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

My personal Social CRM expectations for 2013

We are at the end of this year and as usual you can read lots of articles about predictions and trends for next 2013 about whatever you want, and Social CRM is not except.

Here, more than predictions, I’d like to list my personal expectations for the next year; a short set of strategic/operations/tech events I’d like to see coming true to boost Social CRM strategies implementations.

Social media as commodities – they are more and more seen as new channels to be integrated with others (phone, email, chat, etc.) even if their own pecularities have to be considered carefully cause of potential pitfalls related to their misuse (a perception gap resulting from a bad accordance between customers and companies expectations is a classic dangerous outcome).

Communities as Social CRM basis – real Social CRM success cases will come mainly from generation and/or nurturing of specific p2p communities. It’ll obviously depend on industry but B2C and B2B sectors will gain more and more value considering people contribution to the business in marketing, branding, service and innovation areas.

Customer Experience as a new focal point – service design concepts and techniques will be increasingly utilized especially to analyze customer journey and understand customer experience through moments of truth and pain points; and these activities will be the fundamental steps to re-think and re-design your customer-centric strategies.

Internal and External integration – I’d like to see a progressive effort to improve integration between internal collaboration projects with external ones to link and correlate more dinamically and fluently operational processes with customer-centric objectives

Big data will simply become data – it depends on how companies will open their “eyes”, or better “ears”, to take information coming from various sources. More openness more data but, once you get them, I’d like to see expertise in the company to extract sense from them and, more valuable, to nurture analytical approach so you can allocate right information in each organizational level to help people doing their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

Mobile is here to stay – nothing to say cause I’d like not to listen about Mobile potential opportunities anymore. It’s “a fact” not a “nice to have” and you need to consider it not simply as a new touchpoint to integrate in multi-channel offering but also as a new interaction model with its own pecularities.

Merger & Acquisition won’t stop tomorrow – yes, the market will keep on moving and won’t stop in 2013 for sure. Consolidation is mandatory when you have so many granular and different features concurring to a Social CRM functional enablement, and big CRM players knows that very well.

What do you think? Do you want to extend the list wtih more expectations?

Meanwhile I wish you a Merry Christmas and/or Happy New Year and see you on 2013

Social Customer Service: is it worth it or not?

Let me explain my personal perspective about this topic cause I see a lot of focus on the importance of providing an innovative customer service program through social media trying to give an alternative to the traditional one provided by “obsolete” contact center.

I recently read a really well-done report by Strategic Contact (you can download it here) where you can find useful information about the main drivers that form the cost structure of a contact center:

  • Fixed staffing (management) – FTEs, Salaries, Benefits and Taxes
  • Variable staffing (agents and supervisors) – FTEs, Productivity, Wages, Benefits, Taxes, Hiring & Training Costs
  • Technology – Investment, Depreciation period, Tech support (fixed labor)
  • Facilities – Space per cubicle, Cubicle sharing, Rent, Build-out, Maintenance, Utilities and upkeep
  • Telecom and Networking – Telecom rate per minute, Cell phones, VoIP and telephony infrastructure
  • Others – Miscellaneous overhead, Travel costs, Other overhead, Chargeback for services from other departments

If you want to have a look at the distribution of the related costs for an average contact center, here’s a good representation of them

So, if companies think that adopting social media as a new customer service channels set is mandatory and an alternative to traditional ones, they normally justify this decision assessing related cost saving (as I see in a lot of posts, articles and books). But there’s always something that doesn’t convince me in this approach especially when it’s used as a main indicator the contact (call) deflection.

SCENARIO COMPARISON

As you can see, if you want to reach an effective cost saving you have in this case to tackle mainly the labor component. So let’s try to compare approximately two scenarios (traditional contact and social contact handling) and their potential impact on this cost structure main component (please click the image to enlarge).

IMPACTS ON DRIVERS AND COSTS

As you can see, even if the comparison is simplistic, using CSR or Community managers hasn’t too much impact on the cost structure from a staffing component perspective. Social media presence doesn’t mean self-serving own customers, instead you have to prepare yourself to a more challenging effort made of more demanding service levels and public reputation risks. It’s then more a case of education, training and, for sure, workload optimization that can have positive effects on negative deflection components like abandonment and busy lines (improving at the same time customer satisfaction).

