The place where the Customer counts

Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

The place where the Customer counts - Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

Where is your Social Caring team?

Many applications are struggling in the Social CRM market space nowadays and more and more are trying to “verticalize” their features in order to adapt them to the traditional customer-facing processes. This is the case of Customer Operations and specifically of Customer Service approach through well-consolidated processes adopted in contact centres. Since the Social CRM capabilities’ drivers come from Social Listening/Monitoring and traditional CRM activities, there is a consistent effort from vendors coming from the CTI world that are trying to match these two aspects, replicating what’s in place in your contact centres (see image below) and minimizing impacts on processes through the delivery of concepts like “universal queue” (in other words: assembling customer interactions coming from different channels – included social media – and assigning them to CSRs thanks to business rules and constraints).

customer service chain

So the integration between social and traditional approaches is set on the upper side of the Customer Service chain (contact management layer).

This is for sure a reasonable perspective especially for COOs that are really careful to performance and cost issues. However, are we sure that this is the right or at least the most complete perspective to use? People complaining or asking for commercial information are physically the same independently if they use a phone, an email, or other touchpoints. Nevertheless, are we really confident that they also behave in the same manner or (worse) they use those touchpoints with the same expectations?

How many social media gurus have told you that social customer will have an impact on your business through social media because of their characteristics of being “public” and “networked”? Well, do you know what? They are right. And if they are right, it also means that social customer is more careful about its expectations, satisfaction and its power to spread publicly frustration and rage against bad service.

Therefore, COOs have to understand that, in addition to cost issues, they need to cope with social interactions in a more dedicated way. And that’s possible, in my humble opinion, only if you use an organizational perspective which set a dedicated social caring team with specific responsibilities and skills (particularly oriented to the management of the relationship through social media) with their own service levels and business workflows. In other words, I believe that the integration between social and traditional approaches must be executed in the lowest side of the Customer Service chain (operational CRM or case management layer) to allow the final collection of all interaction data in a unique place.

What do you think? Please leave in the comments your point of view.

A perspective on Social Media for Customer Service Summit 2013 October 22 – 23rd, New York City played host to the “Social Media for Customer Service Summit” where lots of powerful brands (MasterCard, FedEx, Best Buy, T-Mobile, Comcast, Zappos, McDonald’s and many others) joined to share useful and interesting best practices in the social customer service field.

The main topics covered during the two-day conference dealt mainly with customer service strategy evolution, customer experience impacts, social care team-building, integration with traditional customer service strategies and internal processes, proactive vs. reactive support, measurements and so on.

Among the attendees was Cosimo Palmisano, Vice President of Product Management at Decisyon (a provider of collaborative BI and performance management solutions with customers in USA and Europe) and creator of Decisyon/Ecce, complete social CRM solution – a Decisyon built-in technology – with well-focused social customer service features. Cosimo accepted to give us its personal overview on the summit and on its outcomes.

1. Hi Cosimo, thanks for your availability for this interview and for sharing with us your impressions. First of all tell us something about the summit from a global perspective: how was the location, the agenda, the sessions, the quality of speakers, the other services (catering, Wi-Fi access, etc.) at the event?

This was the 3rd annual Social Media for Customer Service Summit organized by “Useful Social Media”. While it was quite a small two-day event in terms of overall participation by vendors and clients, I believe it was extremely well organized. The main speakers were all key employees from organizations that have been using Social Media for Customer Service. Their perspectives regarding their individual “journeys” with Social Caring, successes, failures, false-starts and the on-going iteration process associated with learning what works and changing what does not work was not only to the point and enlightening, but in each instance validated to me and my colleagues that Decisyon/Ecce (Decisyon/Engage in the US) is ideally suited to this Business Space.

The conference was organized in 1 hour round table sessions with at least 3 companies and a technology provider on the panel. Each session was separated by a 30 minute break for networking. The themes were very narrow in the field of Social CRM and Social Customer Service and the speakers were all senior managers and VPs of digital, Marketing, CRM, Customer Service, etc. no young social media managers.

