“What I have discovered about Twitter..”

Sharing personal discoveries about Twitter

It was sometime December 2008. I just left my previous and last employer after more than 8 years, because of “a difference of opinion about the direction” of the Business Unit I was leading. This happened in our company quite regularly, but it’s always different when it involves yourself directly.

One of my best friends in real life (@espaapen) did something only true friends think of, when you actually need to take some time for yourself. He invited me for a long weekend in Antwerp (Belgium). He thought I needed that! So we did and had the best of times for 48 hours, eating wonderful food, walking scenic and not so scenic routes in this perfect city, talking and drinking great beers and wines. It was the best way I can imagine to get my mind refreshed after a stressful period. This long weekend got me completely recharged and I owe it to my friend to thank him for that awesome idea.

Over one of our meals my friend started talking about Twitter and how this would be something for me too. I do not remember what he said exactly, but it persuaded me to give it a try.. at least..

not before we finished the weekend, the Christmas holidays with the family and a two week vacation early January this year with my wife and kids. And not before I picked up working as a self employed Consultant early March. I got my first position through another great friend and former colleague. A position for 3 months only, but I was fortunate enough to see the position evolve into another at the same company. I was hired by @fredzimny. A forward thinking Operational Manager, responsible for the Customer Services Contact Center of one of Dutch largest Health Insurance firms. A very intelligent man and ahead of his colleagues when we talk about enterprise 2.0 , web 2.0 and CRM 2.0. A very active blogger (syndication mostly, but with a great eye for connecting dots I might say).

@fredzimny is the one that really inspired me to take on blogging and tweeting. Just a week after I started working for him I wrote my first tweet and soon after I started blogging too. At first in Dutch, but I changed that quickly into English, because I started to have these great conversations on Twitter with likeminded. I too started to follow other peoples blogs and posted comments there. Before I knew it I spent all my evenings reading, tweeting, writing and discussing topics like Contact Centers, Customer Satisfaction, NPS, metrics, Co-creation, Social Media, Social CRM and even stuff I did not have any opinion on,  like innovation and Service Dominant Logic.

I can really remember how proud I felt when a great person like @ekolsky commented on one of my first English posts. I felt like a child in a candy store. Why? I’m almost 38 now and also pretty confident about what I can do. I think partly recognition plays a role, moreover it was the excitement that it is nowadays possible to, within the time it takes to open a Twitter account, start a blog and engage with a few smart people on the other side of the planet, have all these meaningful conversations.

Quickly it developed further. @GrahamHill came into play somehow. He engaged in a specific way, which he would later provide with a name: “discombobulating” (I vote this to be my personal favorite word of 2009 ;-) As it seems @GrahamHill was working on a project in Amsterdam, and it took just a few weeks before I experienced my first tweet-up. Some nice drinks and food in Amsterdam and moreover stimulating talks and discussions on the future of Social CRM. Several tweet-ups have followed since and @grahamhill introduced me to some great people like @designthinkers, @greenbizstartup and @frans_vd_putte). Over these dinners we share personal stories, business stories and have some discussions as well. Always inspirational, relaxing and fun evenings.

Through @designthinkers I also connected with other wonderful people from the (service) design (thinking) world. A few months ago we organized our first #miniunconference (best explained as a > 140 chars discussion at the watercooler in real life) in Delft (The Netherlands) with around 10 tweeps. Currently we are planning the sequel in Germany.

How exciting it was too to meet Paul Greenberg (@Pgreenbe) in Amsterdam this fall, when he was speaking on the Dutch CRM Association annual CRM award-event. He approached both @MarkTamis and me to have dinner with him and get free access to the event. @PGreenbe just turned 60 this week, yet he is still one the forefront of advancement of customer relationship centric thinking. Apart from that he is a wonderful person too.

In the meantime of meeting all these wonderful people through Twitter and some as you can see, in real life too, even when they live and work on the other side of the world, I’ve been exposed to what I think is some of the best thinking on business in general, and social business in particular. Not only by the guru’s, more even by people like me. People with valuable experiences, willing to share and willing to think, write on and explore new thinking and practices, without prejudice and most importantly: with respect for differing opinions.

So, what have I discovered about Twitter?

For me personally it has been Social Networking in the fourth dimension. It has brought me new friends, connections, thoughts, insights and ideas in a pace I could not have thought possible as little as one year ago. Some of these new friends might even become business partners in 2010. I’m grateful to all the people I mentioned in this post. They are the true connectors in my network. I’m also grateful to the people who follow my tweets and who engage with me. There are too many to mention here, really. And I thank Twitter for making this all possible.

Yep, I’m a Twitter Promoter, with one small difference to the NPS version ;-) I did promote it already, numerous times. And I have all the intentions to continue to do so, unless… (let’s not get into that.. it would spoil the good feeling and it’s a totally different post itself..)

Thanks for reading my Twitter story. Care to share yours? Please do so on our own blog or in the comments here. Don’t forget to tweet the link and tag it #MonTwit

Social Media does not make a good listener

Social Media continues to be a “hot topic” in marketing and customer services discussion arena’s. I stumbled upon an article on Customer Think with the title: CrowdService: A Clear and Present ROI for Social CRM. One of the many articles that promote usage of Social Media or Social CRM for Customer Services.

