Don’t let a recall become a social media storm!

With food recalls increasing and averaging one a day over at the FDA website, and a steady trickle of consumer product safety recalls as well, it’s mind boggling that so many CPG companies are handling recall response so poorly.  By poorly, I mean that consumers are not getting quick resolution from official corporate channels such as the corporate website or the consumer care toll free number–but are airing their frustration on Facebook and Twitter. Within 24 hours, the frustration has gone viral and turned into a social media storm.

In many recent cases, a recall has generated so much traffic that jams the phone lines and/or crashes the brand’s website. Sometimes, the website is down, but the social media team is still directing their angry commenters to log a complaint over at the website. It is painful to watch the frustration unfold.

Then, the consumer care team stokes the fire of consumer anger by sending rebate coupons that don’t work at the supermarket

Nicole's Comment

Or don’t line up with the products that the consumers had to toss, or don’t work in the sales channel of choice or the state of residence of the consumer who receives them.

<complaint 4

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Most companies have the means of capturing the product, quantity, state of residence and retailer in their CRM systems. Whether their systems have the capacity to handle the increased load during a recall is another story.

In a food safety situation, lot or batch traceability is critical, and required by domestic and international regulations. Full traceability enables manufacturers to limit the recall to only those production lots with quality issues. The ERP system must provide full forward traceability through the distribution channels, and backward traceability into the supply chain.

Process recall readiness gaps exist in the area of documented processes, roles and responsibilities, and the pre-existence of a disaster response handling project plan/timeline.

If your business faces the threat of a product recall or another similar crisis in consumer confidence, are you really ready to handle it? Take a short self-assessment, and see how you score across the key readiness categories.

The Road to Social Media for Project Communications

yellow_brick_roadRemember when Dorothy arrived in the Land of Oz?

She was faced with a new environment, far different from Kansas, and the change was extraordinary for her. To go home, she was told to follow the Yellow Brick road to the Emerald City. Faced with no way to communicate or even know where she was going except to follow the Yellow Brick road, Dorothy began her journey. Along the way she meets a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion, all with specialized knowledge, to help her along her journey. They stumble along at times, sometimes due to lack of information or unexpected situations, like when the Tin Man needed additional oil to keep his joints from freezing up.

So what does this have to do with project communications? Over the past few years, many social media tools have jockeyed for favor amongst the business community to provide “information” to the masses. But in today’s world, how can you know, as a project manager, what are the best tools for project communication, other than traditional email to send a status report? How do you know that your status report has been read and clearly understood by your Project Sponsor, Stakeholders and your project team?

Are you willing to try something new? Are you willing to travel down the Yellow Brick road and see how social media tools can improve your project communications and reach your Project Sponsor, Stakeholders and project team? Are you willing to let your project team provide updates via social media channels? Are you ready for the Yellow Brick road to something new and exciting, or do you want the Wicked Witch of the West blocking your communication withflying monkeys spreading inaccurate information about the project? Remember your companions on your trip down the Yellow Brick road – the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion? Leverage them to your advantage. They are the brains, heart and courage, and as project champions can enhance your communications across the project’s social media channels and help block the flying monkeys.

With so many social media tools at our fingertips, how do you choose which is best? That decision is up to you, based on your audience and what you want to communicate, but there are many innovative options for collaboration. Many of us use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and there are options to use these tools internally. Additionally, there are tools like Yammer, LinkedIn and SharePoint that allow you to have internal “communities” to get your message out.

But are they secure, you might ask? Of course! Using tools like Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn – they are all secure channels of communication.

So as you begin your journey down the Yellow Brick road with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion, work with your project team and identify the tools you think will provide you the best channels of communication. They may not be perfect out of the gate, but the only way to know is to start and continuously improve your use of the tools through your project. Remember that the Yellow Brick road was fraught with danger – but Dorothy successfully made it to the Emerald City – and you can too.

