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

Good news for/from CustomerKing

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A really short post just to announce a good personal news. From October 1, I’m very proud to begin a new professional challenge in Decisyon, one of the most interesting enterprise with an outstanding Collaborative Decision Making & Execution (CDME) platform for rapid development and cloud delivery of operational analytics, planning, in-context collaboration and execution applications.

One of its main solutions, which I followed during the last years considering my interest on customer service evolution, is Decisyon/Engage, a social CRM tool strongly focused on social media analytics, social caring and monitoring which help businesses obtain sustainable competitive edge particularly thanks to the integration between customer data collected from outside and inside corporate boundaries.

And that’s the point for the next future of Social Customer Service, in my opinion. The capability to link data coming from different kind of sources in order to better outline and understand your customers from various perspectives, collaboratively find the best way to satisfy their requests and finally activate/execute the right corporate processes to induce mutual and shared value.

This is one of the biggest challenge Decisyion will face in the next years, thanks to the endorsement of important US Venture Capital firms.

This is one of the biggest challenge for the next social CRM phase.

So, good luck to me and see you soon.

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.

Interview with Bian Salins (British Telecom)

Bian Salins is the Head of Social Media Innovation and Customer Service for British Telecom. She comes from a previous editorial experience and now, having introduced the Social Customer Service concept and strategy in BT, she has won the UK Customer Satisfaction Award 2012 for Best Use of Social Media. We’ll see her on the next Social Business Forum in Milan with the speech “From Service to loyalty – the BTCare story“.


BT Customer Service is known as one of the main examples of how to properly use social media in Customer Service through different social channels. Can you tell us what did you find, at your arrival in BT Customer Service department, in terms of Service and Feedback strategy?

When I first took up this role, I soon came to realize that like most brands that were dipping their toes in the water way back in 2009 – we’d set up a series of channels but had no clear strategy on how we’d grow them, operationalize them and embed them within the wider customer experience. Social operated very much as a silo where the agents were not being performance managed and we had no metrics or knowledge of who we were servicing. So a large part of me coming into BTCare (which is our service brand) was to set a clear strategy that would sustain within our customer service vision and put the infrastructure in place to make it business as usual.

What aspects of your previous job’s experience did you find useful for the new role?

My background is in journalism but also in digital (I started out as a journalist for India’s first online venture so coming into customer service was both a culture shock as well as good challenge. I realized that call centre culture for a start didn’t really cater for a successful social media strategy. For example, agents are encouraged and managed on ‘closing’ customer cases while social encourages and needs conversation to allow for relationship building. I also realized that agents tend to rely heavily on tool sets and scripts due to things like compliance but social support demands a new kind of service – one that treats every customer like an individual and every conversation as a unique experience. My background in content, technology and collaborating with people towards a common goal enabled me to demonstrate how by applying new techniques and technology coupled with pure honesty and transparency – we were able to change our reputation as being a poor service brand to becoming an open brand.

Did you integrate your social customer service job with a more traditional feedback management methodology like VoC or others? If yes, how did you proceed?

Our first challenge was to discover who were talking to on social channels and what their previous experience with our company had been. So I worked with a social web analyst to use existing survey methodology to begin asking our customers key questions. We then began to feed that insight back into existing programmes within our traditional functions like voice. What we found was that the insight didn’t tell us anything new when put together with existing analytics but the real time feedback we were getting in relation to products, services, outages and marketing campaigns was invaluable to the next steps we took as an organization. We’re now integrating our social media dashboards with our wider customer insight dashboards across our consumer business.

What about impacts of your job on the organization (i.e. change management)?

Social media has kick-started a lot of transformation within our business. For example, our call centres are trying to replicate operational models and success we’ve seen from our social media teams especially around ownership of our customers. We’ve launched a customer effort score and programme across our business to make things easier for customers. We’ve built our super-user programme into our product development programme ensuring that our super users try/test and feedback on experiences before we release them into the market. We’ve also built social media communications into our real time communications operation – ensuring that social acts as a signal for emerging crises as well as acts a core channel for keeping customers informed during crisis situations. Since we’ve demonstrated the power of social within our Customer Service, we’ve now delivered a social business strategy to the MDs and senior management which looks at how we will transform into being a social business where social is core to every aspect from marketing to product to our digital estate. But the most exciting of all is how we bring true enterprise collaboration to the way our advisors work and service our customers which we’re developing this year.

Which are main KPIs you use in order to measure BT Customer Service success?

We use

  • Response time
  • Customer Effort (what we defined as net easy)
  • Churn
  • Satisfaction
  • Fully resolved (has the agent fully resolved your issue)
  • ROI

We also have soft metrics which include number of super users, engagement, views, positive mentions etc.

In your opinion, which are the main strategic pillars to implement a social media strategy in Customer Service practice?

Based on my experience, the pillars I created for my strategy were:

  • Empathy and efficiency: Creating objectives and metrics that will empower empathy within service but equally, keep it efficient because efficiency is crucial when you have millions of customers all wanting quick answers.
  • Industrialisation: I don’t like the word but it’s a core pillar for me because if social is here to stay and brands want to add social channels to their contact mix, then we can’t expect to be treated special. We’ve got to make it scalable and work it so that it’s business as usual.
  • Visibility and effort: One of my main gripes is that we don’t make things easy for our customers. According to a recent research from Harris Interactive, 86% of consumers have quit doing business with a company over a bad customer experience. One of the reasons, consumers turn to using social channels to air their frustrations is because they want a reaction and to be heard. We’ve found that apart from live chat, social channels coming out on top when it comes to effort – so make your social support channels core to your contact strategy and customer experience. If you want to drive people from voice to social then let them know you’re there. Also, embed the experience in your product design – take your service to your customers so they don’t have to come looking for you.
  • Innovation and transformation: Finally, I think we don’t innovate enough when it comes to servicing our customers. We have a lot of technology that is emerging to enable good service but sometimes, service environments are not brave enough to adopt new ways of working within call centre structures. It’s not about what’s the next new shiny object – it’s about how can we change the experience for our customers and for our advisors. Decision makers need to innovate all the time to find a better way. I seriously think that to change, you need a vision and yet, without change, you cannot achieve or aspire towards a vision for your company. (They go hand in hand).

It’s about three years that, in various conferences, we talk and listen about benefits of social media to support customer-facing processes. Do you think that corporate are practically taking note of this opportunity?

Yes, I do think that brands are waking up the power of supporting customers through social. However, a lot of them are doing this as a surface level experience. You often find brands that just use their twitter profiles to sign post people in the right direction rather than owning the customer and actually helping. Or, you find that some brands have social support channels but nobody knows they’re there – which means they haven’t thought about it as part of the multi-channel mix. So I think this is the year that brands stop playing around with social as a form of support and start to think seriously about how it can used to transform their businesses.

Can you give us some “sneak peeks” about your next speech at the Social Business Forum in Milan?

Some sneak peeks would include how the brave step of one employee set us on our social journey; how we’re organized for social success; the challenges we’ve faced as an organization and the ROI we’ve gleaned from using social as a form of support.


Thanks a lot Bian Salins for your kindness and see you soon in Milan.