Customer Service Failure by Canada’s Telco Giant Rogers During National Wireless Outage (and why I won’t be signing up for their Loyalty Credit Card)

Rogers Store Chatham Ontario

Rogers Communications will make a great case study of what not to do in a crisis, like the many hours long wireless outage that effected millions of people and businesses across Canada tonight. I can summarize the outcome of that study for you right now: ‘Do nothing, say nothing’ is not a good strategy for customer retention.  Rogers Wireless  reported Operating Profit Margin grew to 49.2% and an overall Revenue increase to the tune of $3.2 Billion in Q2 2013 reports. As a customer of their services, and an analyst who monitors their behaviours on-line closely, I recommend they pour some of those big profits in proper communications and customer service strategies for their approximately 9,400,000+ wireless subscribers to ensure their satisfaction with services before the pending Rogers Credit Loyalty Card Launch in 2014.

The company announced a loyalty program in early July in a bid to improve customer retention, noting at the time that it hoped to change the perception of how it treats existing customers compared to new subscribers, who are often aggressively wooed.

Points in the program, which is being rolled out in stages across the country throughout this year, can be redeemed for rewards such as roaming packages, Internet package upgrades and long distance for home phones.”

rogers outage heatmap oct 9 2013

Rogers does very little to inspire customer loyalty. In fact, they frequently create more frustration for their customers than not via social channels. The incongruity of this considering they are in the telco business never ceases to astound industry watchers like myself.  For example, tonight Rogers initially reported issues with voice and some SMS wireless outages effecting subscribers in only Ontario and Quebec around 7:00 pm ET.  The Rogers.com corporate web site also went down around that time.  Shortly afterwards the Toronto Police took to twitter to advise people to use a landline to call 911 in case of emergency, long before Rogers finally updated customers via twitter that the outage was in fact, effecting their own customers nationally. As well, customers on both Fido and Chatr networks were experiencing the same issues. Services like taxi companies reported that they would not be able to process credit and debit cards as payments for rides.  This was not a small issue effecting only a few customers, nor is it the first time that Rogers has all but ignored their customers during an outage.

Rogers update on wireless outage

toronto police advice during rogers outage

It might seem premature to write a post about Rogers Communications abysmal public response and lack of updates while this major wireless outage is still going on, the irony is just too rich for me. You do notice that they have ‘Communications’ as part of their trademarked brand? Rogers seems to think ‘communications’ is only something important when they can bill someone for it.  And its never been more evident than it is right now during the outage effecting customers throughout Canada.  Sadly, this is a consistent reflection of their day-to-day approach towards Customer Service on public channels. It is also entirely the same as their behaviour during another major Rogers outage in January 2013 that effected both cellular and Internet users.  Rogers hasn’t learned anything at all, or merely doesn’t care enough to alter their horrible customer relations. As BlogTO writer Chris Bateman noted during that outage, the customers anger was magnified by Rogers poor response.

Much of the rage stemmed from the lack of information from the company, possibly because it was having problems getting online itself. Messages on Twitter and Facebook explaining that customers should stop dialing its tech support lines were unlikely to have been seen by those endlessly rebooting their computers in search of a solution.”

It’s inexcusable for Canada’s largest telco to take the ‘do nothing’ approach during customer service interruptions.  Surely some of those $3.2 billion in profits could be spent on a PR Crisis Management plan? How about Customer Service training for the Community Managers?  It is a long running joke with fellow Canadian customers that their corporate twitter handle is @RogersHelps, but rarely does.  I’ve had a few responses from them myself a day or two after a few of my frequent complaints about their NextBox PVR in the wee hours when mine consistently freezes, requiring a full unplug and hard reset to fix.  But, I am pretty sure the only reason I’ve been one of those rare few to get any responses is due to the fact that I’m vocal on twitter about customer service, and not because they care about me as one of the millions of customers.  Although I outlined symptoms and issues very clearly, it was quite clear that the person behind the handle did not care enough to read carefully, and didn’t carry through with a solution, nor follow-up recommendation for further contact.  There was a very weak attempt to contact me, with a goal to shut me up, not get me help. When things like that happen with a corporate account like@RogersHelps, it simply provides more fodder for witty parody accounts like @RogersNoHelp.