CRM Will Become Consumer Relationship Management III

cuttlefish camo

Courtesy of Kings of Camouflage
http://www.PBS.org

In the third installment of looking at the evolutionary path of CRM in a social media sea we will continue using an analog of the cuttlefish ( PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage” ). The cuttlefish’s evolution directly links the cells which manage its camouflage on its skin to its brain and it’s eyes, unlike reptilian chameleons. This provides two distinct advantages; speed in matching the surrounding environment to hide and the ability to mesmerize its prey to eat. Both of these are critical for today’s corporations to survive as well.One of the larger issues today is the integration and coordination of social media in the larger sphere of advertising, marketing, public relations, and consumer relations. Too many corporations take a stimulus-response approach to social media; Twitter bad: reply to Twitter on Twitter, Facebook bad: Facebook on Facebook, etc. Great strategy if you are a planeria flatworm. Bad strategy if you are Pepsi taking on Mayor Bloomberg of NYC regarding fat cola drinking children. Much better to respond by taking people’s temperature with Twitter and Facebook, crafting/commissioning some puff pieces with tame media in multiple outlets, turning into commercial sound-bytes for a mass-market TV ad (in this case like Coke), and resample via Twitter and Facebook for people’s response. Rinse and repeat. This is analogous to the cuttlefish tuning its camouflage to where it is heading as it is running, using its eyes and its brain real-time.

It has been reported that Turkey’s AKP is recruiting and training 6,000 social network storm troopers to counter the opposition’s current use of the social media and get the “correct” word out on the street. Major corporations such as Samsung, apparel design houses, and auto manufacturers “sponsor” influential social media personalities (good recent article in the Wall Street Journal) to try product(s), go to events and take pictures of/with their products. All of this to get past people’s highly evolved resistance to classic media. This all needs to be tracked and coordinated in one place, one data store to rule them all CRM (My Precious). It is too easy for any initiative to go awry without command and control driven by good intelligence. There will of necessity be a large number of relationships to coordinate in a campaign structure and CRM has most of the requisite plumbing in place out of the box.

Now if we add automated software to sweep the Social/Internet space queueing: related keyword topics, natural language parsing of blogs/posts, specific individuals or media outlets, Twitter, etc., a new dimension of potential neural intelligence data will be added. Indexing this information to the social matrix in CRM will allow for its rapid intelligent assessment by people who are informed and in the best position to counter with the total collection of media assets, like a cuttlefish evading a predator or mesmerizing prey. This is why we will see CRM at the nexus of this evolution, it is the fastest way to bring all of the data and all of the people together in one place quickly, without the drag or delay of custom developed systems.

CRM Will Become Consumer Relationship Management II

CuttlefishThis piece expands on the preceding cuttlefish analogy loosely taken from a PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage”. Just as cuttlefish were driven to develop intelligence to deal with a challenging ocean environment, so will CRM need to evolve to managing the total consumer relationship to keep the corporation alive in a real-time social web environment. To oversimplify (and irritate all of the product vendors out there), CRM now essentially manages the sales pipeline (i.e. the food supply of the corporation). Of course there are second and third derivative benefits, such as managing sales force statistics and marketing effectiveness, but the prime directive is essentially feeding the primal corporate beast.

This matches the analogy to any cuttlefish, food first (skip reproduction, not something I want to envision for corporations). Second is defense within the ecosystem, as it is best not to be eaten it you want to be successful. Before we can dive into the evolutionary changes that will occur to CRM we need to look at the environmental drivers of natural selection. I will break the topic into three pieces; a loose description of the ecosystem, how typically corporations handle the external ecosystem, and why it matters.

The ecosystem has become much more complex with the advent of the Social Internet, with the resultant time compression of impression dissemination throughout the total consumer population. Combine the increasing number of competitors, regulators, and special interest groups (predators), with an increasingly informed consumer (food); life for a corporation looks as difficult and precarious as in any primeval cuttlefish sea. A plethora of content starved, advertising fed Web sites are an archival repository of free and unedited consumer opinion, comparison, recalls, pictures, demonstrations, and any combination(s) of products and services (real and imagined). Social media provide the neural synapses of communication for all of this (dis)information to consumers, special interest groups, media, and regulators. Time and thoughtful editing have been successfully disintermediated from the environment.

