Monday 28 December 2009

Ten angry customer-created sites & campaigns

We've all experienced bad customer service, a sales person that promises the earth but fails to deliver or the irritation of irrelevant marketing spam. Some people ignore bad customer experiences, others switch their business to another provider, others go on a crusade to name, shame and pro-actively share their negative experiences with others. The latter can have a hugely negative lifetime value to an organisation, in some cases even bringing the share price down.  This post is dedicated to those customer revolutionaries whose personal campaigns have had a tangible impact on their targets. Here are 10 examples of angry customer-created sites and campaigns:

1. United Breaks Guitars - incensed at seeing his guitar thrown around by a baggage handler on a United Airlines flight, and enraged by the company's denial of responsibility, musician Dave Carroll got his revenge by releasing a video trilogy on Youtube. "United Song 1" got 3.2 million views and 14,000 comments in just 10 days! A PR disaster that took 10% off United's share price.
2. United package was set up by Keith Kimmel after he received wet, broken and delayed packages from UPS. Other customers followed suit and uploaded their own photos of broken packages. Some UPS employees even submitted photos from delivery vans and depots showing piles of broken parcels. At the point of writing the site seems to have been taken down but some of the photos are here.
3. Rage Against the Machine for Christmas #1 - over 550,000 people joined the Facebook campaign to keep X-Factor winner Joe McElderry off the Christmas number one spot!
4. The BT Guy - Patrick Askins from Warwick found national fame on the BBC national news after his video complaint about British Telecom was watched by 20,000 people on YouTube.
5. Marks & Spencer's storm in a D-cup - Beckie Williams started a Twitterstorm against M&S in protest at their "unfair" practice of charging an extra £2 on bras above a DD cup. Her Facebook Group Busts 4 Justice currently has 18,000 members and forced a "one price for all" policy across the M&S range.
6. HSBC's great graduate rip off - thousands of students rallied on Facebook to successfully force a change in HSBC's policy on student loan fees.
7. Dell Hell - Jeff Jarvis' "Dell Lies; Dell Sucks" blog post was read by thousands of people who had experienced similar quality problems with Dell products and similar frustration with their customer service. Dell eventually embraced the feedback and now has one of most forward-looking Social Media approaches.
8. - these sites were set up by angry Chase Bank customers offering a forum for other customer to share their stories about  bad customer service, fraud rumours, incorrect charges etc. Both have or are facing legal action from JP Morgan Chase.
9. The Motrim Moms - Twitter user Jessica Gottlieb caused a Twitter Storm against an ad campaign by Motrin.  Mashable has a good review of the Motrin Moms campaign.
10. The Apple Time Capsule Memorial Register  - this site offers a forum for Apple customers to mourn the death of their time capsules. The site currently reports that the average life span for an Apple Time Capsule is 18 months and 30 days.

Please note that I make no comment on the individual companies mentioned above, I am more interested in the campaigns that customers have launched against them.

Of course there are many other examples . If you know of any great case studies please let me know or add them to this Pearltree!

Sunday 20 December 2009

How can we prevent a Social CRM bubble? Lessons from the boom and bust of CRM

OK - let me say from the outset that rumours of the death of CRM have been much exaggerated! CRM undoubtedly went through an early wave of hype, crashed, but has now bounced slowly back to become a healthy buoyant market. Gartner describe this as a wave of hype. Talk of 60-70% project failure rates may have been true 10 years ago, but that figure is now more relevant when talking about success rates (and that's conservative). The market has matured. CRM buyers, vendors and consultants are, generally speaking, savvy about how to deliver value from CRM projects. That doesn't make the projects any easier, but in general they work and they deliver value both to companies and their customers.

The fact remains however, that there was a CRM bubble and it burst. For many years CRM was a dirty word. I worked with a number of customers 5-8 years ago who refused to use the term "CRM" and instead referred to it as "Loyalty", "Customer Management" etc. It has only been in the last couple of years that the term seems to have bounced back and removed it's negative connotations. CRM is now seen as a positive initiative, crucial to supporting customer retention and growth strategies and Social CRM is a natural extension to the topic, embracing the customer's new control of the conversation.

