L3: What If’s

Lagrange Point 3 (L3): Exploring “What If” scenarios and flights of fancy

Web 2.0 business service to enhance service delivery

Why social networking (a.k.a. Web 2.0) is well-positioned to proactively improve service delivery

Since 1997, I have held customer service adviser or leadership roles at four companies. A common complaint I have heard (literally hundreds of times as I “…monitored calls for quality assurance purposes”) was that customers wished the company who was providing service to them would simply listen to what they had to say and make improvements in responses. This is simple with a local service (as you can call the owner or drop by). It is hard in a large enterprise as it hard to make it convenient for customers to provide feedback and for the enterprise to determine the feedback with the most relevance or greatest consensus.

Social networking — when designed and positioned correctly — is well structured to make it–

  • Easy for customers to individually give you feedback and advice for improvement
  • Natural for customers to collectively reveal what opinions are highest impacting or most ubiquitous
  • Cost-effective for the enterprise to understand what changes will provide the highest ROI and act accordingly

Social networking solution position for service delivery improvement

(Again, I am following the Problem Statement-Solution Position model to ensure a focus on providing true enterprise value. See my last post for more on this approach)

For enterprises who deliver recurring services (e.g., plans, subscriptions, support) — especially those in markets with a high churn and high costs of customer acquisition

Who want to enhance service delivery, increase customer satisfaction and reduce churn

Service Delivery Improvement Social Collaboration is a transformational social networking business service

That prioritizes unmet customer needs and communicates back the company’s response and resolution

Providing faster, pro-active detection and resolution of high priority problems in service delivery, ultimately leading to higher customer loyalty and reduced churn. (For each one point drop in customer churn the company can realize $x million dollars in increased earnings)

Unlike traditional customer care solutions that respond to customer cancellations (instead of eliciting unmet needs upstream of cancellation) or technology-centric social network widgets that do not focus on efficiently achieving business value

Social networking solution perspective for service delivery improvement

The best way to explain how this Service Delivery Improvement Social Collaboration Business Service would work to outline a sample perspective of how it would fit into a real-world scenario. I like to use mobile phone coverage as it is a problem that has plagued me in many places and caused me to terminate service with many companies:

XYZ is a mobile provider for millions of customers worldwide. Mobile number portability laws have significantly increased churn in a competitive market. Even with service contracts, the cost to acquire each new subscriber is over several hundred dollars.

XYZ uses Social Collaboration to setup the “Tell Us How We Can Serve You” site that enable customers to report service problems and unmet needs. The site will leverage network effects to raise prioritization on issues with the most pervasive concern. This will enable XYZ to prioritize resources and response for the greatest ROI (important in its highly competitive market)

When customers sign up for new mobile contracts with XYZ they are provided literature highlighting how this site provides them a voice to obtain a higher level of support. XYZ can also highlight this competitive advantage in all marketing points of contact (storefronts, web site, commercials, and advertisements).
When customers enter this site they can provide feedback into two areas: 1) what geographic areas need coverage and 2) what geographic areas are having problems. Each of these areas has a similar interaction experience.

Users can view site information without logging in. To add information or comment upon or rate another user’s input the customer would be asked to “log in” using his or her mobile number and voice mail PIN. This is possible by linking site sign-on with voice mail sign-on from XYZ’s database.

When customers enter the “need coverage” area they are invited to enter locations where XYZ needs to provide or improve coverage. Other consumers can use a “me too” comment for this to raise the importance of geographic areas of interest. This will exploit network effects to automatically highlight those geographic areas with the greatest demand for improved coverage—letting XYZ focus its resources on places with the greatest customer need. Linking sign-in to mobile numbers will prevent gaming and assure accurate insight into customer need. A very similar site area can enable customers to report areas where they are experiencing poor coverage (e.g., outages or dropped calls).

Finally, the site contains a section where the CEO or Head of Customer Service can share what he has learned from his customer. This closes the loop by actively demonstrating to customers that they have been heard.

This use of social networking improves overall service in a highly efficient manner. XYZ focuses service attention on those areas that have been reinforced with converging site feedback. XYZ also shows its customers how it is listening to their feedback to improve their experience. Ultimately this increases the ROI of mobile network investments and reduces customer churn.

This type of service can benefit any that company delivers recurring services and is trying to avoid churn. In the private sector, a similar approach could be applied to banks trying to retain checking, savings, or investment accounts. In the public sector, this could applied to help cost-effectively scale services ranging from unemployment assistance to child protection

How far away is this?

This is not very far away. Companies like Dell have take the first steps of reaching out to listen to customers through services like “Idea Storm.” What is needed is more structure around this interaction and collaboration and stronger enterprise integration. I know of a few different technologies (from several companies) that could be coupled together in short order (8-12 weeks) to provide this service.

