Resolutions 2010: Implementing Jeremiah Owyang’s How Customer Support organizations must evolve

Great summary for any leadership in any organization!
Customer support is tactical, a cost-center, and the clean-up-kids at the company.
Well, that’s the mentality that needs to change.  Instead, customer support can be strategic, a value center, and proactive towards customer needs.The lines between marketing and support continue to blur, as customers share their experiences (most recently, Dooce vs her Whirlpool washing machine) the support experience she has becomes a PR task. Support organizations must quickly evolve as customers connect to each other –and share their stories –using social technologies.

How Customer Support Organizations Must Evolve:
Companies need to stop treating support as lowly department to deal with customers problems, and start to advance their role.

Go Beyond the Official Support Domain
Some companies only support customers on ‘official’ requests such as calls to 1800 numbers or support tickets generated in help systems.  The evolved support organization must go to where customers already are at, like in the social web to find, triage, and respond to customers.  For example, Logitech was proactive in responding to my customer needs in Twitter –shifting the conversation to email and solving my problems.  The many companies who have joined Get Satisfaction, conduct support on Twitter and Facebook are already demonstrating this value.

Become A Strategic Asset to Marketing
Outsourced support site Get Satifaction’s credo that “Support is Marketing” is spot on.  As customers share their product experience with their trusted peers –they influence their network.  Comcast’s Frank Eliason and his Comcastcares team as an indicator of a PR blessed support individual becoming a marketing asset. As a result, customer support experiences are indeed the scope of marketing.  Perhaps the most trusted members of a company are not the VPs of marketing and their shiny blog, but the rough and tumble support technician who resonates and resembles a customer.

Influence Product Development
Customer touching groups have more insight to the needs of the market and must integrate with product development teams. For example, Intuit integrates community in their actual product –enhacing how customer voices influence their next-generation. Customer interactions should be recorded, prioritized and share with product teams who are designing the next generation of products.

Let Go and Allow Customers to Self-Support Each Other
In many cases, customers as a collective know more about the product set than a support team or product team do.  Microsoft and other tech companies have developed a thriving community of customers that self-support each other in their developer forums. Companies struggle letting go of answering questions about products, but should instead use the right collaboration and knowledge capturing tools to allow customers to self support each other.

Become Proactive, Not Reactive
Support organizations must not only be responsive and wait for customer issues to go awry, but be proactive and head off issues before they become customer problems.  Beyond companies forced to issue recalls, asking customers how their experience is going on a regular basis is key.  Expect support organizations to develop advanced monitoring strategies and couple with CRM systems to instantly alert stakeholders of issues that can be corrected.

Anticipate, And Move Beyond Real-Time
Most companies already have 24/7 support organizations that can handle customer needs round-the-clock yet need to prepare for real time responses.  Shuffling customers with issues (esp influencers) into a queue only amps frustration.  The truly evolved support organization anticipates customer issues using proactive techniques mentioned above.

Get Actionable:
The path to the evolved state of support isn’t easy, to start with, companies should get started by:

Measure based on Value –Not as a Cost Center
Support organizations must not only measure based on customer sat, number of calls received and closed, but develop marketing and PR metrics. Measure on how many crises were diverted, new knowledge gleaned, and interactions in the open web.

Develop An Internal Marketing Plan
Get a seat at the table by demonstrating the strategic component of customer facing support efforts. Show marketing, product development, and leadership teams why your scope has increased –as should your internal influence.

Enhance Your Existing Processes
Put in processes that enable support in the real-time open web. You’ll need the right roles, processes, and tools to grow where your customers already are. Develop a triage system that integrates marketing’s efforts in social with your own internal processes to identify, triage, and react to customers.

Conduct Internal Training –and Fire Drills
New technologies require new processes, skills, and roles. Support organizations must train staff to learn new tools like mobile, social networks, and brand monitoring tools. Conduct internal “fire drills” and have contingency plans to avoid staying off this list.

Expand CRM and Customer Systems To Connect to Social Web
Customers are off the reservation, as should your systems. Learn to identify, prioritize, and capture customer interactions as they spread to social platforms and the to mobile.


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Building Customer Relationships is a Journey: Does Your Social Media Plan include a Map?

Regular readers of this blog may be aware that I do not believe in the paradigm of true relationship between customers and organizations. I check the report mentioned. It was delivered in 2007. A long time ago before the crisis and its gigantic impact for the public and the customer morale. Anyway a good read because the point of views can contribute to creating your construct and context!

Found at

By John I. Todor, Ph.D., The Whetstone Edge, LLC

Strong customer relationships are essential to a company’s ability to sustain profits and have a shot at growth. This was the clear finding of a worldwide study by the Economist Intelligence Unit. They found that 90% of senior executive concurred. Here’s the way they put it:

…the winning differentiator is no longer product or price, it is the level of engagement—the degree to which a company succeeds in creating intimate, long-term relationships with customers.