Like a cuttlefish, most corporations swimming in the Web, have a marketing group who may (or may not) perform market research, target customers, and report market direction. Legal, finance, and engineering/development groups usually track regulation and compliance. Public relations will handle corporate communications. Naturally, all of this will be done independently in the organization, essentially in a vacuum. Some efforts will not even have a persistent data repository or memory, and likely none of it will be correlated and indexed for learning and re-use. In fact, the supporting corporate “senses” are rudimentary and essentially manual (endangered species material to say the least).

Why does it matter now, if it has not to date? Because the Web ecosystem itself has changed with the integration of social media. A Twitter or Facebook reference on any SmartPhone can direct customers to a YouTube video of your company’s semi-transparent exercise pants, its signature product. Even better, an ambitious DA has decided to round-up your customers for indecent exposure after “Mothers for Decency” (an advocacy group) cite your product for contributing to the corruption of minors (cash contributions abound for the DA and “Mothers for Decency” from concerned citizens). Federal and State regulators contact your warehouse in LA regarding your violation of garment content labeling laws with respect to importation and distribution. Your successful corporation is now on full display in the Web ecosystem for predators and number one on the endangered species list (cuttlefish extinction event).

As ridiculously contrived as the example is, the potential is obvious and needs to be addressed. Natural selection in the market will force corporations to evolve and the most successful will prosper. I contend the current corporate IT system most apropos to evolve to act as a repository to consolidate and index is CRM. CRM systems are by their nature flexible to extension and for the most part the latest and most up-to-date addition to corporate IT. Ultimately, this environmental information pertains to all levels of customers; past, current, and potential, a true universe of consumers.

Next we will look at some natural extensions and architectures to evolve.

Social Media: Not Just for Sales and Marketing Anymore

chirrupIn the beginning there was social media. And companies scrambled to create  their presence on twitter, facebook, and in the blogosphere, not wanting to be left behind.  Now what? “We need to engage our customers!”   Corporate twitter accounts chirped cheery tweets by the hour, and then Spambots battled spambots.  The corporate social media team thought it was all about push and brand awareness and building loyalty.

Then twitter became the complaint line of  choice. Having a complaint go viral became a great way to feel empowered, boost self esteem and bully the big corporate types. Trolls lurk on corporate facebook pages, co-opting every cheerful post by the corporate social media team with endless repetition of their gripes and calls for boycotts.

NEWSFLASH: Your consumers are not as interested in interacting with your brand via social media as they are gaining more transparency into your business and the products you provide. When they don’t like what they see, taste, hear, smell  or find out about you, they will react brutally and swiftly, enlisting their evil tweeting minions to pile on to their cause–and overnight you will have a viral PR mess to deal with.

Here’s an example of the type of social media threats to your reputation that lie outside your control.  Are you tapped in to monitor this site and any others that might be popping up to negatively influence consumer decision-making?

  • Sourcemap makes supply chains transparent to customers and consumers.  This is good news if you want to differentiate your product because you are committed to ethical sourcing. It will become a headache if you are involved with things like sweatshop labor in the third world. You will need to respond quickly across ALL channels if the word gets out on twitter that your products have negative health or political considerations.

If you don’t believe me,  hop over to twitter and see what brands are under threat of boycott right now. While writing this I see AHAVA, Starbucks, Monsanto, Koch Brothers and of course, BP, and I haven’t even started scrolling yet.

