Social Media - Courageous Miracles

12/25/2013

Miracle on 34th street"We'll be known as the helpful store. The friendly store. The store with a heart. The store that places public service ahead of profit. The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before."

Nope, it's not a new innovative social network strategy (that would be a miracle of miracles!). In the classic film, Miracle On 34th Street, Mr. Macy took chance on a different way to conduct business.

Customers would not be coerced into buying what they did not want; however, the real courage was if another store had a better or less expensive product Macy's would refer customers there. 

Fast forward 66 years. It is now 2013, and as we close out this year, we face similar challenges of how to provide value for our customers. Technology can be the gift that opens the new digital door to an exciting way to build relationships with customers .. if we can be as couragous as Mr. Macy.

Pull off the pretty red bow and you'll find social networks with funny names like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. It's a world where to succeed we have to go beyond a one-off sale to opportunities where three entities: company, employee and customer create the brand experience together. That takes courage. 

The miracle of social media is its impact reaches beyond just one customer. Digital relationships with the people who are the heart of your brand, both customers and employees, can set off a unique chain reactions.

My favorite act of couragous miracle making this season is from the Canadian airline Westjet that surprised passengers with presents that they wanted (not swag from the airline). Video is well done and worth a watch.  

  • Continuous listening -> learning -> understanding -> results in trust ->  leads to loyalty -> leads to the cash register bells ringing. And every time a cash register bell rings a marketer gets a bonus or gets to keep her job (!) .. oops wrong film.

Corner grocery store digital relationships that are build not only with you and your customers, but among your customers and your employees could never have been imagined when Kris Kringle entered Macy's Santa Land in 1947. However, even as we approach 2014, for many organizations open conversations still seem like a Miracle on (insert organization name here) or like the ghost of Xmas future (oops wrong movie again.)

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible... consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

As we begin 2014, technology developments spin even faster taking digital business into areas that were impossible in '47 or '57 or even '2013.

Imagine a digital destination where you can include your review of the product, service or customer care that influences your or your friends' buying decisions.

Imagine a digital destination where you can talk to a brand employee who doesn't respond with a scripted answer.

Imagine a digital destination that allows for product and service customization.

Imagine a digital destination where you can start a conversation with a real person about what matters to you regarding a product or service.

Imagine a digital destination where you can actually help change the direction of a brand before it's even launched.

Imagine multiple digital devices from mobile to tablet and computer to wearable. How will you create unique content for all that is relevant? How will you respond on mulitple channels?

Imagine a digital destination where you can chat with people about their experiences and learn from each other .. in real time during your shopping experience. The result is smarter purchases.

Imagine an authenitc conversation, in real time, with your favorite actor, politician, author or reporter who responds to your comments not with platitudes but with thoughtfulness and courage. 

Imagine an authentic conversation with your senior managmenet or an admired corporate executive where ideas are transparently exchanged. 

Imagine an organization that works in partnership with its customers and employees to create a brand experience that is relevant, innovative and imaginative across multiple devices.

Imagine an organization that places its customers in the center of all decisions. 

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

What a funny world we live in. It's interesting to compare a 1940's film, where finding solutions to customers' problems was perceived as unique, to 2013 where finding solutions to customers' problems is considered ingenious. 

The techniques may have changed. New buzz words may be added to the mix. Bells and whistles may be a little louder. However, after all is said and done, the premise remains the same:

-Listen

-Understand

-Add value

-Do what it takes to go the extra mile to delight your customer

I believe that as we learn how to use social media it will change how we conduct business .. leading to  creating an environment where people truly matter. And that my friends, is as courageous and innovative as Mr. Macy's Miracle on 34th Street.

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

Max_dec_07_1And with that Max and I wish you a very merry holiday!

A classic Diva Marketing Holiday Post. 

Social Sharing

02/11/2013


Share with puppy dogRemember the all important word we were taught in kindergarten? Share.

We shared crayons, books and sometimes our PB&J sandwiches. Through sharing we made new friends. 

What we didn't understand, at least at five I had not a clue, was that from these small interactions we were creating a unique 'classroom community' that was a little different from the other kindergarten classes.

Taking that idea into the social web .. each social network and digital community we particiapte in has its own culture influencing our experiences.

In the social web we're sharing like mad. Some people might say we're sharing too much. (Perhaps that's a post for another day!) There are lots of different social shares from product reviews on sites like Yelp to retweets, repins and of course Facebook and post/article shares. 

The social web has brought friends and strangers together in a way that would have been difficult to image 10 or even 5 years ago. I wonder why it seems we've become obsessed with sharing. I came across an interesting study, conducted by the New York Times,The Psychlogy of Sharing. Passing along to you.Ok .. so I'm sharing!

Why People Share?

1. To bring valuable and entertaining content to others

2. To define ourselves to others

3. To grow and nuture our relationships

4. Self-fulfillment

5. To get the word out about causes or brands

What Influences A Social Share?

