Member Since: 14th Mar 2001
Director PRISM Consulting (UK) Ltd
27th Oct 2011
Mudslinging is in the eye of the beholder :) Evidence of this is what you write above, even after my detailed last response - it might be of some help to those interested in the history. Thanks for preserving the quotation marks around 'terrorist' when you quote me. It's the simplest proof that I never called you this and it's how some others are seeing you. Thanks for agreeing that this is the prevailing view of the corporate side.
But I am not here to argue with you - you win.
If I ever have to argue something on these pages, it will not be who said what or my petty injured ego. I will argue passionately about customers, what they mean to a business and how they are treated. Even about that I will not argue for the sake of being right or showing off expertise; I will seek consensus on ways forward. More than consensus, I will seek action.
In this latter line of thought - congratulations about Gripevine! I admire any initiative that brings us closer to our ideals, especially ventures that involve innovation. Is this new and different from Big Break Solutions and Right Side of Right? I would be very keen to learn more about it and am honoured by your suggestion to join in focusing on solutions. Allways happy to share the little I know about the subject or some unreasonable new ideas - you can reach me at vdimitroff[at]prism[dot]ch and @Maistora on Twitter.
Best of luck with the venture and looking forward to a positive exhange -
27th Oct 2011
Thanks for the writing lesson - note taken.
That's a little IQ test, you know :) Most brains do not find it too hard, but humans are not all created equal, we have to differentiate, segment and target. I have to say I never use a single parenthesis, that's against the rules - I always use parentheses in symmetrical pairs. I make sure I always close them, so that slower brains can easily skip them and still find sense in the rest of the sentence.
I prefer the less grandiloquent word brackets, but am aware that some people use the singular parenthesis as a generalisation for the enclosed text, rather than the enclosure. I was misled to believe this was not a literary site...
Anyway, we practice what we preach and listen to our readers. I already plan to reduce the use of the device in question by at least 11.3% by the end of this quarter, and set even steeper targets for next year.
Now, what were we talking about?
20th Oct 2011
Thanks for joining in, Dave - this saves me the response to Lara Booth. I don't think I needed a private phone call to you, because I don't believe you have anything to hide from open public discussion (neither do I). Let me declare loudly that I applaud customers who stand for themselves (I do it, too) and I recognise the power of social media for doing so. But -
How about speaking only facts, for a change, would you mind? Some facts:
In your (somewhat emotional) response to Gary Lemke you did allege that in advising corporate clients he is 'selling distrust and resentment towards customers' (your words). This is light years from the truth - and I don't think you deliberately distorted the truth, you simply didn't bother to read his background.
This led to my (emotional?) response, part of which explained that Gary and a bunch of others have been persistently (and rather professionally!) working for and not against customers for many years.
The rest of my post had much less to do with you than the media and public (mis)interpretations of your story, and the wrong 'lessons' that corporations are learning from that. More facts:
- I never, ever called you terrorist or 'akin to terrorist'. Anyone who bothered to read all of my post (and the other one at LinkedIn) has noticed that this is the opinion of corporate managers, not mine - hence my explicit use of quotation marks with this (and other) word/s.
- I never said that 'customers who stand up for themselves are bad': I cannot say such a ridiculous thing, having devoted the last 15 years of my professional life exclusively (and passionately) to the customer cause. (Again, a single click to my profile could have shown you this, but I acknowledge you are too busy). I repeat that many in the corporate world do see such customers as 'terrorists' (an official term, in certain 'methodologies', if you didn' know it) and more recently - as I quoted from a widely retweeted blog - they use the term 'assassins'. Much of my rant is against such pervert view of the world.
- Good customers, on the other hand, can be silent. Some suffer in silence, others 'vote with their feet' and switch suppliers - but silence in itself (whether from inertia or as a personal choice) doesn't make them bad customers. Just like loud reactions don't automatically make others 'good'.
- I do think that companies provide preferential treatment to (what they call) 'terrorists' out of fear, and not because of love for customers. I stand by this opinion, as I have personally witnessed the attitude and have heard it from dozens of corporate executives. My humble viewpoint is that a war-like 'us v/s them' approach is not a sustainable solution and fear cannot and should not rule relationships. (Btw, elsewhere in life, people who pursue their goals through instilling fear are called terrorists).
- - - - - -
I hope this makes things a little more clear. Apart from such misunderstandings, I like to believe we are on the same side (in what should not be a fight but a reunification effort) - the Customer side. We may have different tactical views on how to make progress, but we both want better experiences and better value for all customers. I would add to this that I also want a better deal for all employees, suppliers, shareholders - and other stakeholders who also get their share of abuse.
