Ombud is still in beta form, but registered users can already submit reviews, statistics and more about anything and everything in the social CRM field.
Ombud intends to eventually cover other fields in the IT industry. But for now, it hopes its user-driven offering will become the go-to venue for advice and observations, supplanting the thoughts of paid analysts like those at Gartner.
The product review section at Ombud already features 366 products, with most of them related to social CRM, including software suites and services such as Salesforce’s Radian6. Most of the products haven’t been reviewed yet, but web pages already illustrate how users can provide details on a product’s strengths and weaknesses.
Ombud takes a poke at research companies by remarking on its site how its industry research is “transparent.” Computerworld is even wondering if Ombud could one day take down Gartner.
Users of Ombud must use real names and their accounts can be tied to their LinkedIn profiles. The site promises to vet its user community with the hope of keeping commentary pure.]]>
Oklahoma City Thunder fans apparently love connecting with their team, win or lose.
The NBA franchise on Wednesday won a CRM Experience Excellence Award for winning with their fans. The team picked up the prize at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit conference held outside Orlando.
The Thunder was one of several big names to score an award at the event. The honors are presented annually by Gartner and 1to 1 Media.
While NBA All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook set the tone on the court, Thunder management “built an enterprise-wide customer-focused organization from the ground up” to win the gold Customer Experience Excellence Award, according to judges. Match.Com was the silver award winner in this category.
The gold Customer Service Optimization Award went to Symantec, which reengineered its service portals, integrated multiple channels and simplified support processes, “allowing the high-tech company to improve its customer experience,” judges said.
Corel, a software company, won the silver award in this category.
GameStop won the gold Integrated Marketing Performance Award. The national retailer of console and computer games won because its PowerUp Rewards program produced customer loyalty and has become one of the company’s primary business drivers, judges said.
Health care provider Highmark won the silver award in this category.
Harry Rosen Inc., a Canadian men’s wear retailer, won the gold Sales Effectiveness Award by giving personalized service to customers in the store and to those outside it, via communications for new items and private events, judges said.
The computer protection company McAfee won the silver award in this category.
The gold Social Engagement Award went to Husqvarna Professional Products, an outdoor power product manufacturer. The company’s AnswerArmy program promotes community and self-service, enabling customers to find the “reliable help they need,” judges said.
Random House Children’s Books won the silver award in this category.
And the Las Vegas Valley Water District won the gold Customer Analytics Award. The water district “used customer analytics to gain an understanding of why contact center call volumes were spiking and proactively resolved those issues—helping struggling customers and cutting its own costs in the process,” judges said.
FedEx won the silver award in this category.]]>
The annual Gartner Customer 360 Summit kicked off Wednesday with a simple message: Be there for customers, no matter which way they want you to be there.
Held just outside Orlando, the three day conference will focus on a wide variety of CRM niches – including service, management and innovation – but as the event’s chairman reminded attendees, nothing matters as much as having a solid CRM strategy.
“If you don’t have one, you need one,” said Gene Alvarez, the conference chairman and a Gartner research vice president.
If a company does have a CRM strategy, but it’s a decade old, an update is needed fast, Alvarez.
Yet, companies seem to realize the importance of having a current CRM plan, according to Alvarez and Gartner analyst Ed Thompson. In a recent Gartner survey of CEOs, CRM “shot to the top” of their list of concerns, Alvarez and Thompson said.
Even troubled industries recognize the value of CRM because they’re spending money on it, Alvarez and Thompson said.
Social CRM will be “hot” in 2012, as will digital marketing, they said.
Payments on mobile devices will also be “the next big thing,” Alvarez said. “Payments are going to change the way we behave,” he said.
But companies need to effectively sort through all the customer data they will obtain, Thompson said. He relayed how a mobile phone employee told him that the company had 10 times more data than ever before about each customer, but the company was “drowning” in the information.
Alvarez also looked at “The Internet of Things” – a phrase to describe how connectivity will soon be a common facet of life and be included with the most basic functions.
For instance, Alvarez mentioned a recently-created application that plays music when a customer tires on clothing in a store dressing room. The genre of music is customized to the style of clothing, and the customer is asked to buy the song along with the clothes, he said.
But with all the excitement about connectivity, companies still need to balance empowerment with privacy, Thompson and Alvarez said.