  • How bad does your customer service have to been to warrant your own brand parody account?
  • And if there is a parody account about your customer service why isn’t there a concentrated effort by the organization to improve their service?

Although Rogers systemic communications failures are a much bigger issue that won’t be solved without a major cultural shift in thinking by leadership, Rogers could at very least take a baby step and start with putting better people behind their social accounts, or provide better training for the existing employees responsible for public updates and responses.  Or maybe they simply need to hire people for community management who know how to walk that fine line between being snarky and being savvy. Bell Mobility won much more than just a slew of new subscribers tonight because of this outage; their Community Managers also win the battle of customer loyalty on a daily basis.

Bell Mobility Community Managers during Rogers Outage

Even before the outage this evening the @Bell_Mobility social team showed a deft hand in highlighting differentials as competitors as Rogers was forced by consumer pressure earlier today to reverse their initial decision not to carry the Blackberry Z30. Then later during the outage, these wise CMs merely highlighted their own customer loyalty with a touch of humour.  This is the usual ‘corporate voice’ of Bell Mobility, and Rogers could and should learn much from their #1 competitor in this regard.  I’d have pity for the Rogers social team who will have to get up in the morning to catch up on the thousands of angry tweets sent their way, but I am doubtful that any attempt will be made to reach out effectively to the millions of effected users.  Even now as full service has been restored, this was the best they could do:

“Wireless voice and SMS services are fully restored. We continue to investigate the root cause. We apologize to our customers and thank them for their patience. We recommend customers power their devices off and on again should they continue to experience difficulties.”

Rogers has a lot of work ahead of them if they are truly committed to changing the perception about how they treat new customers versus existing clients.  They should start with a better apology for the millions of Canadians effected by the service outage tonight, and then work on hiring a top notch Communications firm. Whoever is creating plans and policies now certainly doesn’t understand the basic tenets of customer service.

Were you effected by the outage? What’s your perception of Rogers response?

(Update post publication:  Globe and Mail reporting that Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed issued an apology early Thursday, October 10, 2013  to customers effected by the outage. Prepaid customers are to receive a day’s credit in billing. 

“I recognize this service interruption was unacceptable for our customers,” Mr. Mohamed said. “We worked as quickly as possible to restore service and it was gradually restored over the course of the evening.”

Well, that’s a start Rogers. Now about the overall uncommunicative approach to communications during crisis…)

Advertisements

Why you should attend the Kitchener-Waterloo ‘Knowledge IS Power’ Social Media Summit

Companies have to get in synch with how social/mobile is shaping customer behaviors and expectations in order to provide them with experiences that keep them around longer. Whether you are a business that has been involved in social media efforts already, or just starting to explore the opportunity, the Social Media Summit Knowledge Is Power has something to offer for everyone.  Join the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre on Monday, February 25, 2013 to learn the basics and beyond from community experts. This full-day conference is being held at the Walper Hotel in downtown Kitchener.

The summit theme is focused on helping SMBs evolve from using social media to becoming a social business. The session tracks are centered on a solid learning track for small and medium businesses, including subjects on strategies, engagement, tools, content, and how-to. Session topics include:

  • Social Business Strategy – create a framework of goals, policies, processes, practices, and measurement.
  • Social Analytics –  it takes more than saying “Like Us” or “Follow Us” to create meaningful relationships. Learn how to define and measure meaningful metrics.
  • Writing Content to Attract & Engage Your Audience -Discovering your genuine voice and knowing who your target market is crucial to developing your brand.
  • Effectively Using Video in Your Content Marketing – (Expert Panel)
  • Twitter for Community and Relationship Building – move beyond simply broadcasting information to use this platform to engage supporters and build relationships with them
  • Master the Fundamentals of Social Media – Effectively using social media requires understanding how it is different from traditional ways to reach your target audience.
  • Hands-on How-To – A day in the life of a Community Manager. Best practices, community and content management, and the tools the CM uses.

