Moxie Tries to Change The Collaboration Game

OK, I am not going to assume you know this – so here it is: Moxie Software is a long-standing client (so are the competitors for the solution described here – I cannot escape that fact; I work in the industry I cover) and I worked with them on the strategy leading to this launch.

Does this make my coverage biased?

You can decide that, after you read why this can change the game for collaboration.  If you think I can be tainted by my relationship with Moxie please feel free to stop reading.

Here is the usual scenario: you can get free collaboration tools anywhere these days – your existing software vendors, freemium solutions (Yammer and Jive come to mind immediately, but don’t forget SocialText, Mango Moon, and several others).  The main goal of these solutions is to get you to upgrade your implementation (this is the premium part of the mixed word that makes up their name) and to this end they have limitations.  They either limit the number of users, or the ability to add certain functions or features, or the ability to collaborate between public and  company’s users.  You can implement the free solution they offer and this would allow you to “try” their product until you need to do more – then you can buy the new features, functions, more users, etc.  In the “old days” before cloud we would get 30-day or 60-day trials, or a reduced set of features when it came to saving, printing, or miss a few data elements in the database.

The problem is that often times organizations end up upgrading only to realize afterwards the tool is not the right one for their culture or their organization (based on my work, I estimate this number between 30-and 40% of upgrades).  This is something they could not preview with the reduced set solution.  If you cannot see how internal and external users collaborate, you end up paying for a solution that may not work as you need it.  Or it may not scale to the size you need (it is very different to support 100 users versus 100,000 users – or even 10,000 users).  Or something else.  The options are to either start again, or try to make what you have work – find a work-around or custom-code to make it “fit”.

The pricing model Moxie chose is closer to what I have been advocating for a long time: value-based pricing (I told you, I  worked with them on the strategy).  In other words, you don’t have to pay until you have proven that the solution works for your needs and are ready to take the next step.  That means you can invite external and internal users to pilot and test all the features, in all circumstances, for all possible scenarios.  Once you are satisfied and you are ready to integrate the functionality into your existing systems (using deep integration, this is not what any organization would normally pilot, this is organization adoption level – many stages into the maturity of the implementation), that is where you pay.  When you have proven that it works for what you intend to do, and are ready to deliver value – you pay for access to the value.

This is a different model that I have seen before, and one that I fully believe the enterprise software space.  Is this highly competitive to Yammer, Jive, and others that are providing similar solutions? Not more than before.  Obviously this model does not change the competitive landscape: same vendors that they competed with before will continue to be competitors in the same way.

However, this opens up the possibility to try collaboration to organizations that previously could not: those that found Yammer too limiting (or their restrictions too cumbersome), or that found Jive too expensive or others too small or not able to deliver what they needed.

This is not about adding features to existing collaboration platforms – this is about giving organizations that could not test those platforms before a way to do so.  And to deliver value in exchange for the time invested.

This could change the game.

Link to more information from Moxie’s web site
Coverage by TEC

What the Launch of Social.com Shows Us

Today Salesforce announced the launch of Social.com – a social advertising solution that brings the power of Radian6 (R6) and Buddy Media (BM) (two acquisitions made by Salesforce in the past two years for over $1 Billion total that had been floundering looking for a purpose) into an innovative way to use Marketing 2.0 (or is it 3.0? 4.0? whatever version number would be the next).