OK, its important to stay on top of this, but not just to address complaints, promote new products, and defend your brand.  The difficulties highlighted above should not deter you from leveraging social media to the fullest.  The really exciting new applications of social media are happening elsewhere in the business:

  • Smart companies are leveraging social media to build more intimate supplier relationships, creating a more level playing field between large and small suppliers.
  • Demand planning teams can and should leverage social media to gain advance insight into changes in consumer demand.  This can radically transform the way clothing manufacturers do their seasonal line planning, for example. Imagine the culture change in an industry that historically hasn’t even been able to track against key KPIs.
  • Social media now drives innovation. The smartest companies are extending internal R&D by crowdsourcing new product ideas and product tweaks.
  • Internal continuous improvement teams are leveraging tools like Yammer to move improvement teams out of the creativity-sapping white board walled meeting rooms and into virtual asynchronous interactions that capture good ideas whenever they occur.

Parting thought:  act quickly but look before you leap!

The very fact that social media has so much to offer to so many functions within the business means that there is danger of creating social media in smokestacks within your business, with each department quickly implementing its own tools to gain insight within a comparatively narrow lens.  Social media tools need to fit within an overall application roadmap that takes into consideration where your ERP and CRM partners are heading, how existing tools integrate with your current applications, and how you can slide and dice the data appropriately to get the insights you need to respond rapidly.

Be Interesting

Internet memes are the next logical step in the evolution of the Internet. I’m sure you’ve seen them. The syphilis of cyberspace, memes are simple yet powerful ideas that propagate the web. Remember any viral online marketing campaigns you’ve seen? Have you ever used “LOL” when you thought something was funny? What about that kid “planking” on a tiger? (Not the best idea, BTW.) Those are all memes.

Image macros are one of the best examples. Consisting of funny, simple text on an photo, image macros are a basic and versatile format for spreading an idea. While they’re mostly used by Gen Yers and internet junkies, the concepts image macros represent are seeping their way into pop culture and society.

But, unless you’re a lazy college senior or an annoying Facebook girl, why should you care? You should care because it’s not the content that matters, but the style and speed in which it was delivered.

Think about it: the image macro hits its target at the most basic level. Brief, effective, bold text. A colorful and catchy picture. A max reading time of three seconds. After awhile, your audience has become used to that aggressive and quick method of thought propagation.

No one cares if you aren’t bold and eye-catching. They’ve lost focus if what you have to say lasts more than two seconds. If you’ve written a wall of text, you’re going to need a TL;DR. In the world of judgement and snap-decisions, you need to embrace the way consumers think, or you risk losing them and their business.

In the spirit of this mentality, I offer to you five of our blogs in “meme” form:

Social Media Slowpoke

“The New Arms Race: Social Customer Care” as Slowpoke
Click Here

Bad Brian Meme

“Will you be able to see the Black Swan?” as Bad Luck Brian
Click Here

ERP Enterprise Resource Planning

“Is ERP Success Really Such a Secret?” as Boromir
Click Here

Tech Duck Polaris

“Microsoft Dynamics CRM Polaris” as Tech Impaired Duck
Click Here

Grumpy Cat

“Why EMR’s Are Not Panacea’s for Healthcare’s Data Problems” as Grumpy Cat
Click Here

CRM Will Become Consumer Relationship Management

CuttlefishI was watching a PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage” about cuttlefish, a close relative of the octopus and squid (yes, everyone has strange ways to relax…), and was struck by the creature’s intelligence and how that intellect had evolved. Being at the top of a family that includes clams and other mollusks would not seem to indicate a source of intelligence (well, given some people I’ve spoken to…), but natural selection has driven the development of intelligence and cutting-edge camouflage to blend with its environment and evade predators. It seems cuttlefish are a great packet of pure protein and at the top of the list for just about every other sea creature from fish to dolphins. This has been the imperative for it to be smart and a chameleon.

At this point you are wondering what does all of this “Wild Kingdom” digression have to do with CRM? Actually, from an analogous point of view, a great deal. If we view the Web and all of its manifestations as the sea and a corporation as the cuttlefish, with CRM as part of its brain and nervous system, the evolutionary comparison is a compelling analogue. In early life, the organism looked inward to its development to organize its cellular organization; however, it quickly had to shift its view externally to survive the environment.