The location for the conference, which was at the New Yorker Hotel in New York City, was convenient and the conference venue and catering was appropriate for the overall number of attendees (under 200, combined companies and exhibitors). Wi-Fi Access was provided as part of the conference fee and the catering provided (Continental Breakfast and full lunch) was more than sufficient and provided an opportunity to network as well. Should the conference continue to gain support and the number of participants grows, it may become necessary for the organizers to choose another location. However, for what the Summit is today, the venue was excellent.

2. What do you think about the brand and the audience parterre ?

The brands represented as key speakers as well as the brands in the audience all represented “Marquis” names in their industries. One got the sense that from a Social Media perspective that on the ROI associated with Social Caring, they were all challenged with coming up with true business value.

100% of companies represented were in the Fortune 500 and they have shown great commitment in managing Social CRM and Social Customer Service, having dedicated teams and starting looking for a complete, one-stop technical solution for managing all social CRM processes from operations to data integration.

Speakers consistently voiced the opinion that determining ROI was difficult at this stage, however all seemed to agree that there was “no return on ignoring” their customers.

3. In general, which were your prior expectations about the event and its contents?

I had imagined that the organizations in the US would be much further along with their Social Caring initiatives and investment. And although this conference represents a small percentage of all organizations, I believe that my prior expectations were incorrect and that the North American market represents a significant opportunity for our organization to penetrate with Decisyon/Engage. I was expecting much more maturity in measuring the ROI of Social Customer Service and a higher degree of integration between social data and traditional legacy data. What we are doing with customers in Europe is really more advanced.

4. Which are the topics that you were more interested in following and deepening?

  • The goals of Social Caring leaders to leverage Social Data and to combine that data with their legacy CRM one inside the firewall, thereby transforming data into a company asset. This, of course, is something that Decisyon is capable of doing; in fact, Decisyon offers our “Social Integration Server” (SIS) that is designed to accomplish that integration of Social Data with Legacy/CRM Data.
  • The goal of creating a technological infrastructure that enables Real-Time Collaboration between organizational business units, for example Customer Service and Marketing. Decisyon, by providing a Real-Time Social Collaboration platform, is offering today what seems to be one of the next steps on the Social Technology roadmaps many of the speakers referred to.

5. Which of the case studies that were exhibited impressed you the most?

That is a difficult question to answer because all of the presentations provided excellent perspectives and insights. I’d have to say that the presentation from Capital One Bank was the most impressive. Their goal is to “harness the voice of the customer” by creating a “Social Command Center” and leveraging what they term a “Social Virtuous Cycle” in which they “Listen—Engage—Support—MeasureLearn”. They acknowledge that in order to be successful with that strategy, they’ll be required to capture customer insights from Social and populate their Enterprise CRM. They mentioned some integration projects in order to correlate social customer behaviors with the sales cycles.

6. Tell us something about the most relevant results that emerged from the summit? Did you find significant ideas for your next product developments?

The most significant take-aways from the summit can be summed up as follows:

  • Social Caring provides opportunities to transform ordinary moments (issues, challenges) into Extraordinary Public Wins.
  • Social Customer operations cannot be externalized to agencies.
  • Although there is a huge proliferation of social networks, Facebook and Twitter are the ones with the numbers and relevance for social customer service.
  • Though marketing departments were the early adopters of leveraging Social, it has now become evident that Social Customer Service should be a major driver. The Social strategy should not be “owned” by one or the other but rather be approached in a collaborative environment.
  • Integration of social data with legacy systems is mandatory to achieve a positive ROI.
  • Prior to engaging in Social Caring, a Customer Service escalation process should be in place.
  • Social Media initiatives for Customer Support and Service are growing rapidly.
  • Customers desire in-channel problem resolution as opposed to deflection.
  • Social Caring engagement/communications should be similar to one friend speaking with another rather than a Corporation speaking to a customer.
  • Collaboration between teams (Customer Service — Marketing— Product Development) is imperative.
  • The customer expects rapid acknowledgement of an issue by the organization. Great customer service does not simply provide a competitive advantage but is, in fact, an absolute necessity.
  • Sentiment analysis is useless if the first aim is to engage customers in Facebook and Twitter. The ability to automatically infer sentiment in short conversations, with links and multiple languages is still a utopia.

