About Them Continuums

(this is a cross-post of a short post I wrote for Ciboodle, a client, to introduce a research white paper I wrote)

I recently wrote an article about what an Experience Continuum is –published at MyCustomer.com – and how organizations can go about adopting the model.

It is not as simple as snapping your fingers, but it is part of the planning process that organizations are undergoing right now with the advent of the social customer.  It is part of figuring how to stop pushing “stuff” out to the customers, stop trying to obligate them to do things in a certain manner and instead try to partner with them, work together, and leverage communities to build a better business.

The problem that most organizations have in embracing this new model is that they are still doing business based on the traditional sales cycle of target-acquire-support-retain, which obligates them to think of the customer as being ready to enter, or already in, one of those stages.  If the customer behaves in a different manner (customers that know more about the business and the product based on their participating in communities, for example), the cycle breaks down and is unable to perform as expected.  The new “social model” where customers are more-knowing and feel more-empowered to deal with the organization in their own term, not the business’ terms, mandates the lifecycle to change.

And this is where the continuum comes in.  The continuum assumes that the customer is going to interact with the company, at any time, via any channel of their choice – and they will provide feedback on how to do it better next time.  They are no longer just looking for support information post-sale, they are looking for marketing materials to purchase the next item.  Retaining them is no longer limited to providing good service, it is now imperative to integrate their feedback into out methods for creating better processes.

The customer is no longer just waiting for the business to tell them how to interact and through which channel, they will come across all channels they have available and expect impeccable service, personal interactions, and to be listened to – both directly and indirectly via their communities.

How can a lifecycle do that? It can’t.

Welcome to Customer Experience Continuums.  Download this white paper to learn more about them.

On Communities, Cheese, and Ciboodle Launching a New Product

Intriguing title, right?  Promise, there is a method to the madness… stay tuned.

One of my clients (Ciboodle – officially known as Sword-Ciboodle) launched their community platform yesterday (Ciboodle Crowd).  You can read more about it and watch a video here.

That is the “official press-release” part of this post — but it is also related to the rest… read on.

Now, when I was at Gartner last week I stopped by their booth and we did a short video where they asked me for the relationship between cheese and customer service.  They did the same with other wonderful friends like Paul Greenberg, Michael Maoz, and Mitch Lieberman (there may be more, they are being stingy and releasing only two each day).  You can go here to view the rest, they are all quite remarkable and creative in how they establish a link between cheese and customer service.

My answer, in case you don’t want to see my beautiful face and hear my sultry voice: there are many types of customer service you can provide and, just like cheese, not one will please everyone.  Some prefer a sharp Cheddar, some a blue Stilton, and some an American radioactive orange (trust me, that is not cheese — ask anyone outside of the US).

There is not a single way to do customer service.

And that is the key to this launch, as well as what few  other smart vendors are doing in customer service.  It is not about how many channels you have, how you create knowledge knowledge, do integration, or manage rules.  Nor is it  about being able to do Twitter, Facebook, or even communities — it is about leveraging all those resources and channels and doing it equally well for all segments.  It is about effectively delivering to customers the proper solution.

I talked about segmentation before and how it is the secret to doing cross-channel and multi-channel CRM.  But until recently, there was no technology platform that would allow an organization to do that.  Now Ciboodle joins the ranks of the handful of vendors that allows any organization to serve Camembert next to Ementhaler.

How cools is that?

Breaking Rant: Fast Company is Incredibly Stupid

I had to write this short post, I just had to…

You are probably as tired as I am of seeing the tweets  from people you follow (or used to follow in some cases) asking you to click their link so they can show their influence in the dumbest project since SXSW voting (I was going to say Enterprise 2.0 voting, but fewer of you might have gotten the reference – Mark Tamis blogged about that one).

I did participate in Enteprise 2.0 voting as I had a vested interest, and I did pester people who followed me at the time (some of them who don’t any longer) into CMS (click-my—– stuff, yeah- that’s it).  I apologized at the time, and I do again now.  I had a purpose, and I played the game as it was laid out in front of me.  My intentions were pure, spread the message and build a bigger pie, but the implementation lagged due to lack of judgment.