Our (joint) noble cause is not helped by the widespread misinterpretations of the Guitar Man story. By the urban myth that it caused the drop in United share price (or did it?). By the illusion that hitting them where it hurts makes companies more customer-centric. By the hundreds of self-proclaimed 'gurus' who jump on the bandwagon of 'social everything' and, armed with your story and a handful of others, keep writing blogs and articles, speaking at conferences and some even charging good money to.. teach corporations how 'to do it'. To do what?..
Rather than engaging in petty arguments and clarifying who-said-what, I would prefer to see a constructive dialogue about the way forward, about the real implications of the empowered Customer (and Employee, and small Shareholder, and more) in the search of a cure for the economic and social challenges of our time. There must be a better way than camping outside banks, a better way than 'terrorism' - and (I would like to hope) a win-win way. (Sorry about the last cliche, but seeing it as a war isn't any better, is it?)
Looking forward to your next contribution - here or on your preferred platform and medium. If you write another song, I promise to join in the jam (I've been known to make loud noises with strings on pieces of wood; even had my guitars broken - more than once, if that gives you an idea who I can sympathise with :)
20th Oct 2011
On the same Guitar Man topic I got a comment on the Customer Lifecycle Management group inLInkedIn - saying that 'fear is actually good, as it makes companies behave in more customer-centric ways'...
My argument (see in detail there) is that fear only motivates for discrimination by the wrong criteria, giving preferntial treatment to 'terrorist' customers and still ignoring the good ones who suffer in silence.
What do you think?
15th Sep 2011
Well made main point and valid suggestions!
I always say that anything we want to automate (and invest in respective technology) must first and foremost work 'on paper' and in well-thought, smooth 'manual' processes and structures. This applies to everything from accounting to campaign management, and from HR to customer complaint handling.
Collaboration is yet another example where (otherwise intelligent and profesional) managers make investment decisions in anticipation of 'magic wand' solutions that will save them the trouble of thinking about it from scratch, planning and building whatever will eventually need to be automated for performance gain. With shockingly vague definitions of 'collaboration' ('Come on, everyone knows what it means!'..) and no collaborative discipline (and culture) in place, they hope for tools to bring all that and transform the organisation...
Where have I seen this before?...
15th Aug 2011
Finaly a sober opinion! Esteban's piece is spot-on, so much that I had to tweet it 4 times (excessive perhaps, but I made comments after the link and I had 4 different thoughts while reading it, had to share them ; )
One very important corollary of the Hype Cycle is the Bandwagon Effect. Just as everyone was sticking '2.0' labels to whatever they do (sell), the 'everything social' hype wave swept the numeric release into oblivion (although sleepy retards are still using it here and there), and now everyone is slapping the 'social' sticker onto everything. Social shopping? Of course, we wrote the book! Social looting? London did it! Social body waste, anyone? (that was politically correct for $#!+)... In this line of logic, why not Social CRM?
This foolish game of hype labels seems pretty innocent, but it causes damage to every party: confuses users/buyers into investments they regret, exposes the (in)competence of analysts and the (dis)honesty of vendors. Some vendors abandon their true core strength in pursuit of 'their slice' of projected multibillion markets in something they don't really undersand. Past bandwagons have dropped dead passengers along the way...
Is there a way to prevent such irrational impulses, to stay closer to reality and to protect players from the hazards? (Easy question - just like finding a way to prevent bubbles in stock markets : ) Which brings us to the role of influencers. These are many and various, they include highly visible gurus and bloggers, the specialist (and general) media, the marketing and PR efforts of vendors, and not least - the industry analysts. The latter come in various sizes and flavours, but the heavyweights have more influence for obvious reasons. (Shall we call those reasons 'social'? : ) With influence comes responsibility: arbitrary creation of non-existent categories and 'markets' can have dire eocnomic (and.. social!) consequences when you are big, universally quoted and blindly believed.
Gartner cannot be declared entirely impartial to hype inflation or entirely innocent of bandwagon fuelling. I cannot comment on other classes of technology, but those of us in the 'customer' space (those old enough) may remember Gartner's role in creating the CRM category in the 90-s, and the bandwagon that it became. The confusion that resulted propelled to astronomic heights vendors who had little to do with Customer Centricity and everything to do with Corporate Interests, Products, and Sales, Sales, Sales. The confusion was such that, years later, there is still no consensus definition of CRM, everyone understands it 'their own way'. Little surprise that it's now happening to Social CRM...
