Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to Do Mobile Customer Service (With Videos!)

Yes.  I gave in to the dark side… the title is a little link-baitish… I will admit that.

But, there is good content (and they are videos) associated with it.

Here is the scoop…

A couple of years ago I started working with a large number of brands on their approach to mobile customer service.  We tried, experimented, tested different things and in the process I came up with a nifty little model for adoption of mobile customer service which I have been improving ever since.

It’s a generational approach, each generation building on the previous one, and it has proven successful time and again.  You start simple and grow in complexity as you go along, learning and doing more.

Just like life – or school (just got back from my kid’s back to school night… always wondering how we did have fun before we had kids in school… I digress, sorry Sameer).

In the process, my friends at Salesforce asked me to do a few videos with advice on customer service and we all thought that this model (and its implications) were a good topic.

Now, just like in life – attention is limited and short.  My attention span these days is limited to… what was i saying?

Right, so we created the concept of customer service minute (more like between 1 and 2 minutes each) and crafted five awesome videos that answer the basic questions about mobile customer service.

I promise you, they are very much worthy if you are embarking on mobile customer service.  Trust me.  Years of experience condensed in 7-10 minutes of wisdom, examples, and statistics.

You are welcome, it’s what I do.

Click on this link (registration required, but its painless) and you can access the five videos.  Come back if you want to chat about them or leave some comments… or have a conversation.

If you want to get more on this, or anything related to customer service, come to my Dreamforce session:

Thought Leader: Keeping Your Customers Happy in Today’s Connected World, Tue, Sep 15, 3:00 PM-3:40 PM 
View Session Details

Or simple, leave your thoughts below.  Thanks.

note: if you have spare cycles and are in customer service, can you pretty please fill out my survey on usage and adoption? much appreciated…

disclaimer: as you can imagine, is a client.  They are an active retainer client and have been for a few years.  I am grateful to their contribution to my vices (like mortgages, food for the kids, clothes, etc.) and as always they don’t get to tell me what to do  (yes, it does frustrate them – just ask them).  Content is entirely mine, final edit and veto power is mine, and what to talk about and what to say is my decision.  Call it what you may, I call it a cool relationship where we both get what we need: great content and fed kids.  And no obligations on either side. Win-win

Evangelizing Omni-Channel (Why It’s NOT the Answer)

One of the topics that we set out to discover during out surveys past two years (note: take our survey this year, please? was whether organizations and practitioners were already on board with the concept of omni-channel.  What we found out was pretty much in line with what we expected: it is too early for them to focus on it.

Alas, the main problem we found (both outside of this research project as well as those people we tapped for follow-up discussions) was the lack of definition of omni-channel.  Indeed, there is confusion between multi-channel and omni-channel – and this is the biggest hindrance to its adoption.

We all understand single-channel as it is the origin of all customer service.  Customer service was provided person-to-person, over the phone via call center, or (in the case of more modern companies) via email or chat or any other single-channel.  Even as we grew operations and added new channels (e.g. from call center to simple contact center supporting email) we continued to support the channels separately as single-channel.  This was done partly by lack of understanding by call centers of what a contact center did as well as by not having available methods to share resources and technologies.

As we began to evolve customer service and added more channels (and found ways to share the underlying technologies and solutions – like knowledge bases and rules servers) the concept of multi-channel began to emerge.  Either as a fully integrated solution where all common components are leveraged and shared or as a collection of single-channel solutions that share some components in different ways, multi-channel became the definition of a contact center that had more than one channel operating successfully, had some integration between them for supporting tools and components, but was not yet fully operational as a single solution for all channels.

The concept of operating all channels as one always lacked one component: a single, combined, all-encompassing data model that allowed a transaction to be tracked across all channels and all interactions. If, for example, a customer started at the web site to find marketing information about a product, continued with an email asking for clarification of pricing, a phone call to further clarify an obscure point in the literature, then purchased the product via a third-party eCommerce site and came to a physical store for technical support in their minds that is one interaction, one experience.  For the organization that would be a minimum of five interactions (and in some cases, a much scarier multiple of that).

Closing this gap between expectations and delivery is where the idea of omni-channel becomes attractive.  There are two parts to delivering to this model and the first one is the technology necessary to make it happen behind the scenes.  This has been solved by leveraging and aggregating common components before – but usually falling short at cross-channel tracking.  Implementing the ability to use a single, common data model that pulls in data from multiple systems and interaction and maintains them as a common interaction is the first challenge – omni-channel cannot happen before cross-channel integration exists in the contact center.  We are just beginning to see implementations of cross-channel tracking and the initial results are encouraging.