Customers want everything to be easy, and to feel as if they belong, so they will share their information electronically, Alvarez and Thompson said. In fact, 65 percent of Americans said in a recent survey they would give away their personal information for only $20, Thompson said.
But when providing CRM through social media, companies need to consider that privacy norms vary for each customer, they said.]]>
Rich Brecht and Mark Studness, the senior contact center manager J&P Cycles and director of e-commerce at Verizon respectively, shared some of their social CRM experiences at a panel discussion. Here’s some of their advice and experiences.
On how they got started with social CRM:
J&P Cycles — The motorcycle parts company provides free tech support for its customers and had a great deal of content, including knowledge base answers and video it wanted to share with its customers more effectively.
“Instead of letting people come to us to engage and find that relevant and important information,” Brecht said. “We decided by launching a blog site we had a good engine for publishing information. It’s not a salesy process. We wanted to engage with customers.”
J&P Cycles built out a one-year blog calendar and tied posts to Twitter and its Facebook page. The company went from 1,200 Facebook fans in 2009 to 42,000 today. Yet, while J&P counts its “friends” it doesn’t use that as its primary measurement.
“Instead of ‘how many fans do you have?’ we like to look at how many people are actively engaged,” Brecht said. “We have 70% that are engaged – ‘liking’ something, posting something, asking a question.”
Brecht said finding areas to engage with customers helped the company significantly expand its Facebook group. For J&P cycles, that meant topics like regulation over helmet laws and a motorcycle caption contest.
Verizon — Verizon’s e-commerce group elected to start first with customer service, building out customer communities on the Lithium platform.
“Almost immediately we saw the dividends,” Studness said. “Instead of us manning those forums with Verizon people, the magic came when the whole country came to participate and super users were helping to answer those questions.”
Verizon now sees more than 1 million page views a month from people interacting with forums.
On staffing and the future of their social CRM initiatives:
J&P Cycles — From the day its founder first started selling parts out of his car at motorcycle events, J&P has been focused on the customer experience and that’s helped inform its social networking efforts.
“Look inside and see what you’ve been doing with the customer feedback you’ve been gathering all along,” Brecht said. “If you don’t have that mechanism in place and try to establish that in a social environment, you’re just creating a situation where you’re doing that publicly.”
Every department needs to have some level of buy in and ownership of what the customer is saying, he added.
Verizon — Asked about the possibility of outsourcing the social networks, Studness said he wanted listening to become a core competency of Verizon. Leaders across Verizon’s product lines take an active part in the forums, he added.
“The FiosTV person? His team directly interacts with that on a daily basis,” Studness said.”It allows him to vet and prioritize the road map almost in real time. My personal vision is that this listening center becomes an all knowing command center reaching all over the Web.”
On lessons learned:
J&P Cycles – ‘We should have done it sooner,’ was a lesson for the motorcycle parts company, Brecht said. Additionally, opening up customer service to the social Web can be a scary thing, he admitted. Things like company financial information and liability concerns need to be treated carefully with a well-designed policy.
“Be very cautious about how you do that, we put a lot of controls in place with how we would respond,” Brecht said. “But don’t look at social engagement as something to be scared of.”
When the company put a new order management system in place, it created a few hiccups. J&P Cycles was able to prepare its customers and adapt to the situation with the social program.
“I looked at it as an inadvertent disaster recovery plan,” Brecht said. “I didn’t realize how valuable it was going to be until I needed it.”
Verizon — Staffing was an important step for Verizon, Studness warned.
“Pick the right people internally to interface,” he said. “There’s a lot of old thinking out there where you have to censor interactions. You have to people with a little bit of personality.”
Additionally, make sure you get what you need to run the project at every point along the way.
“Don’t be bashful in asking for resources,” Studness said. “We started and thought of it as a little point project. You really do need resources and a leadership team to manage those collective efforts.”
So, will you get faster support from Verizon via Twitter than from a phone call?
“I would say today you would get faster service if you called but in the future that’s where we’re going,” Studness said.
Of course, a strategy and some success with social CRM does not guarantee happy customers or a company well-prepared for every interaction. One needs only look to the blog of Paul Greenberg, an early evangelist for social CRM, to see Verizon Wireless still has some work to do with its customers.]]>
Some of the winners gathered on stage for a panel discussion with Don Peppers, and shared some interesting tidbits and specific steps they took that helped make their projects a success.