7. After your summit attendance, how do you foresee the next developments in social customer service?

First of all the number of dedicated agents on social customer service will increase. As long as the CEOs will experience a lower number of inbound phone calls, and managers will show the ROI of Social Customer Service the companies will reinforce the message and the teams.

Social Customer Service as part of a multichannel strategy needs to be processed together with the traditional channels. It will be necessary to compare channels but also to get a unique customer view independently by the channel. So far, companies will ask for technologies that are not just social marketing tools but big data platforms that are able to store, analyze and connect different sources of data coming from different departments and functional areas.

Finally yet importantly, social customer service can become the first mandatory step to drive and enhance lead generation. In our experience companies that are able to leverage technology and a social caring process via collaboration, are able to increase the number of prospects and customers that instead of complaining, will ask for upsells and new quotations.

Another relevant aspect not discussed is the B2B side of Social CRM. In the next few years this will become even more compelling for companies to involve the whole value chain in the social processes.

8. Finally, being a multinational social CRM vendor, do you perceive specific differences, between US and European customers, in awareness and consequent adoption of social media for customer service strategies?

Excellent Customer Service is a major differentiator for organizations in both Europe and the US. The Social “Genie” is out of the bottle and regardless of purpose-driven Social Caring being in place, the voice of your customers will be heard. Of course, the way I view this is that it represents an opportunity, not only for Decisyon but for our clients as well. I was expecting a major difference between the two markets. Social Customer service is a major issue. In US the percentage of companies with a dedicated teams with more than 20 agents 24/7 is higher than in Europe. Worldwide we share the same aim of multi-channel integration and social data integration with legacy systems. In both areas it is becoming recognized that this kind of integration cannot be performed in the cloud but must occur inside the company firewall.

Le priorità del management per competere più efficacemente

Recentemente è uscito l’ultimo report dell’IBM Institute for Business Value in cui sono riepilogate le considerazioni degli analisti sui risultati delle inteviste effettuate a CEO, CMO e CIO delle principali aziende pubbliche e private e che hanno evidenziato come la necessità di rafforzare le logiche collaborative con tutti gli stakeholder del proprio business sia sempre più prioritario per consentire all’azienda di competere su mercati in continua evoluzione dal punto di vista delle condizioni, delle relazioni tra gli attori coinvolti e della crescente domanda di innovazione.

Prima considerazione che emerge dall’analisi è l’esistenza di un certo disallineamento su quelli che sono le principali forze esogene che impattano sull’organizzazione e che sono percepite come elementi fondamentali su cui basare il cambiamento. A tal proposito è quindi corretto che ci sia un maggiore allineamento con le priorità espresse dei CEO che vedono, come leve strategiche e operative fondamentali per la crescita, la tecnologia (in particolare l’information technology quindi tutto quell’insieme di topic che includono essenzialmente gli aspetti social, mobile, digital, cloud e big data) e le competenze delle risorse umane (sulle quali è necessario investire per gestire efficacemente gli aspetti tecnologici innovativi non soffermandosi più sugli aspetti più superficiali legati all’hype che tipicamente ne guida la diffusione nelle prime fasi).


Altra importante opportunità di allineamento tra i C-level risiede nella visione di quella che dovrebbe essere la strategia operativa della quale i principali fattori caratterizzanti sono l’esigenza di porsi come innovation leader piuttosto che fast follower, la semplificazione della macchina operativa e il coinvolgimento attivo di partner al posto dell’internalizzazione spinta delle attività.