Also featured is a special luncheon keynote by PR expert and industry guiding force Joseph Thornley, CEO of Thornley Fallis and 76design: “Who’s the Boss Here?  Make Social Media Work for You!”

Speakers include:

  • Joseph Thornley  (@thornley): Keynote. Past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms. Senior Fellow of the Society for New Communications Research.
  • Kelly Craft (@krcraft): Director of Product and Business Development, Dash Digital Group
  • James Howe (@communic8nhowe): Director of Strategic Communications Initiatives, Communicate & Howe
  • Jackie Ranahan (@thinkmachone): CEO and Creative Director, Mach Oe Communications
  • Carla Bowes (@carlabowes) – Business Analyst, Dash Digital Group
  • Effective Video Panel: Von Darnell of Huckleberry Film Studios (@HuckFilms), Dwight Storring (@dwightstorring), Nelson Dunk, Skylight Productions, Duncan Finnigan, Multicultural Cinema Club,Peter Shannon, Memorytree

Thanks to event sponsors (Waterloo Region Small Business Centre, Communicate & Howe, Social Media Breakfast Waterloo, and the Government of Ontario) we are able to make Social Media Summit affordable investment in your growth – but you must register online in advance to reserve your seat as seating is limited.

I’m excited to be a part of this awesome group of experts speaking in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region.  It’s an opportunity to network with a connected and influential panel, and share real social and digital business knowledge. Learn insights that only experienced practitioners deliver, and develop business relationships and practices that lead to more sales and community growth for your company. We’ll help you transition from using social media to being an evolved social business.

Hope to see you there!  (Event hashtags: #socbizWR, #smbwr, SMsummitWR)

Do you have any specific questions on social strategy or analytics? Post them in the comments or bring them along to the summit. I love a good game of ‘Stump the Chump”

SCRM Vendor Challenge: Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It… Craft More Compelling Social Business Narratives

GOTCHA! HOW MANY OF YOU ARE NOW HUMMING THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE THEME? 

This challenge isn’t at all impossible, plus I PROMISE that it will be both an educational and valuable exercise for any of you who pick up the thrown gauntlet. As well, likelihood is extremely high that you will have new &/or improved narratives to use in your marketing, demos, and training videos.

First a small disclaimer to frame this up: As you know, I don’t participate in either the CRM Idol contest judging or reviews. (Although I do vote on finalists at the end of the competition.)  There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that as the CRM Idol Community Manager, it is very important that I keep my focus on each of you as people, rather than vendors of solutions. Which is not to say that I don’t discuss any CRM or Enterprise 2.0 vendors with the Judges in a professional context as industry colleagues – of course I do. But during CRM Idol season, with the panelists and judges I do my best to limit discussions about contestants to pointing out their feedback on experiences gained through participation, and highlighting examples of their contributions to the competition and the entire CRM community.

But during the off-season, you’re all fair game!

I can, will, and do, test and review offerings in my professional capacity. But my approach to assessment of products is much different from how the Judges approach and evaluate it, mostly because I’m deep in the trenches servicing CRM customers daily. Perspectives are different when you are the one selling, designing, implementing, and supporting social business, CRM, and Enterprise solutions. The CRM Idol judges offer you the 10,000′ vision and strategy perspective, while I am digging around with the wiring 5′ under the hood from the consultant’s vantage point.

I’m going to let you in on a secret that is both a coaching guide and your challenge:

It doesn’t matter what CRM or SCRM product I review, I use the same scenario as my testing framework for every single offering. His, yours & the other guy’s. And this is it:

Why do I use this ‘old school, traditional’ CRM process flow as a testing framework methodology?

