Don’t Let Social CRM Become New Buzzword

What happens when you combine a new buzzword (“social”) with an old buzzword (“CRM”)? You get the opportunity to waste money in entirely new ways.

Many CRM projects failed because they focused on the implementation of technology, not on the core needs of the business. Social CRM has the same potential. That’s why one of the 7 keys to customer experience that I listed in CRM Magazine was “Don’t get too distracted by social media.”

Am I recommending that companies stay away from social media? Absolutely not. Firms definitely need to tap into peer-to-peer and community-centered interactions. But they should focus on a few applications that match their business strategy. If you’re wondering about the spectrum of options, Altimeter Group has posted a list of 18 use cases for social media.

Here are the top social media projects that I recommend for companies (when it comes to customer experience):

  • Social support. Find ways to encourage and enable customers to help other customers; especially when there is significant technical support required. Blend your support people into the dialogue where needed and repurpose good advice into knowledge items that can be repurposed in other channels.
  • Feedback communities. Create online communities of your key customer segments so that you can regularly get feedback on everything from product development ideas to the language used for marketing campaigns. Make sure to actively manage the community.
  • Active listening. Monitor social outlets for early warning of issues and to get deeper insights into problems that you find through other listening posts. Handle this insight as part of a comprehensive, cross-channel voice of the customer (VoC) program.

The best way to defend yourself against negative social media feedback is to give customers a good experience to begin with. This lowers the number of people who might say something bad about you and motivates other customers to come to your defense if they do.

The bottom line: Social CRM represents opportunity, but not a panacea

5 Lessons From Forrester’s Blogging Policy

If you’re hooked anywhere into the blogosphere or twitterville, then you’ve probably caught some of the heated discussion about Forrester’s new blogging policy. As a result, I’ve received a lot of nice messages from people showing their support for this (my personal) blog. So, I want to start by saying thank you to everyone.

You’re probably waiting for me to make some profound statement about my support or opposition to the new blogging policy which will fuel a new round of tweets. Sorry to disappoint you. I have a policy about not commenting on Forrester’s policies. I find it to be my best policy.

What I am going to comment on is what other companies can learn about this situation. Not about the policy itself, but about the aftermath from the policy. So here are some of the lessons for companies:

  1. Assume everyone will find out. The thought that somehow you can make a major or controversial decision without people finding out is naïve. As you are making decisions, assume that everyone will find out. So factor it into the decisions that you make and the way that you communicate those decisions.
  2. Don’t get bullied by the crowd. From my very unofficial count, there are significantly more negative than positive comments about Forrester’s new policy. But that doesn’t matter. Companies can’t get overly swayed by volume; social media has a way of amplifying some positions over others.
  3. Pick your battles wisely. Social media provides an outlet for lots of people to share their thoughts and opinions. So you can almost always find people that disagree with your actions or decisions. If you try to rebuff all of them, then you’ll find yourself swimming upstream — and likely looking pretty silly along the way.
  4. Be open and honest. The comments about Forrester’s policy came from a range of people — Forrester followers, clients, competitors, employees, ex-employees, etc. So any attempt to “spin” the facts can be dangerous; many people with different insights are prepared to pick apart every word you write.
  5. Don’t overly obsess about social media. I’ve written a lot about voice of the customer (VoC) programs, which are a key ingredient for customer experience efforts. These VoC programs need to treat social media as one of many listening posts, which in many cases may not be as valuable as other customer-direct listening posts like calls into the call centers and comments on surveys.

The bottom line: Be smart about social media.

Social Media Meets Good Old-Fashioned Service

In a recent briefing from RightNow Technologies, the SaaS (Software as a Service) CRM provider showcased it’s new functionality called Cloud Monitor. The vendor can now search social networking sites for comments about a company, identify the sentiment of the comment (very negative to very positive), and enable reps to respond to the comments using their normal CRM tools.

Here’s a screen shot (courtesy of RightNow) showing how the tool can be used to respond to tweets:

RightNow Cloud Monitor
RightNow Technologies' Cloud Monitor Functionality

My take: This new offering from RightNow is a great example of an important voice of the customer (VoC) trend: The integration of social media monitoring into broader VoC efforts. There’s no reason for social media efforts to look substantially different from how companies handle other forms of feedback.

And this becomes even more important when companies decide to respond. Why should reps have different (and less integrated) tools for responding to Tweets than they do when responding to emails? They shouldn’t. RightNow’s type of solution allows companies to utilize existing knowledge bases, efficiently deal with correspondences, and maintain a centralized record of customer contacts.

While this initial functionality from RightNow is a good starting point, it certainly needs some more enhancements before it matches up with pure brand monitoring tools. Here are some of the areas where it should (and likely will) make improvements: A broader set of sites that it monitors, classification (and agent routing) of comments by topic, identification of the influence level of the commenter, inference of customer details (like is it a customer or not), and tailored text mining tools.

