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

Do you want collaboration that works? Find the right business drivers

purposeFew days ago Bertrand Duperrin wrote an interesting blogpost on social collaboration and on what’s wrong with it. Now that “digital trasformation” has get the hype over “social business” we are experiencing a reduced interest on internal collaboration, and main causes are – for the author – attributable to:

  1. customer relationship which as a topic drives more investments than internal collaboration because of objective correlation with business opportunities (and revenues),
  2. political contraints that make the transition to innovative organizational models more and more sticky,
  3. human factors or in other words “people” that are always reluctant to change their working habits, especially when knowledge sharing paradigm, from an individual POV, is considered a loss of power,
  4. lack of purpose, especially with regard to the internal collaboration discrepancy with customer relationship.

All these drivers have a deep impact on internal collaboration acceptance and success, but in my humble opinion, the main one in which few efforts and even fewer discussions have been done is the last one: lack of a business purpose.

We all know that customer relationship is leading the business wagon (after all, as Duperrin says, customers bring money in).

We all know about organizational barriers that impede innovation flow.

But, are we well-aware that – often – social collaboration projects don’t have the right “links” with business purposes? Unfortunately, this situation is caused also by inappropriate technology which lacks aforesaid links.

“Collaborate” and “share” are beautiful verbs but if you don’t associate them with the right context there’s no value inside. Context is everything and you can’t avoid it otherwise it’s only lipstick on a pig.

Facebook context is peer relationship and it’s cool. But what about when you want to make collaborative an enterprise? Which are the main components of its specific context?

Here my 2 cents.

As Duperrin said, enterprise have to connect collaboration to customer relationship because here is the money (unless you’re a NPO). But how? Data and processes. Data and processes are the basement on which business collaboration can be built.

Data is the “iota” of decision-making process. Managing data, analyzing data, discussing on data through internal engagement and contribution sharing, helps decision-maker to select the right option because he finally has the more meaningful information in support of the following execution phase.

Processes are the suits of enterprise. You need to change them when context changes. And context, here, is your end-to-end customer experience. When you intercept and collect signals about this dynamic experience, you have a stream of elements to rethink your processes through internal engagement and contribution sharing. And when I say “rethink” it means that you have the instruments to modify them in order to support customer relationship.

So building collaborative solutions around data and process can help your organization focus on real business objectives and create a connection to economic results.

What do you think? Please leave your contribution

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.


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).


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.


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)

Il Mulino si fa tribale.

Ebbene sì, quello che avevo immaginato nel post precedente è una realtà (già da un po’ per la verità) e comincia a coinvolgere i brand che sono sicuramente più sensibili alle innovazioni in termini di comunicazione e coinvolgimento attivo della comunità di fedeli.

Uno dei brand in questione è Barilla che per “Il Mulino Bianco” ha creato un sito che permette alla comunità legata al prodotto e al marchio di proporre in piena libertà nuove idee, modifiche a prodotti esistenti o la richiesta di reintroduzione di vecchi prodotti ad oggi fuori produzione. Gli strumenti propositivi concessi si focalizzano sulle classiche leve di marketing mix ossia prodotto, packaging, promozioni e punti vendita (a cui si aggiungono anche consigli soprattutto in merito all’impegno sociale e alla sensibilità verso i temi ambientali). Inoltre è stato attivato un sistema di votazioni incrociate tra partecipanti che consente di valorizzare le idee che risultano maggiormente condivise dalla comunità e che possono essere successivamente prese in considerazione dall’azienda per valutarne le potenzialità di sviluppo. Infatti, come si legge sul sito, sembra che Il Mulino Bianco voglia fare le cose proprio per benino ossia condividendo con la comunità le informazioni relative alle successive fasi di pre-valutazione da parte della Direzione (AD, Direttore Generale e Direttore Marketing) delle idee più votate, analisi costi/benefici, test di mercato ed eventuale realizzazione.

La cosa interessante è che Barilla ha innanzitutto separato in maniera netta la mission “partecipativa” del sito da quella più tipicamente commerciale dell’azienda e inoltre ha soddisfatto in maniera coerente il primo compito che caratterizza un’autentica proposta di marketing tribale: l’ancoraggio endotico.

Quest’ultimo non è altro che l’ancoraggio dell’offerta futura ai quattro concetti fondamentali di autenticità:

1 – socializzazione -> il valore del legame è assicurato dal coinvolgimento attivo dei componenti della tribù che hanno carta bianca per discutere le proprie idee e per valutarle esclusivamente all’interno della comunità (senza quindi intromissioni da parte dell’azienda)

2 – temporalizzazione -> viene data la possibilità di riproporre prodotti a cui la comunità è legata ma che non sono più in produzione. Il fatto che vengano presi in considerazioni questi “miti” alimentari a cui sono associate emozioni personali legate al gusto e all’estetica e al ricordo dei tempi passati con la famiglia rendono sempre più radicato il posizionamento anche temporale del Mulino Bianco nella mente e nella lista di valori dei membri della tribù.

3 – spazializzazione -> il luogo rimane stabilmente rappresentato da quello originale e bucolico del mulino, sinonimo simbolico di autenticità e naturalezza che continua ad essere ben presente sia nel brand che nell’immaginario dei componenti della tribù.

4 – naturalizzazione -> l’azienda conferma che i valori e le regole su cui si basa la produzione del Mulino Bianco devono rimanere intatte e, in questo modo, i membri della tribù sono rassicurati dal fatto che questo valga anche per la qualità degli in gradienti utilizzati per la creazione dei loro “miti” alimentari.

Adesso bisogna vedere se Barilla continuerà correttamente nel soddisfare i successivi compiti ossia quello di: · enucleare e inserire dettagli significativi per la comunità · celebrare i rituali intorno al prodotto al fine di dare continuità al processo di valorizzazione del legame con il prodotto/brand.

Ma­ quanto fatto da Barilla è già un ottimo esempio di come procedere per cominciare a creare un legame forte con quelle comunità che vedono nel nostro brand e nei nostri ­prodotti/servizi un valore aggiuntivo rispetto a quello puramente commerciale.