Monday 14 February 2011

Gaming the system in social media care

Social Media customer care seems to be a pretty hot topic at the moment. Many clients I work with either have, or are talking about, setting up a capability to monitor what people are saying about them on social networks and respond. At the moment, most customers seem pleasantly surprised to find that organizations are listening to their problems and taking pro-active steps to fix their problems (check out my experience with Virgin Media). But are we training customers to believe that in order to get their best service they should shout loudly and angrily at their friends on social networking sites? Are we encouraging customers to game the system, building up their social “klout” as a currency to leverage against customer service organizations?

On the whole most people are pretty honest and will not go to the efforts described to game the system. But to me the question gets to the heart of how strong your CRM foundation is, whether you view a customer’s social activities in isolation from everything else and whether your culture and organizational structure aligns to fixing customer problems quickly and transparently.

Take the organization that sets up a social media customer care operation completely disconnected from the rest of the customer-facing business. Without any customer data or insight the temptation would be to prioritize service given to customers who light the biggest fires. Customers who shout the loudest and who have the largest number of Twitter followers & social “klout” (neither of which necessarily bear any value whatsoever to customer lifetime value). In this scenario it’s easy to see that if the reward mechanisms make it worthwhile, a small number of customers will learn that to get better service (or perhaps compensation) they should build up their followers and complain vocally and repeatedly. The disconnected organization will simply keep fire-fighting and rewarding that behavior.

With a strong CRM foundation and an integrated approach however, we could see a different scenario. Firstly connecting a customer’s social activities to their CRM profile allows us to view the customer’s history, value and segmentation. We can therefore apply appropriate business roles to deal with the customer within the context of their profile and the interaction. We stand a better chance of knowing whether the angry customer shouting at their friends on social networking sites is in fact a loyalty customer with a genuine problem who needs help, or a serial social gamer trying to cheat the system.

The CRM foundation also covers people and organizational aspects. In particular the shift from inside-out to outside-in. Gaming the system can be prevented though effective and transparent handling of complaints, only possible with the right organizational set-up and culture. This is a lesson that United Airlines seemed to learn after their United Breaks Guitars episode. Following the high profile PR disaster United saw many customers trying to create copycat viral videos and blogs complaining about service issues. They seem (at least from the outside) to have adopted a policy of jumping on these sparks quickly and try and be transparent in acknowledging their mistakes and trying to do what they can to fix the problem.

Customers themselves can also help prevent gaming the system. An empowered community like GiffGaff’s can encourage self-moderation i.e. customers not only fixing each other’s problems but also calling out trouble makers from the community. One of the early mantras of the Internet was that “no one knows you’re a dog”. This is perhaps no longer valid as Google today displays your history online for everyone in the community to see. If this is a topic that interests you I suggest you read Michael Wu’s Building the Community Platform blog and check out this great post by Mark Tamis on “incentivizing community participation”.

I suspect that social customers gaming the system will be an emerging pain point for organizations setting up social media customer care operations. These organizations can make their lives much easier by building a strong community and by building on a strong CRM foundation. What do you think?

Solid Foundations, Cool Innovations – the importance of CRM to SCRM

I went to a Gartner CRM conference in London a few years ago where the theme was “Solid Foundations, Cool Innovations”. The theme stuck with me and I think it is even more relevant today given the rapid rise of Social Media, powerful real time Analytics and Mobile.

Those three topics combined put enormous power into the hands of Marketers. They can segment customers at an extremely granular level, send offers to their mobile devices as they walk into a store, enable customers to share those offers with their social networks…

But of course, powerful tools are dangerous in primitive hands. A fantastic personalized offer to one customer is irrelevant spam and an invasion of privacy to another. I often tell clients that 95% of Social CRM is in fact plain old CRM. That statistic is not supposed to be scientific – whether it’s 70% or 99% is really not relevant - the key point is that it’s easy to get caught up with flashy front ends and whizz-bang features and functions. It’s easy to marvel at just how easy it is to send out location-based offers and just how fast those can go viral. But the challenging part is building your house on solid foundations rather than on quicksand.

As an example, I shop regularly at a major high street retailer in the UK. Every time I visit the store I present my loyalty card at the check-out counter, collect my loyalty points and watch an embarrassed store assistant give me vouchers for women’s make-up. The retailer has over 5 years of loyalty information about me and yet still cannot determine whether I am male or female, or whether I have ever bought make up from any of their stores (I haven’t btw!). Data and the insight that you can extract from it is the cornerstone of your foundation.

Equally important is organizational structure, culture and mindset. I’ve written previously about the challenge of making the shift from “inside-out” to outside-in”; thinking from the customer’s perspective about the jobs they are trying to do and way they perceive value in a relationship. For most large organizations with years of built up silos and “inside-out” incentive mechanisms, this is the toughest of challenges.

Integrated customer facing business processes are the third pillar. Yes – good old-fashioned CRM processes like order-to-cash. The need to process customer complaints, orders, enquiries, leads etc. accurately doesn’t go away just because your customers start talking about you on social networks. In fact the pressure to integrate gets even greater as speed of response and transparency become even more crucial to gaining and maintaining customer trust.

Social Media, Analytics and Mobile without question provide huge opportunity and most organizations are under pressure to capitalize on the opportunity faster and with less budget. But success is much more likely when you build from a solid foundation.

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