1. Appeal to consumer's motivation to connect with each other not just with your brand

2, Trust is the cost of entree for social shares

3. Keep it simple and it will get share .. and won't get muddled

4. Appeal to their sense of humor .. I might add carefully 

5. Embrace a sense of urgency

Social sharing goes beyond an nice to know. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Yelp, MySpace have forever changed what and how we buy. We've always sought opinions from family and friends. It may seem odd, but we now also depend on the reviews of strangers to shape our purchase decisions from the most important products .. like your 27th pair of black shoes to the mundane .. which dryer to buy.

The Advertising Research Foundation recent study - Digital & Social Media in the Purchase Decision Process -calls this type of shopping a winding journey where the shopper is “always on” because of the constant interaction with brand. 

Social Sharing Tips

For Brands - Invest resources to monitor and track what people are sharing about your brands especially on your own social network pages like Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram. Go beyond counting the number of shares. The gold is in the details of the extended sharing and conversation. 

For Customers - Before you take out the plastic read multiple reviews from more than one source or site. A Tweeter search on the product name might pull up some interesting insights and links. 

Social sharing takes your unique, personal  brand experience and turns it into a brand experience for anyone who happens to come across your comments. You could be more influencial than you ever imagined!

Interview with Becky Carroll Author of The Hidden Power of Your Customers

09/07/2011

Becky Carroll_2 Traditionally customer service has been perceived as a necessary business function whose purpose is to appease unhappy customers.

Becky Carroll believes differently. She thinks customers rock and caring for your customer is one of the joys of doing businss. 

With the onset of social media, savvy companies like Dell, Zappos and your neighborhood food truck are learning servicing the customer can be a critical strategy; and sets you apart from your competiton.

That's what Becky's new book, The Hidden Power of Your Customers, is all about. 

In Brian Solis’ foreword to The Hidden Power of Your Customers, there is one line that especially resonated with me. “With the emergence of social media, we are given not just a right to engage but a rite of passage to earn relevance.” Relvancy and customer service .. a novel idea!

Becky Carroll kindly shares her innovative, but it makes sense, approach to building a “Customers Rock” focused company. 

Diva Marketing/Toby: I would imagine a Customer Rocks company takes coordination, alignment and team work that many organizations may not have in place. What would you tell those companies where departments are silo-ed or where employees may never have thought of their role as being part of customer service?

Becky Carroll: You are right, Toby, it does take quite a bit of coordination inside an organization to create an integrated approach to customers – whether that’s in customer service, marketing, sales, or any other customer-facing function. Company silos can create inconsistent messaging and treatment for and of customers.

To answer your question, I often recommend those companies create a customer experience map of their interactions with customers. Described in my book, this mapping of company transactions helps to do two things. 

First, since the map takes the customer’s perspective, it reveals how different internal organizations come together (or not) to impact the customer experience.

When cross-functional teams sit down and analyze this map, they usually find opportunities for process improvements, as well as areas of best practice, that will ultimately make the business more efficient, as well as more effective for the customer.

Second, a customer experience map can also help employees who are not “customer facing” to understand how their roles ultimately impact the customer experience. The map includes data and process inputs and outputs from different organizations, so employees can visually see where their outputs feed into customer interactions.

This understanding, along with cross-organizational metrics that help drive customer focus across all employees, can help everyone understand how they are a part of “taking care of customers”.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Becky, including multiple departments or business units in supporting customer service begs the question, “Who owns the service to the customer?”

Becky Carroll: As you can see from my answer above, I firmly believe that every employee participates and ultimately owns the service of the customer. Some employees interact directly with the customer to provide this service; others are serving fellow employees across departments, which empowers them to perform their customer-facing roles effectively – from the customer’s perspective.

Employee metrics focused on customer service will help make drive employee behaviors to support customer-focused initiatives.

Diva Marketing/Toby: The irony of social media is that we began this journey with a focus on bringing people together .. customers and the staff behind the brand.  However, frequently it seems the objective is not building relationships but in how many friends, likes, followers and now 1+ a brand can accumulate.

You turn the tables and advise us to be your customer’s fan (love it!). How do we get out of the "collecting numbers mindset?" 

Becky Carroll: Social media practitioners get into the habit of collecting numbers when they view social media as another place to run campaigns.

Social media is not a campaign – it is a strategy to build relationships.

When a company creates a social media strategy that is based on business goals, such as increasing customer share of wallet, as well as based on improving customer relationships (which can include prospects, too), rather then simply tracking “traffic” to social media properties (likes, followers, etc), we begin to move out of the campaign-mindset.

It also helps executives to better understand what we are doing with social media when we talk to them in terms of business goals and metrics as opposed to the much-touted social media “numbers”.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  I’ve used social media to call companies out and also to tell companies their service or product rocks. Sometimes I’ve been acknowledged and sometimes I have not. I must admit that when I don’t get a response, but notice that other people are getting special treatment I feel slighted. How does a company scale Customers Rock service?

Becky Carroll: Customer service via social media scales best when it is part of a customer-focused culture. This type of culture is created by company management as they model servant leadership towards their employees.

