want to communicate a message to as many people as possible you need to understand a little more about these interconnections. Firstly a tweet which is retweeted can rapidly go a long way and secondly you may be interested in curtailing the connections in some way.

Most social media tools are designed to spread the word. For example there are checkboxes in Twitter to copy your tweets automatically to Facebook. Its very easy to forward content but I quickly realised the importance of controlling this secondary connection. Something which may look right in Twitter can seem out of context in Facebook. An obvious distinction is the separation of the business and the personal. Each social media tool has its own flavour and its community expects you to behave according to its rules. I address this by having separate personal and business personas. For business, understanding this roadmap is very important – what are you trying to achieve and where do you want to do your selling? One logical solution is that the most functionality and greatest control is your website or your retail store. Therefore the mission of your social media is to signpost to either location. You can then map out a strategy on how you are going to achieve this for each of the channels you choose to use. Fail to think this through and you’ll either be an island or face lots of inadvertent unliking, unfollowing and unfriending

Written by greencontact

September 30, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Metrics for Social Commerce success

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Infographic courtesy Bazaarvoice

I really believe that at the end of every working day it is important to know whether you are winning or losing. It’s a viewpoint that ensures you stop doing pointless things and push harder on the things that work. When times are tough it puts it in perspective if you can look back at previous victories and can see that the current challenges are only on the journey to something good – showing the light at the end of the tunnel. Fundamental to this are very clear objectives and targets.

Social media is no different . We’re putting in the effort for a reason and it is important to understand, and more specifically for our bosses to understand, what the return looks like. I’ve blogged previously to indicate that the Social Media metric is Return on Influence. The emphasis on monetising social media is spawning the term social commerce.

In my mind the challenge is to think of social media as a channel. With my contact centre manager hat on I am used to understanding the return on investment of my activities. My clients understand their customers and they believe that the right balance of cost and service for their customers is to target me on answering 80% of their calls within 20 seconds for example. I know that to achieve this Erlang calculations tell me the number of people I need to have answering telephone calls at each part of the day. I can calculate my total costs by considering the amount of shrinkage I need to allow for holidays, sickness, lieu days, training, toilet breaks etc. Looking at it from the client’s side I can consider the value of each sale they make and the conversion rate against inbound calls. By factoring in the margin they make on each item I can work out a return on their investment in my contact centre. The important thing about inbound activities, whether they are telephone, white mail, web chat or email is that they are demand driven. In a purely inbound world the handle on the sausage machine turns and 1000 contacts produces x number of orders and so x number of products need to be manufactured to meet the demand. The emphasis in call centre operations these days is to minimise cost through first time resolution and to focus on customer satisfaction (which may require a few more touch points).

Social media turns the model on its head because, used well, it seeks out the conversation. I will discuss the merits of cars many times more than I will contact an automotive company’s help line. The challenge for automotive manufacturers is to build a relationship with me so that when the time comes to monetise my interest I understand the brand. It is much, much more complex though because I have a part to play in the influence of others too. Everyone likes to be seen as a clever consumer and so we tend to think that the car we drive/the holiday we chose/the clothes we wear were the best choices and we rate them accordingly. Bazaarvoice research as indicated by the infographic shows the difference between the Millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000 also known as Generation Y) and the Baby Boomers (1946-1964) in the importance of User Generated Content to their purchasing decisions. The bottom line is that the smart social commerce players want the potential purchasers of the car I drive to talk to me about my experiences, not send them a brochure.

So coming back to targets, the objective of the social commerce practitioner is to create and grow a carefully focussed community and to groom it with a light touch. Whereas my contact centre with its traditional channels is governed by demand, the perfect community would be the place where THE conversations happen. Only the Community Manager fully understands that the Community exists, its scale and its influence because it is built on layers of blogs, websites, Twitter feeds, Pinterest pages, and Facebook pages. Original content is created to feed the interest of participants but also the movers and shakers will participate. Taking the automotive example, it’s a big day when Jeremy Clarkson comments on your blogpost. And here is a further challenge; while it may be a great day if he likes what you have to say, woebetide it if he decides that today is the day to vent his spleen. Of course Mr Clarkson is subject to social pressure too – he wants to be seen building brand Clarkson by being Clarkson-esque but carrying some serious weight too. If your offer great cars and great service he is going to face a backlash if he decides to buck the trend.

I like to think of social media like water. It is a very precious resource that needs protecting and keeping pure but it is also an unpredictable natural resource – you will never master it. At best you can protect against the extreme damage and channel it to provide benefits in a wide range of ways but knowing that your best laid plans at some point have to change due to either drought or flood.

Initially your community of customers will be hugely grateful for the supply of fresh water you have provided for them to bathe, drink, create water features, enjoy as a natural spectacle, fish, swim, sail etc The moment you become complacent however they will start to scrutinise what you are doing more closely and challenge the price and service you provide!

So, at the end of today, how well are you managing the water? Market research is a key measure which indicates how well you are doing. You will never get the precision of knowing that a particular advertisement played well but the brand perception should move in accordance with your activities. There will be instances where the influence of social media can be captured precisely. Within the contact centre we regularly capture which specific advertising treatment triggered the purchase and the same crude mechanism could identify those customers who are following on Twitter for example. The customer database will grow with today’s name address, telephone number and email address being appended with Twitter name. Permission to contact by mail with carefully chosen offers could be altered to requesting permission to “friend” on Facebook.