Le leve su cui agire per i CEO sono di conseguenza:

  • la gestione della “apertura” organizzativa (openness)
  • il coinvolgimento dei clienti (engagement)
  • l’espansione delle partnership

Gestire la “apertura” organizzativa

L’attuale contesto competitivo, in continua evoluzione, e la costante richiesta di “apertura” e trasparenza influenzeranno sistematicamente le aziende e i CEO, che governano le imprese con le migliori performance di mercato, sono ben consci degli impatti in termini organizzativi e di quali saranno le principali ricadute, come ad esempio la gestione dinamica della crescente domanda di acceso alle informazioni insieme a temi come la collaborazione interna ed esterna (che sono sempre più visti come i principali fattori che li supporteranno al cambiamento).


E poichè l’apertura porta con sè oltre ai vantaggi anche una certa vulnerabilità e rischi non indifferenti, per i CEO è fondamentale che tutta l’organizzazione interiorizzi i valori, gli obiettivi e la mission dell’azienda stessa in modo da riuscire ad operare efficacemente minimizzando eventuali contraccolpi di natura operativa e reputazionale. Nasce così l’esigenza di educare le risorse interne a collaborare e a interagire con l’esterno nel rispetto della propria cultura aziendale.

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Coinvolgere i clienti

Il tema dell’engagement è molto sentito in funzione soprattutto dell’adozione dei canali di comunicazione che consentono la raccolta di enormi quantità di dati prima impensabili, funzionali ad un’analisi di dettaglio sempre più spinta sulle caratteristiche della clientela e sulla relativa customer experience (che a partire dalla mappatura dell’intero ciclo di vita presenta forti impatti in termini di revisione e ridisegno dei processi operativi).


Inoltre, conoscere è il primo passo per poi agire coltivando le relazioni attraverso i diversi canali di interazione. E’ interessante notare come i CEO, nonostante l’oggettiva presa di coscienza della crescente importanza dei social media, continua a valorizzare l’approccio diretto attraverso il face-to-face e altri canali a discapito, in particolare, dei media più tradizionali.


Infine, aspetto differenziante delle imprese più performanti risulta l’evidente attenzione e sensibilità verso la gestione dell’intero ciclo di vita dei dati. Questo fa emergere:

  • lato CMO la crescente attenzione ad acquisire internamente competenze di natura analitica ma soprattutto tecnologica per poter gestire più autonomamente tematiche di customer, mobile e social analytics
  • lato CIO la necessità di investire in maniera consistente in tutte quelle tecnologie che consentano di tradurre il dato grezzo in conoscenza “agibile”



Espandere le partnership

Risulta evidente che per migliorare la propria strategia operativa è necessario aprirsi ad attori esterni che possono contribuire ai propri obiettivi di innovazione. Il coinvolgimento di business partners, comunità di interessi, istituzioni accademiche e altri ancora, è percepito come un driver fondamentale per migliorare alcuni processi core.



Quello che emerge da questa analisi di IBM Institute for Business Value è estremamente interessante perchè definisce la fotografia di un top management sempre più attento ad elaborare e consolidare i diversi input esogeni che influenzeranno nel bene e nel male il percorso futuro delle aziende. In tale contesto è fondamentale comprendere, adattarsi ed agire in tempi sempre più rapidi affrontando i cambiamenti del mercato attraverso:

  • la definizione di una strategia operativa che consenta una corretta gestione aziendale in un’ottica di piena apertura e trasparenza
  • l’agevolazione di processi osmotici che consentano di rimuovere sempre più gli ostacoli ad una cultura collaborativa all’interno dell’organizzazione
  • la definizione di un piano di valorizzazione delle risorse interne ponendo attenzione al rispetto dei principi fondamentali che regolano la cultura dell’impresa
  • la migliore comprensione della propria clientela (attraverso la gestione di nuove categorie di dati e la definizione di nuovi ruoli guida come il Chief Data Officer e il Data Scientist) per coltivare le relazioni in un’ottica di mutuo beneficio
  • abbattere i propri perimetri aziendali coinvolgendo partner esterni e creando un nuovo ecosistema di business che, in ottica collaborativa, agevoli il perseguimento di obiettivi di lungo termine condivisi.

Chissà se anche in Italia ci stiamo muovendo in questa direzione.