When employees, all employees, see how it looks to serve others in the organization, they learn how to serve customers.  Once everyone at the company understands how customer service is everyone’s job, and this is supported by management and metrics, employees will be empowered to treat all customers well – both in social media as well as in other customer-facing channels.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  I agree with you .. at the end of the day it is all about the people on both side of the equation: customers and employees. As our friend Sybil Stershic reminds us although most product and services can easily become commoditized relationships built on caring service are more difficult to duplicate. 

After you’ve listened (Chapter 1) and understand your customers’ need what is the first step to take in becoming a Customers Rock company?

Becky Carroll: The first step in becoming a Customers Rock company is to create a customer strategy. Companies have marketing strategies, social media strategies, and product strategies – but how many of them have a strategy for how they will treat their customers? This strategy needs to be thought-through carefully and embraced at all levels of the organization.

It should incorporate all four keys described in the book – Relevant Marketing, Orchestrated Customer Experience, Customer-Focused Culture, and Killer Customer Service – in order to create a strategy that can unlock the hidden power of your existing customers.

 Diva Marketing/Toby:  Becky, the Diva Marketing virtual stage is yours. Wrap it up any way you like.

Becky Carroll: I would just encourage organizations not to take their current customers for granted. They have more power than you think to help grow your business. And it’s not really hard – start with a thank you for being our customer!

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of Diva Marketing, Toby. You rock! Becky Carroll Hidden-Power2

Becky totally rocks too .. in fact she gave me a copy of The Hidden Power of Your Customer to give away.

If you want the book drop a comment and let me know why.

Becky will choose the comment that she thinks rocks it out!

Update: Contest deadline is midnight Friday 9 Sept 2011.

Continue the conversation with Becky!

Customers Rock

Twitter 

Facebook

The Hidden Power of Your Customers

Amazon.com

Update: Becky Carroll chose Aimee's comment as the winner. As an extra bonus for us ~ Aimee graciously agreed to tell us her 3 top customer rock tips .. skip over to this post! Thanks to everyone who participated!

 Bloggy disclaimer: Becky kindly comped me a copy of her book. 

Friday Fun: Along The Way I Saw More

08/12/2011

Friday Fun is Diva Marketing's virtual happy hour from cosmos to Jack to lemonade. A waiting for the weekend 'playground' time to be sophisticated-silly. Or sometimes just plain silly.

If I were to ask you what you see or what you remember along the way .. what would you say? 

Last week I visited my family in Massachusetts. One of my favorite spots is the North End of Boston. If you can't afford a trip to Italy it's the next best thing. Turn a corner and you find delight. Even some thing as simple as a box of blueberries or tables in a court yard can inspire.

North End_Kaye
A small grocery's store window. I loved the way the boxes were stacked and the colors of the fruit so I pulled out my iPhone and clicked. After I took the photo I saw more .. my cousin Kaye Ellen's reflection and a brick building from the other side of the street were part of the display.

  North End _Boston Fiore_2

Tables in a court yard. In the Norh End there are more restaurants per square inch than any other place in the city. Looking through the rod iron gate into a restaurant's court yard dining area was especially charming. I felt like I was walking the streets of Firenze. After taking the photo I saw more .. the pattern of the shadows on the ground played like street art.

Fiore
Sign of a restaurant. To help me remember the name of the restaurant I shot the sign. After taking the photo I saw more .. the tag line "Inspired by you" brought a nod and a smile.

If you were to ask your customers what they saw or remembered along the way what would they say? What seemingly small experience, that you might have over looked as special, help your customers see more of what sets your brand apart?

How can your customers inspire you? Simple. Unexpected. Powerful.  

Dedicated to my dad, Lou Bloomberg, who loved the North End too.

Customer Service Social Media Style: A Pulse of the Industry View Part 1

10/22/2010

What do people do on social networks and blogs? They "talk" of Service_photo_e3mh course! They talk about what is important and what is mundane. More frequently, however,  those conversations are directed, not to friends or family, but to the people who represent brands. These chats are about service and product concerns.

"Social (media customer) service" and the "social customer" are impacting how business is being conducted and will be conducted.

In preparation for the BlogWorldExpo panel I spoke on last week, Creating Customer Loyalty Through Social Media, I was curious to better understand the social customer's expectations of the new social media kid on the blog .. "social service."

So like any good social media diva I dropped a question on a couple of social networks:

More companies are using social media to support their customer service strategies. What are your expectations of "social service?"

30 people responded. While this may not be statistically valid research, the responses from these early adopters provide valid learnings. Many thanks to all who shared their insights.

Interestingly there were a few similarities to the Pulse of the Industry research I conducted on Blogger Relations. The two most significant were:

1.  Customers want to know they matter

2. Customers want to engage with people who want to build trusted relationships

Although social service may not have reached mainstream adoption, those active in the social web have come to expect to be accommodated in this channel.

I expect companies to address my needs in the channels of my choosing. -  Teresa Caro.

It's a great access ramp to getting a problem solved without the typical customer service brush off; however, I think the number of people using Twitter to complain about their cable service for instance, is small compared to the number of people going through the traditional channels. - Marianne Richmond

I think many consumers (those active social media users) have come to expect a response. Smart companies have gotten out in front of the customer service through social media curve and have spoiled the public into thinking that all companies should respond that way. - Jason Falls

The benefits of social service were varied and ranged from building relationships, building trust to gaining a competitive advantage, increasing personalized service and saving money (from responses seen by others who have similar concerns).

When combined with traditional marketing, social-driven customer service can be a force for more credible problem-solving, less expensive customer service, product ideation and customer lifetime value. - Dennis Dunlap

Gives us an opportunity to answer a question or solve a problem while reinforcing in a broad forum, our willingness and desire to do so. - Brendan Hurley

Real time brand building, loyalty extending and responding time enhancer. - Jody DeVere

Responses fell  into nine broad topics:

i. I Matter

Social Service comes down to one thing: treat me like a person. I am a valued customer, not just a user. - Michael Rubin

Positive, direct honesty from service provider; not just one-way marketing communication speak. - Jake Aull

Social networks give companies an incredible opportunity to make things right and retain their customers, turning them into brand ambassadors. - Elaine Fogel

Loud and clear people want to know that they are important to your organization. Notice me, talk to me, acknowledge me was the the mantra for many.

Too often it seems that social media service reflects the philosophy of George Orwell's Animal Farm .. some people are more equal than others. The more Followers, the higher your Google ranking .. the more likely you are to capture the attention of a brand.

Lesson learned: Your best customers may not appear to be social media 'influencers.'

Challenge: How do you scale social service to acknowledge all or most people who take the time to engage with you?

 ii. Real People

How well they can embody your brand's spirit and use common sense vs. a script goes a long way. - Mary Hunt

For all this to happen, all staff have to know the game thay are now in. May be (probably will be) need for cultural change. Snooty waitpersons whose idea of fun is to insult the customer need nto apply. - Des Walsh

I expect a company to show the social customer service by putting a person out front, not an anonymous company reply, who understands the brand. - Rob Peterson

I would expect proactivity, not just reactivity, and a more "human" less scripted and fake exchange. - Debra Semans

As with every other use of social media, our customers expect to use this channel talking people-to-people Not person-to-logo. There is little patience with those companies that are using social service as another messaging opportunity.

Those reaching out through the social web to solve a problem or ask an important question, don't want platitudes. These people are using social media to build long-term, trusted relationships with the people behind the brands.

Lessons learned: Customers expect personal conversations that are not scripted.

Challenges: Knowledgeable people placed in positions where the exchanges take both the customer and brand values into consideration.

iii. Understand the Social Media Culture

She obviously had no idea what Twitter is. I was not submitting a complaint to BofA I was mad and I was vetting to my friends and followers. - Sally Falkow

Social media is the only strategy (yes, I do think it is a strategy, but that's another post for another day) that I know of that is built on a culture. e.g., value driven, transparency, authenticity, conversations versus messages and throw in a some passion too.

If the people participating in social media don't understand the vernacular of the platforms there is a disconnect between the brand's customer service reps and their customers.

Lessons Learned: Customer service reps engaging in social media must understand the cultural norms and response/engagement expectations.

Challenges: Providing the right training for all employees who interact with customers in all service channels.

iv. Response Time

We live in a 24/7 world. Companies simply can't wait to respond. - BL Ochman

Set the expectations by listing response time on the selected social media touch points could be a solution. - Rajesh Lawani

Social media customer service is held to a higher standard than traditional customer service channels. Customers want Fast response and problem solving. However, there is no standard to what is meant by "fast." Fast ranged from 3-4 hours to within a day.

Lessons Learned: The bar is set higher for social media responses than for traditional channels.

Challenge: In order not to disappoint, customer expectations must be managed. The extent of resources (people, processes, technology, finances) will of course, impact response time.

v. Non Presence

Some of my favs are not on Twitter or Facebook yet, or their presence is silent on those sites. I'm beginning to question their commitment to me as a customer. - Yvonne DiVita

Not engaging with your customers in the social web is beginning to hurt brand goodwill. As Jamie Turner puts it, " Using social media as a customer service tool isn't an option anymore." 

Lessons Learned: Organizations that are not listening and engaging with their customers in the social web are missing opportunties to expand the brand experience and create brand champions. 

Challenges: It's critical that resources are in place if you plan to scale listening and engagement in social web conversations. As important is determining who will listen, how will they listen, what will they listen for and who, how, what will they respond to in the digital worlds.

vi. Keep Promises

Customer service cartoon
One time a brand did interact; they promised something that they never fulfilled so that just reinforced my annoyance with the company.
- Laura Bennett

Although the social customer service tweet or Facebook status update is directed at One person thousands maybe listening. The social service channel becomes a public exposure of how your company handles problems and relates to customers. You can WoW or your can stumble and fall.

Lessons Learned: A broken promise or a brush off response can result in more than one 1 lost customer. Promises kept can result in a new brand champion who influences segments you many have access to at this time.

Challenges: Servicing the individual customer, on a personal basis while being aware of the immediate impact on many.

vii. The Social Customer

I want to bear witness to change. - Jane Genova

A Tweet reply from a real person, with an invitation to DM them for follow-up assistance. - Debbie Weil 

I do expect that if they offer an outlet online, they should be able to back it up online. If I mention something in a post or a tweet - it's always nice to have them acknowledge it - even if I didn't @ them or use a #. If they ask if they can help me, don't disappear after I say yes, here's the problem. - Sue Rodman

The social client can be vastly different from a client that utilizes other channels. The issue types that are observed via social media sites also tend to be ones that are escalated and to add to that tension, now the whole world is watching to see how you answer. - Bianca Buckridee

I do not want push communications through social media channels regardless of how they set up the use of these tools internally. If you put your brand out there, you should be ready to engage on all levels. - Donna Tocci

The social customer is not only an early adopter but sophisticated in terms of understanding how to leverage technology and the social web.

Although conversations may begin online as CK Hurley says, " I don't mind moving off social platforms (such as Twitter) on to email/phone as that's many times necessary given space limitations and sometimes it's necessary due to regulated industries."

 viii. Impact on the Enterprise

All the well-intentioned listening in the world won't make a difference unless you fundamentally change the way your company does business and start respecting your customers giving them a voice and a chance at a satisfactory experience. - Alan Wolk

The customer service companies that utilize Facebook Open Graph to segment their messaging will be ahead of the game in proactively using social as a service tool. - Erika J. Brookes

Customer Service Reps: As we discussed above not only will social media reps require additional training in how to communicate in the social web e.g., no messaging allowed!, but understanding the culture is as important.

Infrastructure: Are the right processes and systems in-place including cross department communication? Has the impact on resources been analyzed? Are service levels across ALL channels consistent?

Lessons Learned: Social media impacts all aspects of the enterprise especially those who have contact with your customers.

Challenges: Change in the internal culture to allow people to not only participate in the social web conversations but to empower the customer service reps to publicly respond and WoW. 

viii. Companies doing it right

Dell, Southwest, Comcast, Best Buy, AMC, Marriott, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Whole Foods, Jet Blue

We're in the business of making people happy and exceptional customer service from real reps in a totally unscripted environment makes people happy. - Melissa Lacitigonola

ix. Companies doing it wrong

Bank of America, Schwab

But at the end of the day does it really matter which channel you use to service your customers? The goal is consistency across all channels. As Dan Dooley put it, "The key driver is to not distinguish "social" customer service from any other - it's all social, it's all service."

Resources

Creating A Two-Tiered System of Customer Service 

Social Media Mission Control, THe Contact Center Must Evolve 

The Social Customer Engagment Index White Paper

Using Social Channels To Show Customers You Care

 Pink boa Toss of a pink boa to:

Dennis Dunlap, American Marketing Association

Yvonne DiVita, Lip-sticking

Laura Bennett, Embrace Pet Insurance

Rob Petersen, Barb Raisers

Jane Genova, Speechwriter Ghostwriter

Teresa Caro, Razorfish

CK Hurley, CK's Blog

Alan Wolk, Alan Wolk

Erika J. Brooks, Virture

Jason Falls, Social Media Explorer

Rajesh Lawani, BlogWorks

BL Ochman, Whatsnextblog.com

Marianne RIchmond, Resonance Partners

Des Walsh, Des Walsh dot com

Debbie Weil, Debbie Weil

Sally Falkow, Meritus Media

Donna Tocci, Ingersoll Rand

Melissa Lacitgnola, Zappos

Sue Rodman, Field Trips With Sue

Mary Hunt, In Women We Trust

Michael Rubin, Michael E Rubin

Elaine Fogel, Solutions Marketing and Consulting

Brandan Hurley, Goodwill of Greater Washington

Jody DeVere, Ask Patty

Jake Aull, Zen of Brand

Bianca Buckridee, Sun Trust

Jamie Turner, 60 Second Marketer

Dan Dooley, Mullen

Brent Leary, The Social Customer

Tom O'Brien, MotiveQuest

Debra Semans, Polaris Marketing Research

Rockin' With Social Customer Service

10/15/2010

Two years ago Becky Carroll, Customers Rock, invited me, along with 
BlogWorld-Panel-2008-150x150
Tony Hsien, Frank Eliason and Brian Solis, to participate on a BlogWorld Expo panel about a fairly new, innovative use of social media. Fast forward 24-months and "social service" is on its way to becoming the new darling of social media.

Becky thought it would be fun to do an encore of that panel: Act 2 of Creating Customer Loyalty with Social Media, A Look 2 Years Later I am at #bwe10, Las Vegas, with Becky Carroll, Frank Eliason and this time representing Zappos -- Melissa LaPointe.

As I told the packed room (thanks to everyone who attended!) in 2008 we were so innocent .. or perhaps a better word might be naive.  Although in 2008, we were seeing an up-swing in the use of social networks, today participation has escalated to include segments and "tribes" that were just tip toe-ing through the social web. Add to that more shiny toys to play with like FourSquare and apps and peer-to-peer on-line engagement is on a course that will take us who knows where!

In thinking about adding social service as an additional avenue to support customer care, consider a 2-sided model: internal (company) and external (customers). Balancing expectations for both sides of this see saw ride is not always simple. However, when it comes to digital social customer service it is critical to get right.

From the perspective of the company

It's very clear that my pal Shel Israel was spot on when he told me in 2005 that social media cannot be contained in one corporate silo. Conversations that impact the brand continue to evolve on social networks.

Don't be fooled by what might appear to be seemingly casual chats. These conversations can impact brand goodwill and every aspect of the enterprise, especially those that interface with our customers.

Even the first step of a social media strategy, listening, grows more complex. There are many decisions must be reached and questions answered. Who takes ownership of the listening and of the direct customer engagement? Will you be proactive or reactive? What do those terms mean to your company? Who will take ownership of what? How will internal communication be structured? Organizations are exploring involving multiple departments. What that looks like will differ for every organization.

From perspective of the customer

I was very curious to understand what this new channel of service meant to people. Were expectations different in new media versus tradtional call centers? I dropped a question in a few social networks and received some fascinating responses. People expect a human approach not a logo response.

Although a company (or a person from the brand) may respond directly to a customer, in what may appear to be a 1:1 conversation, the brand experience extends to whomever maybe watching the exhange. The digital brand/customer service experience is more reflective of the in-person "corner grocery store" exhange versus that of eMail or the call center. 

More on the Pulse of Social Service next week. In the mean time, think about what Dennis Dunlap, CEO American Marketing Association told me ..

Done well a social media customer service approach can augment strong phone, email and online support.  But it requires a commitment to managing heightened expectations of customers engaging in digital channels.

Customer service has sure come along way bebe from when, in another life time, I was a rep for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts!

 

Social Media Redefines The Brand Experience

08/29/2010

Brands abc blocks  Random thoughts on a late summer afternoon. How do you define a "brand experience?" 

It seems to me .. the traditional "brand experience" is evolving into what it might be more appropriate to call .. the "human experience." It seems to me .. brand experience goes beyond the customer use of the product/service, ad messaging, PR spins or slick logos that are all wrapped up in a beautiful bow of consistency across all communication channels. 

It seems to me .. that while those elements may be important to build the structure of a brand promise, they become part of the new brand equation. Add to that a not so minor detail of peer-to-peer influence.

Example: What makes Zappos a great brand? It's not so much its offering of a zillion different shoe options or even the free return policy. It's the commitment to customer care which begins with its trust in its own employees. Employees are encouraged to take good care of its customers, as well as, to build people-to-people not brand-to-people, relationships from call center exchanges to tweets.

How odd it seems in 2010, to build a relationship with an inanimate object when people (employees & customers), who are really the heart of a brand, are out from the shadows.

Your thoughts? 

 Sidebar: Zappo CEO Tony Hsieh's, book Delivering Happiness, is worth a read.

Learn more about social media and branding in Chapter 7 of my free eBook Social Media Marketing GPS. Listen to an expanded conversation with my guest interviewees Beth Harte and Dana VanDen Heuvel on the AMA sponsored podcast series ~ Social Media GPS A Road Map To Social Media Success.  

Social Media Boots Are Made For Running

02/25/2010

Boots cowgirl red  These boots were made for walkin' and that's just what they'll do  .. It's funny the songs that get stuck in our heads. As I prep for a trip to San Antonio boots and cowgirl hats spin in my mind. And girlfriend, those Texas boots are red and sassy! Wondering if Nettie will be wearing a pair ..

Social media is walkin' and some might say runnin' through our business practices. Sadly, it's barely crawling in terms of an integrated process through out most enterprises.

As our understanding of how our customers, the media, prospective employees, current employees, share holders and more use the social web it becomes evident that BBF Shel Israel was right. Social media does not live only in the world of marketing. Public relations, customer service, operations and human resources are exploring ways to incorporate online digital conversational tools.

Comcast is using Twitter as a customer service channe; while the business-to-business company Indium has tapped its engineers and scientists to create twelve niche topic blogs. Small local businesses like Atlanta restaurant Pizzeria Venti are on Twitter, Facebook and including blogger relations outreach to build relations with neighborhood patrons through special offers and conversations.

Isipho, a small nonprofit that’s mission is to improve the lives of the children in Nzinga, South Africa, has raised its awareness and brought in funding through its Facebook page, blog and tweets. Dell is a marketer's dream selling millions of dollars of computers through special Twitter offerings.

All too often, enterprise social conversations are grassroots efforts .. which might seem like it would dovetail with the social media culture. And perhaps it does.  However, with so many areas of the enterprise joining digital conversational exchanges With customers and stakeholders we inadvertently created a set of expectations.

Limited planning and neglect in creating a comprehensive enterprise social media direction results in disappointing customers and in the disconnect of the brand promise. Why? Because we can't sustain the same level of engagement since too frequently no one knows what all of those social media experiences entail.

A few questions for you to consider at your next department meeting:

 Is service better on the Twitter channel than in your call center? 

Does a blog or Facebook post provide more relevant information than your website or brochures or trade shows? 

Do your enterprise bloggers or twitters understand the needs of your customers better than your traditional sales force? 

Is the HR specialist bringing in more qualified candidates through LinkedIn than ads or recruiters?

Please, please, please .. keep in mind: Every time a customer or client interacts with your employees (or -gulp- agency .. you are transparent about that I hope!) within your social media assets (Twitter, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, etc. You do consider then assets and not resource drains?) it creates not only a new experience for that One person but it is viewed by hundreds if not hundreds of thousands of people. That secondary audience also experiences your brand and builds expectations of how they assume you will treat them. 

More questions:

From the customer perspective: If my friend receives a comment from you on her blog post or my neighbor gets his problem resolved from a tweet But I do not .. how is the disconnect in service and the brand promise resolved? Not to mention the "feeling badly" emotions that may occur.

From the enterprise point of view: How in the world do you scale this stuff without hiring a cast of zillions?

One of the benefits that social media brings to the enterprise is  ... a we can not wait any longer .. critical need to ensure cross functional communication systems are in place.

Processes should be developed to capture the learnings and information occurring from each social media touch point. Ideally, that information should be analyzed and placed in a common, let’s call it digital repository.  In addition, critical information should be directed to people who can quickly provided a response and begin a solution process.

  “Un-soloing” an organization,  whether it is a Fortune 100 enterprise with global divisions or a small business with three employees with distinct responsibilities, takes time, commitment, often a change in culture and team work.

These boots are made for walkin' .. or perhaps we should change the song to these shoes were made for runnin'!Running shoe

Miracle On The Social Media Street

12/25/2009

Before you go off the grid for the holidays .. or perhaps when you come back on after toasting in 2010 .. imagine a time when there was no Internet or Twitter or blogs or Facebook or even email. It is Christmas 1947 and the CEO of a major retail organization briefs the company's ad department.

  • "No high pressuring and forcing the customer to take something he doesn't want. We'll be known as the helpful store. The friendly store. The store with a heart. The store that places public service ahead of profit. The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before."

Miracle on 34th street No, it's not a new Twitter customer care strategy. But it is an innovative sales program launched in 1947 by Macy's Department Store .. it was a Miracle On 34th Street .. on the silver screen. Customers would not be coerced into buying what they did not want and if another store had a better, less expensive product Macy's would send them to that store.

Fast forward 62 years to 2009. Social media is one of the most exciting marketing strategies we've seen in the last 60+ years. Social media teaches us many lessons. One of the most important for marketers is our business is not all about the brand .. it is all about the customer. As with so many lessons, we seem to keep relearning this one.

In the world of conversational marketing there is no room for high-pressure sales techniques. As Mr. Macy learned we have to take our lead from our customers. Adding a relationship focused social media strategy to your master marketing plan can be a powerful initiative which demonstrates that you place your customers' needs above a one-off sale.

The digital relationships that the people (not departments) who are the heart of your brand can set off a chain reaction. Continuous listening -> which leads to continuous learning -> which leads to a continuous conversations -> which leads to trust -> which leads to loyalty -> which leads to the cash register bells ringing. And every time a cash register bell rings a marketer gets a bonus or gets to keep her job (!).. oops wrong film. Sorry.

Corner grocery store digital relationships that are build not only with you and your customers, but among your customers, could never have been imagined when Kris Kringle entered Macy's in 1947. However, even as we approach 2010, for many organizations open conversations still seem like a Miracle on (insert organization name here) or like the ghost of Xmas future (oops wrong movie again. Sorry.)

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible... consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

As we begin 2010, technology developments spin even faster taking digital marketing into areas that were impossible in '47 or '57 or even '09.

Imagine a site that holds current inventory and pricing, allows for on-line financing and results in better, faster cheaper processing.

Imagine a site that allows for product customization.

Imagine a site where you can start a conversation with a real person about what matters to you regarding a product or service.

Imagine a site where you can talk to a real person who doesn't respond with an FAQ list.

Imagine a site where you can actually help change the direction of a product or service before it's even launched.

Imagine a site where you can include your review of the product, service or customer care.

Imagine a site where you can talk to people about their experiences and learn from each other.

Imagine a company that doesn't close the door (or comment section) to you or your ideas.

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

It's interesting to compare a 1940's film, where finding solutions to customers' problems was perceived as unique, to 2009 where finding solutions to customers' problems is considered ingenious.

The techniques may have changed. New buzz words may be added to the mix. Bells and whistles may be a little louder. However, after all is said and done, the premise remains the same:

-Listen

-Understand

-Add value

-Do what it takes to go the extra mile to delight your customer

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

Toby max santa hats  And with that Max and I wish you a holiday full of joy and all things wonderful in the new year.

Sidebar: A Classic Diva Marketing post based on an article written for AMA Marketing News. 

A Digtial Handshake With Paul Chaney

09/22/2009

Paul chaney book 9_09

Every once in awhile while there are people who enter your life and not only influence your journey but touch your heart. Paul Chaney is one of those people. In his new book The Digital Handbook Paul simply and smartly explains not only why it is now critical that marketers pay attention to social media but suggests ways of how to put the tactics into play.

Paul graciously agreed to an email interview. I asked him to tell us thought process that went into the development of The Digital Handbook. It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to my dear friend and colleague .. author, social media 'rock star' and a true Southern Gentleman .. Paul Chaney.

Toby/Diva Marketing: This is your second book on social media. The first, Realty Blogging, was targeted to the real estate industry while The Digital Handshake seems to be for a more general business audience.  In the few years in between the publishing of both how have you seen this emerging industry that we call “social media change?”

Paul Chaney/The Digital Handshake: From my perspective, we’ve had two iterations. Keep in mind that in 2006-2007 I was a bit of a Rip VanWinkle in that I stepped away from active participation, only to wake up and find the world had changed. There were sites like Facebook and Twitter and I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I did realize that, unless I got with the program I was going to become archaic, a relic of the 2004-2005 blog-centric past. I determined not to allow that to happen.

Again, that was my perspective. In truth, this has been a gradual evolution in which blogs played a leading role. I think there was a lot of experimentation with social networks, starting most memorably with Friendster, then MySpace and now Facebook. We’ve seen a maturation process in terms of the degree of sophistication in the types of functionality that social networks allow, most notably Facebook. At the same time, they’ve gotten very easy to use. I know, my wife is on Facebook and if she can use it, anyone can.

I think of equal note is the movement away from purist ethics. Social media has become the latest victim of spammers and ne’er-do-wells. People who don’t understand the underlying philosophy are trying to use the genre as a direct marketing tool, and it doesn’t work. At least, I hope it doesn’t. I pray that doesn’t become the new model.

  • This medium was built on the chief cornerstones of authenticity and transparency and any attempt to “game” the system should be met with complete disdain.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Your book has been called a “road map” to understanding social media. On a road trip we start at point A to eventually get to point B. What should we take along with us on this journey?

Paul Chaney/The Digital Handshake: The journey begins by knowing the destination. I think you call that strategy. Social media needs to be used strategically, in a way that supports the marketing goals and objectives of the company. It should be treated no different than any other form of marketing and held to a similar standard.

Not only that, you need to know the rules of the road. Social media has evolved to the point where there are some pretty well-defined, if not yet written rules. Those that abide by them will be rewarded, those that don’t, well, read what I said above.

Obviously, to get anywhere, you have to have a means to travel, a vehicle. Social media offers any number of those from blogs, to social networks, to micro-blogs, to video, podcasts and on and on. You have to chose the vehicle that’s right for you in terms of your strategy and business objectives.

I think you also need route by which you travel. For me, where social media is concerned, it consists of three words: Listen, Engage and Measure. Listening is the new marketing and if people are talking (and they are) we had better know what they’re saying, who’s saying it, and where it’s being said.

Listening leads the way to engagement and given that “the CEO wants to know the ROI of SMM” we have to measure the results. Just like you’d measure your gas mileage on a trip, so to we have to assign some metrics to social media when and where it’s appropriate to do so.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Following the idea of a road trip .. some of the most fun trips are those where we go off the beaten path. Can you offer some “side trip” suggestions that would add value to a marketer’s understanding of why or how to engage in social media?

Paul Chaney/The Digital Handshake: I most certainly can and thank you for asking. I think the “side trips” have to do with the people we meet and the relationships we forge along the way. The most attractive thing about social media to me is not that I’ve been able to build a career around or that I can teach businesses how to use it to grow, but that I’ve met a bevy of people who have come to have great meaning to me, and chief among them is you Toby.

If the joy is in the journey, then it has to do with the people we meet along the way who inspire, challenge and enrich us.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The Digital Handbook includes a lot of specific examples that bring to life the ideas and concepts you discuss in the book. In your research did you find any surprises regarding the way companies were using or not using social media tactics?

Paul Chaney/The Digital Handshake: No. (I’m kidding.) Actually, here’s what surprising (or not as the case may be). It’s that people are focused first on tactics and not on strategy. I don’t know that I can apply that statement to the people I interviewed, but it does apply to many I’ve met when doing workshops or giving presentations.

Over and over I hear, how do I use Facebook, or Twitter, etc? I want to tell them, it’s not all about the tools. There’s a mindset to adopt and that the tools are secondary to the marketing objectives.

I’m a tactically-oriented guy, but I’ve learned that, in order for social media to be most effective, it has to tie to strategic goals and objectives. And, it need to support and/or integrate with other forms of marketing.

Toby/Diva Marketing: It can be confusing for people who don’t “live” online to understand that relationships can be built and nurtured in the digital world. Let’s end this mini interview with this question: How you “shake hands” in the digital world?

Paul Chaney/The Digital Handshake: You know, it’s really not all that different than how you do it in the real world. Only, I being an introvert, I find it easier to do it virtually. You break the ice, find some common ground, carry on a conversation and begin the process of relationship-building. Your bio is your business card and a handshake is simply a conversation started by one party or the other.

Don’t be put off by the fact that the tools are unfamiliar. They are easy to use and don’t take long to master.

  • Social media isn’t about technology so much as it is about people. Focus on the people you’re trying to connect with, not the tools being used to do so.

Thank you Paul! Check out The Digital Handshake on Facebook and become a fan.