Now that I have my mea culpa out of the way, I would like to address the issue of influence, as Fast Company defines it, and how it is not influence.  I have said to as many people as they were willing to listen in the past that the killer app for the Social world is a universal reputation tracking engine.  Your influence both varies and carries across all your social networks and fluctuates almost by the minute based on your last (and next action).  There is no reliable way to measure reputation and influence – either on one channel or across multiple ones.  Virtually all algorithms you see there assume that the number of followers (or retweets) you have is the key to measuring influence.  Which of course, it is terribly wrong.

If you and I are members of the same community (one where followers are measured and reported, like Twitter or Facebook, or LinkedIn) and you have 10,000 followers and I have 50 I could have a lot more influence than you.  If your followers are not decision makers, recommenders, connectors, or people with influence in the same industry, you are just having a conversation among friends as it is very likely that no action will come out of that.  If my 50 followers are the people who make the decisions and set the wheels in motion and follow me because they trust me, I am ahead of you.

That brings us to Fast Company’s project.  It does not measure influence, by any stretch of the imagination,it simply measures reach (as well as how popular people are).  I could mount a campaign across networks to get people to click on my link, my reach across all networks is close to 120,000 people (I think I got this from some web-based tool or another).  Does that mean I am influential to 120,000 people? Or that I can get 120,000 people to do what I ask if I ask often and nice enough? How does affecting the actions of 120,000 people for something that has not benefit for me or the world make me influential? Who gains and who loses from this?

I am not going to bore you with influence and reach, I will direct you to Dr. Michael Wu’s excellent series in the Lithosphere (and continuing work), or I could tell you to listen to @TheMaria (Maria Ogneva, from Attensity360), who said this morning:

(I think there are a few more criteria to it, but that sums it up very well in a short 140 characters or less).

So, going back to the title.

Fast Company is a magazine that I respect, trust, and had some influence at some time or another in my life.  I wrote a few blogs in a now defunct blog I had there some time back, and I got good response.  All in all, we had a good relationship — until then went stupid. How so? they decided to throw their reputation and their influence behind a high-school popularity contest.  Alas, that is not the worse part — the worse part is that they call that popularity contest a measure of influence.

Sad, truly, that they are willing to lose their reputation over a stupid thing like this.  Hope they reconsider – or at least that they put some serious content that distinguishes reach and influence in their November issue.  Right after the pictures of the most popular people in the world…

Am I wrong? Right? What says you?

Debunking Three Myths About the Gartner Social CRM Magic Quadrant

Missed me? Come on, only been a month — OK, promise to not go away for so long again.  Scout’s honor.

Part of the reason I was gone so long was the Gartner Social CRM Magic Quadrant (paid subscription necessary) published last Monday.  I had to work with clients on the positioning, the arguing with Gartner before publication, and then attend the conference to see what came out of it.

The report came out, and as usual 99% of readers ignored the 25+ pages of text detailing inclusion criteria, evaluation criteria, market description, perspectives for the future, and vendor analysis only to focus on the chart.  So, let’s get it out of the way: Jive and Lithium came up as leaders (congratulations to both) and there is a field of 17 other vendors split between “… social media monitoring, customer- and partner-hosted communities, enterprise feedback management, product reviews, ans sales contacts.” (taken from the Gartner document).  That is all I can say for the chart (Jive is offering a free download just for opting-in.  I don’t endorse doing that — but you would’ve found out about it any way).  Update: Lithium is also offering the report in their web site.

Many assumptions were made from that little chart, and the few nuggets of information shared by Gartner at the conference, leading to some statements that I would like to  “clarify” (and by clarify I mean provide my opinion as a former Gartner and current independent analyst).

So, let’s debunk these myths.

First myth, Gartner said that Social CRM was going to be a $1B market by 2011.

Hmmm, that is not what I heard.

I heard that there was going to be around $1B invested into Social CRM  through end of next year.  This would encompass software licenses, maintenance (or not if SaaS), consulting, process changes, culture changes, hardware, etc.  Basically, that is how much we should expect to see coming into the CRM market in addition to the traditional CRM expenditures (Gartner placed the CRM market at $9.8B currently) in the next 18 months.  I could not find a single Gartner analyst, or report, that talked to the SCRM Market as an independent entity worth $1B.  There is no $1B market being created, there is money being added to CRM to make it social.