Once cross-channel tracking is present, organizations can then focus on using that data and technology model to deliver to customers’ expectation of a single, cross-channel, and cross-interaction experience based on intent (the second of the portions of omni-channel).

If you think that omni-channel is as simple as delivering across channels, go back and read the paragraph above: it needs to be based on intent (thus, changing at each experience), based on previous and future predicted interactions (while keeping them together as one – whether it is a new one or a continuation of a previous one), and play equally across all channels (while realizing there are differences between channels that may not allow for equal delivery of all interactions across all channels).

The complexity of an omni-channel delivery is just barely starting to be addressed by organizations, and it is mostly the lack of understanding on their side of the myriad complexities associated with it that makes it slow going.  As one of the respondents of the survey told us when we followed up, just the idea of understanding what differentiates one interaction from the other based on intent causes a migraine.

Technology is available (hint: it requires multiple vendors from different technology sections) and desire is there – the lack of tangible methodologies and use cases (or even better, case studies and lessons learned) is what is causing it to not be fully adopted in real life.  Even if the organization can get past the lack of information and the complex technical aspects, political considerations and infighting are the next challenge to overcome – how to make different departments or business units work together towards a common goal.

Our surveys (2013, 2014) showed that only a handful of people are working on implementing omni-channel, while a large number (still short of mainstream adoption at one-third of the market) is doing something about it.  This is a good start.  The next best step is to evangelize and agree on a common concept of what omni-channel means so we can focus on growing adoption, finding lessons learned, and write the case studies that will help push adoption to higher levels.

At the end, the message to get across is that by implementing a two-stage omni-channel solution (infrastructure for the organization and software solutions to deliver to customers’ expectations) is getting the organization closer to the three R’s that encompass the organization-customer relationship in this age of the customer:

Right answer; Right channel; Right time.

SHAMELESS PLUG – While this was written in 2013 (but never published before) as a result of findings to the survey that year – it is still applicable today (and going forward).  If you want to help me find more insights like this, please take our survey this year… many thanks.

Customer Service Research – One More Time!

Yes, its that time of the year.

The (now) fourth version of this wonderful research on Customer Service Usage and Adoption report is coming back!

I know, I know.  Hard to contain your excitement… me too.

Here’s the scoop.  I have been running this report for the past three years under the sponsorship of KANA (née Sword Ciboodle) but the new leadership at Verint decided against creating fresh, unique content and instead wanted to focus their energy somewhere else.

I wished them well, and set out to find another sponsor.  As you know, I ask people to pay for my vices (doing research) in exchange for access to fresh content.  Works quite well, and helps me do the research I want to do (everything is my choice, including final veto).  You benefit by getting data that is not available elsewhere.

Among the many interested vendors I talked to, there was one that was the most interesting given our relationship and their status in the market.  After a short back-and-forth the Salesforce Service Cloud team has become the new sponsor.  Thanks, many, again.

Everything else remains the same: questions about usage, adoption, trends, and new things.  In addition to continuing asking about traditional contact center channels and technologies (including social) we are adding this year questions on mobile, communities, and even — nah, you will have to take it to find out…

As you know we discovered in past years the data that backed up the assertions that:

There were others, like when we first reported massive adoption of Facebook and Twitter – before anyone else, and many more.  But I don’t want to repeat the past findings – rather find the new ones.

Here is the link.  You will spend 20-25 minutes of your time answering the 21 questions (plus a few demographics) and you will get a copy of the results in return.  Also, invited to a webinar to share all results – and if you happen to attend Dreamforce 2015 in a few weeks you get access to the original, fresh, new content that will come from this research.

Nothing to lose, all to win – what do you say?

Take the survey?

Don’t Listen to Me. Listen to MIT. Get Out of Facebook.

Short post from my phone while I get the oil changed in my car. 

Yesterday I tweeted this. 

I did some work and research on neural networks, artificial intelligence, machine learning and such back in my youth (early to mid 1980s).  Thankfully nothing that would cause the world to come to an end or machine intelligence to derail.

This article explains quite well the evolution since those early neural networks to today. And the reason why Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawkins among others are sounding the bell about AI. 

It’s getting spooky. 

The reason I linked to that article is the same reason I’m staying out of Facebook. I don’t want to feed the machine. The calmness with which LeCun explains deep learning and the implications of it makes it sound like an engineering problem is being solved. 

