Social for Customer Service: it’s About the Customers

How can organization embrace social channels and technologies to improve customer service?

I must’ve heard this question every day in the past 6-9 months.

The intent was not how to do twitter, how to leverage Facebook, or should we use Klout scores for customer service – it was very specifically about how customer service departments can embrace it.  It was getting so ridiculous that together with my friends at Ciboodle we conducted a research report to answer those questions. We got nearly 400 responses (some of them very interesting) and you can get the report here if you want to read it.

I am not going to give you a full summary here, we do have a great executive summary if you are not interested in reading the data or the whole report, but I wanted to cover two issues that came out of this study:

  • How today’s processes are faring in an increasingly social world
  • What is the value to the organization of embracing social channels and tools

We asked the question of how processes used to support social channels compared to those processes used to support traditional channels.  Overall, the answer was (almost) as expected: 2/3 of organizations have not created processes yet as part of their social adoption, they are more or less living day-by-day and trying to figure out how it will play out in the long run.  At this early stage of the social journey that is not very surprising.  We then cross-tabulated those answers against the length of time they had been supporting social channels – and this is where we got some interesting data.

The table below shows the results of that cross-tabulation.  (note: we did not have sufficiently large numbers to make the conclusions final but it does indicate where the mindshare of the market is in relation to this question):

Equally defined Less defined More defined
0-6 months ago 11 12% 32 15% 3 20%
6-12 months ago 21 23% 50 23% 1 7%
1-2 years ago 27 29% 53 25% 3 20%
2 years ago+ 21 23% 18 8% 4 27%
not there yet 12 13% 61 29% 4 27%

n =

92 214 15


When using social channels, processes are less defined – almost by a ratio of 2:1.  Among those that claimed their processes were less defined, the majority were those that had been doing Social for between six and twenty-four months.  The ones that would be a more logical choice (those just starting out, below six months of experience) to have less defined processes are not – showing how newcomers to this set of channels and tools understand how it is no different than any other channel implemented before: it has to have a strategy, integrate well into existing processes, and don’t change the way experiences occur – rather augment them via a new set of channels.  Clearly delivering similar experiences via new channels is in the mind of those that are just starting as well as those that have been doing it for a while.

The second issue we spotted was the value to the organization of embracing social channels.  We asked respondents to identify what were the benefits they were seeking from embracing social.  We asked them about the two most often cited reasons to adopt any channel: to meet customers’ expectations or to save money.  The difference between these two reasons is a slant towards a customer-centric, efficiency view of the world (saving money) versus a customer-centric, effective view of the world.  The table below shows the results:

Primary Benefit

Secondary Benefit

Deflected phone calls 13 3% Deflected phone calls 27 7%
Increased customer satisfaction 95 24% Increased customer satisfaction 55 14%
Increased loyalty 31 8% Increased loyalty 45 11%
Increased revenue 6 2% Increased revenue 17 4%
Intangible benefit 35 9% Intangible benefit 39 10%
Met customer expectations 55 14% Met customer expectations 37 9%
Not using social channels just yet 71 18% Not using social channels just yet 67 17%
Reduced cost of customer support 20 5% Reduced cost of customer support 22 6%
No Answer 74 19% No Answer 91 23%

It is very clear from these results that focusing on meeting customer expectations, and exceeding them, is the main driver for social channel adoption having been quoted not just as the top reason overall, but also as s secondary reason for organizations to adopt social.  The reason organizations deploy these channels is not driven by outbound company-centric needs but to give customers what they want, need, and ask.

The rest of the report is actually even more interesting and proved many other things – but to know what, you will need to download it and read it.

And give us your comments.

Many thanks.

(note: this post was cross-posted at Sword Ciboodle’s blog)

CRM Idol 2012 – And So It Begins…

Starting today at 7 AM US-EDT CRM Idol 2012 (the second season) begins.

The experience last year for all participants, in their words, was incredible.

They learned amazing new things about their companies and products.  The discovered new ways to present their products to the market than they had ever before.  They found new ways to talk about their companies, the people in them, and their passions.  They encountered mentors and advisers that pointed them in directions they never expected to go before – and they found countless success along the way.

Five of the companies that participated have, since then, been acquired and go on to become larger, more focused and better empowered organizations.  Virtually everyone we talk to from the first season said the competition helped them understand how to take their product to the next level.

Now it’s your turn.

Starting today at 7 AM US-EDT you can apply to be a contestant in CRM Idol 2012.  All the information you need, and the application form, can be found at the CRM Idol 2012 web site.

If you are  software vendor in the Americas, EMEA, or Asia Pacific regions – you want to apply.

Go to the website, apply to be a contestant.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

KANA Acquires Trinicom; Enters SMB CRM Market

Today KANA announced it had acquired Trinicom a Nederlands cloud-based customer service provider.  According to the company, this move was to complete their offer for all company sizes and delivery models – from small to large enterprise, and from on-premise to cloud-based.  Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

On the surface, this may seem like a move by KANA to match Salesforce’s acquisition of Assistly (now  However, there is more to it that what seems.

I had had discussions with  KANA prior to this  acquisition and my answer  when they asked whether it was a good idea was that there were two ways to justify it: either they acquired  terrific technology in the process that could be used to complement or replace what they were already using in their Enterprise offer, or to offer a solution in a market (SMB) where they could not enter with their products today (for many different reasons, but mostly because it is a very different market and it requires not just a scaled-down version of an Enterprise product, as most vendors erroneously presume, but also a different business model to do it successfully).

I also said that the cloud-delivery was critical for the SMB market, but it did not add anything to Enterprise solution right now.

With that in mind, I can see where Trinicom delivers.