Second myth, by putting this out Gartner validated the market.

Ah, no.  They did not.

They validated the concept, but not a separate market.  They said many times, as most people who have been working with SCRM from early days have said – this is not a separate market — this is a market extension for CRM.  Why, even during the keynote Ed Thompson  said so when he described  CRM as having three modes: transactional, analyitical, and social. Why they did do was validate the concept of Social CRM.  They said that not only does it exist, but it is becoming the third mode  for CRM implementation.  And, as such, it requires rewiring of the strategies, the implementations, and the tools — just like we did when we moved from transactional (called operational back then) to analytical CRM.  Good friend Paul Greenberg wrote on his summary of the event that Gartner is a market-maker, and I would concur with caveat — they can build the CRM market further, but they cannot build a separate SCRM market.  No one can do that.

They did, however, draw the line in the sand (I am thinking they had the stake that Paul Greenberg put there first as a guide — but that is just me) as to where Social CRM starts and where it goes from here.

Third myth, Gartner said  communities are the core of Social CRM.

Oh boy, I hate to get in trouble with some of my clients — no, they did not say that.

They said it was an important part of it, and they said that among the components they selected (see introductory paragraph) hosted communities were the key to getting value of Social CRM into CRM.  And I agree with that (and not just because I have clients that sell communities) and I said so before.

Gartner forgot to add the most critical part of Social CRM – social analytics to the list.  Of course, the assumption they made is that the modules that are used for analytical CRM are sufficient for Social Analytics — and the answer is no there as well (could be, if you figure some way to do sentiment analysis with it, and leverage social media monitoring to bring in the raw data to them).  But they did not add Social Analytics to the list of solutions they were considering as SCRM – so yes, communities is the most important part of those highlighted.

So, where does this live us?

I must say I was slightly disappointed with the social content at the conference.  I do truly admire Gartner for being the first of the major research houses (without counting my good friends at Altimeter) that have come out and embraced the concept of Social CRM and laid down some perspective on it.  At the same time, I was hoping for a little bit more direction than “there is a bunch of vendors that do something social, we have not yet figured it out and we will do so in the next 12 months”.  I was hoping for a little bit more avant garde thinking, some serious thought leadership.  I was looking for them to regain their throne as the undisputed thought leader for enterprise applications — and I did not see that.

I did see some very well executed, on-target messages aimed at people trying to figure this out.  I heard some very good advice about doing things slowly, taking the time to understand what is going on, and only then try new things.  I did hear all this messages we have been saying in several communities around the web — outside of Gartner and without their involvement.  What I am not sure: were they repeating what had already been expressed — or were they talking, as they are supposed to do, from their experience and exposure to several layers of the CRM Market.

I am hoping it was the second — what do you think?

disclaimer: what am i disclaiming here? no implicit or explicit endorsement of Gartner or the MQ was made in this post (as if you could not have figured that out yourself – right?). Also, wanted to share with you what came standard disclaimer for me each time I used a MQ in a presentation or report:
“This MQ represents a very precise, small portion of one specific market (as defined by me) in one specific time (when I collected all the answers to the questions).  It is in no way a fair representation of the entire market, nor is it the one that applies to your particular situation (unless your evaluation and inclusion criteria, as well as timing, match mine).  It is to be used ONLY as one tool in an arsenal of many to understand a market, vendors in it, and where it is going (if you read the text that surrounds the chart).  If you make a decision solely based on whom the leader in the MQ is when you read it, you totally deserve what you will get in return.  There is a fair chance that one of the leaders may work for you — but there are also many chances that other vendors, even those not in here, can do the same or better.  If you really want to know how to interpret this to your particular situation, and how to use the tool appropriately — please do schedule a call with me and I will be happy to run you through everything you chose not to read in the report.”
However, since I don’t “own” an MQ anymore – the above disclaimer could only be used as guidance for the one published by Adam Sarner from Gartner (whom, I am certain, has his own disclaimer).