Tuesday Nov 06, 2012

Are You Meeting Social Customer Service Expectations?

Customer ServiceWhether it’s B2B or B2C, one sure path to repeat business is making sure your buyer has a memorably pleasant and successful customer service experience with you. If they get that kind of treatment consistently, that’s called a relationship. And those aren’t broken easily.

Social customer service, driven by integrated SRM (social relationship management) technology, is the venue that can effectively connect customers not only to the brand, but to other customers. Positive experiences, once administered, don’t just rest with the recipient. They’re published in the form of public raves and peer-to-peer recommendation, a force far more actionable than push advertising.

What’s more, your customers have come to expect access to you and satisfaction from you using social.

An NM Incite study shows 83% of Twitter users and 71% of Facebook users expect to get an answer from brands the same day they post to them on their social assets. To make sure you’re responding, you’ve got to have a tech platform that’s set up to moderate and alert so you’ll know ASAP a customer needs help.

The more integrated your social enterprise is, the faster you can not only respond, but respond with the answer they’re looking for, because your system is connected to the internal resources that can surface the answer or put wheels in motion to rectify the situation in the shortest amount of time possible.

But if you go to the necessary lengths to make sure your customers feel valued and important, will they really reward you? The study says 71% of consumers who got quick and effective responses from companies they contacted via social were more likely to recommend the brand to their friends and followers.

So yes, sweeping people off their feet pays big dividends in terms of word-of-mouth marketing. But you should be keenly aware of the reverse side of that coin. Give people a negative experience, either in real world or virtual customer service, and that message is highly likely to get amplified through social channels faster and louder.

Only 36% of the NM Incite study’s respondents reported that their problems were solved quickly and effectively. 36%? That’s hardly an impressive number. It gets worse. 10% never got so much as a response - at all. Going back to the relationship analogy, companies that are this deep in the ditch where customer service is concerned are making their girl or boyfriends really easy for a competitor to steal.

Given the technology tools and data available right now for having an intimate knowledge of the customer, what products they’ve purchased, likely problems with those products, effective resolutions to those problems, and follow-up communication to gauge satisfaction, there are fewer excuses than ever for making the lifeblood of your business feel like you couldn’t care less.

@mikestiles

Friday Oct 12, 2012

The Social Enterprise: Gangnam Style

chalkboardAre only small and medium businesses able to put social strategies in place, generate consistent, compelling content for customers, and be nimble enough to listen and respond to the social communities they build? Or are enterprise organizations eagerly and effectively adopting social as well?

It depends on whom inside the organization you ask. A study from Attensity looked at who “gets” social inside enterprise organizations. The results were unsurprising. Mostly, Generation X and Y employees who came of age with social as part of their lives and as a key communications vehicle understand it.

Imagine being a 25-year-old at a company that bans employees from accessing Facebook at work. You may as well tell them they can’t use phones and must do all calculations on an abacus. To them, such policy is absent of real-world logic and signals to them the organization is destined to be the victim of an up-and-comer.

After that, it’s senior management that gets social. You don’t get to be in senior management without reading a few things and paying attention. Most senior managers are well aware of the impact social has had and will have, though they may be unsure of what to do about it.

The better ones will utilize those on the inside who do inherently know how to communicate and build virtual relationships using social. The very best will get the past out of the way for these social innovators, so the new communications can be enacted minus counterproductive dictums, double-clutching, meeting-creep, and all the other fading internal practices that water down content and impede change.

Organizationally, the Attensity study found 81% of enterprise companies believe failing to embrace social will result in their being left behind. Yet our old friend fear still has many captive in its clutches. 79% feel overwhelmed by the volume of social data available, something a social technology partner with goal-oriented analytics expertise could go a long way toward alleviating.

Afraid manThen there’s the fear of social having a negative impact. This comes from a lack of belief in the product, the customer service, or both. The public uses social not to go out and slay brands. They’re using it to be honest. If the fear is that honesty will reflect badly on the brand, the brand has much bigger, broader problems than what happens on Facebook.