  • Because I have used this same trade show scenario in hundreds of demos myself to tell an ‘end-to-end’ story about CRM.
  • It might not be a trade show, but ALL organizations have events of some sort or another. The events vary, but the end-to-end processes don’t change much.
  • That’s a screen shot from one of my demos. During the demo, I click into each and every one of those icons to show features & functionality while I am telling a use case story.
  • The flow above is pretty much the same for marketing campaigns, new product launches, promo code sales, etc.
  • (Some orgs may not create quotes, credit checks or order acknowledgements, but those are usually backend processes anyway, so they are there as placeholders for integration examples with ERP/Order Entry systems.)
  • This testing framework allows me to assess your product (and his, hers & theirs,) consistently on key deliverables & comparables:
  • Which of these same processes, functions, features and analytics can I do? Which ones are missing?
  • If any are missing, are they in planned development? Can I integrate with other products that fill in the gaps? If so, which ones?
  • How would I implement this in your product?
  • Can I configure &/or customize rules, logic, and flow?
  • Can I set data requirements or standards to collect/store what I need at each step of the process flow and the underlying processes, too?
  • How would I migrate data to your offering?  Is the data information architected well for integrations?
  • Can I get the reports and data I need to do a robust analysis of the whole flow and select processes/phases?
  • Do I like the user interface? Is it intuitive as I work through & navigate this flow?
  • How would I fit your innovations into this traditional example of a CRM flow.
  • Where are the logical spots to incorporate your social capabilities into my story & demo?
  • How could this process flow be improved and made more efficient using your Product/Service?

So there it is – your challenge, should you choose to accept it.  Step back and review your product with a proven use case story like the one above.

Most of you won’t put tickmarks beside all of these processes and features or you’d already be selling like the big platform players, (and for the record, in 15 years I’ve only worked with one product to date that did all of this easily, so don’t be discouraged – very few other vendors could check every box either). But… you can write your own new narrative about the things you can do innately, and via integrations, and craft kick-ass use case demos!

For those of you who are real keeners, I’ve created a slide deck for you with loads more coaching, strategy, and examples for telling more compelling CRM and social business stories.

It is up to you to decide if you’d like to share your discoveries & experience if you take on this challenge, but I’d be interested if you are willing.  It’d be fun to compare notes between contestant perspectives & learning, wouldn’t it? I know I’d love to see that trade show image totally reworked with a flow that demonstrates your own compelling use case.  Tell us a story.

I’ll leave you to it. Queue the Mission Impossible theme again… :-p

Practicing what we preach: Insights and Actions from smbWR Measurement presentation

Since the theme of this morning’s Social Media Breakfast Waterloo Region was all about social media metrics, measurement and actionable intelligence, it makes sense to use this event into a ‘proof of concept’ case study. Let’s explore what we heard as a group this morning, categorize the feedback as we align the metrics with goals, then plan actions from the results. As with all events and conversations, the learning doesn’t stop just because the event has ended. Neither does the conversation.

(Note: the slide deck from the original presentation can be found here: Social Media Metrics – Evil and Essential)

smbWR Influencer Network Diagram

smbWR Summary Infographic

Question 1: Why turn this into a story?

A1: Because the results indicate overwhelmingly that the #smbWR audience learns the most and responds most positively to narratives they can relate to.  We know this because:

  • Attendees made the effort to search out the Kraft Rainbow Oreo story
  • Then they shared this forward through tweets
  • ‘Oreo’ and ‘Kraft’ were one of the top 5 themes in tweets from the event
  • Which often included positive sentiment indicators, such as ‘especially loved this’
  • When asked if they’d prefer Q&A or a quick run through of Roger’s story and measurement/analysis, the audience voted to hear the story

ACTIONS:

  • Based on the feedback, it seemed like a good idea to write this story, because chances are the audience will relate to it and learn further from it.
  • Take a few risks of your own, and look at the results from multiple angles
Question 2: What other things did we learn today, aside from the goals of the presentation?