So, for the time being, companies need to make a trade-off between comprehensive brand monitoring tools and integration with CRM applications. But it won’t be long until social media is just another channel that companies interact with through their existing CRM applications.

The bottom line: Everything new that survives becomes mainstream. 

Marks & Spencer Bitten By Brassiere Battle

Marks & Spencer (M&S) is facing an onslaught of negative responses from women who are outraged by its decision to charge an extra 2 pounds ($3) for large brassieres. The attack it being led by a group called Busts 4 Justice that has grown to several thousand members via Facebook.Here’s what Busts 4 Justice co-founder Beckie Williams had to say:

People think it would be great to have big boobs, but it’s an emotional issue, it can make you feel isolated, and shopping at Marks & Spencer can make you feel like a freak when they charge you extra.

Here’s what a spokesperson for M&S had to say:

At DD and above, the weight of a woman’s breast requires additional support, fabric and structure in a bra and from our years of experience we know it’s critical not to cut corners on this… it would be impossible to cut prices on large-size bras without reducing quality.

My take: The decision by M&S seems reasonable (passing the extra cost to consumers) and so does the outrage from a segment of customers that is negatively impacted by the decision. Social media makes it easier for a dispersed set of customers to connect and generate a louder collective voice.

Does that mean that companies need to succumb to every protest? No. As I’ve said before, customers are not always right. But there are some lessons that companies can learn:

  • Get proactive. Whenever a company makes a decision like changing prices, they need to understand what the impact is on different customer constituents. If possible, proactively reach out to the negatively impacted customers. In case of M&S bra pricing, why not phase in the price changes to give customers a chance to make purchases before the increase. Or have one week a year where you roll back the price increase.
  • Choose your message carefully. In this world of social media, words and messages are even more important — because they become so highly scrutinized. Companies need to be transparent about “why” they are doing things. In the case of M&S, the retailer could have said that they were forced to increase prices for the brassiere category and felt like this was a fairer way to do it then to raise prices for everyone (given that the larger bras cost considerably more to manufacture).
  • Make sure to listen. As more customer groups use social media as a meeting ground for sharing their opinions, companies need to build up their listening skills — starting with an understanding of how to analyze unstructured, unsolicited feedback. But listening is only the first step in a good voice of the customer program, as companies also need to interpret, react, and monitor.
  • Be empathetic. As the number of groups that come together and complain continues to rise, companies need to get better at dealing with these issues. While they can’t give in to every request (if M&S raised prices on all bras, then they’d likely hear complaints from a group of women who buy smaller bras), firms need to develop communications that reflect an empathy for the affected customers.

The bottom line: Get ready to deal with unexpected customer segments

Facebook’s Simple Redesign Is Worth Noting

Matt Vella wrote an interesting article in BusinessWeek about the redesign of Facebook (which includes a few quotes from me). Here’s an excerpt:

<Facebook> is readying an extensive overhaul of its core profile pages in an attempt to bring back the sleek aesthetic that helped fuel its early popularity… The moves come in reaction to Facebook’s becoming “more cluttered and harder for users to parse,” according to Katie Geminder, the site’s director of user experience and design… the redesign represents a major simplification.

My take: I really like Facebook’s move to simplicity. As I’ve mentioned in my work on disruptive customer experience strategies, offerings tend to get overly complex over time as companies add new features and capabilities. So there’s an opportunity to disrupt many industries with an ultra-simple alternative.

Facebook must keep involving its users in the redesign. The relationship between Facebook and its users is like a landlord and her tenants. While tenants recognize that the landlors owns the building, they don’t want her to redecorate their apartment at will; it’s their space.

The bottom line: My advice to Facebook: Keep it simple, keep it real.

Designing Experiences For Gen Y

We just published a research report that I’ve alluded to in earlier posts called “The Gen Y Design Guide.” The research examines how Gen Y (ages 18 to 27) are different from older consumers and defines a set of implications for designing experiences. Here’s the executive summary from the research…

Gen Y consumers are a unique breed. But what exactly makes them different from their elders? Our research unearthed nine attributes of Gen Yers’ social, emotional, and mental makeup that shape their perception of interactions. To reach these young consumers, we’ve identified four design approaches: immediacy, Gen Y literacy, individualism, and social interactivity. To truly engage Gen Y, firms should create a Gen Y advisory board and apply Gen Y design approaches across touchpoints.

To get a sense of the world of Gen Yers, just take a look at the lyrics from a top-rated song “Crank That” from Soulja Boy:

Soulja Boy Crank That

What?!?! I have no idea what that means, but I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to know.