Intimate relationships imply an openness—a sharing of concerns, challenges and desires. But this type of relationship requires two-way trust. Unfortunately, customer trust is very low.

Low Trust Customer Relationships


Distrust of a company usually happens for one of two reasons. The first is the customer suspects or detects a one-sided agenda: the company is most interested in a sale and less interested in delivering what the customer needs or values.

Seventy-seven percent of people stop doing businesses with companies they don’t trust. But it doesn’t stop there. They tell others, and 33% spread the word over the Internet.

Low trust in business, as is now generally the case, leads to suspicion which leads customers to adopt a one-sided agenda of their own. At best the relationship becomes competitive, at worst, adversarial. The classic example is the perception that a used car salesperson will say whatever it takes to sell a car. As a result, customers push hard for a lower price or other concessions.

Low trust contributes to closed mindedness—customers become immune to persuasion making it hard for a company to communicate effectively. This customer indifference has a serious consequence. Customers treat products like commodities bought on the best trade-off between price and convenience. There is no relationship, nothing to bring customers back to a particular business.

While many businesses believe they are the good guys and are worthy of customer trust, assuming customers believe the same thing is a big mistake. The general low trust in business tars everyone with the same brush. Companies can overcome this by deliberately shifted the focus of the relationship from their offering to the value customers get from using or consuming it. But customer must experience this. When they do, they are likely to become advocates.

Getting Started on the Journey

In the trust curve, there is a barrier between companies that are perceived to be focused on the sale and companies that are customer-centric. To get over the barrier the company must attract customers with a hopeful proposition: A proposition leads to a gratifying customer experience. I call this hopeful trust.

There are many online strategies that will attract a customer to a website or landing page. Some may even make a sale. But if they fail to accrue trust that convinces the customer that it is not a gimmick, it is a one shot event.

To get past hopeful trust companies must come through on a promise that is meaningful to the customer. They must also repeatedly engage with customers to demonstrate that the relationship has future value. Relationships build trust when customers believe the company will be there for them in the future. Trusting relationships simplify things in a fast-changing and increasingly complex world. With this kind of trust customers want the company to be around.

Does your company have a deliberate plan to develop this type of customer relationship?

My book, Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company spells out the psycho-economics principles that get customers engaged and lead to relationships customers value and reward with commitment and loyalty.

The Whetstone Edge, LLC, has applied the underlying psycho-economic principles to social media and customer relationships. Our framework enables someone to deliberately build in ways to build customer relationship rather than tactics that work temporarily and/or encourage customers to adopt a competitive or adversarial relationship.

If you are interested in learn how this psycho-economic framework can apply to social media, I suggest you consider my upcoming online course:

Building Customers Relationships and Advocacy with Social Media

This 3-session course is sponsored by the Social Media Academy. To register or for more details go to: Social Media Academy


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Checking out E Kolsky A brief history of SCRM

As we are moving away from mere communication to real conversations in a business environment in which a control attitude is replaced by a collaborative urgence it is always good for front office managers to reflect on how CRM and social media are converging.

This great and extensive post from Esteban enables you to do so.  Construct your mindset, connect and act!

Post found at

Paul Greenberg put the stake in the ground by defining SCRM and said that we needed to grow if from there.

I agree.  And it is in that spirit that I want to introduce this post.  A little bit longer that most of my posts, but a way to start the conversation on what does SCRM look like once implemented.

A Brief History of CRM

In the first few generations of CRM we saw the basic three pillars (sales, marketing, and customer service), a common data model (probably the best innovation CRM provided to organizations), and common integration points to the existing systems in the organization: ERP, legacy, databases — even partner applications in occasions (look ma, no VAN!).  The following picture is a basic representation of what CRM 1.0 looks like.

Traditional CRM Implementation

Traditional CRM Implementation

These implementations collected data across all functions in the front office, store it in a central location and use it.  That data was all operational: who did what when, for how long, and what were the results.  The promise of a “holistic customer representation” or “360 view of the customer” did not materialize since we were missing the most important item in the equation: what the customer wanted when they came to see us, why did they need that, and what was the result of the interaction.  In other words, we had the content but we were missing the context and intent of those interactions.

Later we began to add “components” that complimented what we were missing.  Created analytical CRM by adding analytics engines to it.  Began to measure customer satisfaction via surveys and inserted that value into the customer records (not always).  Became proactive by trying to get what we needed to make good decisions: context and intent.  Products were enhanced, better integration added, and more powerful CRM solutions released.

CRM 2.0 was born, but not necessarily an improvement in the search for perfect customer knowledge.  Despite collecting the information, and in some cases integrating it with the existing data, we could not mesh all the data, all the insights, and all the processes together.  All our actions were reactive, and the customer was not directly involved as part of the decision-making: it was still company-centric in reality albeit the label of customer-centricity.