Sadly, most enterprise organizations still see social as a megaphone, a one-way channel with which to hit people with ads. They either don’t understand social relationships, or don’t want any. The truly unenlightened manager will always say, “We help them by selling them our stuff.” “Brand affinity” is a term, it’s just not one assigned much value in enterprise organizations.

Which brings us to Psy, the Korean performer whose Internet video phenom “Gangnam Style,” as of this writing, has been viewed 438,550,238 times on YouTube. It’s bigger than anything a brand will probably ever publish. Most brands would never have seen the point of making or publishing it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Internet success. The video literally doubled the stock price of Psy’s father’s software firm. NH Investment and Securities said, "The positive sentiment has attracted investors just because of the fact the company is owned by Psy's father and uncle.” The company wasn’t mentioned or seen in the video in any way, yet reaped tangible rewards just for being tangentially associated with it. Imagine your brand being visibly and directly responsible for such a smash and tell me it’s worthless.

When enterprise organizations embrace the value of igniting passions, making people happier, solving their problems, informing them, helping them have fun, etc., then they will have fully embraced social, and will reap the brand affinity rewards of heightened awareness, brand loyalty and yes, sales.

Saturday Sep 29, 2012

Sneak Peak: Social Developer Program at JavaOne

By guest blogger Roland Smart

OpenWorldWe're just days away from what is gunning to be the most exciting installment of OpenWorld to date, so how about an exciting sneak peak at the very first Social Developer Program?

If your first thought is, "What's a social developer?" you're not alone. It’s an emerging term and one we think will gain prominence as social experiences become more prevalent in enterprise applications. For those who keep an eye on the ever-evolving Facebook platform, you'll recall that they recently rebranded their PDC (preferred developer consultant) group as the PMD (preferred marketing developer), signaling the importance of development resources inside the marketing organization to unlock the potential of social.

The marketing developer they're referring to could be considered a social developer in a broader context. While it's true social has really blossomed in the marketing context and CMOs are winning more and more technical resources, social is starting to work its way more deeply into the enterprise with the help of developers that work outside marketing.

Developers, like the rest of us, have fallen in "like" with social functionality and are starting to imagine how social can transform enterprise applications in the way it has consumer-facing experiences. The thesis of my presentation is that social developers will take many pages from the marketing playbook as they apply social inside the enterprise. To support this argument, lets walk through a range of enterprise applications and explore how consumer-facing social experiences might be interpreted in this context.

Here's one example of how a social experience could be integrated into a sales enablement application. As a marketer, I spend a great deal of time collaborating with my sales colleagues, so I have good insight into their working process. While at Involver, we grew our sales team quickly, and it became evident some of our processes broke with scale.

For example, we used to have weekly team meetings at which we'd discuss what was working and what wasn't from a messaging perspective. One aspect of these sessions focused on "objections" and "responses," where the salespeople would walk through common objections to purchasing and share appropriate responses. We tried to map each context to best answers and we'd capture these on a wiki page. As our team grew, however, participation at scale just wasn't tenable, and our wiki pages quickly lost their freshness.

Imagine giving salespeople a place where they could submit common objections and responses for their colleagues to see, sort, comment on, and vote on. What you'd get is an up-to-date and relevant repository of information. And, if you supported an application like this with a social graph, it would be possible to make good recommendations to individual sales people about the objections they'd likely hear based on vertical, product, region or other graph data.

Taking it even further, you could build in a badging/game element to reward those salespeople who participate the most. Both these examples are based on proven models at work inside consumer-facing applications.

If you want to learn about how HR, Operations, Product Development and Customer Support can leverage social experiences, you’re welcome to join us at JavaOne or join our Social Developer Community to find some of the presentations after OpenWorld.

Wednesday Sep 26, 2012

The New Social Developer Community: a Q&A

Roland SmartIn our last blog, we introduced the opportunities that lie ahead for social developers as social applications reach across every aspect and function of the enterprise. Leading the upcoming JavaOne Social Developer Program October 2 at the San Francisco Hilton is Roland Smart, VP of Social Marketing at Oracle.

