Mixing Social Media and Customer Service? Skate to Where the Puck Is…

I was listening to a pretty darn good (if you remove the “look at what we do” part of the presentations) webinar from CRM Magazine talking about how to do Social Media and Customer Service well.  There were some interesting discussions of different things to do, with different vendors, when I heard from Gregg McMullen from West Interactive (in case you don’t know West Interactive, they do Customer Service outsourcing) something that stopped me in my tracks .

He said, and I am paraphrasing here, that they found out that 60% of the volume of Social Media information users put in blogs, not Twitter or Facebook.  What?  60%?  That seems like a pretty darn big number.  Thankfully, I know Gregg and we exchanged emails.  I asked him for the  source and he told me it was based on research they have done for their customers, who essentially asked the same question we are all asking: should I go on Facebook  and Twitter for Customer Service?  They found where most of the conversations that would matter to their clients were happening and found that 60% (give or take a few ) were happening in blogs – with just abount 10-15% each in Twitter or Facebook.

That got me thinking… I said before (as recent as this past week) that when organizations moved to Twitter or Facebook to offer Customer Service they found little or no traffic, and limited value to what they could there.  Does that mean that they were going to (and pardon the sports mention) where the puck was?

Or were they, in the words of Wayne Gretzky’s dad, skating to where the puck was going to be?

In my world, 60% is a far higher chance of being the place where the puck is going to be… right?

Breaking News (During the Last Month)! My Perspective…

It has been (edit: over) a month since the last time I posted something on this blog — and yet, my readership numbers are about the same (well, at least in this medium – my readership in syndication is way down — I guess they only care about new stuff over there).  So, first of all – thanks for all those of you who continue to come in spite of my sporadic contributions (or, as my daughter would say “sporaidacal”).

This is where I would make up some excuse about not writing – been too busy, don’t know what to say, nothing remarkable has happened, I am a bum… But I won’t do that.

I rather give you updates in very short paragraphs, use that to catch up.  Let’s see if it works (let me know in the comments).

Salesforce acquired Radian6 (really like the promise for their Insights platform, but more on that later) for a large, but not unreasonable, amount of money ($326MM, but you knew that already).  This prompted everyone to speculate what was going to happen next, missing by a mile in their speculation.  Want to know what happens next? Nothing for 3-6 months, then we get a vision of what is going to look like, hopefully followed by execution and launch 9-18 months following.  Until then, go short on gold  — you are bound (but not likely) to make more money with speculation that way.

SAP’s top level management boat has a leak.  It is not really tragic that they are leaving, no matter how talented, as much as it would be tragic for SAP to renegade in their promises and product guidance for mobile, social, by demand, and in-memory analytics.  Any product that is not bigger than a single visionary or driving force is doomed for failure anyways.  Until they officially commit to that (and with SAPPHIRE coming up, it would be a good opportunity) or not, go short on silver – there is more money to be made there.

Microsoft announced — well, not that much really.  Hindered by what seemed at the time like a good idea (train and certify small firms as developers to do all the work, include fewer features into products and use the developers to fill in the gap) at the time, they are having a very hard time finding the model for the cloud that makes sense for them and their developers and partners network.  Something will be done in the next 6-12 months, as Azure comes closer to fruition.

Oracle broke the radio silence and is putting together a anti-first-amendment educational session to get all influencers caught up on what they are doing and where they are going — and it is not even OracleWorld!  Look for continued radio silence until end of June, then we will have discussions amongst ourselves and figure out what is going on.  Until then, social, cloud, and mobile are words not loudly uttered near Redwood Shores (unless it is in mocking tones).

Amazon (just added this before releasing this post) proved once and for ever that cloud computing is here to stay, and that organizations thinking about it must do proper planning and execution.  Witness that for every poorly implemented cloud strategy (read: hot startup) that succumbed to the infrastructure-0nly problems of Amazon there was a handful of others that through proper planning did not go down for the duration, only for the time it took them to reroute to a different provider (yes, Virginia – there are more infrastructure providers).  Maybe the same people who think they know what is going to happen with Salesforce and SAP are the ones doing the speculation — er, disaster planning for cloud computing deployments (note to self: research that point)

That is the mostly CRM (and Amazon) vendors section of the update, now for customer service.