A2: We learned that Quarry Communications really understands Customer Experience, as does the smbWR team.  And both are committed to nurturing social business conversations and education. We know this because:

  • Quarry very graciously offered to host us all in their very cool facility.
  • Everything about the experience – from the creative design aesthetics, to the Bauer Kitchen  gift card donations, and the team’s efforts to ensure that we were comfortable is consistent with Quarry’s mission: Understanding and delivery of ‘Buyer Experience Value Chain’
  • Quarry staff were fully engaged – on-line and off – Before, During, and After the event. They know that the experience and conversation carries on. Our experience as ‘customers’ has been standardized across all channels.
  • #smbWR founder and CEO of Communicate & Howe, James Howe, peppers every related conversation, welcome message, and introduction with consistent themes: discuss, share, collaborate, challenge, question.
  • If the goal is to grow a collaborative community, James provides a good example of how to do it well by focusing on the ecosystem versus brand, personality or self promotion.
  • This event was organized and the topic chosen as a direct result response to feedback provided by attendees of last month’s smbWR ‘All Day Breakfast Unconference’. James listened to feedback, tied it to the goal to provide what audience wanted, then organized the presentation, and promoted it well. Listen –> Analyze –> Act
  • After the event, one of the smbWR team members shared that once booked, she’d been following my tweets for the past few weeks. Smart girl, she understands the value that is gained by doing a little advance research.

ACTIONS:

  • Explore both Quarry Integrated Communications and Communicate & Howe further. They really understand the concepts of customer experience across many channels -> and can help you strategize to meet your goals for your customers.
  • Be an active participant in the smbWR community: Connect with others you met at the event. Share your ideas, stories. Offer to speak. Act as a Host for a future event.
  • Keep the conversation going. Engage.
Question 3: What did attendees learn from today’s event?

A3:  Some attendees will now look at metrics and analysis as part of a larger measurement strategy, as opposed to isolated activities. We know this because:

  • One of the top themes that emerged in updates posted during the presentation was ‘framework’, followed closely by and often with,
    Listen, Analyze, Take Action‘. –> Rinse and repeat in infinite loops.
  • Another note that resonated was “looking at singular metrics in isolation isn’t nearly as useful as grouping and comparing metrics.”
  • Some metrics are static. New goals and formulas for ‘success’ measurement require regular reviews, creation and tweaks. The Roger’s lay-off/profit/competition/Q1/2012 current news provided and example of how to break up events into metrics and measurements that address goals, risks, and the customer experience.
  • smbWR audience also seemed to relate to the concept that basic training of staff should include instructing them on the overall brand vision/mission/voice of the organization.
ACTIONS:
  • Consider how to incorporate social media discoveries into new and existing business processes. (So we have a hot lead via twitter. Now what do we do with it?)
  • Explore moving beyond using social channels strictly for marketing –> towards holistic, comprehensive, consistent business values & and goals.
  • 4 cornerstones  that span all audiences (customers, prospects, leads, competitors, etc.) are: Customer Experience, Innovation, Efficiency, and Brand Health
Question 4: What can the presenter (me), learn from feedback and socially shared responses to the presentation?

A4:   There is much room for improvement on both presentation and content. I know this because (we listened, we analyzed, and we’ll act/tweak/create/refine based on feedback):

  • Many suggestions filtered and categorized from feedback, but my personal favourite is this one from @juanitametzger:

Breathe Kelly. Breathe!

 New question spawned –> Why is this update particularly valuable?

  • It made me laugh really hard. A genuine LOL generator.
  • This feedback has been provided by a respected colleague who can share similar experiences. Weighted with higher value because it is given by an experienced practitioner
  • This tweet shows the best method to weave constructive critiques in with positive accolades. ;-p
    • This feedback is particularly meaningful & instructive because it came from a colleague. Not a ‘fan’. (differentiate, categorize, weight, & segment feedback)
    • Juanita moves to the head of the class for demonstrating her acumen for understanding of the presentation goals, content in context, the audience experience, and presenter’s delivery.