Customer services in general is not that great

One line in the article caught my special attention:

About two-thirds of U.S. consumers believe that companies should ramp up social media usage to “identify service/support issues and contact consumer to resolve.”

This one line proves to me more than that there is “a clear and present ROI for Social CRM”. This line tells me:

  • Companies have not been listening to their customers very well, and
  • Companies have not been able to resolve their customer’s issues very well, and
  • One of the above, or a combination or both, is true for two-thirds of consumers
Little efforts in the past could cure Customer services

Despite all efforts been made over the past decade or two, despite of all good interaction channels we have available, despite (or maybe because of) the wide spread of Customer Relationship Management (systems), despite Total Quality Management, despite business process re-engineering, despite quality monitoring efforts in the call centers, despite … this list can go on and on and on…

Despite all of the above and more, we still have accomplished too little, according to two-thirds of consumers..

Is social media the cure for poor Customer service?

And now Social Media or Social CRM is being presented to be the solution to start listening, engaging with our customers and solve their issues. I like the idea, but have the following reservation: if in your company, all or a good part of the above mentioned efforts did not succeed, you will have very little chance that implementing Social Media or Social CRM will make you successful.

Only if you start listening first

If you want to be successful in your business, or with Social Media for that matter, you need to start with one thing first: listen.. seek first to understand and then to be understood..

If you want to be successful you need to change the DNA of your company, of your people. You need to change from an inside-out to an outside-in thinking and breathing customer-centric organization. This requires a change in the course of your company’s evolution.

Social Media cannot make you a good listener.. Can you?

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How to (not) end up chasing more Geeze

goose-headThe Goose represents the Goals that we pursue in our lives dedicated to excellent customer service experiences. I’ve written about chasing the Same Goose and chasing the Wrong Goose. If you want to follow the Goose Chase please hit the rss-feed button on the top right corner of my blog.

How to (not) end up chasing more Geeze  – will Social Media or Social CRM add value for Customer Services or not?

Unfortunately most companies do not have a well thought-through Customer Interaction Strategy. You will probably recognize from your own experience that companies jump on the next new wagon that passes because everybody is doing it. I wrote about this copy-cat behaviour before. Because there is no true strategy behind these choices, companies tend to follow the “benchmark” metrics to see if they are successful. They take too little time to do research in what their customers really want and expect. As a result they end up being mediocre companies, with mildly satisfied, mostly indifferent and disloyal customers, who will jump on the next best competition-wagon that passes by.

Now we have the next Goose flying in the air: Social Media & Social CRM. Highly recognized analysts from companies such as Forrester advice you to jump onto the wagon as quickly as possible. Some even say it’s time now to forget whatever you are doing or measuring now in Customer Service (or other areas) as a consequence of jumping onto the high-speed train.

The question is: do you, from a Customer Services perspective, need to jump? do you need to chase this Goose?

Honestly, I do not know. What I do know: if you fly out to chase the Goose without a map, a compass and jump the plane without a parachute, you will end up feeling pretty bad. If you do not have a clear goal and strategy defined with clear stepping stones and possible scenario’s worked out, you do not have a clue what you will encounter. If you do not have the metrics in place that give you a good idea of your position (how am I doing compared to my goals) you do not know whether the initiative is worth continuing. If you do not pilot or test in a small environment, with little risk involved, you will not know if your assumptions (that you based your strategy on) are true (or likely to be true). As a consequence, if you did not do all your homework, the likelihood that you will fall out of the sky and get injured seriously or even drop dead, is significantly increasing:

The probability that a service interaction will drive disloyalty is approximately four times greater than the chance it will create any positive loyalty impression

So, when jumping onto the Social Media wagon, the risk of getting hurt is huge, much bigger than the chance you will emerge out of the slopes.  This is not a law but a fact. It shows that we human beings in general are not that good in providing customer services experiences that matter positively. The vast majority just does not get it, and we know it. (I hit the . on the keyboard really hard there… some frustration coming out ;-)

Before you decide to step in or jump on you should ask yourself one important question: How am I doing today?

Can you honestly say that you have your customer services under control, that you are actually contributing positively to the value your company is providing to your customer? If so, you probably have a good chance of making it in the Social Media place too. (But hey, do not forget: what’s the purpose, the value for you and your customers?).

If you think you are doing ok today, take a break, rethink, research and know how you are doing today.

If you know you are not doing well today I suggest: fix that first. We all have limited resources and they are best spend where they add value to your customers and your business. We know that Customer Services can make a difference in the Customer Experience, and we know that Customer Experiences matter. So your first job is to fix that.

Tapping into the Twitter-stream or any other Social Media place will not fix it for you. It will just give you more Geeze to chase.

If your company is doing well and if you can honestly say that customer services is adding value in the total value bucket, implementing a social media or social CRM strategy will have great opportunity to contribute more value even (if you did your homework). If this is not the case, you will be overwhelmed with a completely new, not yet to be seen, volume stream of interactions you do not know how to handle or manage. Workloads will increase, staff who started out enthusiastically will be disappointed (they still cannot solve the customer issue) and then the worst of all things happens: Social Media starts doing its work, Bad word of mouth is out, and spreads faster than Mexican Flu (was supposed to ;-).

Honestly, do you want to end up with hundredthousands Geeze to chase?