There are three reasons this is very interesting:

  1. It shows Salesforce listened to — well, virtually every analyst and pundit in the industry that told them that R6 and BM were nowhere near a traditional marketing solution; the number of functions that they were missing among traditional marketing resource management or marketing automation suites was staggering.  There was not a single person outside of Salesforce I found that thought they had something passable as a traditional marketing solution.
  2. IT shows Salesforce is adapting to the times – instead of acquiring more vendors or building functionality to deliver the same functionality as other vendors in the market they focused on where the puck was going (how to use cross-channel that includes social media to deliver personalized, focused campaigns to the “new customer”) and created a new model of marketing (I have been having very interesting conversations with vendors and customers lately as to what the next marketing suite should look like – this may be an interesting first step).
  3. It showcases how easy it is to use cloud-based technologies to deliver solutions heretofore non-existent in a relatively short time.  It also showcases how their move to a broader platform, in progress, can make integration between new solutions and established CRM components “easy” (you may say it has been a while since the acquisitions, but it was just in the past 6 months that Salesforce realized R6 and BM were not going anywhere and “pivoted” to this new model after significant “changes” in direction).

Now, for the interesting questions – will it work? does it work? is there anyone using it? what are the results?

Works in progress for the most part.  Time will tell – hope it does, not going to give them brownie points until the proof points being to accumulate.

I like the pricing (a percentage of the ad spending while using the solution) because is value-based pricing (a new innovation that Salesforce has been looking to implement since their acquisitions of Assistly, Buddy Media, and a few other properties in the past two years) and I find this a very interesting solution to a real-life, relatively new problem that customers were having and where solutions were lacking (although, a few vendors here and there proposed snippets of this solution, this is the first end-to-end with deep integration I have seen).

Link to coverage of the announcement

Available now, supposedly, but most of the components are scheduled for Summer 2013 launch – I’d wait to purchase, but definitely get a demo and pilot now if you can to see if it fits your needs – I am sure Salesforce would love to set you up with a trial or pilot… (my Safe Harbor statement, cannot make that commitment so don’t quote me on that; just guessing)

disclaimer: Salesforce is a retainer client with other projects also under contract.  I am not blogging this because of that, but because this could be something if they deliver on time and as promised. They do have other announcements from today that I am not  blogging since they are not as newsworthy IMO.

Big Cheese Day at the Gamification Summit in SF

If you follow my blog you know that I am a fan of The West Wing and sometimes I quote it in my writing.

In case you don’t know the reference to Big Cheese Day, in one of the episodes of The West Wing the Chief of Staff assigns the senior staff one day a year when they have to meet with groups that normally would not get access to the white house (usually because their message is not aligned with policy making or because their message is not relevant to a large part of the population).  An example was the people who wanted to build “an animal superhighway” to allow wild animals to cross a highway safely – potentially worth doing, but not something that would appeal to the entire population.

I was reminded of that while listening to the presentations and chatting with users and providers at the Gamification Summit last week.

Just in case you don’t remember, I have written and researched extensively on Gamification last year (was doing that before as well, but we did not call it Gamification back then; we called it Behavioral Economics) and tried to shift the focus from Gaming to Behavior Management.

I believe in the value of gaming dynamics as I believe in using technology in business: it is not the end, or the means to the end, it is simply a tool to be used by smart people to achieve the end.  In the case of gamification, the end result is not to play; it is to identify a behavior, understand what makes it happen, and then use gaming dynamics to entice the user to repeat it.

Anything else – it is just playing; there is no  business value associated with games by themselves.

I came to the gamification summit with the specific purpose of seeing how (or rather if) it had evolved.  I have been observing and researching this market for a while (disclosure: Badgeville is a client and worked with them on messaging and product strategy as well as being sponsored for the research I did last year) and began to get bored with the over-emphasis on gaming over behavior. I saw a blog late last year that talked about an epiphany by the author where he talked how behavior modification is the end goal of gamification and was encouraged… I thought maybe they (as in the so-called Gamification “Gurus”) were getting it — so I signed up to the Summit to find out.

The agenda was a — smorgasbord (to continue with the food theme) of topics.  Some of them were well entrenched in the common intellect of the gamification market (common gaming dynamics and techniques, using gamification for engagement, etc.) while others were more — Big Cheese style: not necessarily endorsed or adopted by everyone, but having potential to become significant issues for the market if and when practitioners begin to mature their implementations.

