Tag Archives: influence

Customer Experience “Through the Looking Glass” – It’s the Last Mile that makes the Difference.

12 Feb


Caught a matinee today – awful really. Made far worse by the 3D glasses we had to wear. This is probably the nth 3D movie I watched – and not a single time has my experience with the glasses been anything but horrible. Isn’t it a huge pity that technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, the 3D tech has made movie making/ watching so supposedly pleasurable – but the entire experience is completely and utterly spoilt by one tiny detail – the glasses (oh btw, these glasses are rented – so I pay for them – which adds insult to injury!)

This experience reminded me of an article I’d written nearly 10 years ago in a newspaper (you can read it here) on how so many products fail – not so much because of the products themselves – though such examples abound (including in the article) – but because of the other elements (4Ps a-la-Kotler) of marketing – it could be distribution/ advertising/ pricing…and increasingly nowadays…customer service.

OK, since it looks like this is becoming a “nostalgic” post, I pulled up another article I’d written in the same newspaper even longer ago (actually that was my first published piece ever – so I still remember the thrill it gave me to look at myself in print!) ON customer service – or, the lack of it, in durables. (again, if you have time on your hands, you can read it here). Two things struck me – a) my writing style hasn’t really changed much! 🙂 b) In the customer service world, things havn’t changed much either! Witness bad quality 3D glasses!


Think about it – with the advent of social media, there’s this big hullabulloo about customer service; customer experience; reputation – these are now very dynamic/ very fragile/ very potentially viral properties. While Twitter is the new customer service helpdesk, it is also the crisis escalation firebell! One Dell Hell, One United Broke My guitar, or, recently, Findus/ beef lasagna/ horse meat controversy, and you’re stuck with a big big big problem on your hands. People are now getting paranoid about reputation. But you know what, this whole customer service shindig – hinges on really SMALL things – the last mile almost. It’s the guy at the cash counter who is counting bills while you are waiting/ the system that asks you for your problem for the nth time as you complain about bad internet bandwidth for the nth time when each time you’ve explained the origin and history of the problem/ it’s even the barman who didn’t smile when he handed you your pint, and most importantly, it’s the rant tweet that went unattended for 2 days when you complained about the above!

That’s why companies are investing in listening, and then responding. There are “Social Media Command Centers” being set up – not only to proactively engage with customers, but to respond to customer service issues. But it’s a scary thought – one rogue tweet that went unattended – and your command center is useless…

So what does one do? Apart from the obvious ones like – get a listening program in place (but how do you find out what’s important), have someone manning your social media properties for customer service related issues (but how do you make sure that one rogue tweet/ youtube video is not unattended), have a proactive policy of crisis handling?

The answer is the 5 Ts

Social CRM

Technology – I’m talking futuristic here – lets get Social CRM stuff – this is the utopican (currently) smart help desk that knows you when you buy/ call/ chat/ tweet/ rant – and can connect all the dots (see my older post on this by clicking here – I do believe that sCRM even as a concept needs much understanding currently – many people think its just an evolved form of listening. Its NOT!)


Training – Seems really obvious. The best tech cannot obviate human beings – and human beings cannot be let loose unbridled in the social media world – just like any contact center operation, social media helpdesk management requires policies and training – continuous, iterative, dynamic, flexible training. Best Buy did this best with their Twelpforce – they mobilized almost their entire organization as customer service agents, trained them but had the appropriate tech platform backing them.

Tracking – Make sure you have ways of finding out who can potentially be the bomb – so influencer identification strategy is important – keep a trace on big people on social media, and track them continuously. Remember, “influencers” can trigger virality quicker than mere mortals. Remember also however, that someone else’s pussy cat may be your influencer and vice versa!

Triggering Mechanisms – Make sure you have ways of putting in place traces of issues that are escalating – so a virality alert – that makes you get on the crisis fighting mode sooner rather than later. It could be a spike in negativity/ an unusual pick up in a competitor’s chatter/ unprecedented buzz on one site..just keep an eye on the trigger

and finally,

Transparency – Lets face it – the best will and technology in the world, may not be able to avert a customer service disaster. The best thing to do in such cases is – basically eat crow. Open your kimono, say you’re sorry, get the ranting raving customer be atleast a sympathetic ranting raving one. After all, most folks realize good intentions and appreciate that if you goof up and own up that u goofed up, a lot is saved!

As for my matinee movie, I read here back in August that we should be able to watch 3D movies without glasses soon – may the day arrive sooner rather than later. Samsung/ Sony – you guys listening?


Facebook Etiquette and Virality

11 Feb


I see these all the time – a photo or link posted by one friend and then another and then another…not “shared” btw, coz these friends don’t know each other – but obviously seen at the main source – and then posted on their own pages.