For example, Sprint Nextel, which won the gold award for customer experience, slashed its churn rate 75% over a two-year period and realized $200 million in costs savings as part of its project to overhaul the customer experience.
Sprint-Nextel is no stranger to CRM news. Three years ago, the company grabbed headlines when it decided to fire 1,000 customers. While some CRM experts at the time lauded it as a savvy move, the company has clearly made a commitment to customers. In fact, Sprint Nextel’s CEO Dan Hesse couldn’t make the Gartner event because he was across the country presenting their improvement in customer satisfaction at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum.
Instead, Lance Williams, director of customer management, accepted the award and shared some insight into Sprint’s CRM initiatives. For example, a review of the company’s multiple service channels found that some customers were having trouble activating their new phones through the self-service website. They would call contact center reps that weren’t authorized to help them and would direct customers to the retail store, where, oftentimes, customers would simply turn the phone back in rather than wait to deal with the activation.
Peppers asked the panel what challenges they faced with their initiatives and for Sprint Nextel it was clearly the data.
“We’re here about a big program, a piece of software — that was cross channel analytics,” Williams said. “The data is king in this and that was the piece that was so hard. That was why Sprint failed in past endeavors. The data was all over the place.”
It was also a tough sell to management. The company was in a risk-taking environment, but Williams still needed to get funding and got money for bigger projects by proving the value of some short-term quick wins like IVR.
For Navy Federal Credit Union, the winner of the gold award for growth, the problem was not data but rather its own success.
“In many ways we rested on our laurels,” said Annie Sebastian, head of member growth strategy and member research and intelligence. “Fifty percent of our membership is under 35. There was no imperative to make a change.”
However, the firm set out to maximize each interaction in late 2007 to spur growth.
“We were positioned for the recession and those conversations,” Sebastian said. “Now, looking back we see we couldn’t have timed it better.”
Diefendorf Capital Planning Associates, winner of the gold award for efficiency, didn’t wait to line up its entire CRM project; it took it a piece at a time, said CEO Monroe Diefendorf.
“If I had to wait for all the lights to turn green to go from New York to Philadelphia I’d never leave my driveway,” he said.
Diefendorf is ensuring its staff’s ongoing familiarity and adoption of the CRM system by making training part of the annual employee reviews. Employees must take courses and qualify.
Drugstore.com, winner of the gold award for innovation, created a virtual corner store and invested in chat and knowledge management. The contact center wanted to be more than a cost center and found more than one way to do that, according to Lisa Larsen, director of customer care.
It saves the chats about specific brands and sells that to its suppliers who pay for that customer insight.
Drugstore.com is also monitoring social media and reacting, often sending out a chat link in the Twitter message to draw that conversation inside.
“That’s the goal to go find a complaint and figure it out before it becomes an issue,” Larsen said.
Navy Federal Credit Union is working to train “certified communicators” in its contact centers to be prepared for when it does have chat – which requires a set of skills that can be different than those the typical call center agent has. In the meantime, the organization is monitoring social media and letting others help.
“We’ve been monitoring for a long time,” Sebastian said. “A lot of the times customers will jump in and defend you and it’s more authentic if it comes from them.”
Sprint Nextel has community sites where “super user” customers provide answers to other customers. They’re rewarded not with money but status and rewards like special access to new devices or up front information.
“That content, a lot of times is extremely complex and things we wouldn’t have thought about internally,” Williams said.]]>
While “attracting and retaining new customers” comes in at #5 of the top 10 business priorities, CRM software doesn’t even make the list of technology priorities. Last year, it came in (along with other enterprise applications) at #2.
Yet, according to the more than 1,500 CIOs that took the survey, the business priorities typically associated with CRM still rank highly, including attracting and retaining new customers (#5), targeting customers and markets more effectively (#8) and expanding current customer relationships (#10). So why the lack of interest in CRM technology?
A couple of theories are floating around out there. Bob Apollo on CustomerThink suggests it’s a shift in what companies IT-enable. He writes.
We need to stop thinking about automating often badly-aligned “sales” and “marketing” processes and seize the opportunity to facilitate our prospect’s buying processes and embrace the dramatic changes that the net and web 2.0 have already made to buyer behaviour.