Our research uncovered the following key attributes of Gen Yers: 

  • Socially Fluid And Highly Networked. Having gone through high school, college, or a first job, many Generation Yers are breaking away from their families and forging their own paths and networks. We found three characteristics that define Gen Yers socially. They are continually connected, speak their own language, and are influenced by peers.
  • Emotionally Searching For Their Identities. Adolescents and early adults are at a period of self-discovery, shaped by their environment, education and activities, and social culture. That’s why they seek recognition and fame, enjoy absurdity – and humor with an odd slant, and embrace a variety of subcultures.
  • Mentally Fickle And Creative. Few Generation Yers can remember a time when technology – from DVDs to PCs – did not play an important part in their lives. Having grown up with deep exposure to media and devices, they skim text and information quickly, are easily bored, and are expressive and creative.

Based on the unique characteristics of Gen Y, we defined four design approaches for appealing to them:

  1. Design approach No. 1: immediacy. To overcome Generation Y’s fickle attention and broad use of media, firms need to hook Gen Yers in by quickly exposing value and then keeping them interested over time.
  2. Design approach No. 2: Gen Y literacy. Because Gen Yers are so influenced by peers and their own communication style, firms need to speak to them authentically and on their level.
  3. Design approach No. 3: individualism. Diverse and expressive, Generation Yers respond to experiences that allow them to personalize and customize their interactions.
  4. Design approach No. 4: social interactivity. Since Gen Y consumers are very social, firms should consider enabling them to communicate and express themselves.

The bottom line: If you want to attract and engage Gen Yers, stop treating them like Boomers. 

A View Of Forrester’s Consumer Forum

Today was a great day in Chicago — at Forrester’s Consumer Forum. The place was hopping! I had a number of very interesting meetings with people. It’s always great to catch up with clients and friends and meet new people at this event.

I’m not going to try and recap the entire day. You can get that level of detail from the many bloggers covering the event — maybe starting with Forrester’s marketing blog. But here are some of my personal observations… 

  • Christie Hefner called me a god. During Christie’s Q&A after her presentation, I was asking questions submitted by the audience from a microphone in the back of the ballroom. When I asked the first question, Christie said that it sounded like god. Okay, I sensationalized the point — but it was still a funny moment. Just call me “Bruce Almighty.”
  • Charlene Li started a groundswell. Charlene delivered an outstanding opening keynote called “Your Customers Are Revolting ;-)” The main framework of her presentation was the “Ladder Of Participation” which defined 6 levels of Social Computing involvement: Inactives, Spectators, Joiners, Collectors, Critics, and Creators. She also talked about the P.O.S.T. process (People, Objectives, Strategy, and Technology). While all of that content was great, the most memorable moment for me was the story about the TV show Jericho. CBS canceled the show after it received poor ratings when placed opposite American Idol. Some radio guy mobilized the show’s fans and CBS ended up bringing back the show after these fans sent tons of peanuts to CBS Entertainment’s president.
  • Richard Edelman is not sorry. Richard Edelman had an interesting discussion called “Be It, Don’t Buy It.” What struck me the most was his response to questions about the scandal about the somewhat inauthentic blog called Walmart Across America. Mr. Edelman showed no remorse and offered no apology. Should he have been sorry? I don’t know; you decide. But, interestingly, he opened his speech with the following quote from Tom Friedman’s column called “The Whole World Is Watching:”

In this transparent world, how you live your life and conduct your business matters more than ever… Companies that get their ‘hows’ wrong won’t be able to clean up their mess by taking a couple of reporters to lunch…But this also creates opportunities…’how’ you keep your promises…build trust…collaborate…lead

  • Mobile puts the social back into Social Computing. That was the theme of Vidya Lakshmipathy’s presentation. She opened up her session with a great presentation about the role that mobile does/can/will play in social networks — starting with a personal story about using Dodgeball. She identified a number of different types of mobile social technologies: social networks, social mapping, media sharing, micro Blogs, and tagging. The majority of her session was dedicated to discussion with the twenty-something founders of two firms: Michael Sharon Nicholas Tommarello from Socialight and Nicholas Tommarello Michael Sharon from Urban Interactive. Socialight allows users to post “sticky notes” with in their current location — to comment on things like the food, the activities, or the great mural they see on a wall. Other people can search and find the sticky notes that are in their current location. Pretty cool stuff. Urban Interactive uses cell phones to create and carry out adult adventures. Michael used this tag line to describe what they do: “Transform cities into playgrounds.” One key lesson from the two of them: SIMPLICITY is the key to mobile design.
  • Gen Y are different; design accordingly. That was the theme of my presentation with Ross Popoff-Walker. I thought it was a fun (and hopefully informative) presentation. You can see a handful of my favorite slides at the bottom of this post. Here’s how our presentation flowed:
    • After having some fun with the audience by looking at things have changed over the last 40 years, we talked about “a new creature” called Gen Yers. 
    • We showed a bunch of data to highlight how these youngsters are different. Compared to the overall US consumers, Gen Yers: Play video games 2.2x, Use cell phones 1.7x, Like to show off their taste and style 2.2x, Are influenced by what;s how and what’s not 1.9x, Store/listen to MP3s 1.8x, Watch DVDs on a PC 1.7x, Use IM 1.8x, Use social networking sites 2.7x, and Send/receive text messages 1.8x.
    • This data helped us identify 10 attributes that companies need to keep in mind when designing experiences for Gen Yers.  I had the most fun talking about how “Gen Y Speak Their Own Language.” To make that point, I showcased the lyrics from the #1 song on Billboard’s list: Crank That by Soulja Boy
    • Keeping in mind all of those attributes, we identified 4 strategies for designing online experiences for Gen Y: Immediacy, Gen Y Literacy, Individualism, and Social Interactivity.
    • Our presentation was chock-filled with fun examples. We’ll be publishing this research later this quarter.