If I feel something for that photo or link, I “like” or “comment” on it (rarely, i also “share” it). But, that is the FIRST time i catch it on my newsfeed. Then, when the next person uploads it on his/ her timeline, I don’t repeat that action – but each time I do feel a stab of guilt – that friend of mine will never know that I DO like that post! (Afterall, self expression notwithstanding, its true that most of us check facebook multiple times after posting someone to see what reaction we got! – even my 7 year old Achchu, who has taken to posting “restront reviews” – her spelling and “ossum recipes” on my friend Shoma’s website, asks me – hey mom, who “commended” on my recipe?). So, that’s my question on etiquette – should I like again and again and again? if only to keep my conscience clear, if not to make my friends happy?

But see, its interesting – is that piece of content coming again on my timeline because:

a) It is a hugely topical post, and therefore of interest to all? I.e., is this going viral? – ofcourse, “what makes viral” is a whole topic by itself – from “let’s go to Tahrir!” to “Four more years” to gangnam style (on that note, have you seen the latest gangnam style video to hit viral – the sleeping baby one? Hilarious – not so much for the baby’s actions, but for her sister’s reactions! if not, watch here… to the story of the two girls who got their puppy when they got a million likes on facebook (see site) thus prompting many clones..


b) My newsfeed originates from my “friends” who are all “people like me” and hence the same kind of content will appeal to all of them. This is an intriguing and scary idea – coz, networks notwithstanding, many of the folks I know and befriend really really have NO way of knowing each other, and yet they are posting the same stuff. So, 2 concepts arise from here:

b1 – STP – NO NOT the Sanitary Treatment plant for water!!! but “Segmentation Targeting Positioning” – thats what helps marketers cluster like folks similarly and then manufacture stuff to appeal to them – it really is bringing a set of people down to their lowest common multiple and deriving the commonalities amongst them. So, we are all the cluster of the funny stuff likers, the women rights upholders, the music lovers

b2 – Social connectedness, virality and influence. This is the concept on which all social networks are built – but I think Linkedin shows it more than others as that typically is not always friends/ family but professional contacts. This is the stuff of which “influence” algorithms like Klout/ Kred etc made. Its also the science/ art that manufacturers are exploring in a bid to get their messages out – specially in healthcare, where traditional marketing is highly regulated.

Maybe that’s the reason why “influence networks” and “virus” have pictures looking the same!

infnets virus

As Brian Solis said: “Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.”

Celebrities on Twitter – A whole new world of metrics

16 Jan

Today, Amitabh Bachchan had on his facebook page – “FB 88 – The strength that follows me on social media is now 9 million plus .. !!! Ata Boy !! And that is without paying any for it to grow … some pay for numbers to grow .. I would rather wait !!!”

Can you imagine, instead of saying “mere paas maa hai” (ok ok, i know shashi kapoor said it actually not amitabh), he’s now saying “mere paas 90 lakh Social Media fans hain”!! The mind boggles, doesnt it.

Brings me to the whole Social Media Influence scene, which i have been thinking of for a while. At one time, we created discovery and ranking algorithms for this precise animal – “Influence” on Social Media (and called it SMMART). But, as a participant in using Social Media for communication rather than as a data source for research and analytics, my perspective has changed.

So i looked at top people globally with maximum twitter followers. Of the top 10, 8 were entertainers (all musicians actually – and by the way even my musically-challenged-but-thinks-she-is-so-‘with-it’-7-year-old knows all of them), 1 was youtube and 1 was Obama (remember Obama’s winning comment was the most retweeted ever!). Lady Gaga, that badly dressed bad singer/ entertainer – actually has upwards of 33 million followers!!!

A look at similar trends in India showed me the top ten here had – 3 cricketers, 3 entertainers (actors not singers), 3 journalists/ news channels and 1 businessman. There you have it – multidimensional India – Cricket, Bollywood, Politics and Liquor :). The highest, M.S. Dhoni, had under 2 million followers. Amitabh Bachchan actually didnt feature on this list.

In terms of tweeting behavior though, only the news folks had active tweets, and none of them actually “followed” many people – so these were true celebrities or opinion leaders.