Other Insights – Overall = Positive Sentiment, but drill down analysis shows this was also an EPIC Fail when aligned with the presenter’s (my) goals

  • I’ll admit that while the feedback and response has been mostly positive, it is clearly evident that this presenter failed abysmally in making a key point ‘sticky’ with the audience:
    • If there was a singular message I’d hoped the audience would take away and ponder, it was “ask your customers they want/need,” before crafting/launching SM (and any other) campaigns
      • My fav/key/critical message in this presentation elicited exactly zero/zippo/nada response or discussion.
        • I need to work a whole lot harder on telling a better story about the value of customer insights during research/planning
        • &/Or – I need to tweak the content to draw additional attention to this. Maybe with a better visual?
  • Based on the time and pace, this presentation might be better if it were split into two separate presentation
    • Measurement Framework
    • Measurement Tools
  • During the Q&A after the presentation three main themes of further interest surfaced
    • Collaboration (silo busting)
    • Narrative Storytelling
    • Customer Experience

ACTIONS:

  • Gather more feedback
  • Tweak content
  • Write this post > Listen > Analyze > Repeat
  • Share interest ideas above with smbWR for additional presentation suggestions & recommendations for speakers

I’m sure some are curious about the tools used to gather and assess the tweets from today. They are:

  • Tweetdeck: Which is the tool I use day-to-day for my personal engagement & management of my twitter stream. For this event I created a separate column for the hashtag #smbWR, then I filtered the tweets based on specific keywords (i.e. oreo, Quarry, framework, etc.)
  • NextPrinciples:  The cool graphics and deeper analysis was done with NextPrinciples, which I mentioned during today’s bit on tools. I’d shared my recommendation that NextPrinciples is a particularly useful tool for events – and used it to practice what I preached.  I’d like to thank the NP team for putting this together for me while I was returning from Quarry. Yes, it was that fast. ;-p

I know that I gleaned much more from today’s event than just the examples given above, and I’m hoping you did, too.  This is merely meant as an example of how you can listen, derive insights and plot actions in (almost) real time for your own organizations events.

Really enjoyed it, thanks for attending and sharing highlights, questions and your stories.  I’m happy to field any further questions you might have. 

Back to Basics: Event Analytics for the Non-analytical – Part 1

As consultants and analysts, we all want to deliver on visions of a new kind of socially enabled enterprise, much like the promises offered at Dreamforce, but there are pivotal challenges that will ultimately decrease the likelihood for real success stories, if the core language and educational challenges go unaddressed.  One reality is that many VARs and even more customers don’t speak in terms of data intelligence at all yet, much less words like social, engaging, listening, monitoring, and analysis which have now been added to the business lexicon. We have to simplify it and make it easier, especially for SMB’s with lean staffing.  In an effort to aid the non-analytical, but eager masses, this will be a very basic ‘how to’ guide series for organizations on how to take smaller sips from the firehose, and chew on new knowledge nuggets in smaller, more easily digestible morsels.

Frameworks are useful. Development has Agile. Project Management has Prince2. How about a basic framework for smoothly integrating monitoring and analytics into their business? There is a critical need for a widespread basic methodology as a starting point. I’m not suggesting this series will be that kind of framework, but let’s start by giving some simple steps in simple language as a starting point.

If we shift our thinking away from use cases and toward specific events, we quickly recognize that we can iterate how social, listening and monitoring are woven into the processes that are affected by events. And we can guide customers to build more value and intelligence into their services as a result.  We can also teach an invaluable set of basic principles for understanding better how to market, monitor, respond and analyze activities and insights, in phases and as a whole – regardless of whether users have fancy new tools or are performing manual analysis.

Given that there are different use cases & needs across organizations – there is no ‘one scenario to rule them all’ – the key to better story-telling, messaging and use understanding is to present using a standard basic, but infinitely flexible theme. The basics – while there are unique requirements and goals for every business, ALL businesses share one commonality:

Whether large or small, all organizations have events – planned and unplanned.

(They might not call them events, but that is what they are.)

  1. All orgs have events, whether planned or unplanned
  2. Events can have internal, external, or a combination of both audiences
  3. Events may include any combination of: customers, partners, prospects/leads, supply chain, vendors, employees, VARs, competitors, influencers, public, media, industry interests.

