The Social Contact Centre

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

Posts Tagged ‘tripadvisor

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.

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Written by greencontact

September 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm

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

Tagged with , , ,

Peer Power…why TripAdvisor works

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Image courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk

In recent times TripAdvisor has come under close scrutiny over the authenticity of its reviews.  TripAdvisor has been hosting reviews from travellers since 2000 and there are now around 50m reviews of hotels. restaurants, attractions and locations. For many people, myself included, TA is the first point of call whenever they look for a holiday. So why does it work and what are its shortcomings?

TripAdvisor works on a few levels.

 

  • Firstly it plays on the inherent benevolence of people. We work too hard to have a poor travel experience and so it makes sense to avoid problems wherever possible. Conversations about holidays are widespread in any pub or workplace and all that TA does is provide a platform for those conversations to be structured. People like to share their experiences to help other people.
  • Where holidays are concerned, as with many other topics, people also like to boast and show expertise to others. We all like to show that we went off the beaten path, found a hidden gem or got a real bargain. TripAdvisor is the perfect vehicle for it. For the competitive amongst us it also allows some gaming with different levels being awarded for numbers of reviews given.
  • TA also tells a more rounded truth. Hoteliers have criticised it recently for having scathing reviews from customers blackmailing the owners. There was noticeably no criticism from them when holiday-makers had to make do with equally Photoshopped and gilded brochures in travel agents. When I buy anything I want to know both sides of coin. Nowhere is perfect but I want to know what the risks are and assess them from my perspective. Criticism that reviews are biassed is ridiculous since every review of everything has been written from the author’s perspective. TA also tells a more detailed truth. General guidebooks can’t tell you which rooms to ask for and which to avoid, whether the wifi is good value or the best place to eat locally and watch the football.
  • It works also because it has a simple but elegant design. It’s easy to search and navigate and is supported on a range of platforms – critically you can use it on the move
  • Finally it works because it has critical mass. 50m reviews (there are 500k in London alone) make it a sensible option – better than any other source.

Much of the tabloid criticism has focused in on the banality of some of the reviews and the lack of detail in some areas. This I think is part of its charm – it has a truth about it. Most B&Bs are samey and most customers are just looking for value for money, a clean bed for the night and a good breakfast. There isn’t an essay there. Hoteliers and restaurateurs should embrace TripAdvisor as a free market research provider – giving the feedback they only get if they incentivise. They should take criticism objectively and try to be better at what they do. TripAdvisor’s own research suggests readers think the reviews have an accuracy level of over 98%. I have spoken to B&B owners who feel that TripAdvisor raises people’s expectation – they expect Hotel service at a B&B price and therefore they are going to be disappointed. I have also seen hotels who feel their livelihood has been ruined by a malicious review. When something is bad though, I think it is really important that this is aired. My most-read review is of a hotel in Barcelona which was fine for most of our needs but had particularly awkward front desk staff – they should be told. My second most-read review is of a hotel in Spain which was cheap and cheerful but very enjoyable – it had over 1000 readers within 7 days.

Unfortunately, as a customer I have visited hotels without looking on TripAdvisor and then seen the problems retrospectively. One hotel in particular, which has had millions spent on it still has some enormous fundamental problems and the staff are holding the place together. Review after review point this out but seemingly nothing gets done. What I now do, and I believe that most people are becoming social-savvy now. Is to search for hotels in an area which meet the price you are able to pay and then read the reviews. Discard the ridiculously high ratings while noting the points they raise. Discard the terribly low scores while doing the same. If you read the reviews in the middle you’ll soon pick up the recurring themes and pick the best option for your particular needs.

Of course TripAdvisor provides this service for the traveller but there are other similar sources of peer review – Amazon product reviews, Mumsnet product reviews, specialist forums in niche areas e.g. DIY, automotive, gardening and decorating. As a producer it is vitally important to track what your peers are saying about you and to react positively. If your product stinks; fix it. Don’t blame the consumer for being unhappy.

Don’t forget the golden rule though – if you take advice from TripAdvisor or any other forum you should write your own reviews too!

Written by greencontact

June 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm

A benevolent crowd

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Social Networking is driven by the fundamental benevolence in the participants and this can be immensely powerful. The desire for people to help each other encourages people to do a day’s work and then spend further hours helping out complete strangers. Consider this: The DIYDoctor.org.uk website offers advice for DIYers having problems with any project. Member plumbbob has helped out with advice over 1600 times and Sparx 2100 times. The IT community are used to sharing knowledge. When was the last time you actually called Microsoft or Apple with a problem rather than Google it or look through forums. Stackoverflow.com is ranked as the 64th most visited website in the UK (according to Alexa.com) and has a community of developers helping each other and gaining reputation points from their peers. Not far behind is TripAdvisor in 71st, a site that hosts 45m reviews of hotels, resorts, attractions and restaurants by benevolent travellers.

From a cult which began as forums the desire to share has now spawned sites dedicated to answering your questions regardless of topic: Yahoo Answers, Answers.Com, Quora.

