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

A perspective on Social Media for Customer Service Summit 2013

http://socialmediastrategiessummit.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/SupportButton1.jpgLast 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.


My personal review on G-Force EMEA 2012

Great time in Barcelona attending to the G-Force 2012 by Genesys. I’ve been invited here as a CRM and Social CRM blogger by the Italian Regional company, to have a look at what they are going to launch next months in terms of new solution features and best practices witnessed by their main customers. So I would like to report what happened there and to share with you my considerations.

First perspective: Who’s who

Genesys is a well-known worldwide B2B company, operating as a leader in the Collaborative CRM market, which mainly sell customer service software and contact center solutions for enterprises. Recently (02/02/2012), Genesys has been officially acquired by Permira Funds and Technology Crossover Ventures for US$ 1,5 billion, coming definitely out of the Alcatel-Lucent organizational structure and becoming again independent. This recent circumstance gives Genesys new opportunities to focus on its business having top management free to operate with its own strategic views and operational leverages unless Permira potential interference (but it doesn’t seem so); and in the current economic situation is a really important working condition.

Second Perspective: The event model

The 2012 G-Force EMEA event had a traditional structure with general sessions led by key managers and breakout session in which were shared case histories directly by Genesys customers.

Moreover there was a very rich and interesting booth area with business partner and Genesys suite demo stands available for customers and press/analysts.

Third perspective: So what? (a.k.a. the event contents that I liked)

Genesys is a market leader for their extensive offering in applications and service for interaction and channel management, and the last 8 months were crucial for the changes that introduced and which have forced the company to re-design its strategy roadmap.

Genesys CEO Paul Segre and his managers know it very well cause they’re leading their people towards a model of company which have to offer to their clientele the best and most complete contact management suite, helping them to provide the best final customer experience possible. Yes, because – even if it’s strange to hear that from a software vendor – the main message of the conference was “Save the world from a Bad Customer Service” (which is Genesys pay-off and I hope also corporate vision) and this perspective is really comforting cause is the sign that companies (or better some of them) are finally recognizing the long term value of a customer-centric approach (even in a B2B market).

Even if Genesys during these years has “failed” to analyze, interiorize and “productize” (sorry for the awful word) best practices in order to quickly apply them on new deployments, something is deeply changed in the ability to execute and the investments on research and development. After all, this is a mandatory approach when your new investors (which typically invests in high growth company such as Facebook (???), Groupon, etc.) ask you a challenging 22% as revenue annual growth rate. So the key drivers of this “new deal” must be:

– Rapid deployment (editor’s note: simplicity)

– Lower TCO

– Best practices productization

Four pillars of Geneysis offerBut don’t forget innovation and how’s changing the customer service world so, the four pillars on which the new Genesys strategy will be based, and R&D is investing, are:

– SIP (Session Initial Protocol)

– Big Data

– Cloud

– Social

Beyond the typical communication application business I found really interesting to see Genesys well aware of its role on topics like Big Data and Social, maybe because Collaborative CRM vendors aren’t typically mentioned in Social CRM discussions. Indeed I think that they have to conquer again their role after the partial loss of the social interaction market due to the entrance of social media listening companies. These ones, in fact, are now well beyond their primary scope of social analytical reporting, developing and deploying engagement consoles and/or integration capacities with main Operational CRM vendors (i.e. Radian6-Salesforce.com case history). So thanks to Social Engagement module, Genesys integrates traditional and social channels considering every piece of interaction as a tessera of the overall conversation picture and using proprietary semantic algorithm to route it appropriately to the right resource (after many year of tests on email text analysis). In this sense, the announcement of Genesys presence at the Dreamforce (look at the session title here) can be seen as a strategic path to a really profitable partnership.

Finally consider how data coming from interaction and channel attitudes can contribute to the Big Data subject and to the wealth of information necessary to deeply understand your customers…terrific!

Mobile and Web engagementNext topics on the stage? Obviously Mobile (Engagement) and a very interesting Web Engagement module which, based on navigation behaviors, indentifies irregular/atypical trends and triggers supporting alerts to help customers activating an interaction through different channels (i.e. chat).

So the dream of a real consistent cross-channel experience seems coming true and close at hand.

Fourth perspective: The case

Despite numerous sessions held by many customers and coping with their experience (I really appreciated the Akbank and Belgacom ones), on the main stage has been presented probably the most interesting case by Ben Kay, Head of Digital Strategy & Adoption at Everything Everywhere Ltd (the newco running T-Mobile and Orange in UK).

The most important step of his show were:

Route to a Social PilotMain ingredients for a social pilot – the fundamental activity of listening your people is combined to more internal aspects where a clear company ambition together with team building capacity and the will to work hard and honestly can let you succeed.