Anything from how to create better games to the psychology of gaming and pleasure, most of the topics were well presented and about half of them were mature to advanced topics.  All in all, this was a great conference that catered to two audiences: beginners and seasoned experts.  There was virtually none of the attendees that could not find at least 1/3 or more of the sessions to their liking and interest.

Alas, the most interesting part of this event for me was a clear reflection of Gamification (and a likely roadmap to where it is going): there are all sorts of people adopting the technology, from very early and eager to learn to those that have found value and are looking to take it to the next level.  The market for gamification for business, not gaming dynamics – behavior modification, is just beginning to heat up and lots more value will be revealed in the next few years.

Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet!  I expect to see the next edition of the Gamification Summit to be less “Big Cheese” and more concerted, coordinated message about behavior management – wouldn’t it be great?

What do you think? is gamification something you are investigating? deploying? bypassing altogether?

Note: to me most of the best presentations happen on the first day, with a couple examples of better talks being: Robert Torres (who gave a great talk on using gaming for education and how MOOCs are using gaming to evolve education); Rajat Paharia (CEO of Bunchball) talking about using gamification to entice loyalty (not yet convincing, but showing sufficient data to convince people to try – i am still not a fan of the idea); and Andrea Kuszewski talking about the psychology of behavior and gaming and associating pleasure and gamification – that was the gem of the event in my opinion.

Looking at The Future of Customer Service

The best part of my job is that I get to talk to people; lots and lots of people.  I talk to so many people about the same subjects (in this case Customer Service) that I start to see patterns and trends emerge (I was told when I first started working at Gartner that two data points make a pattern and three make a trend – I’d like to think that it takes more than that, but you get the overall idea of how it works).

I want to cover in this blog post the basic trends and patterns that I am seeing emerge and paint a picture of where we are and where we are going with Customer Service.

In the past two to three years you rushed to social channels for customer service (Twitter, Facebook, Communities and more) only to find out the answer was not there (at least not as you expected).  You also worked to build a multi-channel contact center that can anticipate and deliver answers to your customers’ needs over time, but you are stuck somewhere on the road to achieving the customer satisfaction you sought as proof of that model.

Today you are trying to understand how the new social channels and communities, the existing channels, and the shift to effective customer service works all together.

I know all this because you told me when we conducted our research study and you continue to tell me in inquiries, conversations, and when we meet at conferences and events.  This is the state of customer service today.

Now as for the future of customer service (as evidenced by those wonderful data points that make patterns and trends happen), the future of customer service is evolving over time – there is no set model against which you have to build a similar solution.  Not only that, but it changes from company to company, industry to industry, even for specific functions.  This is what makes Customer Service interesting (and as the famous Chinese philosopher said – may you live in interesting times; to which I add – but not so interesting that they are absolutely crazy).

Within this “craziness” I’m starting to see emerging models for the future of customer service.  This is the timeline and projects that matter per my observations and conversations:

Short term (next two years – all about understanding value, fixing what’s not working)

  1. Communities and social – the questions I hear most are: what it is, how to use it, what to do to make it work, how to take it from reactive (last 2 years) to strategic, how to derive value from using it.  In other words, how to leverage social channels and communities and their promise to deliver strategic value to the customer service organization.
  2. Cross channel – questions that I hear the most: how to move from multi-channel to tracking inquiries across channels and time; how to identify what is one inquiry and the resolution for the same.  In other words, First Time Resolution in a complex multi-channel environment and how to ensure accurate metrics that both justify the work and the investment.
  3. Fixing – the topics I discussed the most about this: budgets were cut, innovation did not happen, and social and collaboration / communities was thrust onto customer service to figure it out; how can all this be made to work while improving what we had? In other words, now is the time to figure out how build a better customer service model that works properly.  Let’s start by fixing what we could not fix the past 4-5 years and then add to it.
  4. Cloud – As controversial as the use of cloud for customer service is in certain environments, the conversations about how to ensure security and performance in the cloud, how the advent of cloud-based communications and leveraging new vendors and models to replace the hardware and technology that has been there forever (IVR, ACD, etc.).  We also have a lot of chats about the emergence of cloud-based contact centers that can be outsourced and how current vendors and new vendors are deploying cloud-based software for Customer Service.  Overarching question: what shall I do?

