Tag Archives: service delivery

Social Networks for Business Tip #10: Connect All The Dots

I have found ten common tips that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using. This is my last tip in this series of 10 posts; each with a particular theme. These intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…


Don’t Leave Your Community Detached

red_net_fAs I stated on the first post in this series, you business community is one of many channels within which you will interact with your customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders. If you do not recognize this fact and simply create a standalone community, you will only create a place where your stakeholders socialize. While this is nice, it will not create a large return on your investment (more often than not, it will not provide any return).

If you want to maximize the return on investment in your business community, you need to embed it into the your entire enterprise.

Start With Your Core

I am a big fan of modular architecture. This model advocates that you can achieve the better results, in a more flexible manner, by picking the best technology for each problem on hand instead of trying to find one perfect system that does everything.

I recommend starting with the following core of three modules to build a “best of breed” architecture ideally positioned to exploit value from your business community:


Module 1 is Your Business Community. Its purpose is to serve as channel to attract customer interest and drive engagement. It is essentially a virtual storefront to capture the ideas, preferences and experiences of your customers in a measurable, data-driven format.

Module 2 is Your Data Warehouse. The Data Warehouse extracts the wealth of interaction and engagement from your business community and merges it with all of your other business data (e.g., customer lists, sales, supply chain data, etc.) in a format ideal for business analysis. This enables you to detect patterns and make discoveries from your community that you can use to create value.

Module 3 is Your Primary Back Office Management System. Depending on you business this could be an enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), sales force automation (SFA), billing and merchandising (B&M) or even content management systems (CMS). This is where you automate your data warehouse discoveries in the format of rules for advertising, promotions, offers, sales, customer care, shipping, billing and credit.

Note: For more information, you can click here to listen to my online Webinar on Social CRM (link no longer active) for more information as to about why this modular architecture model is better than trying do everything from a single, all-in-one platform.

Then Build Out to the Rest of Your Enterprise

Now that you have your business community integrated into your core, you easily add on every other part of your enterprise to leverage even more value from the discoveries you are making by engaging with your community members. In many cases, the much of your enterprise is already integrated with your primary back office system and data warehouse, making this extension far less daunting than it initially appears.

Here is how it works:


  1. You put a Fan Page up on Facebook and a User Name up on Twitter to attract customers
  2. Through these mainstream consumer networks, you redirect customers to your business community
  3. Customers can view what you have to offer here freely, maximizing the number of Spectators you have
  4. When Spectators want to add to the community, they can easily become Joiners (and log in) by re-using their Facebook or Twitter IDs. All of their actions as Critics and Creators of content are automatically attributed to these accounts (which already have established contact and profile information)
  5. All of this (Critic and Creator) interaction is pulled into your data warehouse and joined with the rest of your enterprise data
  6. Your Marketing and Business Analysts mine this data and find new opportunities to present better offers, package better products or simply explain what you do (and its benefit) in clearer terms
  7. They work with your Business System teams to publish these findings in the forms of rules and workflows in your ERP, CRM, SFA , B&M and CM systems
  8. These new rules and workflows automatically drive changes in your Static Web Site, Business Community, Direct Response Campaigns, Contact Centers and Sales force
  9. You can capture customer feedback through all of these channels and combined it in you data warehouse with results from the your ERP, CRM, SFA and B&M systems to measure the value you have created

This creates an entire system that facilitates continuous improvement, generating over time growing understanding of your customers, employees and partners and using this to create growing value and ROI.

Smart Enterprises Have Already Shown How This Creates Enormous Returns

Tying all this together is not some imaginary view of success. Many smart enterprises have already down this. Three are highlighted below:

Dell’s IdeaStorm

Dell tied a set of open communities to their every aspect of their operation. This has generating ideas for new products and product configurations, improved customer satisfaction and increased online sales.


Men’s Health

Rodale  has fully embedded their Belly Off Community into their online content and print magazine. This has boosted online advertising revenue, increased customer loyalty and boosted magazine sales.


American Express OPEN Forum

American Express has tied their new OPEN Forum community into core entire enterprise and advertising network (even including affiliate marketing programs such as their join Shine-A-Light campaign with NBC Universal). This has created a clear value proposition for their customers leading to everything from increased card transactions to added OPEN card applications.


You Can Do This Too

This entire blog series lays out the steps to do this. If you follow it, you too can create effective communities that drive business value.

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.