We find ourselves now having to decide which channels (remember? Social CRM is adding social channels to CRM) we are going to use to deliver the business functions we picked earlier, and to fulfill the rules we agreed to use. The channel selection and deployment of any multichannel strategy has always been my favorite part. The questions that you need to ask are so interesting (well, not the questions – the answers), and the information you collect can truly help you understand and see the value of the implementation.
Of course, that means that it is also a lot of work.
Remember when you read those “social media experts” and “social gurus” telling you to just try it? that if you start listening you will be ahead of the game? I know you know this already, but they are way wrong. Way wrong. Just listening without a purpose can hurt more than it can help. Biggest problem is that once you are committed to a channel (listening) it is very easy to get in, but extremely hard to get out. You can lose reputation, trust, customers, and business if you pull out of a channel because you never took the time to figure out if it was the right one for you.
How about doing it right then?
I am going to share some of the tools I have been using for a long time to help clients decide whether a new channel should be implemented or not. I developed these tools while I was at Gartner and have been using them, and updating them, ever since.
There are two parts to this, first the decision of whether a specific channel is the right one for any one business function you are trying to deploy. Look at the following flowchart (we will go into details later):
It looks complicated, but it is quite simple. There are seven questions you will need to ask for any channel or solution you want to deploy. The first three are killjoy questions – the quickly determine whether or not the channel should be implemented. The last four questions are planning and documenting questions – it is the answer to these questions that will help plan the prioritization of the deployment of channels (that is the second tool, and step, of my method).
Let’s look at these questions in more detail:
Need. Is there a need by a business unit to deploy this channel? The need for a specific channel denotes a requirement that cannot be bypassed or replaced with an existing implementation or alternative solution (business requirement, strategic imperative, compliance are some need). If the answer is NO, then there is no purpose in implementing a channel: if there is no need it will be impossible to allocate resources (people, time, and budget) to properly implement it and manage it. If the answer is YES, there are still two more sine-qua-non qualifying questions.
Want. Do the customers want to use this specific channel? Either by conducting a survey, listening to direct feedback, or a combination of both the organization knows that the customers want to communicate with them via that channel. A very common misconception at this stage (and one prevalent in today’s social evolution) is to assume that because the competition or other businesses are doing it the organization should also do it. One of the intricacies in business is that a particular organizations’ customer base is very different from their competitor’s, thus the assumption that one has to do it to match a competitor is incorrect. If the answer is NO there is no purpose in implementing the proposed channel as it won’t be used it. If the answer is YES there is one more test to go before committing to implement it.
Fit. Is there an architecture and technology fit between this channel and the organization’s plans and implemented systems? This is not about being an isolated channel, more on that later, but rather to ensure there is a fit with plans, database rules and management plans, systems’ deployments policies, and IT support for the solution. Sure, Twitter may be free to start – but how about when you need to scale to an entire department (as they did in Comcast, JetBlue, and Dell)? Will your organization be able to support your needs and requirements? You really don’t want to find out at the moment they can’t. If the response is NO, unfortunately this channel should not be deployed. If the answer is YES – congratulations! you are ready to plan for deployment of this channel.
Alas, you can now gather the information you will need to deploy a specific channel — and yes, you have to do this exercise for each channel you think that makes sense to deploy. The next four questions yield very interesting responses. Make sure you are honest when answering them, and also that you thoroughly document the responses you get — you will need that information to prioritize the deployment of channels and tools.
Plan – Do you have a governance plan in place – including social policies, entitlements and empowerment, maintenance and integration, and who-can-do-what? By the time you ask this question you are totally committed (well, as committed as being at square one actually is) to deploying this channel. Contrary to popular belief, social channels are not free. Sure, signing up may be free but they require lots and lots of commitment, patience, resources, money, time, and effort to make them work well. If you are going to put your organization’s reputation on the line – can you really afford to be late with an answer (in some cases by days) because you had another deadline? What if there is a need to track the interactions for compliance purpose and, sorry, excel is not enough — how are you going to do that? Where do you go to find Subject Matter Experts to answer questions you cannot answer? Answering these questions now will give you an idea of the amount of effort and resources it will take to deploy this specific channel; that information will become handy when prioritizing the order to deploy the channels.
Silo – As you probably heard but never experienced, there are organizations out there that deploy new channels isolated from existing implementations. There is a belief that maintaining two knowledge-bases and two identical (or supposed to be identical) sets of business rules is not that hard to to</sarcasm>. Isolated, stand-alone channels stand as much chance of being successful as they do of failing in a very short time (i.e. is a coin toss). We talked about integration for compliance before, how about integrating to provide the right answer in fast manner. Agents, and other people who will use this new channel, will not look kindly to having to keep separate sessions with a KM or another system simply to get some information that then will have to be typed or cut-and-paste into the new channels they are supporting. Deploying silos was not a good thing when the channels could afford to have some latency, or had some latency built in (e.g. email) – but it is a horrible idea to do so in a channel that moves in real-time. If you don’t have an integration strategy worked out, this is the time to do so.
Strategy – Speaking of strategy, why are you deploying this specific channel? what is the purpose, the goal, the objective? do you have a vision and mission? how does it support other strategies in the business – including the overall business purpose and strategy? There has to be a strategy to launch this channel – or any channel for that matter. If you don’t have a strategy in place for this specific channel (and one that connects and relates to the previous rules and functions layers) get one.
PR – How are your users and customers going to know that this channels has been deployed? As I mentioned in the strategy bullet point above, there is a specific purpose for launching this. A goal, and a objective implies that it will benefit certain type of users and certain transactions — how are you going to make sure that those users and others who need to process that transaction will know that the channels exists and is deployed? This is where the PR plan comes in handy: it will ensure that the right people come to the channel, use it, and the usage increases over time.
Congratulations! You know have all the information you need to deploy a social channel.
Well, probably more than one. In most cases you will be looking at three or more channels to deploy and varying degrees of need to do so. The best way to select which channels will be deployed first, and which last, is to build a prioritization table that will include a description of the benefit to the customer, benefit to the company, and estimated time to deploy.
The following chat shows an example of a customer service channels decision matrix. Yes, I thought about using one with specific social media information — but it would have ended up being quoted as accurate for every situation, every company. I prefer to include a functioning model for you to follow and not one with detailed information to may be copied and not be accurate for any one specific situation. Besides, remember when I said at the beginning that it was a lot of work?
If there is sufficient interest (i.e. requests via the comments section) I will work on one for Social Channels (plastered with caveats).
What you will notice right away is how you will use the information you collected in the previous flowchart to make these decisions. There is some estimation work (especially in the value to the customer part, and some on the implementation times), but for the most part if you complete, honestly, this matrix you will notice patterns emerging that will help you decide which channel will be first (faster and more value to both parties), and which last (slower and lesser value). The different combination between time to implement and expected value will have to be matched against your overall strategy, need to prove value or ROI in the short term, and specific pressures you may be facing from internal teams as to how to proceed.
Done. We picked the channels and prioritized them. All we have left to do is focus on which communities or customers we will affect with the deployment. That’s next.
What do you think of the model so far? What about the channel selection? How is your organization taking on this concept?Updated: Added link to next section for easier reading Part 5 – Communities Layer