In simple terms, an event might be planned like a new product launch, a marketing campaign, a webinar series, or attendance at an industry conference or trade show. Unplanned events might be something like a natural disaster that affects business, loss of wireless connection during a big conference, or it might even be a single negative tweet that spreads across the internet. Once you shift the story to begin understanding that you can look at most business and social activities as events, it becomes easier to begin to analyze them using a very simple method: break the event nuggets into bite-sized, chewable, digestible bites.

ALL events can minimally be broken down into Before, During, After phases

With that basic shift in perspective, non-analytically inclined business users can now begin to ask relevant, intelligent questions to determine where listening, engagement, response, community building, follow-ups and sentiment might fit into their business processes and KPI’s at each phase. It is as simple as repeating these steps over and over – before, during and after every event – rinse and repeat infinitely to improve your value offerings and business intelligence:

  • Monitor
  • Feedback
  • Assign
  • Action
  • Response
  • Process
  • Analyze

Using the event method, you have:

  •  two kinds of listening/data mining/analysis – confirmation (searching for knowns) and discovery – searching for unknowns using layered data that builds over time
  • and two kinds of responses – real-time recovery/action and longer term strategies/initiatives generation

You can:

  • tell stories with a better narrative flow – you can can show cause to correlation
  • Build your own framework for consistent analysis – measured across multiple dimensions, data points and metrics
  • It’s repeatable – can repeat on infinite events or over and over on the same event – like a negative tweet turned into a happy customer
  • From a fan page ‘like’ to an international story making headlines – when examined under the same basic framework  it is easier to decide what drove success and failure at each phase.

Take it a step further and think a head to audit, governance and risk management for your organization. All social conversations and activities (events in and of themselves,) can be linked to a specific point in time. Whether creating policy or running recovery strategies, what happens before, during & after are critical considerations.

If you leap even further ahead, you’re now also providing a solid foundation for doing predictive analytics for future events based on activities by phase during earlier events. Ultimately, customers and business users can begin to build their own maturity model and better understand how to merge activities and analysis into their own unique processes more readily.

We’ve established that all organizations have events, but many look at those events as a whole project, or as singular unrelated happenings.  Businesses can improve their own value offerings by defining goals, KPIs, process adjustments, and activities – before, during and after events, large or small. It all starts with a basic understanding of layering data and the value of infinite intelligence loops.

Like hula hoops, the more loops you can spin and longer you can keep them off the ground, the healthier & more fit you are… and healthier businesses can deliver better service and value.

Next up in Part 2 of this series, we’ll explore how to use this basic method to plan a trade show event and incorporate engagement, community building, customer service and analysis into each phase of the event.

Vendors Giving Me the Vapors

I feel faint. So many vendors either don’t tell a story at all, don’t tell the right story, or they tell a story filled with lies, vapour ware & mis-messaging. As well, they are telling their stories to organizations that don’t even know where to begin. I want more vendors to get beyond ‘shiny object acquisition syndrome’ and tell an intelligent story through their products, while also training their own and VAR Professional Services teams to implement it properly. And I want to see vendors put the brakes on now, figure it out, then launch out in a big way for the benefit of many before the mixed breed mega platform promise gets too badly bastardized by people who don’t get the full big picture.

Case in point: Salesforce announced  a new program to ‘unlock’ customer’s valuable SAP back office environments. In theory, this is really big news for the industry. But a closer look at the details makes this seem like not much more than an effort to drum up integration business for integration partners. From the announcement post, ‘Getting started is easy’:

