Here is an interesting current event that I would like to comment on, recently I saw that a local BPO here in the DFW area

I love my job

was accused of ‘forcing” their contact center employees to go onto a chat room designed for call center employees and talk about how much they like their jobs and they love the company and its culture.  I find this interesting because I believe that these types of complaints may occur more frequently as employees are asked to engage in social media strategies.  Let me explain.

 

As I have mentioned before social media is a new tool to the organization and as such, we have to learn how to use it.  As the first, primary and sometimes only customer touch point for most organizations, the call center is the obvious choice for taking charge of and carrying out an enterprise’s social media strategy.  But in order for that to happen a few things need to be in place first;

1. Company Policies

2. Training

3. Integration into the call center through tools

Company Policies:

Your employees are already social networking with other employees, friends and customers and if left unchecked, could impact your company’s reputation (both in a good or bad way).  So if your company is not ahead of this yet from a policy perspective, I suggest you get ahead of it quickly by releasing the corporate policies on social media to your employee groups.

Training:

As we all know, in a call center, training never stops.  Train on the corporate policies created above as well as other important topics related to social media use such as Media Literacy, Privacy, Copyright, “Terms of Use” etc.  BUT most importantly, train your call center employees specifically on how to be good corporate ambassadors.  A good corporate ambassador is nothing other than an enthusiastic, engaged staff member functioning as an evangelist.

Getting back to where I started this post, I suggest that this is where the DFW Company mentioned above was when these accusations surfaced.  I hope that this company was simply encouraging employees to begin their training as corporate ambassadors.

For all companies, now, more than ever, contact center employees must be trained to deliver stellar service and positive customer experiences if the company wants to compete.  Why? Because if they don’t their customer’s will be online telling the world that they didn’t. Look at this quote from Chuck Ganapathi from salesforce.com.

“The rules of customer service are being rewritten,” says Chuck Ganapathi, vice president of marketing for on-demand CRM application provider salesforce.com. “Web 2.0 consumers, who have become accustomed to the instant access and gratification of the Internet, now expect the same level of speed and ease in their customer service interactions. They trust their social networks, and they look to their peers online for information and advice. An unhappy customer has the power to destroy a company’s brand with a single click.”

I would be remiss if I did not mention that frequently the Social Ambassador role is broken into two elements: One, the Social Media Manager role that is more outward bound in its focus, but still involves the community.  And two, the Community Manager role which is more inward bound, starting with the community, perhaps through more of a service or support focus.

Integration into the call center through tools

1. Conduct social media monitoring and analysis. Social media-wise organizations have invested in one (or more) of the many tools that scan the Web’s most influential consumer sites and social networks and “listen” to what customers – as well as would-be customers – are saying about the organization’s brand in general, its specifics products, and its level of customer service. Forward thinking organizations also use these powerful monitoring tools to stay abreast of what’s being said in the blogosphere and social media communities about their competition.

2. Offer an interactive, company-hosted social network for customers. The most progressive and customer-centric organizations do more than just scan the Web for customer-generated feedback on their products and services; they host their own “Social” communities that invites such feedback and enable customers to review and rate products and services, comment on the company in general and/or on the support received online, and interact with and share perspectives with one another. Such site would enable the company to provide key information – and to respond to customer comments or criticism via blogs and wikis of its own.

Because these customer portals are created and overseen internally by the company, managers in key areas within the organization (the contact center, Marketing, Product & Development) easily gain visibility into what customers think, prefer and demand, says salesforce.com’s Ganapathi. “By creating these compelling online experiences and being part of the conversation with the community, companies can build greater customer loyalty.”

3. Integrate into CRM. Information gathered from social media sites should be incorporated into the contact center’s customer history

4. Take it offline. Not all customer issues and concerns should be handled publicly. Develop guidelines to help agents determine when they should extend an invitation for customers to interact one-on-one via email, chat or phone.

Some vendors are experimenting with applications and tools that are intended to help customers contact the call center directly via social media sites. For instance, Avaya has a Facephone prototype (an overview video here) , which enables customers to contact a call center via a Facebook page and be connected to an agent. The agent can query the Facebook page of the caller prior to taking the call to gain some insight into what the caller’s issue may be……how cool is that?

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As 2010 comes to a close I find myself looking back at the year and evaluating how well I practiced what I preached as an IT leader.  Not only do I believe that all successful IT executives need to become successful at MicroTech Stewardship, I wanted to capture a few other skills I believe we all need to focus on as leaders.  Below is the list I came up with:

1. Promote Micro Technology Stewardship within the organization through leadership.  In order to develop good Microtech Stewards under you, leaders have to really commit to leadership and recognize that they are always “on stage”.  In fact, I saw that both Gartner and Korn/Ferry’s research reveals that the highest performing CIOs are effective because they embrace the idea that everything they need to accomplish will be achieved through people, by people, and with people. I know you have seen this said before, but as a leader, we have to ” build people, not systems”.

2. Think Strategic, Deliver Clear Direction. A high-performing technology leader is a complex and (hopefully) creative thinker but when it comes to leading, the message must be clear, concise and easy to execute against.

3. Abandon your 70s School of Management. 70s school of management is not a concept I have explored in this blog and I hope to in the future but it is a term I coined to describe the old school “do what I say, when I say and tell me when it is done” leaders that still exist in organizations.  Today, technology leaders need to be more collaborative than ever in order to inspire people both inside and outside their organization in order to be successful in executing against your vision.  Inspire your people to consistently deliver their best work through collaboration and motivation, inspire them to feel like they are involved in something exciting.

4. Lead sideways. Successful leaders spend a great deal of their time and energy managing relationships that exist sideways: relationships with peers, vendors, and customers.  As in the above point, collaboration is key in driving results.