Web 2.0 business service for ERP program implementation

Why social networking (a.k.a. Web 2.0) is positioned to help ERP implementation

Over the past decade, I have participated on (fully led, particularly led or directly supported) five different Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) programs. These programs have use both of the leading vendors’ technology platforms – SAP and Oracle. Some have been small (budgets of less than $10-million), some large (budgets exceeding $250-million). Regardless of size or vendor, I have often seen that the largest problems that these programs have to overcome are not technological, they are social:

  1. Getting people in the organization to agree to the need of moving the enterprise on a single, integrated platform
  2. Eliciting people to share input into how their organizations, process and technology work (so you can map their business onto the platform)
  3. Vetting what your produced with enough of the organization to ensure it will enable it work more efficiently (i.e., conducting Red Team reviews)
  4. Finding the points of resistance in the organization to using the new system and processes
  5. Enabling the organization to ask questions, share insights and gain understanding as to how to use the new system after it “goes live”

If an ERP program fails to address any one of these problems, the organization will not realize the intended ROI from its program investment. If the program fails to address several of these, the program may very well fail (this leads to those many metrics on the failure rate of large-scale ERP programs).

As these problems are social in nature, Social Networking (a.k.a. Web 2.0 or — truly in this case — Enterprise 2.0 ) is well-positioned to help address them in a cost-effective manner.

Social Networking solution position for ERP implementations

(You will note that I started this discussion by stating an ERP implementation problem that social networking can address. This follows the business service concept I wrote about last month: that the purpose of technology is not to create widget but to enable people to be more effective in what they do for a living – or do everyday to live. Along this line, the first step after identifying a problem is to establish a position for the solution…)

For: Organizations exacting large-impact ERP program

Who: Want to increase the probability or realizing the promised ROI of large-scale ERP efforts (a 1% increase in probability can generate a $x million value on large-scale ERP programs)

ERP Social Collaboration is a transformational social networking business service

That pairs social networking with ERP Blueprinting, Change Management and Hyper-care efforts to elicit employee concerns, ideas and feedback in response to changes driven by the ERP program

Providing more effective business process reengineering (by exposing process gaps before they are enacted) and increased process adoption (by letting employees voice questions and concerns that can be addressed through communications and training)—ultimately leading to faster realization of ERP program ROI

Unlike traditional change management solutions that do not tap into wide scale employee “ground truth” and traditional hyper-care solutions that react to employ feedback after ERP roll-out rather than during ERP blueprinting or realization

Social networking solution perspective for ERP implementations

The best way to explain how this ERP Social Collaboration Business Service would work to outline a sample perspective of how it would fit into a real-world scenario:

XYZ is a global, large-scale enacting a multi-million-dollar ERP program. The ERP program does not simply deliver a new software application but also requires the entire corporation to realign itself around new global processes for management of human capital, order-to-cash, supply chain, accounts receivable, general ledger, etc. In order for XYZ to fully realize the promised ROI of the ERP program, these new processes must not only improve how resources are managed but also be fully adopted by all staff.

XYZ’s ERP Program Office sets up a social network that mirrors the large-scale processes of the program. Each business process work stream (e.g., Order-to-Cash, Supply Chain, Human Capital Management) will have its own community area with the following: the Business Process Owner’s Journal, a Virtual Business Process Workshop, and the Virtual Business Process Town Hall.

The Business Process Owner’s (BPO’s) Journal serves as a platform to communicate key messages to employees. Here, the BPO can share the goals of the work stream along with its timeline and status. After the program has launched (i.e., achieved go-live), the BPO can post success stories and metrics from his or her journal.

The Virtual Business Process Workshop uses social networking to improve process design. From here, the BPO can issues calls-to-action requesting all employees affected by the process change to share knowledge about existing processes, systems, and organizations. This will reduce the risk of missing key activities, interfaces, or standards during the blue printing phase of the program. It will enable employees to comment on each other ideas and additions, using network behaviors to correct mistakes and drive consensus, making future roll-out and adoption more successful. Finally, when blueprinting nears completion, the BPO can issue a second call-to-action to key opinion leaders to offer comments on the process design, essentially driving a Virtual Red Team exercise across the whole company. Again, this will leverage network behaviors to expose process weaknesses and prioritize risks and other areas of concern, making future roll-out and adoption more successful.

The Virtual Business Process Town Hall will become important as the ERP Program Office prepares XYZ for deployment of the new system and program. From here the BPO and Change Management Team can share inspirational and instructional videos and elicit questions, comments and concerns from affected employees. Again, network behaviors will drive the most critical points of resistance to the forefront, allowing the Change Management Team to concentrate resources on the highest area of need. This will also enable the Go-Live Help Desk to pre-populate their knowledge base with answers to the most commonly expected questions.

Integrating this solution with existing enterprise infrastructure allows XYZ to balance targeted outreach with elicitation of candid responses. By integrating with existing company directories, it can enable BPOs to target calls-to-action to the correct audiences and drive response. However, by anonymizing comments and response during Red Team and Town Hall activities, it can expose true risks that employees may be otherwise reluctant to raise.

The use of social networking allows XYZ to move essential change management activities forward from launch to blueprinting in a highly visible, yet controlled manner. This not only elicits information critical to success, it also facilitates greater ownership and adoption by employees throughout the company. Ultimately, this significantly increases the speed and probability of realizing the promised ROI from these large-scale, capital-intensive programs.

How far away is this?

This is not very far away. I know of a few different technologies (from several companies) that could be coupled together in short order (8-12 weeks) to provide this service. Once this is complete, it can be easily integrated in the standard ERP process implementation approaches (e.g., SAP’s ASAP or Oracle Accelerate) or offered on an a la carte basis (as a competitive advantage by ASAP- or Accelerate-certified Implementation Partners).