So the real path to massive cost deflection – freeing staff occupancy share – is to “push” internal knowledge outside your company boundaries and to facilitate its integration with collective knowledge (creating a bridge between public and private support communities) in order to match and nurture your customer information expectation. That’s the real driver which will eliminate proactively the causes that move people to take a phone o writing a post to contact directly the company. That’s the real driver for a long-term contact deflection maintaining and/or increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

CONCLUSIONS

I think that we don’t have to see Social Customer Service as something mutually alternative to the traditional one (at least till the customer will need to communicate with a phone) but as something integrated inside your overall Customer Service strategy. It’s obvious that you continuosly need to keep an eye on costs drivers but please not to the detriment of experience quality.

You need to look at this new communication paradigm as an evolution (really big and challenging I know) of your multichannel approach to Service (look at the capital “s”), an evolution that have to respect the distinctive peculiarity of each channel/media, pros and cons of using each one of them and contextually the relative customer expectations. Therefore:

  • Always consider the customer journey through different channels to fix a problem as a single consistent case and not as a fragmented incoeherent set of experiences
  • Improve continuosly your operational processes so, when your Service staff finds the solution to a customer request, they are able to apply it as quickly as possible (and for this step remember also the preciuos contribution just coming from customers with whom you interact)
  • Take really care of your people. Train and empower your staff (it doesn’t matter if CSR or Community managers) because they are your best official interface to the public
  • Think and act always putting yourself in the customer shoes (that for me is the more important suggestion to drive to a new business mindset)

Why CRM and listening are more than brothers

Do you know which is the most valuable thing that we need especially in this period of “whatever-you-want-just-do-it-social“?

Time

It’s always been preciuos in our lives but now, in a world over-connected, over-informed and over-dependent where your personal and customer experiences are deeply influenced by and based on networked communications, you are forced to make smart selections of what you really need in order to extract real value from information and activity streams. Otherwise you risk to drown in a huge social noise data ocean. And if your time have to be optimized, when you’re connecting to the world, you want companies to interact with you in the most profitable and pragmatic way.

A recent IBM report and a brilliant Mitch Lieberman’s post found out and explained the existence of a perception gap between companies and consumers reasons that drive them to interact each other.

Also Social Media expert and analyst Brian Solis just wrote a post where makes some considerations on another study (registration required) conducted by Exact Target in which there are really interesting surveys asking for the main reasons people “unlike” brands on Facebook or stop following them on Twitter. Here are the results.

Ok, let’s try to draw some conclusion:

  1. brands are not listening people not only directly but also indirectly through professional studies and reports outputs;
  2. brands know their customers and fans as I know about theoretical philosophy (and it’s a pity for me);
  3. brands insist on using social channels to post irrelevant information for customers and fans (not only cause it’s merely promotional but also cause it’s not matching the real needs of people);
  4. brands don’t mind about people’s time scarcity and overload their life with useless messages losing the opportunity to be more coherent and effective in engaging them.

It seems to look at the same concepts explained in Seth Godin‘s Permission Marketing book where the only way to have a relationship with your customer, fighting the plague of the interruption marketing, is to ask for a permission to enter in their life and help them to have their jobs done.

As Brian Solis stated in the aformentioned post:

“What we learn from these two studies is that it’s not about the content, the profile, or publishing information regularly; it’s about understanding and delivering what customers want.”

And companies have to remember that to achieve these goals they need to follow a formal process well described in the Stefano Mizzella‘s last post (it’s in italian but translate it cause it really worth).

What I’ll try to do here is to give some syntetic and pragmatic suggestions mapping them into the customer experience funnel (click on the image to enlarge).

Moreover, listening activity is more then what I just described here and if you want to know more about my opinion on this topic you can read also this post.

Last hint: not everyone faces the brand engaging with it through discussions or commenting in social media. There are engagers and also lurkers (or spectators as Forrester would say) so you have to intercept also the last ones integrating knowledge that companies can extract from their internal systems, analyzing their behaviour through different places (not only social), asking them directly thanks to specific surveys.

Top image: Krystn Palmer Photography

Survey bar graphs: Exact Target Research