It is.

The problem is that the engineering problem being solved is how imprecise humans are. And it will be solved in the next decade. 

I doubt that me staying out of Facebook will stop this. And I also doubt that Google (with whom I share limited information) is not doing the same. I am not stopping the evolution by doing this. 

But hopefully you get the threat a littler better. 

And stay out of Facebook. 

The Why (and Why Not) of Customer Journey Mapping

If you and I communicated recently (say, last 1-2 years) in any way – talked, emailed, came to a panel or keynote of mine, or are just lucky enough to be my client – you know how much I — er, “love” customer journey mapping (CJM).

I explained a large part of it in my April CRM Magazine article “Why Journey Mapping Wastes Time and Money“.  I was adamant about the organizations trying to control the customer in view of their slow loss of control.

I was reading BFF Paul Greenberg’s excellent assessment of Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud event in NYC last month (it was a good event, but still hasn’t’ found “their message” — I agree with Paul) and my spidey sense lit up again.

Paul did a magnificent job of explaining the perceived need by the organization to embrace on customer journey mapping.  He says

Salesforce spent a lot of time in discussion about the customer journey. They said that businesses have to guide customers to be active participants in the business by managing the customer journey. To do that, the customers need personalized attention. This makes it incumbent upon businesses to identify who are the customers and prospects via their purchase histories, online behavior and demographics. Then with that data figure out what has to be said to the individual customers, or modularly similar ones at least (my words, not theirs) and get them the appropriate content. The digital assets have to be created, and then distributed to the specific individuals at the best time in any conceivable digital channel (e.g. Ads, web, email, mobile, social, group messaging, text, apps, sales, service, communities). All of this requires some understanding of the customer journey. This was all in the context of the Salesforce Journey Builder product.

I seldom quote other writings, good or bad, so you know this is an important piece of writing.  Besides my admiration of Paul’s prose and how easy it is for him to explain complex concepts in simple sentences, I think he nailed the main problem with CJM – without highlighting it (actually, I am not sure he was intending it – only a curmudgeon like me would notice…)

Paul saved me, and you, so many words by explaining the why of CJM.  But he also pointed the Achilles heel (my perspective, not his) for it.  He says, as the main justification for companies to embrace CJM

This makes it incumbent upon businesses to identify who are the customers and prospects via their purchase histories, online behavior and demographics. Then with that data figure out what has to be said to the individual customers, or modularly similar ones at least (my words, not theirs) and get them the appropriate content.

Which is undoubtedly how organizations, and more importantly, marketing organizations see their role in this new world where customers own the conversation and where customers are greatly (to an extent never seen before) empowered by communities, social networks, and collaboration potential.

You see, customers never expect the businesses to “get them the appropriate content” anymore.  There are four critical aspects of why this is not the case:

  1. Content creation has shifted away from the brand.  In an effort to end my own business (which accounts for its revenues in part with content creation for vendors) but being fair – how much content is directly created by companies versus content created in communities and directly by users for users? If you have a need for information (content + data + knowledge – or combination of such) you will more than likely do a Google / Bing (seriously?) search.  That will point you to many forums, communities, blogs, and other pieces of content – not company generated, that answer your needs.  Trust me or try it, you will seldom click on the brand-generated content instead opting for the community or peer-generated content.  This is why we have the “customer era” upon us.
  2. Customers are not sure what they are doing.  The complexity of today’s world, coupled with the accelerated pace of life makes it so we seldom complete one “journey” the same way we started it – or at the same time.  Time continuum of experiences in a distracted world (how many messages and content are you exposed to each day?  how many of them are “brand owned”? etc) has become very disrupted.  The time between when we think of, for example, getting a hotel for a vacation and ending up in a cottage using Airbnb (true story from these past two weeks) has shifted from hours to weeks and spanned channels and content that I wasn’t even aware it existed.  Expedia, VRBO, Airbnb, Hotel Websites, Tripadvisor, and reviews sites all contributed to my “journey”.  Did I plan it that way? Hardly… and neither do your customers.  They don’t know where they are going when they start – but they sure know they are not going to take your journey once they realize the many options they have.
  3. Paths to complete their journeys are always expanding.  In his excellent post, truly, Paul also makes the case that digital marketing (including content management) has become a force of its own for organizations (he has the data, go read it).  Other data points you read just about everywhere confirm that: budget for digital marketing has emerged and grown dramatically, content management is “a thing” to contend with again, and more.  If I had to convince you of that you wouldn’t be reading this,   Brands are recognizing more and more the loss of the control of the conversation.  This is not how they are taught or prepared to act.  Even the most modern marketer today is having a hard time adjusting to the reality of the loss of this control – and now we are even telling them they don’t own the funnel anymore (thanks Sameer for that excellent piece!).  I am not the first, not will be the last, to say the traditional funnel (I’d say any funnel) is dead.  This is because on a daily (if not hourly basis) more and more paths to the goal are being created, modified, and expanded.  Building a set of paths (or expected) paths for customers is not what’s happening.
  4. Customers don’t know what they want.  We live in a society on its way to be post-consumerist.  This is in part cemented by the existence of the so-called “sharing economy” (of which Airbnb is one example – a name I abhor) where more and more organizations are finding ways to offer services and “pay as you go” solutions for consumers.  Often, more and more, consumers are not even sure what the end state of their journey is.  Using my own example, I started researching a weekend in Maui at a hotel and ended up with a week in Central California at a cottage.  Yes, I knew I wanted to get a vacation – but the length and location of the same was not even close to known when I started my journey.  Drawing on my example, Expedia missed out on getting my business since they did not have sufficiently good packages or options for destinations other than Hawaii.  Marriott, my beloved hotel chain that is always my first stop in lodging, missed out on getting my business since they did not have a link or partnership to VRBO or Airbnb when the hotels in my preferred destinations were booked.  And virtually all others missed out on my business by not reading the “tea leaves” I left behind stating what I was looking for.  I hadn’t used Airbnb for over 2 years now – even though I got their emails suggesting places (many, none interesting or relateable) over that time.  If any of these companies with whom I do business regularly didn’t get the idea of what my journey was is because I didn’t know it first of all.  And I would like to think I am not unusual (at least on behavior – most of you will disagree overall, I know…).

I have droned on for 1200+ words about this – but I am just getting started.  I promise I will stop now, but I hope I got you to think about this process.

You, the brand, is very quickly losing this battle.

No desperate attempt at controlling it by “mapping customer journeys” will get you where you want to go.  Heck, where you want to go does not even exist as a destination anymore.  You don’t want to manage your customer journeys – you want to provide them a way to build their own paths as they go along.

This is what I have been, and will continue to, advocating for a long time.  Build a killer infrastructure that will leverage communities and social networks as “wisdom hubs” (I wrote that post yesterday – the beginning of the concept at least):

  • Establish a presence in every channel and situation by building an ecosystem (Expedia and Marriott should offer Airbnb as an option even if no revenue comes of it – think Miracle on 34th street or Nordstrom’s style – ok Zappos for the young ‘um)
  • Forget the customer paths, give them tools to build them fresh and new every time (think Platforms and Ecosystems, again)
  • Realize that your content is not longer yours, but your customers’ and find the “wisdom hubs” and tap into them (don’t forget to help them grow also!)

I am just a bird-dogging curmudgeon: I simply point the way.  That’s what I hope I accomplished in these 1500+ words… are you hunting?

disclaimer: yes, Salesforce is a customer but I only mentioned them here because Paul did first (that didn’t work with my siblings when I was growing up, don’t think will absolve me of blame here either). I have no commercial relationship with Google or Bing (although Microsoft Dynamics is a client). I have no commercial relationship with Airbnb, Marriott, Expedia, Nordstrom’s, Zappos and others mentioned here – although at some point in the past they were either clients via Gartner or independently, or inquiries I took, or met them and chatted with them at a conference or event or even as a reference.  Paul is awesome, a great friend, and the oracle (lower case, no relationship to the vendor – who is not a client currently since they hate me for the most part) of the customer world.  I am merely taking on his work to expand on a rant of mine – any errors or problems here are mine, not his.  He rocks.  In spite of my oldest daughter’s objection that “Wikipedia cannot be trusted – anyone can edit it and say whatever they want” (which frankly, ignores the fact that crowdsourcing wisdom is exactly why it works – but I digress) I will continue to make it the source of definitions and whatnot.  If you feel like my daughter, find your own definitions – but I promise you that they won’t be too far off (and likely you don’t get it… but don’t tell my daughter I said that… don’t want to relive that debate again).  I have no commercial reason for writing this other than needed to be said.  If you think otherwise, you have not followed my career.


Duck Intelligence, Think Wisdom

I have exercised my systems of patience, after using my systems of reading to dive into the blog and research published (sorry, posted using their systems of writing, editing, and publication) by Forrester recently.