  • Unlocking SAP begins with a free half-day evaluation. We will work with companies to review their previous experiences with cloud apps and architectures; current goals and ongoing projects; and existing apps and use cases best suited for Force.com. Based on the review, we develop a project plan for extracting and sharing back office SAP data using Force.com.
  • Salesforce.com then simplifies the integration, providing quick access to all the resources customers need, from strategies and best practices to access to experienced integration partners such as IBMInformatica and SKYVVA.
Forgive my cynicism, but I’m hard pressed to imagine that customer’s will get much more than a bare bones template ‘project plan’ after a half day review. Seems like another effort where the promise surpasses the practicalities.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an advocate of Salesforce, and especially pleased with some of their recent acquisitions, most significantly the purchase of Radian6.  That said, (and I’ve said it before,) I think it is time for vendors like Salesforce to pause the pace of sales messaging and campaigns,  and focus on Professional Services delivery strategy to move beyond the novelty of ‘ enterprise social’ and set about training their own teams in iterating and improving the processes that organizations are already using.
For starters, they aren’t yet even telling a story with a narrative flow that makes the products understandable while emphasizing usefulness fully; much less demonstrating that they’ve got the right plans in place to make it a reality. I’ve yet to see a design spanning the platform and solution apps that demonstrates the impact pervasive communications have on companies, which knowledge can then be applied in providing optimal, relatable value for external and internal audiences both. The tools are all there to work with, but there doesn’t seem to be enough skilled mechanics to be getting it done.

Many people in the Salesforce ecosystem fall into one of  several camps:

  • Pure sales VARs – ‘We sell it, but we don’t support it’
  • Consulting firms that provide prof serv for either Salesforce.com, or Data.com, or Radian6, but few offer all the above
  • The SM ‘early adopters’ who believe that SM is mostly about branding – selling to existing customers and are just trying to mash it all together as a marketing tool
  • The Strategists, who recognize that there is a need to entrench social into operational critical path

The practitioners with domain knowledge spanning many enterprise industries who are already well-versed in Collaboration, CRM, Analytics & Business Strategy are the missing link species that can bridge the gap between social business theory and intelligent application – of all the Salesforces goody bag of apps. We all want to deliver on the promise of a new kind of enterprise, much like the promises offered at Dreamforce, but there are pivotal challenges that will ultimately decrease the likelihood for real success, if the core challenges in education and delivery are ignored as part of the vendor strategy.

Challenges in Education and Implementation
  • Many VARs and most customers don’t speak data at all yet, much less words like social, engaging, listening, monitoring, and analysis which have now been added to the business lexicon. We have to simplify it and make it easier, especially for SMB’s with lean staffing.
  • We have to guide organizations in how to take smaller sips from the firehouse, and bite off new types of knowledge in smaller, more easily digestible morsels that can be directly applied and integrated into their processes.
  • Development has Agile. Project Management has Prince2. Where is the basic framework for smoothly integrating monitoring and analytics into their business? There is a critical need for a widespread basic methodology as a starting point.
  • To an organization, many of their processes might seem to be dissimilar, so they don’t know where or how to start. And a half day review of their past cloud experiences and goals certainly won’t cut it for creating an integration project plan of any sort.
Disruption Required
Wouldn’t this be kick ass in a demo? This is the type of story that vendors like Salesforce need to be able to show, tell, and to build it end-to-end, because this is business – and business has disruptions:
Show us the trickle effect if there is a pipe burst at the Dreamforce venue and three session rooms are no longer available.
  • How do you respond logistically?
  • What’s that look like on SF Chatter updates internally as you move staff into place to respond and coordinate?
  • Can you broadcast updates on social channels to recommend new session locations to attendees?
  • How can you help vendors relocate quickly – can you use SMS?
  • What are the masses saying in response to this disruption?
  • How can we minimize inconvenience?
  • How is the venue vendor going to compensate us for the disruption?
  • In turn, will we give our speakers and vendors with any sort of compensation?
  • How did this effect our bottom line, attendee sentiment, and resource staffing?
Until you can show & tell a story like that end-to-end – and engineer the demo across all the promise-filled platforms, then it’s all just promise, and the vendors need help with the delivery.
Time to embrace Professional Services pros that can bring real meaning to the sales messages.

The Missing Link between the Social Pioneers & the Preachers – The Practitioners

There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods?  There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.

My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.

As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives  like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.

The Social Species

At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping.  When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.

Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.

On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.

At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.

The pioneers understand that everything new is old again.  They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.

The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.

Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools.

In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,

 “The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”

I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!

Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives.  Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.

Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?

The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.

Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.

In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”

The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:
The Practitioners.

I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?

 

Previous comments on this post here.