A simple and clear mission with few boundariesOrganizational aspects are leading components of a great social strategy because only investing in skilled people and nurturing them through empowerment, good engagement frameworks and a solid social media policy can help your company to reach a real sustainable edge. But what about the right metrics?

EE Social Business FrameworkEE social business framework where a physical central management capability (The Social Hub) assures control of 5 work streams which deliver the social experience, acts to achieve its business objectives, monitors this effort through a set of predefined KPIs; striving to the realization of EE vision.

The Social HubFifth perspective: The chat

I had also the opportunity to meet with Keith Pearce and have a chat about his role in Genesys as VP Customer experience. And once again I found really inspiring to understand that a Collaborative CRM vendor like Genesys is enriching its portfolio trying to offer added value through business consulting practice which design optimized customer experience to its customers. It’s hard to do it in a context where consulting partners help Genesys to sell its products but who knows Genesys potential better than Genesys? Who can really configure Genesys products/services optimally once the customer journey is mapped? I wish Keith good luck for his job and I hope his little “baby” will grow big and healthy as soon as possible.

Last perspective: My final considerations

Lots of things during the G-Force had inspired me and others let me a little bit confused. I think that a 22% Revenue AGR is very challenging even for a leader like Genesys. The main point is that its product/services are complex and specifically focused on enterprise market which is quite saturated, giving room only for a bloody battle between giants. As Gartner said in its last MQ for Contact Center Infrastructure Worldwide, it’s time to raise the bar and begin to compete in the midmarket with new products/services tailored for this kind of organizations and needs (and I think that in the short we’ll have some good news).

Then I’d sincerely like to suggest Genesys to improve their product’s user experience cause interfaces looks to me a little bit “oldie”. Nowadays, visualization is quite an art mixed with science and, for sure, an important piece of an application’ success. Besides, even if I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of practice, I can see great potentiality in the application of a gamification approach in the design of this class of UIs.

Finally I’d expect new developments on Social Engagement module aligning it to social media monitoring best practices, particularly improving its scraping capabilities and number/type of information sources.

What I really liked during these 3 days were:

  • the new business vision based on a customer experience approach more than a mere product promotion (value vs. usual stuff)
  • the possible development of a business consulting practice inside Genesys that can give more value to its offer
  • a complete solution that really want to offer the enabling factors for a real cross-channel experience
  • real interactions between customers with different experience, sharing information and best practices
  • exhaustive real-time demos held by qualified and professional experts.

Acknowledgments

A special thank you goes to the Italian Regional company and precisely to Paolo Mariottini, Paolo Bergamini, Aida Mazzitelli, Stefania Covatta and Carlo Rossi that invited me to this special event, creating a professional, transparent and genuine relation with me and the other blogger Luca Conti.

Social Business speaks Italian but looks “to the infinity… and beyond!”

Here it comes again, luckily. In Italy lots of people like me is “hungry” for valuable event focused on new (social and collaborative) business model and related case study. If we focus on social crm and other customer-centric business approach the “hunger” becomes even worst. And you are compelled to look at livestreaming from conference around the world expect yours. Damn it!!!

But thanks to the guys from Open Knowledge, and the tireless Emanuele Quintarelli (a good friend but, most important, one of the few real thought leader in Italy about social business), after 5 consecutive years of success (I don’t want to enumerate statics about registrations and attendances) next 4/5 June the Social Business Forum comes back in Milan with a long list of thought leaders and case studies.

So what about me? First of all I’m honoured to be one of the speaker (this is the second time and maybe I’m getting addicted) and probably I’ll bring to the audience some thoughts about Big Data and their contribution to the Social CRM…stay tuned!

But now let’s speak about searious things. This year is very important cause, among various experts and practitioners, I’ll have the opportunity to follow:

  • John Hagel, one of the most important leader and author about business strategy and technology (please read its must read book “The Power of Pull”,
  • Frank Eliason, maybe the most known Social Customer Service Manager (do you remember the famous Comcast case study?) now working for Citibank
  • Ray Wang, Principal Analyst and CEO at Constellation Research, one of the main research and advisory firm focused on strategy and disruptive/emerging technologies
  • Bian Salis, Head of Social Media Innovation for BT (managing social media strategy, social marketing and the well-known social customer service BTCare)

For sure the number of speakers will increase in the next weeks so you (and I) will surely find lots of new insight about topics like Social CRM, E2.0, Social Business, Open Innovation, Community Management and Social Media strategy.

I really suggest you to fix the date on your agenda and register here to take part in the, probably, most important European business event.

See you there