Most customer service vendors launched new messages, improved products, and something or another(*).  Alas, innovation continues to take a back seat in the Customer Service market (something I have been saying for some 4-5 years now).  There are some interesting things happening in Service in the Cloud – which coincidentally is the title for my first-ever-independent-research report (more details in early June, publication in September), but don’t have sufficient date and information to make a blanket statement (for the lack of innovation in customer service – I do have information and data for that) about it.

(*) Attensity announced their Big Data initiative, eGain released tighter Oracle and SAP integration, Fuze Digital launched their Social Business platform, Genesys announced tighter integration with Alcatel Lucent, KANA acquired Overtone, Moxie Software did a well-attended and discussed webinar on chat with TSIA, Parature announced they made lots of money, RightNow Technologies acquired Q-Go, Sword Ciboodle had a round-table with customers and analysts during the Gartner event in LA, Zendesk did a lot of stuff (satisfaction, salesforce integration, grew like crazy) — all that in the last month or so, phew.

In not-so-new news, Customer Service begat Customer Experience. Customer Experience begat Voice of the Customer. At the end, little has changed proving once more that labels don’t matter that much.  Want to do it right? Customer Analytics has your answer – look for vendors to begin to show different ways to do customer service (better, based on customer needs – not company’s perceptions) soon-ish.

Social Knowledge Management is the elephant in the room merged with the 400-pound gorilla (it is a fact that the largest gorillas don’t surpass 400 pounds — 600 pounds if obese, so saying 800-pound gorilla is a misnomer), we all know it is there, scares the life out of us, and yet no one (or shall I say few vendors and users before I get lambasted) is doing a lot about it.  First one with a good solution wins the cake on this one, trust me… lots of need, little offer; I had a few briefings lately that encourage me to believe that together with Customer Analytics, this is the next Customer Service revolution (and where innovation will happen).

Finally, everyone went social (read Twitter and Facebook) for Customer Service.  When they got there, they found all their fellow vendors and very, very few organizations taking it seriously (being there because everyone is does not amount to a strategy or taking it seriously).  Weird how that works, Customer Service practitioners don’t tend to react to hype and buzz… If you really, really want to find Customer Service practitioners these days try doing something worthwhile with Communities for Customer Service (innovative would be a plus, but for now – something interesting with communities and integration with knowledge management will work).  Innovation will never come from social channel adoption — unless you are thinking automation, then you may have something… nah, still not enough to call it innovative.

Now, to what I have done…

I will make this brief, don’t want to gloat but want to update you.  I did a Webinar with Moxie showcasing Knowledge Management Nirvana and the research we did on KM – here is the slides.  Did one with KANA showcasing Knowledge Infused Processes (a far better self-service model), and here are the slides.  I also presented on the collaborative Enterprise at SugarCON and here are the slides for that.  FuzeDigital released their product review I did for them, including some very cool reputation and community features, and that is here.

The rest, all great meetings but little I can share for now… but stay tuned, great things coming!

(one more thing, for my Spanish speaking friends: estoy haciendo podcasts de CRM con Jesus Hoyos todas las semanas, los grabamos los viernes y los lanzamos los lunes — el ultimo esta aqui)

Which brings me to my next crazy, almost moronic, idea.

Spurned by fellow analysts and people I trust, I have decided to shift the blog from all text to mostly voice, maybe some video (although, as Brent Leary usually says – I have a face for radio) and little writing.  Why you ask? time it takes me to write, edit, and make sure I will continue to have a business after I write (as in this post, you should’ve seen it before) versus time it takes me to record 1-2 minutes of audio with an opinion (I know, who knew I could do short opinions – right?).

It will also allow me to be more timely in posting my thoughts, but more importantly to fulfill my dream of being a talk-show host and do podcasts, interviews, and shows with interesting people.  If all works as expected, those of you that need something to print so you can read it while going at it at the elliptical will have transcripts of all those events (the all works part means if i can find someone who can transcribe my charming, but accented, voice).

One final thing.

Since we put a lot of time and effort into CRM Idol, which is launching on Monday and it is probably one of the most terrific opportunities for exposure you can have as a startup in CRM or Social world, please take some time to sign-up.  I promise you that you won’t be disappointed you did so, and you will get so much exposure you may end up firing your marketing person (unless it is someone i know and care for, ask me first to be sure).

Follow #CRMIdol on Twitter for news and announcements (ignore FreeCRM’s childish attempts to hijack the hashtag and denounce them while you are at it if you want) and to know when sign-ups begin.  It is going to be a lot of work to go through all 40 startups and do a write up on all of them, but it will be so totally worth it.

See you next month (hoping before then, actually).