With 200 SMB customers the company is small, well placed vendor in the EMEA market (they do have some customers in the US, but nothing  significant).  The product seems to be well built, delivering value according to statements from theirr customers, and  management seems to understand SMB market quite well.  This could be a good way for KANA  to show a more complete spectrum of products and offerss in the market and complete their lineup.

I am also looking for this deal to bring  expertise in cloud to the company and hopefully see it trickle into other areas of delivery, helping them move away from on–demand and into true-cloud territory.  Baby steps.

I am not looking for significant  revenue from this acquisition, a SMB vendor with 200 customers does not bring in a lot of cash by comparison to a large-enterprise vendors with 200 customers — or even 600 customers.  The addition to the bottom line of this deal is likely to be just an add-on for the first year (cannot know for sure as terms of the acquisition were not disclosed and Trinicom never revealed their revenues).  However, if KANA can train their sales force successfully and use it to extend Trinicom into the Americas and APAC markets, there may be more revenue coming in the next 12-24 months that would add to the bottom line.

I can see long-term value from this acquisition coming to KANA, but I have a wait-and-see position at this point until i see movement in the areas highlighted above.

disclaimers: KANA is an active customer, Trinicom was never a customer.

For E.piphany (Infor), It’s Back To The Future

One thing I learned in the past 20+ years of doing CRM – when a tool works, the vendor behind does not matter to the user.  They can go out of business, be acquired, change their business model (what do we call that today? pivot?) or all together disappear.  The user will continue to use the tools and be happy to do so.  Once in a while they may need something new they cannot get and they will “jerry-rig” something with MS Office products.

Trust me, you don’t want to be between a marketer and their working campaign management tool, no matter what you have to offer.  I have seen it with many vendors, and last week I saw it with Infor (nee E.piphany).

First, a little history — sorry, you knew it was coming, context is everything for me.

E.piphany was the de-facto standard for analytics and marketing in the first CRM iteration.  Back when virtually all vendors were focused on the operational aspects of CRM, they were talking about this new thing called Analytics and how it could change marketing.  They were focused on analyzing data to segment customers better (non-revenue and non-demographic segmentation) and monitor campaigns more accurately (results and ROI).  Their tool would not be ‘feature-comparable’ if you brought it forth with no modifications or additions; back then it did a good job of analyzing the (then) myriad sources of operational and transactional data.  They were well funded, well run, and most of the leading Marketing vendors from today have someone who worked at E.piphany back then (or was associated with them via a tight partnership).  Between them and Blue Martini, they “seeded” today’s marketing and analytics visions and products.

In CRM speak, they were Leet (sorry, could not help it) together with KANA for Customer Service and Siebel for SFA.  Ah, the good old days…

Fast forward a few years, they all were acquired or retreated to rebuild, and E.piphany ended up in the Infor portfolio.  Most of the good people left, went to other vendors and helped build new marketing and analytics engines while Infor tried to figure out what to do.  Infor was not so sure, until about 18 months ago, what to do with it – it languished for some time.  Alas, the power of the vision and the core product did not went away and the die-hard loyal customers continued to use it for the intended purpose with zealot.

I am saying this because last week Infor invited me to speak to a gathering of their clients (disclaimer below).

I had the opportunity to talk to a few of them after I was done presenting about The Long Tail of Marketing (slides below) and I found out some very interesting things.  The ones that had been clients for a while had never stopped using their products and were now happy with the renewed focus and new versions (one already released, another on the way – addressing social and the rest of today’s needs, but that is not why I am writing this).  The new customers were quite pleased at the ease of use of the product when compared to some of the larger solutions they had in house for analytics (not going to name names here, not the purpose of this).  All in all, they all praised what Infor (E.piphany) could do for them.

Of course, what caught my attention (and what caused me to write this) was the general perspective of long-term clients that what we are trying to do today with Big Data, Analytics, BI, and all these “fancy names” (as one of them put it) is something they had been doing for some 10+ years using the old product. They shared their projects and their results with me and they are some of the things we are advocating (sans social channels) most organizations to take on today: segmentation beyond revenue, proactively tend to needs, flexible data aggregation, predictive business models, and similar.

It was being done before, using tools that we should consider “old” by now.

I saw customers happy with what they had, that learned over time how to use them properly, and that were thankful that E.piphany (back then) had the vision to focus on analytics and provide them with a tool / platform for them to use.  I also saw a vendor that is energized, after a long hiatus, and with some key people back in charge (a lot of people from the old days are back driving the product strategy and vision as well as the execution).  I saw an interesting combination that made me curious to see where they can take it in the next 2-3 years.  In conversations and presentations I saw the same vision for Analytics that they had back in the days, but updated for today’s world.

All in all, I’d say that Infor (E.piphany) just came back to the future they envisioned some 10+ years ago, and seem to be resuming where they left off.  Something to watch in the next ten years, I guess.


disclaimer: the event was in Barcelona where (other than a general strike on my departure date) I had a great time in addition to the event — I was paid a fee for speaking as well as expenses; the fee did not include writing this post or being nice to them.


CRM Magazine Is Here! CRM Magazine Is Here! I Am Somebody Now!!!

Well, Steve Martin said it far better (sorry, cannot embed it for some legal reason)… but the concept is the same.

April edition of CRM Magazine came out and with it my long-awaited (by me anyways) article on “The Big Three” where I lay out the three big three problems in front of us for the next decade.  Would love your comments, would love your rants, would love for you to read it and tell me what you think (down below, in the magazine web site, on twitter — your choice!).

I am honored to be published, and like Steve said in the movie “things are going to start happening to me now”.