It Works, It Actually Works! Holy Framework, Batman…

Who would’ve thunk, huh?

Back in 2002-2003, while I was at Gartner, I introduced a vision for Customer Service for the next 15-20 years.  There were three stages to this vision, all seemed unrelated and although slightly possible at the time, not necessarily the easiest and most common path.  They were solutions based on technology as an aid, not as “the answer”, and focused more on the way customers would use and demand customer service – and organizations would have to respond to that.  The three stages where:

  1. Customer Interaction Hub
  2. Collaborative Customer Service
  3. Secret Customer Service

I introduced them via several notes and presentations between 2002 and 2005, to the best silence I ever heard – followed by disbelief and ridicule.  You see, the concept of the Customer Interaction Hub relied on a cross-channel, centralized framework that needed more channels than those available then (we had email, chat, SMS, telephone, self-service as the leading ones and a couple odd others here and there) and for them to continue to show up if it was going to prove its value.  Back in 2003, the thought of finding more channels was not very serious – I mean, other than ESP who could imagine what other channels we would start using?

The concept of Collaborative Customer Service was already implemented by a few avant-garde technology vendors (most impressive, which my peer and friend Michael Maoz wrote about, was Rational Rose’s use of a community for customer service), but when we hinted that most of the future Customer Service was going to be customers helping themselves and each other, thereby making Contact Centers a lot less expensive and unnecessary – well, that did not go very well either.

We could never be taken seriously with a name like Secret Customer Service – so, we will leave it that (but, trust me, it is the coolest idea and it will be among us in 10 years, give or take… ask me about it if you are interested)

I’d like to go back to the Customer Interaction Hub.  One lonely vendor at the time, eGain, took to the idea and adopted it.  They have been using the concept to guide their product since pretty much the beginning.  Others adopted parts of it, or concepts from it like cross-channel and centralized knowledge repositories as time went by.  End users, organizations, on the other hand were more timid with it.  There was a dozen or so large organizations in the early days (actually,until I left in 2008 I counted maybe 40-50 organizations I helped) that were interested in the Framework and took steps towards implementing it in their Customer Service deployments.  Not certainly ground-breaking nor world changing, but they all had some success with it and led them to modify their operations.

The figure below shows the Customer Interaction Hub as it was introduced, pretty much, back then – without a lot of changes (even today, it still holds pretty much true).

The Customer Interaction Hub

As you can see above, the core concept for this model is to have a centralized Framework where all integration points, all channel management rules, all business rules, knowledge repositories, data flows – everything that flows in the organization for customer interactions goes through this central point.  The idea is that by having a central place where everything happens, the maintenance and operational complexity of multiple channels is eliminated, or greatly reduced.  It even works as stated, based on the few that took on it.  Back then I also wrote that the greatest challenge is not to find the few that will take to this model and adopt it and make it work – hard enough to do at that time – but also to find the ones visionary enough to take it outside of the Customer Service interaction business and use it in other areas of the organization.  If you think it through, this model can apply to pretty much any business and any operations.

Now, the nice thing of building castles in the air and painting visions is that, for the most part, nobody ever calls on you to build them.  I have assisted many organizations and vendors over the years with the concept and how to adopt it and transform it to  their endeavors, have seen various results from those projects – but had not yet seen how this concept can be applied outside of managing customer interactions.  Until recently.

In the past few months I came across Coveo (you may remember I mentioned them as working in a new Knowledge Paradigm back when I wrote about Inquira being acquired by Oracle) and through subsequent discussions, I saw that they have adopted a similar concept to the CIH for their Enterprise Search product.  We had several conversations about it, and they asked me to do a webinar together to discuss this model; I agreed.

If you are interested in finding out more about how the CIH works, how it does its magic, and what the future holds for it – please join me on Thursday, November 17th, at 11 AM PST, 2 PM EST, to discuss the CIH and their product.  If you cannot make it, feel free to contact me if you want to discuss this further – happy to chat.

Thanks for reading.

Zen And The Art Of Social Customer Service

Before you all jump on defining Zen and what it has to do with anything. let me enroll my millions of friends at Wikipedia to explain Zen.  According to Wikipedia:

Zen emphasizes experiential wisdom in the attainment of enlightenment

I am truly interested in attaining enlightenment in when dealing with customers.  This enlightenment is the only way we will succeed at understanding them, knowing them, and serving them properly.  Without enlightenment you have — well, most contact centers today frankly.  It is this art of attaining enlightenment about the customers that Social Channels can serve very well.

Or can they?

We assume that since social channels for customer service generate engagement, interactions, and tons of data that we are using it properly and getting some value out of it.  Alas, no one has taken the time to figure this out beyond the individual case — until now.  I am going to take the plunge and find out about using Social Channels for Customer Service.

My good friends at Sword Ciboodle (they are not only friends, they are also a client) asked me to work with them on a research report on what it actually means to do Social Customer Service today.  How could I turn that down?

We created the survey, set it up on SuveyMonkey (see link below) and went to town.  We are very ambitious, and we have a short schedule.  Although the survey has been around for a week already (I am late to publish this, but been on work-vacation-work-vacation in the UK last week) it closes on November 23rd.

Why are we doing this? Mitch Lieberman from Sword Ciboodle, who is working with me in this project, wrote a post about this project and he said:

One important debate topic, which the survey hopes to shed light on, is whether or not investments in social customer service is “money well spent.” Everyone’s knee-jerk reaction to this is ‘Of Course’ – but when you ask “why”, the answer is harder, and less consistent.

I was asked to write in one paragraph what I thought was the best way to describe what we were trying to find.  I said:

(…) even though Contact Center managers knew they had to do something about Social Media, the fear of doing something wrong, or not getting the expected benefits, made them adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

And what are the waiting for? Someone else to tell them what and how to do.

Well, that is what we are here for.

We will collect all the information we can from as many practitioners as possible and then go to town.  Do you want to know what worked and what hasn’t? What is good, bad, and just plain ugly? How to get started? How much to invest? What does it cost?

All those questions can be answered – if you help us.  Please take the survey (see link below), there are 16 very simple questions and one matrix question that will take a tad longer.  All in all, 17 questions and 6-10 minutes of your time at the most.  In exchange, we will tell you what is going on – and what is going to happen.

Care to help? Here is the link.