Happening to what? What is Social CRM? The root cause of all above phenomena is the lack of clarity on the business discipline of SCRM. (And pretty much on CRM for that matter). Obsession with technology has led many to forget that any technology only exists in order to automate, accellerate, improve some business process, economic (or... social!) activity. If there isn't a process to be automated, there isn't a technology for that, period.
Enabling technologies start with understanding of what they are supposed to automate. And understanding starts with a definition. Where is the universally agreed definition of SCRM? It is complex, Esteban is right. It's a little more complex than a 3-page sentence in the XYth edition of a book by some guru (an edition where only hype words are replaced or added). It's also more complex than "if it walks and sounds like a duck..." - defining by example, like pointing in the direction of something/someone and saying 'This is it!'. ("Lithium is SCRM" - then everything that walks and quacks like Lithium must also be SCRM, right?)... A definition doesn't have to be a 'sentence' (or paragraph), it can be a list of attributes, like Esteban's bullet points of what defines a market. But it is important that the business discipline of SCRM is clearly defined in a widely recognised way.
I am not prepared to share my own definition - this will place me in the (long) line of self-proclaimed gurus who love inventing hot water (or sliced bread, if you prefer) and claiming intellectual property or at least 'thought leadership' over the topic. But I will gladly accept a well-thought, rational definition. Where is it?
7th Feb 2011
How big is a 'big followership' on Twitter? Have you got a threshold (e.g. 1,000 or 10,000 followers) to consider such a client worth pleasing at all costs? How many are 'many potential clients' in his/her followership: 10%? 50%? 80%?
What is the cost of 'going out of your way' to please a typical client - and what minimum influence and/or potential referrals would produce revenues to justify such cost?
What if the 'problem' client has zero Twitter followers (and no account there at all)? Would you be aware of other influence s/he may have? Having a blog with many readers is an easy one; how about having an influential spouse?
And, finally - no positive effect (new business) during his/her presence doesn't automatically make it safe to drop the client: negative effect is more likely to come at/after kicking the client out. Are you using any predictive techniques to quantify such outcomes?
Or is everything mostly gut feel? (And online 'pub speak' rather than clear business strategy embedded in robust, consistent processes)?
(N.B. I acknowledge that 123Contracting is possibly a smaller business and may have a less formal or scientific approach. Trouble is, large corporations often behave with surprising lack of discipline and science in their decision-making when it comes to social marketing and social CRM)
2nd Feb 2011
Thanks, Neil -
I am sure many of the companies from the social anecdotes have massively invested in Six Sigma and Lean Sigma, and hordes of 'belts' of various colour walk their corridors. But customer processes (unless it's about cost-saving) seem to be exempt from discipline, structure and (oh, horror!) efficiency. And what passes as 'social CRM' is even further removed from such boring and un-sexy concepts. Process people 'don't get' social things, according to the self-proclaimed all-things-social elite. It's art, not science... Or is it?
31st Jan 2011
To answer the question in the title: every customer deserves adequate service, which is by no means the same to everyone. 'Good' (as in the question) is adequate for the lowest common denominator of mass customers, i.e. keeping our brand pormises.
Then some customers would deserve 'better than good' service (call it 'excellent') and further up some may even be worth exceptional service. This is all based on their value which, in the Social Age is no longer just how much they are spending with your business. More and more companies are including in their CLV (lifetime value) models some variables to indicate social value like advocacy, influence etc. This social vector does not override monetary value (historic and predictive), only adjusts the total.
It is not unusual, therefore, to provide a better service level to someone with a high social value (e.g. influence), all other (monetary) variables being equal. It is the right thing to do, for anyone thinking of themselves as customer-centric. The cynical view "...we are unnecessarily rewarding whiners..." has nothing to do with customer centricity.
Now, to the context: it is a totally different matter whether knee-jerk reactions (amounting to the 'damage limitation' known from PR) have anything to do with good Social CRM practice. The instances where front-line employees (and sometime executives) rush to please the 'influential whiner' need to be examined case-by-case:
- was there a comprehensive Customer Value score, based on monetary and social value? Was it checked before action was taken?
- did the company have a due process in place, prescribing adequate reactions - properly documented and with staff duly trained and motivated to adhere to such process?
- was any of the decisioning automated in any system (called CRM or otherwise) and what business rules are configured in the system to drive it? If not automated and taken (God forbid! : ) by humans - what levels of staff are empowered to make such decisions and within what boundaries?