Your customer satisfaction scores should also improve if you are proactively listening and engaging rather than relying on them getting in touch for help. Associated with this will be the day-to-day little wins – the new customer who takes the time to explain that the reason they are purchasing was a positive review they saw on Amazon or recommendations from Twitter followers.

The growth of PeerIndex, Klout and other social influence scores are becoming more and more relevant as they add social media platforms and work on the weightings and measures they use. I can see a day when Klout (or its future equivalent) is a reliable and meaningful metric that social commerce practitioners can treat in the same way a FTSE 100 board treat the share price. Accordingly I can see the time approaching where industry publications publish a regular index. In case you think it is a long way off, have a look at Dachis Group’s Social Business Index page http://www.socialbusinessindex.com/

 

Written by greencontact

October 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Pinning your hopes on a new social media product?

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ASOS’s Pinterest page

One of my mantras is that “Social Networking is permanent, Social Media is fashion”. Regularly new social media platforms emerge and get publicity and some of them gain momentum. MySpace, Friends Reunited, and Bebo had their time in the spotlight and were superseded by Facebook and Twitter as the dominant platforms. This year has marked the rise of Pinterest and Instagram.

In the Social Media B2B world you can’t afford to ignore anything – any strategy based on any one platform or anything anchored to just Facebook and Twitter is bound to founder sooner or later. You need to keep monitoring the blogs, checking the statistics and talking to customers to understand what’s hot. Trying to make sense of what is happening is more challenging. Is the growth of Pinterest based on new social media users who have found the platform they like, switchers from Facebook and/or Twitter, or does it serve a need which isn’t being addressed elsewhere so that it is a true addition to the social media? It’s too early to tell in my opinion and the best practise is to wade in and try to understand what Pinterest is about. As with most Social Media platforms the concept is really simple and the applications are really easy to use. The big question is always Why? What is it that drives people to move beyond just registering an account and into becoming a daily user and contributor – a content provider rather than a lurker?

The figures speak for themselves. Development started at the end of 2009 and in 2010 the first users were invited to use the controlled beta version. By the end of 2010 there were 10,000 users. The site really took off during 2011 with the launch of an iPhone app so that by the end of the year there were 11 million visits a week and the site was listed as one of the top ten social networking sites. In August 2012 the site was made available to everyone without invitation. There are now 29 million weekly North American visitors and the company is valued at $1.5 billion.

So what’s so attractive about a pinboard all of a sudden? Like most social media applications there is nothing revolutionary about the concept but something has absolutely struck a chord. The company says “Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people.”  Unlike Facebook which is geared around linking up with people through friends, and Twitter which is about sharing what you are doing or thinking to strangers, Pinterest is about linking people together through things. People say that you can tell a lot about someone by seeing their record collection, bookshelf or wardrobe and Pinterest is building on this. It is also building on the growth of scrapbooking and the standard practice of creatives to collect pieces of inspiration in a book.

The applications are interesting and are part of what drives lots of social media usage – they are the way that social media moves from being a passive page to something much more interesting and creative. The examples on the Pinterest home page are of people gathering ideas either for personal inspiration or to crowd source opinion – weddings being organised with input from friends and family, designers gathering inspiration online in a way which previously would have involved a scrapbook.

From a B2B perspective the challenge is then whether to and how  to use Pinterest in a way which is sympathetic to your business objectives and the Pinterest user community. With anything new the risk is that either companies pitch in because they feel they need to have a presence or conversely shy away because they don’t understand what it does. Retailers have been pioneers in this area – they have latched on to the vibrancy of the platform and the behaviours of younger fashion customers leafing through magazines for inspiration. It’s still early days but ASOS are pioneers on many things Social http://pinterest.com/asos/. Does it work in terms of money through the till? It’s too early to say but it does have 14,000 followers. The biggest brand on Pinterest, with almost 300,000 followers is The Perfect Palette. The biggest user is Ez Pudewa, a blogger, with 2.8m!

There is an excellent article assessing the power of Pinterest from a marketer’s point of view here http://www.zazzlemedia.co.uk/blog/assessing-pinterest-for-uk-marketers-do-we-really-need-to-care/ by James Carson of Bauer Media.

Written by greencontact

October 12, 2012 at 12:28 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

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

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Early days


So my journey began with scepticism. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to use the technology and I was surrounded by teenage kids who clearly wanted to do nothing else. My honest opinion was that Facebook in particular was an incredibly destructive force – the kids were wasting their time and may as well be playing video games.

And then I had an epiphany!

I realised that I was already social networking. I’d not touched Facebook or Twitter but I always Googled any error messages I was getting on my PC, I always used TripAdvisor when booking a hotel and I always checked out the reviews on Amazon before buying anything. I’d been doing it for years and I just hadn’t labelled it correctly.

From about 2008 I just waded in. I talked to my children about it to understand more about how they used it – one of my proudest moments was persuading my eldest daughter to start blogging and twittering. At first it was bewildering. There are hundreds of social networking sites – the New Lenses of Wealth infographic is well out of date but makes the point – and I tried some which just didn’t work for me. I also discovered that Twitter really did and I soon developed a very clear objective for my own Twitter presence – local networking. I started by following everyone and doing the rounds of celebrities. I realised that I have no interest in a celebrity unless they can educate me or make me laugh so I unfollowed most of them. I settled on following only local businesses and people and unfollowing them if they didn’t follow me back. I figured that I would soon begin to build “relationships” but wasn’t sure what the nature of them would be. I began with the assumption that what worked for personal must also work for business.

And around the same time I took on responsibility for my employer’s Social Media strategy.

Written by greencontact

July 19, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Opinion

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