The Social Contact Centre

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

Posts Tagged ‘iPhone

Leave everyone to their own devices – even Apple’s iPhone 5 will become soooo last year

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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

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 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 by James Carson of Bauer Media.

Written by greencontact

October 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm