SOCAP events never disappoint! We come together. We share insights, experience, and knowledge. We get to know one another and support SOCAP while making sure that technology doesn’t trump the value of content we share.
The recent chapter meeting in South Florida was much the same! On a regularly scheduled call in February, we explored a variety of venues for the upcoming chapter meeting. Since South Florida covers a wide terrain it was difficult to agree on one location – Orlando or Miami. A few of the members posed the idea of co-locating the meeting in the two cities. Our speakers would attend the Orlando location, and we’d videoconference between Orlando and Miami so that all participants could view, listen, comment, discuss, and enjoy a unified experience. Our chapter members agreed that this was doable, but it would all come down to the execution.
Starwood properties would host the Orlando contingent, while SAP volunteered our Miami city offices for the downstate members. Videoconferencing being our conduit – we scheduled several tests and dry runs to make the event run smoothly.
On the day of our March 9th meeting, we gathered in our respective locations and kicked off our mornings with coffee (we will not go into the healthy debate about which city has the better coffee). Both rooms were well-equipped, and the acoustics were beautiful. We dialed in for some excellent audio conferencing. Unfortunately, the video conferencing had to be scrapped – internal videoconferencing vs. external videoconferencing is a dog of a task, and time just wasn’t on our side; we simply ran out of runway to pull it off (though we’d thought that we’d resolved everything in advance). However, all was not lost.
In spite of no videoconferencing, we were forced to:
- Pay close attention to our illustrious speakers
- Listen to all the voices in the room(s)
- Introduce ourselves to both a live audience and an ‘audible-only’ one
- Wait our turns across the divided table
…plus an added advantage for us in Miami was that there were fewer people with which to compete in our door prize drawing! Thanks again to Jarden and SPi Global for their generosity toward our door prizes and giveaways!
Once David Johnson (Uniters) dove into his topic of Online Reputation Management, the power of his words kept us all captivated: video or not. Even without the enhanced technology, members in both locations could view the speakers’ slides. Cliff Moore (COPC, Inc.) shared the eagerly awaited 2011 Multi-Industry Benchmarking Survey results, and we learned a great deal about how we’ve all evolved from a year ago, especially in how we are all handling social customer service in its many channels and forms.
It’s rare that we take the time to go around the virtual room with others involved in customer advocacy and exchange knowledge and experience from one industry business segment to another. However, the next part of our meeting was devoted to just that. We each rated ourselves in our level of sophistication and proactive strategy concerning the new social customer and the way we engage in our call centers today and learned more about each others’ businesses as well as our own. Companies ranged from “newbie” to “highly engaged” and the level of skill and strategic acuity of participants in the room was astounding.
Although I could write an entire novel on the shared knowledge that day in the two rooms themselves, spanning many industries, business segments, brands and channels, I am prepared to leave that for another day. It was a privilege to have the time we spent together – and the manner in which we ran this chapter meeting made us all feel just a little bit closer to one another even if only for a half day.
Network with your peers and colleagues from the customer care profession! You won’t find a gathering of nearly 500 customer relationship experts from leading Fortune 1000 companies anywhere else.
Breakout Sessions on the hottest customer care topics, PLUS a new Advanced Track for senior customer care professionals! This year’s breakout sessions cover a wide range of important topics, from mobile technologies to writing skills. Supercharge your professional education with our NEW Advanced Sessions that take a deeper dive into key proficiencies.
A sold-out exhibit hall showcasing the latest innvations and developments in customer care.
Amazing keynote speakers that will inspire, motivate and entertain you. You’ll hear from senior executives representing Kimberly-Clark, Dell, USAA and more, plus experts on the emerging mobile industry.
Bonus sessions to round-out your Annual Conference experience. Whether you hit the links at the annual Golf Tournament, enjoy a serene start to your conference at the special SOCAP spa event, attend a tour of the Darden Restaurants call center or sharpen your leadership skills with the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, there’s something for you to deepen your conference experience.
And that’s not all! The 2011 Annual Conference is the premier event for customer care professionals with the most education, networking and inspiration you can find. To register, visit www.socap.org today.
Both Florida and Nashville will hold regional events to gauge interest in having regular events or maybe even forming a SOCAP Chapter in the future. In a change from previous practice, areas without existing chapters are holding meetings/events of interest to the members in their area. This concept of focusing on the event is being used in Ohio and New England with positive results.
In Florida, Rita Wood with Network Direct has initiated conference calls with existing members to plan an event in the Miami area this Summer. Following this, there will be an event tied to the SOCAP Annual Conference, Oct. 16-19, 2011 in Orlando. After two calls with the members in Florida, August 1 was established as the meeting date and Carnival Cruise Lines stepped- up to host the event. Members will come to Carnival’s Miami Terminal, register and then board the Carnival Cruise Ship, “Imagination.” There will be a lunch followed by a program on aligning corporate culture with call centers. A panel of experts will interact with those in attendance for a valuable networking and educational event.
Leslie Skybo with Mars Petcare has become the driving force behind an event in the Nashville area. After hearing about the value of chapter events in other areas, she reached out to SOCAP staff about starting a chapter in the Nashville area. Mars, Paralax, iostudio, Nissan and Support Seven representatives met by conference call on June 7th to discuss how best to initiate interest in their area. They will hold an event in downtown Nashville the first week of August.
SOCAP currently has 17 chapters that add significant value to SOCAP membership. Members can follow the events that each chapter is holding and are welcome to visit any chapter event that interest them. For instance, the Georgia Chapter held an annual event that brings members and others from across the country. It has grown into an industry event that attracts hundreds of professionals involved in consumer affairs and contact center operations.
The Great Lakes Chapter invited members from adjoining chapters to their Technology Summit that was held in May and their June 9th golf outing.
There are numerous ways to get involved with SOCAP on the local/regional level. Just review the write-ups in this e-newsletter or check the SOCAP Website at your convenience. If you are interested in holding an event in your area, contact Ike or Chad at SOCAP.
Chris Zoloth is the Director, Global Customer Care for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). Chris has been absent from SOCAP for a few years as he focused on repositioning IHG’s overall customer care strategy to better support guests and hotels. We caught up with Chris and asked him a few questions about how things have changed in his world. Here is what he had to say:
SOCAP: Tell us about InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and your role there.
IHG is an international hotel company whose goal is to create Great Hotels Guests Love. The big picture is 7 hotel brands, over 146 million room nights per year, more than 640,000 rooms and over 4,400 hotels in 100 countries and territories around the world. Our Brands include: Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, InterContinental, Staybridge, Candlewood and Indigo. And let’s not forget about Priority Club Rewards, it is the world’s first and largest loyalty program with over 56 million members worldwide.
As for me, I’ve been with IHG for just over 18 years and my current responsibilities include directing IHG’s global Service Recovery Teams and Priority Club Rewards operational support. These teams are responsible for protecting the integrity of IHG’s brands and driving guest loyalty. My teams handle 4+ million guest interactions and transactions per year; answering questions related to Priority Club Rewards as well as pre and post stay support for our guests.
SOCAP: You have been away for a few years, what enticed you to come back to SOCAP?
I came from Hotel Operations and Franchise Support, so I originally joined SOCAP as a way of ramping up my customer care contact center knowledge by networking and attending webinars, symposium and conferences. After gaining additional insight from colleagues, I took an internal deep dive and completely restructured IHG’s service recovery processes globally. I introduced One Contact Resolution to reduce guest effort and a hotel fee based support system that financially rewarded high performing hotels and eased the burden on IHG system funding of Service Recovery. We went from an answering service function to a fully empowered customer care service recovery team.
IHG‘s business model focuses on managing and franchising hotels and has over 3,000 owners around the world that are passionate about their property and protective of their investment. The goal was to deliver contact center service recovery solution that would drive guest preference, increase the owner value proposition and guarantee long term sustainability of a corporate Customer Care Operation.
Our new processes have been in place for 2 years and it’s time to start reaching out to the industry to benchmark our success, share best practices and learn from other successful companies. SOCAP is a great way to do this.
SOCAP: SOCAP has several industry communities including the Hospitality, Travel, Tourism Community. How do you intend to use this community?
I’m looking forward to engaging in the Hospitality, Travel, Tourism Community Discussion Board by posting questions related to current challenges and hearing what other companies are doing.
SOCAP: You are attending the SOCAP Symposium in Las Vegas, what do you hope gain there that you can use when you return home?
Yes, there will be a few of us attending and we are really looking forward to the networking and having face to face discussions with experienced customer care professionals. Also I am interested in the online engagement session. As contact volume continues to shift to online channels, I’m interested in hearing what other companies are doing to better communicate with customers through these channels but also how to better manage the people resources that manage these channels.
SOCAP: Your offices are located in Utah, which makes it difficult to attend a local SOCAP meeting. How will that influence your continued membership?
That’s a great question and we did struggle with this in the past. I’m going to re-evaluate the chapters, to see if we can participate in one based on who is in the chapter rather than the location and try to attend a few meetings throughout the year. I know Hyatt is involved in the Heartland chapter which is only a few hours away. Starwood is involved in the New York Chapter, so we will just have to see which is best for us.
SOCAP: Anything else you want to say about SOCAP?
IHG Global Customer Care is looking forward to active membership and taking advantage of the tools and relationships available from SOCAP.
SOCAP Chapters cover different regions of the United States and Canada. They serve as a local gathering place for those consumer affairs professionals who want to build on their professional development. SOCAP Chapter meetings also compliment SOCAP National events by providing a setting to learn from each other.
SOCAP chapter events are opportunities to really network and grow. In the Heartland Chapter, we cover 4 states and usually meet in Omaha, Nebraska. At these meetings I have the opportunity to network and learn how other businesses view good customer service and how they operate. I am in food and beverage, but since we don’t have a lot of companies in the food and beverage industry in the Heartland Chapter, I have the opportunity to learn from other industries. This gives me a broader view of customer care. Before I really got involved, I didn’t know what I had at my disposal – both nationally and locally. I have been able to benchmark our operations, use people as a sounding board and share my experience.
Over the last four years, I have grown as a person by taking on leadership roles within SOCAP. Public speaking often comes to mind when assessing the value of leadership, but there are so many other avenues you can travel to develop your leadership skills. For instance I have learned what is most important in budgeting, program development and meeting planning. As president I try to impact every individual who shows up at a meeting. I want those people to get a great return on their investment of time and money.
Our meetings are valuable because we drive meeting content depending on what is most important to members. Because of our strong connection to SOCAP national, we know the most important topics nationally and as a board we look to impact people on the local level. We want them to come away with something actionable that will positively influence their job. We survey the members and our board has lively discussions on what is timely in the industry.
Meeting content is only part of the experience. It is critical to meet and greet as many as you can at a meeting. Our Heartland board tries to reach out and touch every member. We try to give new members a real cooks-tour of what is going on with the chapter. We also make sure we are giving them what they want. We explain how we want them to participate and that they have a voice – we learn so much from each other.
At a typical Heartland Chapter meeting the board members greet everyone and check them in. Then we introduce them to others and help them mingle. The first 15 minutes is the President’s greeting and an explanation of the agenda for the day. We have a program in the morning with a break, then one hour for lunch. After, and sometimes during lunch we often have round-robin table topics. Then there is an afternoon session that always ends with door prizes. Sometimes there is another social event after that.
Most chapters have a board of directors with officers, however some newer chapters get started by holding meetings a few times a year until the interest grows into becoming a more formal organization. I understand the reluctance to take a leadership position, but in Heartland we really support each other so that the burden is not too great on any one person. We will come to the aid of anyone who has a work conflict or whatever prevents them from performing their duty. Although the board members are willing to contribute on all levels and all are committed to a successful meeting, we all realize that work comes first.
I find that members often need a nudge to participate. You search for people who are engaged, want to make a difference and want to make SOCAP successful. But you don’t have to be a leader or a board member to make a difference. There are opportunities to speak on panels, for sponsorships, for planning a meeting or bringing in a new member. The key is to get involved, because what you get in return is immeasurable.
Your total SOCAP experience is most intense when national services are combined with those you receive in the local/regional SOCAP Chapter. If you do not have a chapter in your area and would like to start one, get in touch with our national office or me.
Happy New Year! In 2011, our goal is not only to increase both the amount of information and programs available to you as members, but to also offer multiple and diverse access points for you to interact, engage and benefit from SOCAP!
Within this e-newsletter, you will hear directly from your volunteer leaders, Susan Baranowsky (Campbell Soup Company), your 2010 Board Chair, and Cheryl Duwve (Roche Diagnostics), your 2011 Board Chair. In both messages, you will hear a common and familiar theme – member engagement. The success of SOCAP relies on your engagement, input and energy.
In Cheryl’s 2011 message, she articulates a clear vision and direction for SOCAP as well as a key challenge to all members – “Say Yes to SOCAP!” As your professional staff team, we are working hard to maximize the opportunities for you to be engaged, involved and active within SOCAP. To that end, we are broadening the programming options available to you as well as expanding and diversifying our communication channels to provide you with access and information to the resources you need to advance your company and your career.
Our 2011 programming calendar will be expanded. In addition to enhancing our two national conferences with innovative programming and relevant keynote speakers, expanding our Data Reporting Workshop and our Automotive Summit and adding new programs through our SOCAP Chapters and Communities, we are also continuing to expand our online resources through:
- Enhanced Webinar Series – We have increased the frequency of SOCAP webinars and will be making them available at no cost to all SOCAP corporate members.
- New Online Courses – For a deeper look at relevant topics affecting our profession, we will launch three online courses: Managing recalls effectively, operationalizing your social customer strategy and understanding the basics of customer care in a more engaged, social world.
- Improved SOCAP Website – We will be adding new online resources to our website, including more podcasts (like the one included in this newsletter), white papers from our various communities, a new online resource library to be launched later this year, and a digital version of CRM Magazine to enhance your ability to access, research and archive the important information in our magazine. (Note: We will continue to publish the magazine in hard copy.)
As we increase the value of your membership, we hope that you will say “Yes” to these great programs and resources that will support your professional growth.
Additionally, we need your involvement, time and talents to help SOCAP flourish. There are so many ways for you to say “Yes” and, as Cheryl points out, you reap the benefits of participation when you:
- Renew Your Membership: All memberships coincide with the calendar year. Therefore, if you have not renewed your membership, contact the SOCAP Office to ensure that your membership is current. Email Chad Fawcett (email@example.com) if you are not sure if your membership is current.
- Serve on a National Committee: I invite you to serve on one of our national committees. SOCAP committees support all of our national programs and communities. Email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in more information about serving on a committee.
- Share Your Success: We need your case studies, best practices and content expertise to help us enhance our program offerings, which includes providing ideas for articles in our magazine, podcasts and our website. Email Brian Cheung (email@example.com) to share your successes with us.
- Engage With SOCAP: Join us on the SOCAP Blog (http://www.socap.org/Networking/Blogs.aspx) and share your thoughts and ideas regarding the profession. Also, participate in our discussion boards or engage with us on Twitter (@SOCAP) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SOCAP). Your thoughts, comments and questions are always welcome.
The last few years have brought tremendous change, opportunities and challenges for nearly everyone, including SOCAP. We understand that the number of projects, goals, budgets, and contacts that you are managing continues to increase while the resources available to manage these priorities may remain steady or decline. We also recognize that your time is a valuable and treasured asset, and we hope that you will give some of your time by saying “Yes” to SOCAP and give us a chance to support you in your role as a customer relationship expert.
I look forward to speaking to you regularly throughout the year from my new blog and via our other online channels. In the interim, I wish you a happy and prosperous 2011. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.
Filed under: Food & Beverage, Household & Personal Care, Networking, Pharmaceutical & Medical Devices, Retail & Consumer Goods, Travel & Hospitality
By Cheryl Holtzen, Omaha Steaks, 2011 Membership Committee Chair
When I attend a SOCAP International event, I am always amazed at the wealth of knowledge and experience within our membership. As the Membership Chair for 2011, I envision a SOCAP of the future with a large and growing membership, made up of the leading companies and service providers in our profession. I invite you to join me in making this vision reality.
Our 2011 goal is to grow SOCAP membership by 10%. That is achievable if each of us spends just a few minutes each month thinking about bringing another customer care expert into SOCAP. I am not asking for a lot of your time – just a few minutes to call a prospect and ask them to join. If you need help, just call the national office at 703/519-3700.
A real key to our growth in 2011 will be in the SOCAP Chapters. I hope everyone is attending chapter events on a regular basis. Chapters are a critical ingredient to what makes SOCAP special, and for that reason, each chapter has a representative on the SOCAP Membership Committee. These valuable volunteers will support our grass roots efforts and improve coordination between local chapters and the national membership efforts. Each chapter and every member is important to the future of our professional assocaition.
Another key to our future growth is our industry communities. You will have the opportunity to attend an industry community meeting at the 2010 SOCAP Symposium, May 1 – 4 in Las Vegas. I participate in the Food & Beverage Industry Community which is one of the strongest communities. The SOCAP Board and I are committed to growing the other industry communities in 2011. The Board started by establishing a New Member Markets Task Force to form a new community in financial services and to strengthen the communities we now have. Are you involved in an industry community? Do you have a colleague at another company that should be involed? If so, reach out and invite them to participate in your professional association, SOCAP. As we network and learn from each other, our companies reap the benefits of new ideas and, each of us benefits personally by continuing our customer care education.
2010 was a very good year for SOCAP. Our corporate memberships allowed us to increase our reach within member companies and welcome many new faces. We will continue to build our membership as we grow the number of corporate members. Think about a corporation with which you would like to interact, find the person at that company who is in charge of customer care and send their name to the SOCAP National Office. Give them a call if you feel comfortable, share your SOCAP expereince and invite them to a chapter meeting. This gives you another company to network with, provides SOCAP a potential new member and moves the customer care foward as a profession. All in all a good deal for everyone!
I ask each of you to make membership growth part of your 2011 plan. SOCAP belongs to each of us and a stronger SOCAP means more professional development for you, more new ideas for your company and more clout for customer care as a profession. Let’s take ownership in 2011 and make our SOCAP even stronger. With your help, I look forward to reporting our successes through-out the year.
Cheryl Holtzen is the Director of Inbound Sales & Consumer Services for Omaha Steaks International. She is responsible for the Customer Contact Center including Customer Care, Inbound Sales, Quality Assurance and Operations. In addition, Cheryl has Corporate responsibility for overall Customer Satisfaction and Social Media monitoring and reporting. Prior to joining Omaha Steaks in 2001, Cheryl’s 20 years of experience included various customer care, operations and project management roles in hospitality and insurance. She is currently serving as the Chair of the 2011 Membership Committee.
By Carla Baynard
Expansive, suspended cables appear harp-like as we approach the incline of the bridge. As our bus rolls over the bridge, I view Alcatraz from the distance. For that one moment, the light mist from the rain makes the scene appear like another world. Then…it hits me! I am in San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, heading towards the Napa Valley. Destination: Sterling Vineyards. The Sterling wine tour was the start of my 2010 Annual Conference experience. Other attendees, like me, launched their conference experience on a second wine tour at William Hill Estate Winery. Later that evening, the official kickoff for the Annual Conference was held at the Welcome Reception hosted by Levi Strauss at the company’s beautiful store in Union Square.
With just the right blend of networking opportunities and educational workshops, this year’s SOCAP Annual Conference had something for everyone! While each attendee’s own conference experience may be different, I am pleased to share some personal highlights from the general sessions at SOCAP’s 2010 Annual Conference:
Day 1 – Morning
The Annual Conference opened with an announcement from SOCAP Board Chairman, Susan Baranowsky of The Campbell Soup Company that conference attendance stood at 500 people! Susan said that this number marks a record attendance for SOCAP at an annual conference. There’s a lot of excitement and buzz from the audience!
The welcome remarks provided by Businessweek.com Columnist Carmine Gallo set the proper tone for this year’s conference focus—Customer Engagement: Social Media – Customer Care Meets Marketing – Sustainability. Carmine reminded us that being engaged means being creative. He shared Steve Jobs’ quote “Creativity is just connecting things” and expounded that it is about connecting things from different fields and applying it to “your thing.” In this age of customer engagement, we must be innovators. Innovators have three common qualities. They are passionate, visionary and creative.
Carmine’s address paved the way for the featured address from keynote speaker, Charlene Li. Charlene is the author of the books Groundswell and Open Leadership. Her keynote address focused on Relationships in the Era of Social Technologies. Charlene asked us these key questions as it relates to engaging with customers with social media:
- When something goes wrong, what is the first thing you do?
- Are you proactive or reactive?
- How do you give up control?
She advised us to create a strategy around the customer relationships you are going to form and reminded us that it’s not about who owns the tools or the technology. It’s about who owns the relationship. Everyone in the organization is responsible for the customer relationship. Once this idea is realized within the company, then fighting over who owns the technology becomes a moot point.
Charlene shared four goals that leaders should have in using social technologies:
- Learn from your Customer.
- Dialogue with Them.
- Support Them.
- Innovate with Them.
Charlene wrapped up the address by highlighting some key points from her book, Open Leadership. She discussed a case study about Best Buy where Barry Judge, the CMO, started Best Buy’s Blue Shirt Nation—which created a culture of sharing among the employees. The idea was to practice internal networking before external engagement takes place. She talked about leadership and challenged the audience to ask this important question: How are YOU going to lead differently?
She ended on the topic “preparedness” and asked how do you roll up your sleeves and get the job done? But she didn’t leave the question unanswered. She recommended these three things:
- Discipline is needed to succeed.
- Ask the right questions.
- Prepare for Failure (and quoted Google’s mantra, “fail fast, fail smart”).
The afternoon’s keynote address was presented by John Gerzema, Chief Insights Officer, Young & Rubicam. John spoke to us about Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution is Changing the Way we Buy, Sell, and Live.
John highlighted these observations:
- In today’s economically strapped highly technological society, we are moving from mindless to mindful consumption.
- 55% of Americans are driving the “Spend Shift” MovementTrust in brands declined by 50% over last 6 years; people began to rethink the value of the brands they used.
- Kindness and empathy increased by roughly 400%.
- We are connecting with old values and virtues but are “powering” them with new technologies.
He wrapped up by sharing five spend shift scenarios and shared key results of the Spend Shift Movement:
- We are moving from a credit to a debit society.
- There are no longer consumers only customers.
- America is an emerging market for value-led innovation.
The Spend Shift Movement is about moving capitalism from being about “more” to being about “better.”
The second day of the conference was just as informative as the first! This time around the interview format was used. First up was Craig Newmark, founder, craigslist. Rohit Bhargava, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Ogilvy PR, conducted the interview with the craigslist founder. In the interview, Craig elaborated on the culture of craigslist. He said his company’s culture is simply to give people a break and to treat people like you want to be treated.
Craig’s overall business philosophy is to keep it simple when it comes to communicating. The primary tool for talking is to send people an email. Here’s how Craig responded to question about the craiglist website:
“We intentionally keep the site basic and uncluttered and without graphics to make it easy for users to move around in the site. Unnecessary graphics slow things down.The site is community-driven. Our philosophy is simply to listen to people and act. We are looking to begin use of ideation tools to help us segregate the good ideas from the bad ones.”
Craig also talked about the importance of being authentic and the importance of leading by example. His final thoughts can be summarized in these three bullet points:
- Treat people like you want to be treated.
- Get good ideas from your people.
- Management follow through is imperative.
Following the interview with Craig Newmark, Rohit then switched gears and moderated a social media panel discussion featuring Frank Eliason, Senior Vice President, Social Media, Citibank; Helen Horsham-Bertels, Senior Director, Consumer Affairs, Starwood Hotels & Resorts; and Bryan Rhoads, Senior Digital Strategist, Intel HQ. The panel gave some helpful tips about the role that customer care should be playing in engaging with consumers using social media.
Day 2 – Afternoon
The closing general session at the Annual Conference included the presentation of SOCAP’s 2010 Chapter Awards. We also heard from two great keynote speakers—Don Knauss, CEO of The Clorox Company and Dan Roam, author of THE BACK OF THE NAPKIN.
Dan Roam’s main message was that many of the problems we face can actually be solved with pictures! He showed audience members how to draw ideas on a napkin and then use these ideas to identify solutions to challenges. This presentation gave a whole new meaning to my concept of doodling!
Carla Baynard is a Client Services Director at Telerx where she designs and manages service care programs on behalf of several major national companies and one non-profit company. Telerx is a teleservice bureau specializing in contact center solutions for customer and consumer care. Carla is a member of SOCAP’s Publication Committee. Her full article on the SOCAP Annual Conference will appear in the December issue of CRM Magazine.
Visit www.socap.org for additional highlights from the 2010 Annual Conference.
The most frequent question that I am asked relative to customer care and service is what consumers should do when faced with a difficult challenge. Reporters, friends and consumers all ask me about options when they are dealing with a difficult customer service issue. What options do consumers have when they are not getting the answers that they need?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question.Nor is there a one-size-fits-all solution. Websites are available to consumers who wish to search with “tricks” on avoiding IVRs to speak directly to agents.
In reality, the customer relationship is established at the point of purchase. As consumers, we purchase goods and services daily and with these purchasing decisions, we are establishing relationships with companies large and small. The real customer service question is, “How do we, as customers, evaluate service in our purchasing decisions? Do we stop and evaluate a company’s commitment to customer care at the point of purchase as an evaluative tool such as price?” I believe that the answer should be an emphatic “yes!” If not, then we are making a decision long before the customer service issues becomes apparent later in the product life cycle.
As a parent of a three-year-old who has recently been diagnosed with allergies to all tree nuts and peanuts, I have become even more acutely aware of the importance of food labeling and the presence of a customer service toll-free number on packaging. I try hard to support companies that support effective communication channels with customers. For me, it is a source of comfort that the products in my pantry have connection points – whether to the farmers at my local market or to customer care professionals at much larger companies. For me, I know that I might need to find out more information about my food for the safety and well being of my family.
Matthew D’Uva is the President of SOCAP International.
By Lon Safko
This year has seen riveting changes in the social media landscape. People are dialing up their usage with social media networks to connect with friends, peers and business associates. Facebook has catapulted to an active base of over 400 million users, while Google has jumped into the social networking arena with its “Buzz” social media component built into its Gmail email platform. And Twitter’s engagement levels have grown dramatically. In February 2010, Twitter users were tweeting more than a billion times per month!
In addition, tweeting about new launches, products or service issues has become an indispensable tool for marketers, companies, organizations and others. As noted Internet watcher and investor Fred Wilson wrote recently: “We are seeing two things happen: First, big companies are jumping onto the idea that our status update has become the ultimate social gesture (Facebook and Google are two great examples), and second, we are seeing startups reinvent and redefine what a status update is (foursquare, blippy, plancast, etc.).”
At the same time, experienced social media users are backing away from terms like users, customers and shoppers. As I like to say, “All of us are no longer con-sumers, we’ve become pro-sumers. We are all now professional consumers.” Indeed, social media is about us—it’s about connecting our human expressions, interests and wants to our online interactions. We are seeking more meaningful connections, better self-expression and a relevant and receptive community. That extends past our own personal social networks to our business and commerce-driven relationships as well.
How people react to our company’s brands online is how they relate to our brands, period. The implications are daunting. Customer care professionals and customer relationship management executives have to make sure its frontline staffers are using these online tools in the best way for the company or organization.
How Companies Are Engaging With Social Media
Any social media pro worth his salt will tell you something along the lines of, “It’s about the listening, stupid!” Once properly set up, your online team needs to look, listen and learn in the online networks and communities that matter most to your business. But not all organizations adhere to that first strategic rule. They’re more interested in jumping in and asking questions later. Sometime it even works!
Let’s look at Twitter first. When I interviewed Twitter’s co-founder Biz Stone, he said, “We‘ve been fortunate in having a lot of very heavy commercial usage of the service.” He talked about companies like Dell, which he said is announcing that they’ve made $500,000 on Twitter last quarter, and Comcast, which has put together a hybrid way of combining marketing and customer support. While JetBlue and Whole Foods are using it to communicate with their customers.
But are the biggest companies properly leveraging Twitter to further customer interactions and brand awareness? Not really, according to a study released by the global communications firm Weber Shandwick. According to the study Fortune 100 companies needed a “Twittervention.” Out of the 540 total Twitter accounts registered by Fortune 100 companies, the study said that three-quarters didn’t tweet often and half of the of the accounts had fewer than 500 followers. In addition, 15 percent were not be used at all.
In its report, Weber Shandwick prescribed five essential steps as a starting point for Fortune 100 companies to create true engagement and market interaction on Twitter: Listen, participate, update, reply, and retweet (syndicate).
Weber Shandwick’s report also noted that another effective use for businesses using Twitter has been for customer service. “For example, Best Buy (56 on Fortune 100) uses its @Twelpforce for customer service and has some 14,000 followers. However, only 9 percent of the Fortune 100 accounts use Twitter for this purpose. It very well may be that these companies are steering away from customer service because to do it effectively, they would need additional staff specifically to respond to complaints and questions from customers on Twitter.” Indeed, there may be additional human capital issues to address, or budget areas to bend, but these should be paramount when it comes to your company’s brand online.
The study also showed that the company’s most popular use of Twitter was as a newsfeed or for developing brand awareness, but only 16 percent of Fortune 100 accounts used Twitter for sales, special Twitter offers, coupons or other special offers.
According to research done by online monitoring firm Royal Pingdom showed that Twitter is now processing more than one billion tweets a month. In January 2010 there were 1.2 billion tweets with an average of almost 40 million tweets a day. This chart shows that growth:
Companies on Facebook
Now let’s look at how one venerable American company is using Facebook to gain and retain customers through effective engagement. Dairy Queen has more than 5,600 US store locations, and is a well-recognized brand in more than 20 countries around the world.
In May 2008, Dairy Queen launched its official Facebook page and it has become an essential platform for its customer engagement and also serves as a content aggregator for all things Dairy Queen. As of this writing, its page has amassed nearly 800,000 fans. Those are big numbers, my friend. And by drilling down into its analytics, Dairy Queen knows that most of its fans are women in that key demographic age of 18-44yrs. old.
By using social media, Dairy Queen can poll its fans to come up with new flavors, find underserved locations and much more. Besides its Facebook page, Dairy Queen is active on Twitter, videos, blogging and more.
Let’s take a look at some case studies of companies doing the right thing when it comes to social media and taking care of its customers, and in many instances, winning many new ones.
Dell Computers is a great example of how a company handles customers through social media. In 2005, the company found that its laptop batteries (manufactured by Sony) were overheating and burning up. Dell’s attempts at customer care and reconciliation were abysmal at the start, and some began to refer to the company as “Dell Hell.”
But by 2007, Dell had begun using its company blogs (most notably Direct 2 Dell) and emerging online networks to reach out to disgruntled customers to turn around its brand impressions and company sales. Its blog became the first place that Dell customers went to learn about how to handle their laptop in case of an overheated battery.
Dell also launched IdeaStorm, an online crowdsource community to receive new ideas to help build more relevant products and solutions. Additionally, the company’s social media team started actively monitoring blogs, social networks and Twitter to identify problems and solve them. Its aggressive response helped engender a positive change in the image of Dell’s customer service, and at the same time, cultivate a sense of community with its transparent and genuine response methods. The effect was calculable and showed a positive amount of goodwill.
At the time the effect of this initiative, Geoff Livingston of the new media blog Now Is Gone posted this (source):
- At start of program, 49% of blog posts were negative. Today, overall tonality is 22% negative.
- Direct2Dell currently ranked about 700 on Technorati, among the highest corporate blogs.
- Direct2Dell gets more than 5 million unique views per month
- Over 7000 ideas have been submitted via IdeaStorm
- Studio Dell is gets more than 200,000 views per month.”
Over time, the negativity toward Dell began to soften. Some customers still ranted online about Dell’s faulty customer service, but by creating a conversation about its own social media initiatives, Dell benefited from the focus being shifted to its more open word-of-mouth “conversation” with its customers rather than its issue with a third-party manufacturer’s faulty product.
Formulating A Social Media Strategy For Companies
Companies generally don’t know enough about how to properly create and launch social media presences on the various networks. And they don’t realize the work involved! As noted PR evangelist and Internet author Brian Solis wrote in February:
“One of the greatest challenges I encounter today is not the willingness of a brand to engage, but its ability to create. When blueprinting a social media strategy, enthusiasm and support typically derails when examining the resources and commitment required to produce regular content.”
Solis calls what we do on social networks for our brands ‘Earned Media’. He defines it as “Earned media is the result of our owned, paid, and participatory media programs and is reflected in the blog posts, tweets, status updates, comments, and ultimately actions of our consumers, peers, and influencers. Earned media is linked to owned media campaigns as well as proactive initiatives that attempt to incite viral and word-of-mouth activity. Garnered visibility is also tied to communications and public relations programs as they continually seek to gain the attention of reporters, bloggers, analysts, and influencers who can drive awareness and behavior.”
These are all important points to note when launching your own social media efforts. It’s in step with your advertising and traditional marketing methods, but it needs to be worked at, or as Solis notes, ‘continually seek to gain the attention.’
And even better, there are emerging ‘tools’ to help you manage all the new social media tools! One in particular is called NetVibes, which “…combines all of a brand’s content—including RSS, videos, photos, podcasts and other custom widgets— on a single, personalized page that makes it easy for users to find, customize and consume your content every day.” And it places it all your content with popular news services like CNN, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times to promote users to return back to your page again and again.
What Your Customers Want
Your customers want to trust your brand. Pure and simple. You gain a customer’s trust with a great product and you may have earned that customer for the lifeline of your brand. Violate that trust somehow, and your brand will suffer. Over the years, many examples have come to light of brands that either stopped giving a damn about their customers or kept on producing lousy products.
Today’s well-informed customer wants transparency, authenticity, and sincerity. They want to know how you make your product, what’s in it, are any of the ingredients harmful to health. If they are happy with the basics, then they want to know more about the people behind your company, and that’s where brand transparency comes into play. Brand transparency is seen as the pinnacle of truth in marketing behaviors. And your brand’s presence on social media is all about brand sharing, brand transparency, brand building.
This is probably the best reason to be in social media – to remake your company’s vision to suit those who love your products! If customers don’t like the levels of sodium lauryl sulfate in your product, let them know you’re exploring new ways of formulating you product. If your fans on Facebook start to worry about the levels of caffeine in your drink product, find ways to conquer that. That’s brand transparency – it’s the right way to communicate with customers today.
Your customers more than want this two-way communication; they are beginning to demand it. My recent work with universities around the country surprised me. Academia isn’t known for being early adopters, but are adopting social media tools at an alarming rate. When asked, they responded with “The student, our customers are demanding these new tools.” Then as a consequence, the universities began embracing social media an extremely effective way to recruit. “It’s effective, because that’s how our customers want to communicate.”
I want to relate a personal story from last summer, while traveling with a colleague to New York. We learned in the terminal that our flight on a major carrier was delayed (for uncertain reasons) and my colleague was in no mood for this. She tweeted her disappointment about the carrier, and left it as a Twitter rant. But as we eventually started filing into the plane some time later, my colleague was greeted by a flight attendant, who confirmed it was she who sent the tweet, apologized for the inconvenience and offered her a glass of champagne. We were both surprised by the speed of the response and probably more so that the carrier was LISTENING and watching. I’ve now shared that story to more than 10,000. This press and goodwill was certainly worth the cost the beverage.
You need to engage in you customers conversations in the way they want to converse with transparency, authenticity, and sincerity. Using these social media tools on a larger playing field in your business offers amazing opportunities – to win new customers, to retain current customers and more importantly, avoid losing current customers.
Lon Safko is the author of the Social Media Bible and has been recognized for his creativity with numerous awards. Lon is the founder of nine successful companies and has authored five innovative books.