Mid-term (2-5 years – all about building the model for the future of Customer Service)

  1. Knowledge – once we figure out what we are supposed to do with social and communications, then we can figure out how to adapt to the new Knowledge Management paradigm (been writing about this for the last couple of months in the stone cobra blog).  How to use knowledge in the new world where problems are becoming more complex, answers are always changing, and the reach to “cheap” resources that provide excellence with virtually no lag (read: subject matter experts all over the world and in disparate communities) are becoming the norm, not the exception.  Add automation as a driving force and you have the recipe for disruption.
  2. Automation – These are the questions you ask the most: how to take the value of automating partly online inquiries and move them to other areas; how to focus on reducing the number of inquiries to handle forty percent or more of the inquiries; how to provide automation via all channels from a central framework that allows to leverage automation across channels (while, of course, properly measuring interactions and solutions to justify the investment).  In other words, how to make automation a key part of solutions that will reduce cost and focus on providing effective answers.
  3. Cloud – More cloud evolution (few finished internal and external infrastructure); more cross-channel (beginning to see first solutions implemented and showing results).

It is almost impossible to predict customer service ten-years out (last time I did there was more visibility into the future, today the pace of evolution makes it almost impossible to see past the next five to seven years – too much is changing too rapidly in a business world sitting on a balance between organization and chaos; more on that some other time).

In addition to the above trends and topics, elements like “Big” data, integration, security, privacy and associated themes that are affecting cloud and technology deployment will continue to exist.  Buildup of the cloud infrastructure within the organization, adoption of automation and remote services across the enterprise, and further “flattening” of the world will continue to affect all these projects.  I will not cover these as single elements in this vision but rather part of a complex infrastructure that can serve customer service as well as the rest of the organization.  This is what is happening to social channels as well as other items I wrote about above.

I can seemingly write about this forever – and I will (not today, don’t worry… almost done).

In the coming months I will repeat the research study we conducted last year, create a more detailed version of this post with examples, best practices, lessons learned, case studies and more details of how it works and how you can make it work for your organization and deliver more information via this blog from my good friends at KANA about the future of Customer Service.

Is there anything else I did not mention above that you would like to see covered?

Any data point, pattern, or trend you’d like to explore further?

Let me know – happy to add it to the list…

Stay with me through the next few months and you won’t be disappointed – I promise.

Disclaimer: KANA is a customer (they have been for a long time) and they are generous enough to sponsor the research I am doing on the topic of the future of customer service; while I will get paid for doing this work, I retain editorial control and the final word on what is said here and in future deliveries and KANA retains the interest of expanding conversations about customer service. Win-win-win (you are the third winner, since you get to read all this at no cost and wit no obligation or commitment).

This post has been cross-posted at KANA’s blog as well.

What’s the Value of Knowledge?

This is my latest post reflecting on my research of new models of Knowledge Management (KM).

If you have been following along in the Stone Cobra blog, I talked about how we are changing from traditional models of KM to new paradigms based on use over storage, collective versus individual, and cloud over on-premise. I believe there is a tectonic shift in what knowledge is and how we use it, and wanted to give you an idea of where it may go.

A large part of this shift is the change in the value of knowledge – it is nowhere near where we used to define it.For the longest time we defined value of knowledge as to how much you could learn – but that is changing.

Want to know how it is changing? Read my entry in the Stone Cobra blog for more details – then leave me some comments.  If you are interested in reading what I see as the new methods to compute value of knowledge, please let me know in the comments – I will gladly comply if sufficient people ask for it…

Talk soon?