But look at Mr. Bachchan’s behavior on Facebook – the guy is almost as loquacious as Ms. Dutt (one of the top followed tweeters in India, a tenured journalist) – he posts almost daily – and does so not only to express himself (as a lot of celebrities are wont to do – “this is me guys, and since you folks will follow and like me whatever i do – i have only to drop a word and you will display groupie behavior 🙂 ) – he actually “engages” with his audience – so, he is using the social media channels not just as means of “self expression” but as means of “communication” – that is actually atypical. This behavior is typically restricted to journalists and opinion leaders/ politicians but not celebrities who are famous because of a skill – actors/ sportspeople. Mr. Bachchan, probably wanting to bridge the gap between opinion leaders and celebrities, (or maybe because he has, however briefly, spent time in politics) displays “engagement”. It’s a refreshing change (and one of the reasons why i do “Like” his facebook page)

Come now to that breed of “high influence” folks on certain topics/ categories – opinion leaders not on general stuff but on niches. These are folks who very very carefully cultivate their followers – they are actively encouraging/ engaging/ retweeting/ DMing/ thanking (which i hate, if its for retweets!) . The internet abounds with do’s and don’ts lists for twitter – from – tweeting multiple times (and the exact time slots you should do it at), the “follow back if you follow me”, the “unfollow automatically after x days” (In most “influence” alogorithms – your follower/ following ratio has a big input), the auto DMs when you follow, the tools for “managing” your social presence – this turns your “art of using Social Media” into a “science”. Many of them, as referred to even by Mr. Bachchan, buy followers – then turning this science into a “trade”!

The question to ponder upon, therefore, is this – do the metrics really make sense? Does celebrity status get measured by twitter followers? The answer is mixed actually – yes and no. As we saw, for celebrities who are already there – their twitter (or other Social Media metrics) are just another evidence of their celebrity status – so, they were celebrities first and “top followed” tweeple later – having said that, since human nature intrinsically recognises goals and works better if it has some milestone to attain – thousands/ hundreds of thousands/ millions of followers are a good digital hallmark of popularity. How highly corelated is this with digital “influence”? Not very highly at all (keep watching this space for thoughts on influence, popularity and all of that).

But, for folks who are using the medium to become celebrities – while you may not act/ sing/ govern/ broadcast/ make liquor or make money, you do have to show “thought leadership” even if it’s on the digital medium – after all, thats why people would even want to follow you – so, without original, exciting, funny content, its really difficult to get folks to follow you. This means, if you don’t want to “buy” followers – i guess you have to do what im doing (the hard way) – write a blog a day, then tweet it, then post it on Facebook…and linkedin…and …and….!!!

Thanks, but No Thanks Please (Social Media Etiquette that doesn’t make sense!)

8 Jan

If you crack a good joke at a party, and a lot of people laugh at it, do you say – “thanks for laughing at my joke”? I certainly hope not!
By the same logic, i see no reason why you should thank someone for “liking” your facebook post or “retweeting” your tweet.

This saying thank you btw appears on 9 out of 10 “do’s” lists of Social Media etiquette! I have been told by folks that i never say thank you for RT – and thats a sure fire way of losing twitter followers!

Sure, both gestures show appreciation for your content. And yes, sure, there should be satisfaction in that – but huge gratitude? NO!
First of all, “likes” and “retweets” are both fairly passive forms of responses – not to take away the kudos due to Messrs Zuckerberg and Dorsey for making responding so easy (this “ease of use” is part of the reason why the platforms are so successful after all). But these mechanisms also have a flip side – the ease of using them perpetrates “respondent laziness”. This passivity basically means – you dont get a sense of what the true driving emotion behind this “like” is — is it agreement/ real liking/ a “call to action”…what?

Its like fulfilling an obligation of responding but not being more vocal about it. In some cases, the obligation is – not so much the appreciation of the content, but loyalty to a friend (she’s my best friend so i must “like” everything she says) or even the “reciprocal effect” (she liked my post so i must like hers, otherwise she wont like my next one…). In many cases “like” expresses JUST that – a “lift of the eyebrow” acknowledgement of quiet wit/ a clever hit/ something that struck a chord. The “like” is the reward for something you already gave the liker — resonance you gave the reader with your post/ a quiet chuckle or a slight nod. The transaction is over! Don’t reopen it (and load more obligations on the other side) by saying thank you!

Ofcourse, to the author, the likes or retweets are important – intact, most of us do check Facebook/ twitter repeatedly after posting something – a picture, a comment, a diatribe, a blog – to see what responses we got. Take this a step further – and you get into the “counting” mode – the metrics game of how many fans/ how many likes — take this a step further again – and you start measuring your klout or kred score as if your life depended on it.

This behavior (of saying thank you) IS acceptable if you are a brand (whether personal, or product/ service) – i.e. when you are in the “selling” mode – after all, then the journey almost becomes the goal — so, getting fans/ followers/ subscribers/ likers/ retweeters – that is the goal – in the quest for the higher authority or “influence” rank.

But for most of us – individuals – we are using social networks as a medium of self expression, and of engaging with like minded people – i would say, if someone posts a comment, or replies to you – Do ALWAYS reply back/ write/ engage in the dialogue. There is nothing more unpardonable and discourteous than letting a comment hang in cyber space. Ofcourse if someone congratulates you on an achievement, express thanks. – but say “thank yew” for a “like”??? NOOOO….

would you agree?