I had to use my patience not to react using what my daughters call my “catch phrase” — Aw, come on!!

Seriously – is everything becoming a system now? I groaned at the birth of Systems of Engagement (possibly as a potential alter-ego to the forever-there-but-never-named-so systems of record… AKA CRM).  Downright exploded and made my feelings known at the “systems of intelligence” (aka analytics).  But this is where I feel I have to put down my proverbial foot and say enough is enough.

Just like not everything in this world is a platform or part of an ecosystem (as necessary as those are, you cannot turn a 20-year old solution into a “knowledge management platform” just by hiring a new VP of Marketing), not everything in this world is becoming a “system of” something.

In this case, the problem is that the marketing hype surrounding the concept of wisdom (and the rush to be the first one to coin a term – well done, Forrester — you win that one… yay) is clouding a reality.

Knowledge Management is no longer sufficient to power organizations’ quest for business transformation.

We have been trying for over 50 years to manage knowledge with different degrees of success.  We created technology, processes, even a culture of knowledge that was supposed to ensure organizations could corral, manage, and reuse knowledge at the drop of a hat in any instance, at any time, via any channel, integrated into any technology.

Needless to say, it hasn’t happened.  I wrote plenty about this (look at the my downloads page and read some of the series of blog posts I did – or search knowledge management on my blog) and the need to alter the model of knowledge management.  I am a big pusher for knowledge-in-use and communities and try to stay away from knowledge repositories – although I know that virtually no one is following me there…

The recent changes to technologies, information management (which i covered in my last business transformation update), speed of change, and societal changes induced by communities (no, not powered by vendors – more and more people flocking to communities) have made the traditional knowledge-in-storage model almost unsustainable.

Indeed, collecting knowledge for (maybe) later use is no longer feasible for organizations.  While the current systems will continue powering that model for another 2-3 years (up to a decade in some cases) I am seeing a need and demand for something more useful.

Powered by “Systems of Intelligence” (analytics), “Systems of Insight” (seriously?), and more importantly by the failure rate associated with traditional KM implementations in organizations my clients are asking to bypass the concept of KM and instead focus on wisdom.

Before you start screaming, I am not using wisdom in the same way that Webster defines it – but as a model for applied knowledge.  Got a better word? bring it – comment box is below.

Wisdom is what happens when you use knowledge – and what we always wanted our KM systems to do.  It is not just to store an article with an answer, but it is to know how that answer is applied, when does it work, when it doesn’t, and how to find the ancillary information necessary to make it work in the latter.  Not by simply starting a new query – but by associating all the wisdom surrounding that answer (in real time, mind you – as things are changing quite rapidly these days) from all the relevant SME (subject matter experts) regardless of where they are and what they are doing.

There is an old phrase – knowledge is understanding that tomatoes are fruits.  Wisdom is understanding that they shouldn’t go into a fruit salad.

That is likely the easier way to explain the difference.  Or to go back to my title… as odd as it is.

Knowledge is understanding that ducks are unlikely to be a source of wisdom.  Wisdom is to know I wrote that title on my iPhone and autocorrect changed it.

Waddle on to the comments below and let me know what you think… are we ready for some wisdom?

The Worst Problem With Cloud Applications

Let’s face it, switching from on-premises, on-demand, hosted, or any traditional model to cloud-based applications has issues associated with it.

Denying this would be — unconscionable, questionable… even downright dangerous.

Is the worse problem you’ll face the integration between systems? Is it the lack of IT support? A too-small-to-make-it-happen IT staff? Lack of a strategy? Not enough mobile support?

Or is it something as simple a too many logins and the lack of a single-sign-on solution?

Would you like to know?

I can help!

We are starting a research project on this topic with a survey and would love to have your input into it.  We are asking anyone that is associated with cloud applications (admins, IT people, or business users with admin responsibilities) to take our survey for the next two weeks and let us know.

We do have our theories, of course, from the many successful inquiries, interviews, and work we have done so far – but we want data to contrast it.  If you help us, we will send you the results as soon as they are ready and we will also send you the report with the detailed analysis.

And, to make it better, I am partnering with Denis Pombriant on this effort so you know you will get top-level writing (not my usual dribbles with parenthetical comments only… er, sorry).

Our friends at FinancialForce are sponsoring this effort and helping us put the information out there… so what do you say?

Help us? Take the survey?

In advance, many thanks.