That’s all for now. I’m heading home very early tomorrow morning, so I won’t have any more updates from the Consumer Forum.


The bottom line: It’s a great event; don’t miss it next year! 

Web 2.0 (a.k.a. Web And Weberer)

This wouldn’t be a real blog without at least one entry about Web 2.0. I’ve actually touched on the related topic in a previous post called The Death Of Web Pages? Great! — but that wasn’t enough to be a real “Web 2.0” post. So here goes another blog post on Web 2.0…

To begin with, I hope you get my allusion to the movie sequel Dumb and Dumberer, which I really liked (despite its horrible reviews). It’s not that I think Web 2.0 is dumb (or dumberer), but I do think that they’re both packed with a whole bunch of silliness.

Let me start by saying that there are a number of very interesting things happening that are classified as Web 2.0. Social networking sites (like MySpace and Facebook); consumer-generated communications (blogs and product reviews); rich Internet applications (with technologies like Ajax and Flex); and aggregation technologies like RSS. All together, these things are definitely adding new ways for people (especially younger consumers) to interact online.

I’ve even heard the terminology being used around CRM — hence the new moniker “CRM 2.0.” But this is where I need to draw the line. Yes, Web 2.0 has some interesting opportunities for many businesses. But for most firms, it’s not nearly the most important thing they need to think about when it comes to their customers. Frankly, Web 2.0 hasn’t changed how you need to think about customer interactions. The fundamentals of customer experience remain the same: know more about what your customers need and figure out ways to better satisfy those needs. This is all about shifting your thinking from inside-out to outside-in.

But this isn’t new. As a matter of fact, it’s the same advice that we’ve been giving Forrester clients since the late 1990’s. Here’s a figure from a report in 2000 called Scenario Design.

 Sceanrio Design from 2000

In this report, we framed three key questions:

  1. Who are your target users?
  2. What are their goals?
  3. How can you help them accomplish those goals?

It turns out that we still push organizations to ask and answer those same three questions. I published an update to that report in 2004 called “Scenario Design: A Disciplined Approach To Customer Experience.” The report provides an updated argument for relying on those same three questions. And, yes, I am considering publishing another update to that report — which will absolutely reinforce the importance of those same three questions.

So, here’s how I put Web 2.0 in context:

After you figure out who your target customers are and gain an understanding of their needs, and then uncover their true goals in working with you, then you can apply Web 2.0 capabilities (along with all other capabilities) to help satisfy their needs.

The bottom line: Web 2.0 (and all of it’s “XYZ 2.0″companions) may enable companies to better serve customers — but only if they better understand them first.

My Takes On YouTube

A short post today — based on a couple of my recent interactions with/on YouTube.

We just published a research report, Uploading To Video Portals Isn’t Easy, that looked at the usability of five video portals (thanks to Ross Popoff-Walker who did most of the work). It turns out that YouTube’s usability was pretty good. Here’s a summary of the report:

Forrester applied an abridged version of its Web Site Review methodology to the site experiences at five major video portal sites: YouTube, Yahoo! Video, Metacafe, Dailymotion, and Veoh. Our evaluation looked at how well each site supports young adults trying to upload a new video clip. Only YouTube received a passing overall score. Some of the major problems we found across the sites: poor contextual help and deficient privacy information.

I also just found out that someone posted an excerpt of my speech from Forrester’s Finance Forum on YouTube. It was probably done by Forrester’s marketing department; hoping that the video would generate the same buzz on YouTube as coke + menthos or the dancing cadet. 🙂

Well, I can assure you that my video is not nearly as exciting as the running Russian video. But if you want to see a portion of my keynote speech on Experience-Based Differentiation, then here it is.

Unfortunately, you only see me — and can’t see any of the slides. Maybe someone in the audience who was illegally taping the event will post a video that shows the slides as well. You never know.

The bottom line: YouTube makes it easy to upload anything.