Reading a blog post the other day about Snakeoil Social CRM sales people got me thinking about whether we are in danger of repeating some of the errors of the CRM boom with Social CRM. Vendors, consultants and analysts are all starting to jump on the SCRM bandwagon. Every major CRM vendor seems to have recently announced integration with a Social Network provider in the hope that they will appear to have a "Social" product strategy, and some consultancies have already opened up Social CRM practices. So what can we learn from the early failures of CRM? And how can those learning be applied to Social CRM?

CRM went through boom and bust because:

1.    As an industry we applied a technology-centric solution to a business problem. Both vendors and consultants positioned technology as a silver bullet.
2.    Powerful technology was used and abused with little thought given to the customer experience (see my post on the shift from inside-out to outside-in).
3.    Nothing like enough attention was given to the people / change aspects of customer-centric transformation. I have personally seen call centre agents with a shiny new CRM system, hang up on customer's as they answer the call in order to try and get their AHT down! Incentives drive behaviour more than any technology.
4.    Front office technology was layered on top of fragile back-office foundations.CRM exposed toxic data and processes directly to customers.
5.    Projects bit off more than they could chew. CRM is an elephant. Eating an elephant requires bite-sized chunks.

Applying these lessons to Social CRM:

1.    Technology is not the answer to everything. I've seen lots of product demonstrations where vendors pitch an offering to listen to customer feedback, connect to the twitter fire hose etc. Few articulate the reality of how that insight can be used to improve products, processes and the customer experience as that involves far more than just technology.
2.    Social CRM technology is potentially even more powerful than CRM technology because of the network-effect of social customers. Both successes and failures can go viral in seconds. The viral effect may tempt marketers to view "Social" as simply another low-cost channel to bombard customers with Spam… if this sounds familiar then STOP and consider your usage of Social Media.
3.    Nothing will change the fact that people build relationships. Not technology. Technology can of course accelerate and provide a significant advantage to relationship building.
4.    Social CRM still relies on solid foundations. If you take orders but can't deliver products on time then of course your customers are going to be complain, tweet, post, blog! In some ways, embracing Social technologies places an even greater emphasis on the basics of CRM e.g. real time integrated information (cross-channel, cross-department).
5.    Social CRM probably lends itself much better to an agile / iterative approach to delivery. Most products are SaaS solutions that can be consumed quickly. The danger of this is that buyers behave like kids in a candy store. Buy what you need first, rather then everything you want.

Social CRM offers the CRM industry a huge opportunity to put the customer back at its rightful centre but as George Santayana once said "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it".

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Social CRM - the shift from "inside-out" to "outside-in"

Much has been written about Social CRM. Paul Greenberg’s definition of Social CRM is one of the best I have seen. Paul describes Social CRM as a natural extension of CRM as follows:

CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

Or his shorter tweetable version: "The company's response to the customer's control of the conversation."

It strikes me that one of the fundamental tenets of Social CRM (and one of the toughest challenges) is the need to shift from an "inside-out" culture to an "outside-in" culture. Key characteristics of an inside-out culture include:
  • Marketing assume they know what products a customer will want to buy
  • Marketing bombard customers with offers hoping a small % of customers will bite
  • Sales people launch into product pitches without first listening to the customer
  • A company's web site is a "destination site" that aims to own the customer and control the community
  • Customer Service is a cost centre with a fire-fighting mentality aiming to fix the immediate problem and move on
  • There is no connection between customers and product development
  • There are functional silos between the different people who deal with the customer and no single view of the customer experience
  • Performance metrics incentivize all of the above 
In contrast, some of the characteristics of an outside-in culture:
  • Customers are freely invited to comment, share and recommend
  • Customers participate in the product design and creation process
  • Marketing is a conversation driven by the needs of the customer
  • Sales people listen first and create the right solutions for the customer (product, configuration, price, logistics etc)
  • Customer Service has a peer to peer element where customers flag problems and are part of the solution. 
  • Issues are passed on to the right people who can fix and improve the product / process
  • The organisation has a Customer Experience Director who is empowered to make a difference
  • Performance metrics incentivize the above
The shift from an inside-out culture to an outside-in culture is not insignificant. It goes against many ingrained habits and performance management incentives. But without the shift Social Media simply becomes another channel to bombard and annoy customers with. 

