Sunday, 31 October 2010

Fighting fires or building firewalls

Why is it that we often reward fighting fires rather than building firewalls?

The sales person who pulls in a last-hour, unforecasted deal at the end of Q4 is treated as a hero, whereas the relationship manager who signs another deal on time with a long term customer is dull and boring.

The customer service agent who works all hours to react to customer complaints and has a brilliant ability to calm down angry customers is revered; whereas the agent who suggests making a change in a process because it keeps causing customer’s problems is often ignored.

In the world of social CRM, customers tweet, blog & post angry videos to YouTube because they have something to say and they want to be heard. You cannot possible scale to respond to the volume of social content using traditional channels and processes. So instead of constant fire-fighting, why not listen and fix the problem (or opportunity) at source.

Build firewalls instead of fighting fires.

Sailing towards the island of Social bliss

Michael Maoz wrote a terrific post this week: You failed at Customer Service, so now try Social Processes. As ever, his post is short, succinct and to the point: "over $75bn spent on CRM-related business applications to date", yet “over the past ten years the level of customer satisfaction has edged up only slightly – for most industries in the vicinity of 3-5 percent”. He continues “along comes everything “Social” to cure the malady of poor service...”

There are no short cuts to customer success. I wrote an article with friend and colleague Reg Price ten years ago in which we called for back to basics thinking in CRM. We wrote in 2000:

“In next generation CRM, customer relationship management practices and software solutions must reach deep into the most fundamental processes of a firm, like order entry, invoicing and ensure that promises made (whether implicit or explicit) are met. It is superficial (indeed futile!) to try for customer delight if customers are being let down by the basics.”

We commissioned a cartoonist to draw up the cartoon shown below of an organisation sailing towards the “island of customer delight” promised by their shiny new CRM system, whist of course forgetting about the basics of customer relationships:

- Understanding and meeting customer needs
- Orders being delivered on time and correct
Bills being accurate
Customer privacy being respected
Front line staff having the right incentives in place

It’s interesting to note that in many respects, little has changed in the last 10 years. The cartoon above could easily be applied to Social CRM:

- Let’s not worry about customer service issues – our customers will fix problems on our behalf in our forum!
Forget about traditional marketing – Customers will forward our blogs, re-tweet our Tweets  and “like” us on Facebook!
Why bother generating new product ideas? – Customers will suggest ideas on our ideas site

Of course, Social CRM offers organisations huge potential to listen and respond to the direct and authentic voice of the customer. I’ve argued previously that in many ways it represents the missing piece of the CRM puzzle. And of course, there are many examples of organisations like GiffGaff, Threadless, Dell & Starbucks  who are successfully harnessing the power of the social customer to get their customers working on their behalf. But simply adopting the tools, without the mindset, the processes, the incentives is a recipe for disaster. Surely we remember that from the boom and bust of CRM?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Characterising different approaches to social media.

I gave a presentation today at the Exact Target Connections conference in London. The purpose of the presentation was to take a light-hearted look at the different approaches organisations are taking towards social media. The slides are in the slideshare presentation below:
Structures for authentic social media engagement
View more presentations from Laurence Buchanan.

In Summary, I described eight different approaches to social media. Although these could be seen as evolutionary steps, in fact, I emphasised during my presentation that there is no “right” approach per se. Different approaches will work for different organisations, with different requirements in different industries.

Approach 1- The ostrich approach
As the name suggests, the ostrich approach is one where the organisation chooses to simply ignore social media, either through fear, or simply lack of relevance or perceived value. The ostrich buries its head in the sand and hope that the danger will soon pass.

Approach 2 – The megaphone approach
This is one of the most common approaches that I see with organisations that have only dabbled with social media. Typically they start in Marketing / PR and view social media as another outbound channel to Tweet special offers, or link to press releases. Normally organisations that take this approach are poorly set up to handle two-way interactions when customers comment or complain. They assume that peer to peer simply means that people will forward on or re-tweet their broadcast content.

Approach 3 – The chameleon approach
If there’s one thing guaranteed to whip up a social media storm its deceit and a lack of transparency. Amazon incurred the wrath of bloggers when some of its product reviews were exposed as being written by authors, promoting their own books. The chameleon approach (also known as the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” approach) is one where the organisation tries to disguise itself and blend into a “public” forum, posting suspiciously positive comments and reviews...