We began to include the customers perspective and we evolved more by adding EFM engines, predictive analytics (sales, marketing, and customer service), proactive customer service.  We wanted to improve the relationship and get to work better with customers as we moved into CRM 3.0.  There were some improvements in relationships – but the vast majority of the information we needed was still out of reach.  Over 90% of customer feedback is in unstructured feedback: blogs, social networks, private conversations, chat and IM, emails and the like.  Not being able to tap this data was limiting as to how much an organization could learn about their customers.

There were early attempts to explore this new world.  Collaborative Customer Service (communities and forums), blog-trolling software with speech and tech analytics, different methods for feedback event beyond surveys (e.g. focus groups for customer service) were all attempts to collect and leverage this information.  Some of them worked great, some of them not so much.  Alas, the basic infrastructure for leveraging the information collected was still missing.

A Brief History of Social CRM (SCRM)

Enter the Groundswell revolution and the advent of Social Media into the enterprise.  Organizations start to listen to customers.  They acknowledge there is a lot of data about their business but don’t know how to find it or tap into it.  We feel empowered by what we are discovering — but we still don’t have a framework to take advantage of this!  The tools give some guidelines and insights as to how to proceed, but nothing really in the sense of strategy or what to do with it.

We are entering CRM 4.0 (amazing how Paul Greenberg’s book is also coming on version 4.0 — coincidence? I think not) and we need some guidance.

See the chart below for my proposed framework for SCRM:

Proposed SCRM Framework

Proposed SCRM Framework

A few things you will notice in this chart.

  1. There is nothing new to add here – everything you already have (if you have been following the evolution I described above) is still there.  Few things you may need to add if you have not been following along, communities, EFM, integration with the cloud.  How much and how? It will vary by your organization’s architecture and needs.
  2. There are two layers of business rules as they apply to social interactions.  One tells the organization how to approach each channel, the other what to do with the data collected.  If you had a CIH (Customer Interaction Hub (**)) implementation you would not need these (actually, if you had a CIH we would be having a very different conversation since that model already included most of what you need to make SCRM work).  What is the CIH?  It is a framework that I created that describes how to bring new channels into the organization and leverage them across the enterprise.  Email me about it, we can setup some time to talk or I can send you some slides.
  3. Communities come at you from two different fronts: customer communities and partner communities.  The new model for Enterprise 2.0 calls for many-to-many relationships between communities, this is simply preparing SCRM to be a part of E2.0.
  4. The cloud becomes a key component of your architecture.  You can ask anyone who heard me before, I had forever maintained that organizations would not adopt hosted-CRM, SaaS, or whatever label you want to put on it without secure data transfers.  Using SaaS solutions isolated from the rest of the enterprise is not a solution, is creating another problem.  Thanks to the cloud (and we are not there yet, I know) we see a glimmer of hope in the near future to actually use SaaS solutions seamlessly integrated into the legacy and back-office systems.
  5. Feedback Management becomes the fourth pillar for CRM.  This is the quintessential integration that makes CRM work in a social environment.  Most of what we capture from the communities must be considered feedback.  The limited operational data we obtain can be easily separated by the business rules and stored in the appropriate places.

A (Very) Brief History of Customer Experience

There is one more thing to talk about: the link between SCRM and Customer Experience.  I believe this is where we will see the biggest improvement to organizations adopting SCRM.

Traditional Customer Experience Management relied on three components to do what it does: feedback management, business process management, and CRM .  As we move forward into SCRM these components will change – as will the function of CE.  See this next chart for a better idea of this change:

Shifts in Customer Experience Management

Shifts in Customer Experience Management

There are two things to note here.  First, the number of components and simpler complexity of the architecture .  By converting feedback management into the fourth pillar of CRM and taking some of the interactions between components as internal functions of SCRM the model has fewer “moving parts”.  This is good from the point of view of implementing simpler solutions and initiatives for customer experience.

The second item to note is that Customer Experience Management has morphed into Social Customer Engagement.  As customers discover how to converse with vendors better, and how to work directly within the “grid”, the term management is being replaced by the term engagement.  In addition, we see more and more customers gravitate towards communities of one type or another – and while we continue to deal with customers one-on-one, we cannot ignore the influence they receive and the trust they place in it.

More on this shift in Customer Experience in future posts.  Just wanted to introduce the concept.

Finally, an acknowledgment.  As I was shopping these slides and concepts around I got to talk to Prem Kumar (@prem_k in the #scrm Twitter community).  While exchanging ideas and concepts, he pointed me to his slideshare presentation on SCRM.  He has a lot of the same concepts with more detail and more technically inclined.  Unfortunately I had not see it before, or I would not have done the work I did.