5.Be a Master of Communication. Constantly reiterate your core message and values. Focus on clarity, consistency, and simplicity.  Do it with passion and make sure your message is not only understood but also felt.

Well that is my short list, what do you have to add?

I read an article lately called “Will Netflix destroy the Internet” on Slate.com (http://www.slate.com/id/2273314/) where the author questions if Video On Demand will survive or will it become so successful, it swallows up all the available bandwidth on the Internet.  Now, I am not going to get into a technical discussion here since I believe that backbone bandwidth can be added and technology such as Verizon FiOS (Fiber to the house) will continue to allow VOD to be successful, but I do want to talk about irony.

I find it rather ironic that the long-standing discussions on who would win the ISP customer (Cable companies or telephone companies)  that has occurred for more than 10 years in the United States was based on convergence.  Convergence of voice, data applications and yes, real-time streaming media. To say it another way, we have been promised streaming media over the Internet for 10 plus years and now that it is finally beginning to take off, analysts are questioning if it can successfully sustain itself.  Oh the irony of success.

In the traditional media world chain restaurants purchase keywords on Google and get “found” more often in searches than their competition and generate more impressions than their (usually) smaller competition. But with Twitter smaller companies like Starbucks(172,366 followers) can rule when it comes to followers.

Starbucks has a staff that Tweets and then interacts with the followers comments  both on Twitter and Facebook.  they take this communication channel seriously (as I have talked about in the past  https://scottspiek.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/will-the-term-social-network-be-obsolete-in-a-few-years/ ).  This dedicated staff may also send out menu news, promotional offers, and other valuable information to their loyal following to always be in the customers view.

You don’t have to be a big restaurant chain to attract a relatively big following, but you do have to discover your value proposition of market differentiation (Krystal burgers) and put the time to explore, interact and grow with this new social media marketing landscape.

Can this work for your small business as well, I know I have used it for a startup in the “personal services sector” I have worked with here in the Dallas, TX area.  let me know your thoughts.

The Press release Aug. 31, 2010

At VMworld 2010 in San Francisco, VMware will preview a cloud-based management service – codenamed Project Horizon – that will securely extend enterprise identities into the cloud and provide new methods for provisioning and managing applications and data based on the user, not the device or underlying operating system.

Project Horizon will establish a user’s “Cloud Identity,” securely extending on-premise directory services between private and public clouds and enabling customers to take advantage of the flexibility and new services in the public cloud while maintaining the security and control from their private clouds.

“A cohesive desktop strategy should provide secure, direct access to many types of applications, including SaaS and legacy and mobile applications, regardless of device type or location,” said Mark Bowker, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group. “Project Horizon is an example of how VMware has the potential to help dramatically transform desktop and application delivery services, maintain IT control, and ensure a productive, personalized experience for the end user.”

The Buzz

By turning the normal assumptions of IT around to make an abstract storage and provisioning service that’s able to identify and deliver applications, VMware turns the cloud into a central source for IT resources, Chris Wolf, analyst with the Burton Group, says. This also goes a long way toward making the cloud an enforcement agent for corporate IT policies allowing or limiting use of data, hardware audited security and usage reporting, and other critical functions, Wolf says.

This approach also almost eliminates the difference between internal resources and external, allowing customers to make more efficient use of the resources they have available, according to James Staten, analyst at Forrester Research.

The Wrapup

So the buzz is that Project Horizon aims to put all the things employees use up online, allowing them to pick and choose the applications that they want and allowing IT to create lifecycle plans that limit the amount of time a particular VM can function, what kind of employees get privileges for which apps, and a whole host of other conditions critical to companies trying to save money and stay compliant with federal regulations.

The Benefits?

What are the benefits here?

Will costs to corporations go down, I think VMware believes licensing costs will.

Will it be easier for the end user?

Will it cost less or be easier to administer for the IT departments?

I do not know any of the answers, but I hope VMware is successful because it sounds exciting.

The architecture and justification of an EAI solution is taking up a lot of my time lately and I felt I needed to share a bit of it here on this Blog. 

From a business perspective, I have seen EAI defined as “A business computing term for the plans, methods,and tools aimed at modernizing, consolidating, and coordinating the computer applications in an enterprise”.  That’s nice, but I like it better when we use the following to help round out the description “EAI is really a complete stack, encompassing all types of integration patterns. It’s really a concept rather than a class of technology”.

So since it is not really a technology, you have to dig deeper for the components of an EAI environment, I am not going to go into all of them at this time, but I will say that in my research to replace a code based integration methodology, the XML appliance is standing out as a clear winner over legacy integrations.  At the risk of sharing too much, we are showing costs roughly 1/10th of those required by legacy code based connections  when using an XML device.

Oh and did I say I prefer it as a SaaS?  I think I will talk about SaaS XML and BI in a future Blog.  Love it!

I think so, I think social network sites (the concept of connecting with people from your life over the Internet) will become the next natural evolution of the Internet.  Folks will be connected to others through many ways  (I personally think companies like Google will ultimately win over niche apps like Facebook).

Businesses will soon have access to you and  your whole network of connections and will be forced to develop more meaningful content.  Leaders from the company will have to come forth and present ideas, strategies, technologies and other important  facts in order for us (the public) to care about that firm.

IT execs and other senior leaders will need to ensure all securities are in place to enforce the rules of what can and can’t be presented. Companies that will succeed will be at the forefront of this true “information superhighway 2.0”.

if you look back at a past post https://scottspiek.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/my-social-media-thoughts-for-the-day/ you will see that I am refining my thoughts.  I do not believe that in the future it will be enough to get a gaggle of fans and let them talk about your product.  I believe that in the next few years, this gaggle of fans will need more from you in order to continue being engaged in your social site.