So what is this benevolence based on? Clearly there is the fundamental desire to help. It is human nature to be charitable; to help someone in need. But much of this activity is on a low degree of urgency and displays a degree of self-interest too. Some other factors which appear prevalent are:

1. Gaming and competition. There are specialist providers who offer to “gamify” websites to drive up engagement. Web 2.0 is all about participation and engaging with the community. Think  about the number of engagements which are rewarded with badges or are stimulated by targets. WordPress itself reminds you of the next goal in terms of numbers of posts. TripAdvisor has badges for contributors set at a fairly low threshold. This is not really about rewarding loyalty but about stimulating usage. For many the objective of Twitter is to maximise followers. Across a range of Social Media platforms tools such as Klout and Peer Index attempt to rank and profile engagement.

2. Boasting. Particularly for the more technical skills there appears to be an element of wanting to be “seen” as a guru or expert in your field. In some of the forums there appears to be a little jousting between technical rivals even. The Stackoverflow website nakedly scores contributors with a reputation score based on volume and likes.

3. Companionship. For some the social media world has undoubtedly given them a voice which they would be shy to use as frequently or at the same volume in the “real” world. Engagement is not always about answering the question or solving the problem – there is a high level of empathy demonstrated.

4. Cost and time saving. Possibly the most important factor of all is the desire to reduce our costs and save time. Web 2.0 is a 24×7 world with vastly more expertise available than any one call centre. People understand that the contributions they are making are an investment for when they need help themselves. There are still huge numbers of “lurkers” who take without giving or are waiting for the problem to come along that they themselves can answer.

There is an undercurrent of manipulation emerging which sceptics have latched on to. TripAdvisor, in particular, has attracted negative publicity over “false reviews” which are either placed by owners or proprietors to boost rankings or by malevolent individuals looking to extort from them. Forums are regularly monitored or moderated by undercover suppliers. This is undoubtedly a threat to benevolence but Web 2.0 users are very savvy and can read between the lines more than ever before.

The true sign that benevolence is alive and well comes in the form of  Crowdfunding. Charity has long been successful asking for donations with no payback in support of worthwhile projects. Crowdfunding allows people to connect with projects and to contribute money to them in return for recognition or token gifts. Examples at the moment on http://www.crowdfunding.co.uk are unsigned artists looking for funding for their first album, charity projects, and political parties looking for funds for TV adverts. Similar platforms exist for businesses looking for equity. The difference is that inherent in the investment is a close relationship between funder and recipient from the start. The funder is providing the money directly to the individuals for a very specific project which they have an interest in – more Dragon’s Den than traditional sources of capital.

Photo: bridalwave.tv

Written by greencontact

February 6, 2012 at 10:46 am

Saving Canute

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The social media world is not all sunshine. The Wikipedia blackout earlier this week demonstrates the dichotomy of the Groundswell vs The Law. We could add to the chargesheet the allegations today by Neil Warnock that Twitter comments contributed to his sacking from QPR http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/16641490.stm, breaching of superinjunctions by Twitterers, manipulation of reviews by professional complainers on TripAdvisor or product endorsement by celebrities…the list goes on. And these provide easy targets for the sceptics. What can we do to counter the argument and what can we do to address the problems in our strategy?

I think that it is too easy to blame the messenger. Football managers have blamed former players and the Press for their demise in the past. National newspapers have run the risk of legal action in the pursuit of the truth. There have been “payola” and product placement scandals in the past. All Social Media allows is a louder voice and a larger audience – it has shifted the balance of power. What is often overestimated is the influence of  the message by assuming a naive and unquestioning crowd. We know that there will be some who take the message – fashion and newspapers are all about opinion and setting or following the trend – but the social media user is increasingly savvy. They are also inherently benevolent: alongside the desire to share is a healthy dose of openness and honesty.

There is undoubtedly a feature of the Web 2.0 which expects to have things for free (or more precisely to pay for it in different ways). This is highlighted by the enormous success of open source software such as Firefox or Linux which have developed due to the desire for software users to be free of the limitations of cost and speed of development. They have shown that the emperor is naked – there can be a different way. Sadly, the disreputable element is also evident in the copyright challenges which were at the heart of the Wikipedia blackout and the Megaupload.com closure yesterday. Yet again though it is too easy to blame the messenger – copyright theft happened long before Web 2.0 – yet again the technology has only made things easier. However, what it also highlights is the consumer demand is changing. Many people have thrived on the development of Linux – both suppliers and consumers. The big losers are the vendors of proprietary operating systems and hardware. The entertainment industry is learning. I think they are right to clamp down on blatant theft but they are also lobbying for laws which are far too draconian and could unintentionally catch some innocent bystanders in the process. Already companies like Spotify, Netflix, and Lovefilm have understood the groundswell and are developing products which more fit the lifestyle and expectations of the Web 2.0 generation – and make money at the same time.

The right strategy for dealing with the negative is to understand the underlying motivations. You can stand Canute-like on the shore waving at the sea…until you drown.

Written by greencontact

January 20, 2012 at 9:32 am