The predominant number of anecdotes circulating in conference presentations, guru articles and sites like this, have no answers to the above questions. The authors haven't checked. Or if they did, in most cases the answer is 'No'. Processes are far from clear and streamlined, even less - widely known and adhered to. Systems are not configured to support those (non-existent) processes. Full customer value is rarely checked before reacting to 'whining' (no wonder there's over-reaction to the social component of value - which is real, but shouldn't be seen in isolation). And decision empowerment is either lacking or chaotically dispensed, resulting in people without adequate training, competence or aptitude making (often critical) decisions on the social frontline.
I'm very much with Mitch Lieberman on the statement 'Twitter is not social CRM'. Seeing a single medium (or even the portfolio of all social media) as synonymous with (even just the Service component of) Social CRM is primitive and wrong. Nobody mentioned other essential and defining attributes of Social CRM: engagement (e.g. in the propagation of advocacy) and collaboration with customers (as in co-creation, co-production, co-marketing, co-service and even co-management). These are far more critical in Social CRM than the awkward PR efforts in the anecdotes with 'whiners'.
A company practicing Social CRM wouldn't need to jump and over-serve 'whiners', even influential ones. Those would be taken care of by outnumbering and even more influential advocates that such a company has. This is the 'social' bit about it: a Net Promoter (this is is a whole other theme) is not someone who answers favourably in surveys. A true company advocate proactively engages in every instance and (a) helps those in need of service, and (b) rises in defence of the company where it's unfairly attacked (the true meaning of 'advocate'). And the responsibility of employees with anything 'social' in their job title is to create, educate, empower and motivate such advocates. Not to rush and pacify whining influentials...
Just some random thoughts, my 2p (no VAT) on the subject.
4th Dec 2009
Thanks for the comment, Neil -
I was conscious, while writing the original post, that there are some undeniable truths in the sales-oriented approach. Selling is the single action in a business that can be linked directly to shareholder value and succeeding in this action is most widely encouraged and rewarded. The people who perform this action aren't always equipped with the best methods and tools, and socially aren't viewed to command the solid weight of accountants or the creative panache of marketers. A deserved focus on them and on enhancing their capabilities is only to be respected.
Excessive focus on Sales, however, tends to ignore the fact that a business is a rather complex organism where every part has a vital function and is meaningless and impossible without the other parts. Sales wouldn't make much sense without great product development and delivery. Even with a great product, Sales would struggle an uphill battle if nobody had heard of the product or the company behind it - something Marketing takes care of. Similarly, if the experience of a great product was ruined by a pathetic support form Customer Care (horror stories abound in everyday life), then Sales would promptly dry out. Do I have to explain all this in such kindergarten format? Apparently many corporate decision makers would benefit from regular refreshment...
In the big puzzle of building blocks that make a business possible and successful, Technology is a critical enabler nobody can afford to underestimate. But abnormal focus on Technology can similarly distort perspective. In the early days of CRM, technology vendors (helped by industry analysts like Gartner) very successfully misled the public that CRM is just another name for SFA and the deployment of such technology is a guarantee for competitive advantage and business success. Having bought the concept, companies bought the software, too - and implemented it at a considerable cost. Only to find out that this didn't result in fantastic customer satisfaction and loyalty. Or even in decent sales, in many cases! This discredited CRM to an extent that people turned away from it, because "it doesn't work" (?!)
Now the "industry" is just about to discredit the concept of Social (not only Social CRM, but Social Marketing, Social Media and everything that makes the headlines at the current peak of the hype cycle). With a distorted perspective and wrong focus, many will find that "social doesn't work" (some already are). And the world will be off on a chase of the Next Big Thing.
I have enormous respect for Oracle as a leading technology company. The products and concepts I referred to undoubtedly have their place, utilising some aspects of social networks to enhance the Sales process. Yes, salespeople are just as 'social' as other human beings and, yes, they can work better by harnessing the myriad of synergies that occur in interconnected entities. But this is just better SFA enhanced by social networking. To call it "Social CRM" is a disservice to both 'social' and 'CRM'.
It's not all about the salesperson. It's all about the Customer - and only when we embrace the understanding of connectedness among our numerous customers, and the effect of that on their awareness and motivation, and when we succeed in making our business a part of their social world - can we talk about Social CRM. The software to do this hasn't been written yet. The strategic vision exists, but the operational processes are being trialled (and errored!) as we speak. When consistent methodologies emerge, delivering predictable results - only then can we automate some (or most) of those processes and call it 'Social CRM technology'. Applying the term to single point tools (like interaction platforms or SNA analytics) that help with one or another small corner of the Big Puzzle, is premature. IMHO it is a poor-taste marketing trick trying to ride the hype wave.
And, yes, CRM is not a technology, it is a philosophy.
(* I had this motto and job title printed on a mock business card in the 90-s when I first argued the case :)