Approach 4 – The dancing dad approach
I borrowed this one from a colleague of mine at Capgemini. The antithesis of the chameleon approach, the dancing dad stands out like sore thumb. Think about the industrial German manufacturer who sets up a Facebook Fan page so that its customers can “like” it. Not cool.

Approach 5 – The command and control approach
Often an approach embraced by organisations that have been burnt by social media. The command and control approach is one where only a select few can engage in social media and their participation is governed by strict guidelines of what they can say. Every blog, every Tweet, every video posted is heavily audited and in strict alignment with brand guidelines. Usually only a select few are allowed to participate.

Approach 6 – The hare and tortoise approach
This is one of the most common approaches to social media that I come across. The hare and tortoise approach is one where some parts of the organisation race ahead to set up new social channels, grab followers and “engage” with customers. Other departments lag far behind creating a disjointed customer experience both across different departments and also across new media and traditional CRM channels.

Approach 7 – The joined up approach
Clearly a tough approach to master. As its name suggests, the joined up approach demands the breaking down of silos across departments and across channels. Organisations that aspire to this aim typically show outside-in, customer-centric thinking and consider the customer’s cross-channel experience.

Approach 8 – Handing over control
A small number of organisations, typically start-ups, have found considerable success with this approach.  The organisation hands over control of product development ideas, recommendations, customer service etc to its customers via social channels. is probably the most famous example (t-shirts are printed based on user-generated designs and votes). GiffGaff is another good example; the UK-based MVNO in effect outsources its marketing, sales and customer service to its customers. Customers are rewarded with points that can be redeemed for pre-pay credit (or donated to a charity voted for by the community!) in exchange for their participation in the GiffGaff community.

This is far from an exhaustive list and clearly each organisation will have different needs and objectives. Can you think of any others?

Monday, 4 October 2010

Facebook Connect & Social Commerce – examples from the consumer world

Mark Zukerberg, CEO of Facebook first talked about Social Graph at the Facebook f8 conference in May 2007. Since then Facebook has quietly extended across the web, in the first instance, embedding Facebook Connect and the Facebook “Like” button into consumer web sites.

I logged onto the other day with Facebook Connect and it’s hard not to be impressed with the depth of Amazon’s integration into Facebook. When I logged onto the site, I gave Amazon access to my Facebook profile, from which Amazon picked up my favourite books, CDs and movies (supplementing their knowledge of my previous purchases to improve the recommendations they presented to me). I could also see what my friends had liked on the site and see recommendations from them. In addition, Amazon picked up the dates of my friend’s birthdays and gave me ideas for birthday presents to buy for them. Scary? Big brother? Maybe... However, is certainly one of the early examples of social commerce in action.

Similarly, on holiday last month I noticed that Tripadvisor had caught the Facebook Connect-bug. By logging in with Facebook connect I could see which cities my Facebook friends had visited, post questions to my friends, asking them to recommend a hotel or restaurant and update my own traveller profile to give back to the community. In effect I could leverage 2 networks – my direct friends and the wider, unknown peer community.

The consumer world, unsurprisingly, is currently leading the way in Social Commerce. Here are just a few other examples of social commerce in action:

Dominos Pizza offer each “Major of Foursqure” in their local branches with a free pizza each week when they spend over £10., the Canadian arm of Best Buy, use a video avatar called Aaron to answer questions based on knowledge summated by other customers on their Lithium customer forum. allows users to post status updates of TV content they have downloaded to Twitter and Facebook (e.g. Laurence has just downloaded “Top Gear” and rated it 8/10). They also crowd-source recommendations using Baynote e.g. “people who liked Top Gear also liked Fifth Gear”).

Levis launched a Facebook friends store on their US site, allowing users to view what jeans were popular amongst their friends.

Sephora set up a Beautytalk forum for their customers to exchange beauty tips. Customers can watch YouTube videos of how to best use their products, rate advice, vote on their favourite products and post questions to the community.

Of course this space is emerging at great speed. The examples above are accurate today, but most likely out of date tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how they evolve and how the two worlds of social collaboration and privacy collide.

If you’re interested in social commerce, Altimeter Group are hosting a conference on The Rise of Social Commerce on October 6-7th.

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