Powerful tools are dangerous in the wrong hands.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Customer listening mechanisms & Social CRM tools

Listening to the customer is the weak-spot of many organisations. Decisions are made based on assumptions about what the supplier thinks the customer wants, rather than what the customer actually wants.

Many companies assume that listening to the customer equates to an annual customer satisfaction survey, or a follow up call following a transaction to check if everything was ok. At best both these tactics do more to irritate customers then they do to improve the customer experience. In general customers do not like being cold-called to give feedback, nor do they like being asked to fill in a survey when they sit down in a plane or check into a hotel.

Other companies are scared of opening up and asking customers for feedback in case customer's say anything negative about them. Again, this is a dangerous strategy. Customers will tweet, blog and talk to each other regardless of whether you chose to participate in the conversation or not. You are invited to listen, respond and improve, or ignore the voice of your customers and push them to your competitors.

So how do you listen to customers and engage them in a conversation to help refine your products & processes, or improve your customer service? There are several tools that I've come across that can help and can supplement traditional Business intelligence tools. As with all technology-based solutions they are only effective if they are deployed in an environment with supporting culture, incentives, business processes etc. None of them on their own represent a silver bullet to customer-driven success.

Survey & Feedback tools like:

Mirrorwave  - what I like about Mirrorwave is that it is an opt-in survey tool that looks at customer satisfaction in a longitudal way, measuring the customer journey, rather than static anonymous data points
Fizzback - allows customers to SMS feedback on a transaction at the point of experience
Rightnow - feedback management platform
Bazaar Voice - allows organisations to set up a listening platform including product ratings & reviews
Survey Monkey - free survey tool

Tools to solicit customer ideas like:

Uservoice- tool for capturing customer ideas, allowing customers to vote on suggestions Ideas - tool for capturing customer ideas and bring them into used by Dell Ideastorm and myStarbucks

Social CRM Platforms like:

Jive Software - tools to listen and respond to customer "buzz"
Lithium - Social CRM suite

Brand monitoring and sentiment analysis tools like:

Radian 6 allows you to create a "listening grid" across various social media
Scoutlabs allows marketers and agencies to monitor social media
Visible Technologies - social media monitoring
SAP Business Objects provides sentiment analysis tools

Social Sales tools like:

Social CRM Tools - provides a plug-in for to connect to Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook
Xobni - Microsoft Outlook connector to Linkedin and Facebook
Gist - personal social monitoring tool

Social Support tools like:

Helpstream - allows organisations to set up P2P online help portals
Parature - chat features for support reps
Salesforce Service Cloud - SaaS customer service and collaboration

In addition, the major CRM vendors SAP,, Oracle Siebel CRM all provide open APIs to connect to social networking sites to supplement customer knowledge across Marketing, Sales and Service. For example, SAP allows Service users to connect to the Twitter Firehose to monitor and respond to complaints.

This is not an exhaustive list of tools, rather a representation of some of the different categories of "listening" mechanisms. If I have missed any major categories please feel free to let me know.

You can view a Pearl Tree of these categories here

In addition Jeremiah Owyang provides an excellent analysis of Social CRM tools in his blog.

Friday 11 December 2009

Tools of the Customer Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was enabled in part by the steam engine. That simple innovation transformed the textile industry followed by iron, transport and many other industries.

The Customer Revolution is being enabled by the Internet but there are a number of individual tools, built for the web, that are enabling customers to  collaborate with their peers, exert collective power over corporations and revolt. Some of the main categories (with examples in each) are:

Consumer review sites like:

Review Centre - consumer product reviews - video customer product reviews
Trip Advisor - travel tips and reviews
Chowhound - restaurant reviews

Price comparison sites like:

Pricerunner - UK price comparison site
Money Supermarket - UK financial product comparison and reviews
Compare the Market - UK Insurance comparison site
uSwitch - UK Utilities comparison site
Red Laser - iPhone bar code scanner app that allows price comparison

Petition sites like:

UK Government petitions - online petitions to 10 Downing Street

Sites to solicit customer ideas like:

Social Network sites like:

Blogging and micro-blogging sites like:

Blogger - blogging tool
Tumblr - blogging tool
Wordpress - blogging tool
Twitter - micro-blogging tool - platform to integrate multiple social networks
Squidoo - platform to build "lenses"

Multi-media broadcast sites like:

YouTube - video sharing site - video streaming site
Prezi - animated presentations
Slideshare - online presentation sharing

Clearly this is not an exhaustive list but these tools give customers a voice, and allow that voice to be magnified through others to form a powerful collective force.