I encourage you to take a look at his presentation for a better idea of how SCRM will grow.

OK, I am done now.  Let’s open the floodgates of criticism and praise.

What do you think?  What did I miss?  What didn’t i miss?  Any way you would do it better or different?  Please let me know.  Leave me a comment and tell me what you think is needed to move this to the next level – or what are we going to continue to support as we move forward.

(**) This is a link to Gartner Research.  You must be a client to access it, or you can pay for it if you think it is outstanding.


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Oliver Marks on McKinsey’s ‘Business and Web 2.0′ Report and the new Consulting Landscape

Found at

McKinsey, the venerable management consulting company, has produced their second piece of ‘Web 2.0 in business‘ research this year. This is arguably a sign of the rapid maturation of the 2.0 technology and associated (and I’d argue more important) change management sector: the pricey consulting company presumably smells money given their focus for their prospects and customers with this free (with login) information.

It’s a solid and useful report, albeit a little definitively written given that it is essentially the results of an online survey they ran in June of this year which sixteen hundred and ninety five people responded to – not really a big effort given McKinsey’s ubiquity worldwide…

More on the report in a moment, but first my thoughts on the ‘Business and Web 2.0′ consulting landscape. In the last couple of weeks two of the smartest Forrester analysts (Jeremiah Owyang and Ray Wang) left that company to join former Forrester analyst Charlene Li at the Altimeter Group, and the still-in-stealth-mode Dachis Group purchased UK and Australia based Headshift.

McKinsey have a long history in the management consulting world (’the industry and practice of helping organizations improve their performance, primarily through the analysis of existing business problems and development of plans for improvement‘ - wikipedia). Most of Enron’s top management were McKinsey alumni and some blame the industry for aspects of the current economic crisis. This is one of the challenges of being a major player – you leave a trail through history.

Given the heft of large players like McKinsey, and to be fair also their historical global competitors, it is relatively easy for them to consume the innovation in the Enterprise 2.0/’Web 2.0 in Business’ space and roll it up into their offerings.

There’s a sea change in the way capitalism is emerging from the financial conflagration which is asking serious questions about the way things we got into the mess in the first place.

A new generation of informed and agile consulting is coalescing around the new technologies; these new companies aspire to break the old order and lead the way on how to extract value from rapid cultural and technological change for their clients.

Like Microsoft Sharepoint (’the Chrysler Sebring of software’ as someone tweeted today), there’s nothing disastrously (usually) wrong with the old order: plenty of people will pay handsomely for guidance from trusted software vendors and consultants going forward.

The bigger question – and the challenge for the new generation consultant community of which I am a part – is differentiating from these more conservative players to demonstrate greater business value. The DNA of older firms like McKinsey have ‘old school’ written large throughout, but the new game of identifying and delivering business value in specific ‘Web 2.0 in business’ context is rapidly changing what businesses seeking competitive advantage are looking for.

Having said this, the McKinsey ‘Web 2.0 in business’ report, which to be fair is their third yearly offering (In 2008, the survey received 1,988 responses; in 2007 it received 2,847 responses) is a solid, middle of the road effort, not unlike the Chrysler Sebring. In employee appraisal terms it ‘meets expectations’…

Hitting the McKinsey report highlights, their findings

…demonstrate that success follows a “power curve distribution”—in other words, a small group of users accounts for the largest portion of the gains. According to our research, the 20 percent of users reporting the greatest satisfaction received 80 percent of the benefits. Drilling a bit deeper, we found that this 20 percent included 68 percent of the companies reporting the highest adoption rates for a range of Web 2.0 tools, 58 percent of the companies where use by employees was most widespread, and 82 percent of the respondents who claimed the highest levels of satisfaction from Web 2.0 use at their companies.

…While the evidence suggests that focused management improves Web 2.0 performance, there’s still a way to go before users become as satisfied with these technologies as they are with others. The top 20 percent of companies reached a performance score of only 35 percent (the score increased to 44 percent in the 2009 survey). When the same score methodology is applied to technologies that corporations had previously adopted, Web 2.0’s score is below the 57 percent for traditional corporate IT services, such as e-mail, and the 80 percent for mobile-communications services.

‘Increasing speed of access to knowledge’ for internal purposes, and also when working with external partners/suppliers tops the ‘measurable gains’ charts, while for customer related purposes (the social CRM space) increasing effectiveness of marketing leads in the third category.

Video sharing, then blogs lead the measurable benefit from using a given web 2.0 technology in the same categories. Rather than regurgitate the report in this truncated format I suggest digesting the six pages of tables and findings. They are broad but you may find them to be of value to your specific context in some cases…

Oliver MarksOliver Marks provides seasoned independent consulting guidance to companies on the effective planning of ‘Enterprise 2.0′ strategy, tactics, technology decisions and roll out. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.


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