I got to ask Roland a few of the questions an existing or budding social developer might want to know as social extends beyond interacting with friends and marketing and into the enterprise.

Why is it smart for developers to specialize as social developers? What opportunities lie in the immediate future that’s making this a critical, in-demand position?

Social has changed the way we interact with brands and with each other across the web. As we acclimate to a new social paradigm we also look to extend its benefits into new areas of our lives.

The workplace is a logical next step, and we're starting to see social interactions more and more in this context. But unlocking the value of social interactions requires technical expertise and knowledge of developing social apps that tap into the social graph.

Developers focused on integrating social experiences into enterprise applications must be familiar with popular social APIs and must understand how to build enterprise social graphs of their own. These developers are part of an emerging community of social developers and are key to socially enabling the enterprise.

Facebook rebranded their Preferred Developer Consultant Group (PDC) and the Preferred Marketing Developers (PMD) to underscore the fact developers are required inside marketing organizations to unlock the full potential of their platform. While this trend is starting on the marketing side with marketing developers, this is just an extension of the social developer concept that will ultimately drive social across the enterprise.

What are some of the various ways social will be making its way into every area of enterprise organizations? How will it be utilized and what kinds of applications are going to be needed to facilitate and maximize these changes?

Check out Oracle’s vision for the social-enabled enterprise. It’s a high-level overview of how social will impact across the enterprise. For example:

HR can leverage social in recruiting and retention
Sales can leverage social as a prospecting tool
Marketing can use social to gain market insight
Customer support can use social to leverage community support to improve customer satisfaction while reducing service cost
Operations can leverage social improve systems

That’s only the beginning. Once sleeves get rolled up and social developers and innovators get to work, still more social functions will no doubt emerge.

What makes Java one of, if not the most viable platform on which to build these new enterprise social applications?

Java is certainly one of the best platforms on which to build social experiences because there’s such a large existing community of Java developers. This means you can affordably recruit talent, and it's possible to effectively solicit advice from the community through various means, including our new Social Developer Community.

Beyond that, there are already some great proof points Java is the best platform for creating social experiences at scale. Consider LinkedIn and Twitter.

Tell us more about the benefits of collaboration and more about what the Oracle Social Developer Community is. What opportunities does that offer up and what are some of the ways developers can actively participate in and benefit from that community?

Much has been written about the overall benefits of collaborating with other developers. Those include an opportunity to introduce yourself to the community of social developers, foster a reputation, establish an expertise, contribute to the advancement of the space, get feedback, experiment with the latest concepts, and gain inspiration.

In short, collaboration is a tool that must be applied properly within a framework to get the most value out of it.

The OSDC is a place where social developers can congregate to discuss the opportunities/challenges of building social integrations into their applications. What “needs” will this community have? We don't know yet.

But we wanted to create a forum where we can engage and understand what social developers are thinking about, excited about, struggling with, etc. The OSDL can then step in if we can help remove barriers and add value in a serious and committed way so Oracle can help drive practice development.

Monday Sep 24, 2012

Dawn of the Enterprise Social Developer

piano catSocial is not just for poking friends, posting videos of cats playing pianos, or even just for brand marketing anymore. It has become a key form of communication internally and externally across every area of the enterprise.

As a Java developer, are you positioning yourself for the integration of social into enterprise business systems that’s on the near horizon? Because it’s the work you do and the applications you build that will influence what the social-enabled enterprise is going to look like and how it’s going to operate.

But as a social developer, step one is wrapping your arms around all the things that are possible. Traditionally, the best exploration, brainstorming and innovation come from collaborating with other developers. That’s how the big questions can be hashed (or hacked) out. Is Java the best social development environment? If not, what is? What’s already being done in terms of application integration?

The JavaOne Social Developer Program will offer up a series of talks and events on those very issues Tuesday, October 2 at the San Francisco Hilton. If you’re interested in embarking on this newest frontier of enterprise social development, you can connect with others who are thinking the same thing and get moving on your first project.