The issue is the same, CRM organizes a company’s sales, marketing, and customer efforts with respect to itself. The Web with search engines, social media, mobile devices, etc. is always on, like the sea. Predators abound in this sea; a consumer with a bad experience, an advocacy group with contributions and grants on the line, government regulators with promotions or political office in mind, competitors looking to take your share and territory, employees, prospective employees, vendors, the list is endless. All of this information needs to be linked and correlated in one place with all of the corporate communications, sales, and marketing resources to ensure a fast and consistent response with tracking and reporting. I believe the best place to evolve that functionality within corporate IT infrastructure is to extend CRM’s nervous system outward.

Unlike IT, natural section rarely evolves competing “smoke stack” organs, it cannot afford to or the organism will be lunch. The rate of change of technology, the Web, and societal change will not allow IT the luxury to create vertical smoke stacks and then consolidate them later. Evolution will have to occur now, in realtime, ready for mobile. CRM would seem to be the best candidate as a starting point.

I intend to add further installments extending both the analogy and the proposed architecture. So kick back, get an order of calamari, and watch the show (PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage,” too).

Yammer or SharePoint 2013 for the Social Enterprise?

In buying Yammer last year, Microsoft pretty much acknowledged that it dropped the ball on social and needed to bring in external reinforcements. Acquiring Yammer also fits well with the new cloud services approach of office 365. The vision according to Microsoft is cloud first. They love the ability to roll out changes and fixes on a faster pace, but mostly, they love the business model.

At the same time SharePoint 2013 includes a much improved set of tools for social collaboration including a brand new activity stream app. So what should you use? Yammer or SharePoint 2013 built in social tools?

Here is the timeline and guidance as provided by Microsoft:

If you are a SharePoint cloud user – go with Yammer. There is a basic integration available now with the promise of single signon in the fall. They also promise updates every 90 days.

If you are an on-premise user (and most companies are since SharePoint 2010 online was not very good..) and moving to SharePoint 2013, the decision is a bit more complicated.

Yammer offers an existing app for SharePoint 2010 that can be integrated in if you are a paying Yammer customer, but nothing yet announced for SharePoint 2013.

So the only option really is to deploy the SharePoint social services unless you are already using Yammer Enterprise and can wait if/until they support 2013.

The longer term roadmap beyond 2014 is cloudy as well. Yammer is a cloud offering and will clearly be tightly integrated into office 365 but as much as Microsoft would like to, not everyone will get on their cloud platform that quickly. In all likelihood, Microsoft will continue to support and even release new version of SharePoint on premise but certain aspects will likely not be improved much and Social seems one of them. Yammer will become a selling point and an incentive to go cloud.

Another interesting point is how will this work for Hybrid Deployments and how migration to the cloud will handle the social data or be able to migrate it into Yammer. We’ll have to wait and see..

For more details see the official blog post from Microsoft and an interesting post on ZDNET on how Microsoft approached social for their internal Intranet, apparently using both models and giving users the choice when creating a collaboration site based on their primary need – document based (SharePoint) or activity stream (Yammer). Now, if only one site could do both..

From Web Analytics to Customer Intelligence

CIWe recently were invited to present internally at a prominent health care payer network about the rapidly changin role and importance of web analytics. Gone are the good old days when it was enough to just run a log analyzer or put a simple tag to collect all the information needed about the interactions a customer has with you. Analysis used to be limited in scope and focus on a handful of parameters that could be optimized, such as bounce rates and conversion rates, by tweaking the checkout flows and usability improvements.

Not that conversion rate optimization is less important today but as customer interactions focus less and less on just the company website, the new critical need is to try and get a coherent picture of general customer behavior across all touch points. Instead of trying to infer customer thoughts and concerns through their clickstreams, many are now openly expressing needs and problems through social media.

This goes beyond “cross channel marketing” into the new area Forrester and others are now calling Customer Intelligence (CI). Similar to the way business data evolved from simple reporting into Business Intelligence (BI), as customer data gets more complex and varied, putting everything together and drawing conclusions and trends from it will need to employ similar methods and tools.