You can view a Pearltree of the major categories with some examples here.

If I've missed any major categories please let me know.

The Customer Revolution Manifesto

Every revolution needs a manifesto. The original (and still the best) customer bill of rights is the Cluetrain Manifesto.

The Cluetrain Manifesto was written in 1999. Most writing on the Internet customer from that time is now well out of date. The genius of The Cluetrain Manefesto is that it was incredibly forward looking. This was possible because it described timeless principles of customer-centricity like marketing as conversations and the importance of authenticity and trust. To some extent this implies evolution rather than revolution – new technologies represent a key inflection point placing more visibility and pressure on organisations that do not adhere to the principles outlined in the manifesto, and offering new opportunities to those that do. However, the fundamental principles of customer relationships are timeless.

Below are the first 10 (of 95) theses in the Cluetrain Manifesto:

1.       Markets are conversations.
2.       Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
3.       Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
4.       Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
5.       People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
6.       The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
7.       Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
8.       In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
9.       These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
10.   As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

I would strongly recommend clicking here to read the remaining 85.

My favourite quote, which I think sums up the Manifesto quite well is this:

“ You’re invited but it’s our world. Take your shoes off at the door and if you want to barter with us get down off your camel”

The Customer Revolution

It was Thomas Jefferson that said "every generation needs a revolution". We are fortunate to be living in a time of enormous technological and social change. 10 years ago most of us would have:

·         Watched advertisements on TV
·         Asked friends or read reviews in magazines
·         Bought goods and services on the High Street
·         Bought goods and services through intermediaries
·         Paid the asking price
·         Fixed problems by re-reading the manual
·         Queued and complained to call centres

The speed of change in the last 10 years has been breathtaking. Broadband Internet has rampaged through our business and social lives, changing industries from top to bottom. 

One of the most striking changes has been the total shift in power to the customer. Information is no longer a scare resource, price is no longer a differentiator, bad service or poor value for money is now brutally exposed and multiplied through our social networks for all to see. We are living through a customer revolution. Customer's are using their blogs, social networks and consumer review sites to make their voices heard and to leverage the power of the collective. For example:

·         Thousands of students rallied on Facebook to successfully "stop the great HSBC graduate rip-off"
·         Patrick Askins from Warwick found national fame on the BBC national news after his video complaint about British Telecom was watched by thousands of people on YouTube
·         Jeff Jarvis' "Dell Sucks" blog post was read by thousands of people who agreed, promoting a complete change in customer engagement strategy from Dell

Some companies have embraced the revolution. They are participating in conversations with the customers and leveraging direct feedback to design better products and processes. They have reduced their advertising and customer service spend by leveraging their customer and partner networks and they are creating win/win relationships.

·         At the point of writing Dell has gathered 13,137 ideas from it's customers on it's Ideas Storm site, of which it has implemented 389. The company's @Delloutlet Twitter account has over 600k followers and has sold over $3m
·         Ikea's photo-tagging campaign on Facebook created a viral following of customer advocates
·         Aleksandr Orlov, a fictional Meerkat, and face of the UK car insurance price comparison site  has 620,000 fans on Facebook 
·          Even president Obama is widely reported to have leverage social media to listen, respond and orchestrate his "customers" during the US Presidential election 

Other companies simply don't get it. They view new technologies as a way to automate the broken, inward looking ways of the past. They expose their lack of customer insight by bombarding their best customers with irrelevant spam and Marketing interruptions.  They are internally siloed and work on the basis of short term transactions rather than conversations or relationships.

The purpose of this blog is simply to offer a commentary on the customer revolution.  I will share stories and anecdotes on the revolutionaries, the targets of the revolution and the tools of the revolution and I will invite you to comment and fill in any gaps!

Customers of the world unite!

Disclaimer and disclosure - although I work for Capgemini, this is a personal rather than a corporate blog. My opinions reflect my own views rather than necessarily those of my employer. I carry no vested interest in any particular technology. For a full look at my background please feel free to view my Linkedin profile which contains full information on my previous roles.

Share This

Share |
Creative Commons License
The Customer Revolution Blog by Laurence Buchanan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at