Talks will include:

Emergence Of The Social Enterprise
Extending Social into Enterprise Applications and Business Processes
Intro to Open Graph and Facebook's APIs
Building the Next Wave of Social Commerce Platforms
Social Data and the Enterprise
LinkedIn: A Professional Network Built with Java Technologies and Agile Practice
Social Developer Hackathon

In addition to these learning and discussion opportunities, you might consider joining the new Oracle Social Developer Community (OSDC), where the interaction and collaboration can continue indefinitely.

It doesn’t take a lot of tea leaf reading to know that the cloud will house the enterprise technology of the future, and social (as well as the rich data it brings) is going to be a major part of that as social integrates across every business function as there’s proven value for consumer facing initiatives.

The next phase of social development is going to involve combining enterprise data from multiple sources, new and existing, social and traditional, in order to tell compelling and usable stories. And social is coming to the enterprise quickly, meaning you as a development leader should seek to understand not just what's worked on the consumer side, but what aspects of those successes can be applied inside the organization.

Get educated, get connected, and consider registering for this forward-looking event now to get started with enterprise social development.

Tuesday Sep 11, 2012

Content Challenge: You Can Only Get it Here

Part of the content conundrum for brands is figuring out what kind of content customers would find cool, desirable, and relevant. The mere fact many brands have no idea what this content might be is, in itself, pretty alarming. You’d have to have a pretty thorough lack of involvement with and understanding of your customers to not know what they might like.

But despite what should be a great awakening in which consumers are using every technology and trick in the book to shield themselves from ads and commercials, brand self-obsession continues as marketers concentrate on their message, their campaign, what they want to say, and what they want social users to do.

When individuals conduct themselves in that same fashion on Facebook and Twitter, it gets tiresome and starts losing value pretty quickly. Their posts eventually get hidden. Conversely, friends who post things that consistently entertain or inform, with little self-marketing desperation involved, win the coveted “show all updates” setting.

Of course brands are going to use social to market. It’s pretty much the point of having social in the marketing mix. And yes, people who follow a brand’s Twitter account or “Like” a brand’s Facebook Page implicitly state they want to know what’s going on with that brand’s products and services.

But if you have a Facebook friend that assumes you want every one of her posts to be about what wine she likes (Mitsubishi’s current campaign is even based around weeding out pretentious Facebook friends, then running them over), then you know how it must feel for your fans and followers to get a sales pitch for your crackers or whatever you’re selling every single time.

Is there such a thing as content that doesn’t sell but that still advances the brand and makes the consumer more involved and valuable? Of course. And perhaps there are no better companies than enterprise brands to do it. Enterprise organizations are large enough to go beyond a product and engage readers/viewers at higher, broader levels…communicating expertise across entire sectors, subjects and industries. You’re going from pitchman to news source, and getting full credit for it as the presenter.

A recent GigaOM article pointed out the success a San Francisco-based startup called Crunchyroll is having. Their niche (and they proudly admit it’s a niche) is providing Japanese anime, Korean drama and Asian live action content to countries that can’t get it any other way via licensing deals. Shows are available in HD and on the same day they air in the host country. Crunchyroll not only gets 8 million viewers a month, they have 100,000 paying subscribers at $7-12/month.

Got a point, Mike? I do happen to have one. Crunchyroll illustrates the content opportunity enterprise companies have…which is to determine your “area,” the interest graph of your customers, then provide content that speaks to and satisfies those interests that can’t be found anywhere else. At least not in the same style, or of the same quality, or with the same authority. Do what no one else is doing. Provide what no one else is providing in your sector.

If underserved users are willing to pay monthly for access to awkwardly moving cartoon dragons, imagine the audience you could attract with free, useful, non-sales content in your customers’ area of interest. It’s an audience you’ll want in place when the time does come to put out that marketing message.

A content challenge is better than a content conundrum any day.

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