This is primarily a mindset change from the somewhat passive “analytics” to the broader and much more active role of managing and providing customer intelligence.

The expectations from Web Analytics professionals and systems are changing as well from the cyclical analysis and response to the providing of on demand, immediate intelligence for both individual and aggregate customer needs and problems. In some companies this evolved into a real “command center” that has 24/7 monitoring and interaction tools to listen, interact and respond to customer needs.

There are a few challenges that mark this transition:

  • Quantity: The quantity of interaction points is exploding due to social media, online videos and mobile devices.
  • Traceability: It is very hard to identify users across various media. Mapping a web user to a Facebook account or twitter feed is not always possible.
  • Immediacy: There is an overwhelming need and expectation for immediate response.

Here is a conceptual diagram of this new reality illustrating all the new interaction points being consolidated into the central Customer Intelligence and the introduction of the analytical services that can be used to optimize the user experience.

These analytical services can work on both an individual and aggregate level:

  • Individual: If we can aggregate customer data and interactions from different channels, this will dramatically improve segmentation, insight for sales and customer service professionals interacting with the customer, and services that can target offers or content in real time based on user past interest and behavior.
  • Collective intelligence: By looking at customer activity across all channels we can:
    • Optimize targeting through the different channels and our investment in them
    • Improve recommendations
    • Identify trends
    • Identify problems / issues / sentiment changes and address them quickly.

To start implementing Customer Intelligence, the process is now becoming quite similar to implementing a BI solution

  • Expand use of social listening and data capturing tools and store their data
  • Adjust data models to accommodate multiple user identifiers, channels, devices etc.
  • Redefine KPI’s
  • Define and implement analytical services
  • Adjust reporting and analytics
    • Real time
    • Dashboard level

The Web Analytics vendors are starting to step up and offer tools and support for Customer Intelligence. In upcoming posts we’ll look into WebTrends, Omniture, Google and IBM to see how their offerings stack up and the type of solutions they support.

The new Arms Race: Social Customer Care

cusotmer careHow quickly should your company respond to a question or a comment in social media? Unfortunately, many companies I know will respond “Never!”. It is a sentiment we hear a lot that most of the online complaints are from a handful of trouble makers and response will only make it worse.

Well, sorry guys but customers now expect quick and effective response to social media and companies that are not gearing up to meet these expectations will be left far behind.

A recent survey done by Social Habit found that 32% expect a response in less than 30 minutes, and a total of 42% expect a response within the hour. 24/7. How are major brands doing in their social response times? Social Media Influence has a great infographic that shows some brands social activity and response times. Wal-Mart responds in an hour and a half but to only 7% on inquiries while Target responds in 2:48 hours to 85%.

It seems like this is a new arms race and everyone expects these response times to go down and/or requests addressed to go up. Like all social media activity, the consumers and big brands lead the way but once the expectation is there, smaller brands and B2B companies will  be expected to meet these new standards or risk a customer satisfaction issue.

This is especially important for companies that see Service as their competitive advantage, like agent based insurance companies, services companies and luxury brands.

A few guidelines for effective social customer care:

  • Listen! Effective listening and feeding of social inquiries to the customer care team is a must. Even if you choose not to respond, knowing what is said in a timely manner is critical
  • Connect the social listening and response management to your CRM. A large portion of complaints is related to recent purchases or an attempt to contact customer care in other ways that did not get results. CRM systems need to include a place for other identifiers for customer in addition to email and phone number. Facebook name, Twitter Handle etc. need to be part of the user profile. A social inquiry needs to be seen in context and the activity recorded for future interactions. This level of social customer intelligence is going to differentiate companies that do it right.
  • Direct service activities to a separate channel. To avoid cluttering the main FB and Twitter feeds with customer issues, create a special account for it and clearly set expectations as to when it is active. A great example is what the Microsoft XBOX team did on http://twitter.com/xboxsupport

  • Set internal standards for response times and integrate these metrics into the overall customer care KPI’s.

For other examples of brands doing it right see this great post. HBR also has an interesting, more structural post on the topic.