Meanwhile, Michael Maoz, a Gartner analyst focused on CRM, partly blames the hype around social networks:
But today the media and the hanger-on writers are all abuzz about “Social” and so our CIO community rushes in, at the risk of leaving behind the core of what they are out to do in the first place: build better systems to meet customer needs and demands. That is still CRM, the business process and strategy, wrapped in new clothing.
Rather than being less interested, Maoz, argues CIOs are smarter about CRM now. They know it’s not just about the technology.
And even so Gartner’s Top 10 technology priorities, contains plenty of intersection with CRM: Cloud Computing at #2, as really CRM software was at the forefront of the SaaS movement and remains there; Web 2.0 (check the Twitter stream for #SCRM if you don’t think so) and even Business Intelligence (#5) and Mobile Technologies (#6).
Maybe the premise is off in the first place. We shouldn’t be talking about CRM anymore at all. AMR long ago shifted to the term customer management and Forrester’s Bill Band has begun writing about the extended CRM application ecosystem.
Call it what you will, but it seems to me the market and the need for technology (and processes) to better connect with, and serve, your customers is alive and well.]]>
A few of Maoz’s statements stood out, particularly in light of recent announcements from RightNow and Salesforce.com, who are integrating customer communities and customer interactions into their CRM platforms.
Maoz outlined a recent issue he encountered when the water pump in the refrigerator at his newly-purchased house failed on him. He went to the company’s website, searched for a replacement and was left totally underwhelmed.
“It was a tidy website. It had a blog, a community, it was searchable – all those things a Gartner analyst would love,” Maoz said. “And I hated it.”
Instead, a quick Google search led him to Amazon, where he found three possible replacement pumps, reviews and a 30% discount. In this case. an internal community failed him while an external community solved his problem, but not all external communities offer helpful info either.
Companies are racing to establish a presence on social networks and that’s been proven in Gartner inquiries, Maoz said. The bulk — 80% — are “the worried majority,” typically public sector, consumer goods and media organizations, that “know we have to get through this. We have to do something,” Maoz said. Another 10% are panicking, mainly in retail, thinking “we just need to stay alive.” The other 10% are the aggressors.
“They know this is the best time to go and win market share, the ‘crisis is a terrible thing to waste’ people,” Maoz said. “It’s important to know who you are and how you fit in.”
The problem is, some don’t know what they’re doing and establishing a community is no panacea, Maoz warned.
“Most of us think we know more about social media than we actually do,” he said, “Everything sounds rosy until you start to find a lot of the stuff on these sites is stupid stuff. I don’t think there’s a better term than stupid stuff. It’s gossip. It’s group think.”
A colleague found this out first hand when she simply wanted to unsynch her iPhone from her PC so she could manually manage music on it and wound up erasing her entire music stash, spending several hours on community help sites and still not getting an answer to her problem.
“I’ve wasted more time on that site (I think it’s well optimized for search, but often for crappy content) – not to mention a host of other forums with bad, outdated, incorrect or stupid information that wastes my time,” she told me. “I often feel that no ‘smart’ people are ever posting to these forums.”
I’ll add another example myself. I’m in a fantasy baseball league and look for information and insight into what players to add, drop, trade for and generally manage my team. Yahoo!, which has a team of writers offering specifically this type of information, provides a feedback option at the bottom of each article. Invariably, the first comment under the story is someone writing “First,” taking pride in being the first one to post a response for some unknown reason that even I as a fantasy baseball dork don’t understand.
So, if that’s the case, and Maoz, my colleague and I are all wondering what the benefit is and finding that communities can be full of unhelpful content, what is one to do?
Many a social networking expert will point out that organizing comments by date is far from a best practice. Additionally, I’m sure they’ll point out that a voting system that allows “the wisdom of the crowd” to win out will push the best answers to the top.
Maybe. But it’s instructive that Wikipedia, the poster child for successful social networks recently decided to add another level of editorial oversight to its entries.
It indicates to me that there’s still a lot of work to be done in getting all of this right and we’ll likely go through some trial and error.
As Maoz noted in his keynote, Starbucks created a site to solicit ideas from its customers and with 30,000 entries came up with a stopper for the tops to its plastic cups.
“Maybe there’s something more to it, maybe there’s something to getting them to participate in discussion,” Maoz said. “The use of analytics is going to be a key point in this.”
I’ll be offering up more coverage from the show this week and hopefully providing a few answers. In the meantime, some of the more interesting comments (and some not so interesting) can be found in the Twitter stream.]]>