Brands, Businesses, People Don’t Get Social Media Because It Gets Them

Some brands, businesses, people not only love Social Media but they thrive in it and others sayI-socialmedia-ondemand they don’t get it or they don’t have time for it. The ones that thrive in Social media, enjoy and leverage the reach it gives whereas the ones that don’t get it, hate others’ reach into their space.

Space, focus and role are 3 critical parameters that can help companies get Social media

1.    Space: Social media is seamless, don’t create borders:

The Social media concept of openness, collaboration with a wide range of people is not staying outside the organisation, it has already reached inside few organisations, in the name of Enterprise Social networking tools such as SAP Jam, Yammer etc. These web based platforms help employees collaborate with each other across the enterprise, breaking all barriers, silos. According to ‘Research and Markets’ the Global Enterprise Social Networking Software market to grow at a CAGR of 51.94 percent over the period 2012-2016

Coca-cola: On New Year’s day 2010, three ambassadors in their 20’s set out on their Expedition 206 campaign and achieved the strongest global marketing integration ever. They visited 206 countries over 365 days to ‘generate happiness’ and published it on social networks. This enabled 3500 coca-cola marketers around the world to leverage and run local programs.

2.    Focus: Social media is timeless, don’t be short-sighted:

Issue is – Social media is the new email and much more! Think about building a brand, running a business, leading people and all this without using email -hard? Social media just made it harder or easier, depending on your position and intent. Social media programs cannot only be about interactions, it’s also about business and brand direction, validation and continuous value creation.

Companies such as coca cola turned their corporate webpage into a digital magazine with opinions, infographics, stories by people, thereby opening up their organisational boundaries on website to co-create content and customer programs.

3.    Role: Social media team members are your future customer behavior strategists, don’t make them work in isolation:

Frank Herbert once said ‘Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken’. And Social media does precisely this; it awakens the company-customer ecosystem.

With the rise of Customer Experience Management, current social media team members can play a key role in customer behaviour programs. The experience of mobilising and leveraging masses outside and inside the company gives an edge to the social media team in terms of picking up new trends across opportunities, sale, service and customer satisfaction.

Culture has emerged as a core competitive differentiator as it has a multiplier effect in effectiveness and efficiency in todays’ socially connected world.  Companies that are really old fashioned with a command and control mindset can be exposed by aggressive campaigns from competitors, customers, arbitrators. And when such members get the companies, it’s difficult for companies to come up with a plan when they are in a panic mode.

Get social media, before it gets you – when it’s inevitable, why evade.

Follow @Ramesh_Ramki on Twitter, on Linkedin or Google+

Blog: When It Comes To Business Models, Retro Is The Future #Marketing #Business #Startup

Over centuries and decades, technological progress either built new businesses models or buried few. Earlier, starting a business meant high entry barriers and slow rate of change, now the market is becoming a level playing field and rate of change is very high.

Traditional enterprise models approached the market through cycles of forecast, production, sales, delivery, customer service and companies had some time to go through these steps as the major communication was between the company and its customers in a one to one or one to few basis.

Such models are facing a threat from the digital disruption due to tablet, smartphone proliferation as they snow-ball the interactions amongst customers, and companies are getting sidelined as they are unable to ‘sense’ and ‘serve’ the needs in time.

Walmart & Amazon –

Let’s take an example – 50 plus year old Walmart, the largest retailer in the world with an online sales forecast for this year as 2% of its overall annual sales ($450Bn).  Amazon, a 19 year old e-commerce company, the biggest online retailer in the world, reported $61.1 Bn annual sales last year, which is approximately 7 times Walmart’s online forecast for this year. Facing increased competition from online retailers, Walmart uses delivery firms FedEx and also its own same-day delivery service called Walmart-To-Go.

Acknowledging the cost, scale-up and management issues with this model, Walmart is now toying with the idea of crowd-sourcing home delivery – the company is inviting in-store customers to deliver packages to others who made online purchases. Though there could be legal and customer satisfaction obstacles, with the crowd-sourced delivery members requiring personal liability insurance and sometimes delivery delays affecting the quality of some goods etc., it might be a step in the right direction to test and find a workable solution by leveraging the customer-to-customer ecosystem.

Community delivers again:

Prior to the days of large scale retail companies, when local shops were more prevalent people used to easily buy goods and those who couldn’t go to the shops due to time constraints or health issues would ask their neighbours, friends, family to buy/deliver the goods for them. Now with large stores being centralised in towns and with packed weekdays and other reasons, the whole concept of such community delivery has disappeared.

For today’s large and medium retail companies that have a growing home delivery customer market, having in-house employees and logistics partners to fulfil the opportunity may not be effective in the long run, hence companies have to go retro and leverage the old practices – community delivery.

Brand evolution is back:

Before the advent of modern branding, the (brand) promise would evolve from the products/services experience and marketing was more interactive (in-person), this was possible when the shop was local, it was a small customer group and there was a community connection.

Today, with the ‘web of voices’ brand managers are slowly losing control over the messages which are moving to the hands of the customer’s – back to how it was in the local shop situation. Brand managers are moving towards becoming enablers and aggregators of customers’ emotional perception and product messages.

Word of mouth transforms into web of voices:

Word of mouth was and is a very strong influencer and local community shops have a direct connection with their customers, hence pay attention to customer voice to immediately fix issues. Despite various efforts the large, centralised retail companies over years have somehow lost that direct touch of being in-sync with their customers’ voice.

Again technology, social networking and crowd-sourcing delivery can help large retailers to form local (and virtual) customer communities to get back to the starting-point of customer satisfaction – Know your customer. Web of voices is both offline and online.

The power of precision marketing:

In a local shop scenario because the shop owner knows the customer so well, they can make tailored offers only for that customer and they’d know whether they accept or reject it and the reasons. Also if they had stock imbalances they’d make a good deal for few customers and cut their losses. In the centralised model marketers run many campaigns, sometimes the advert shows up in the wrong time ( say 7 months before a car insurance renewal) or the coupons given are either irrelevant or people forget to bring it along to claim.

Similar to the local shop scenario, when a customer enters a retail store – by linking loyalty programs, shopping data, social to the power of mobile using geo-fencing, systems can configure relevant offers, present the offers when the customer is in a particular aisle and is using in-store mobile app to locate the products. Usage of mobile during check-out then shows the marketer the difference between the offers made and offers accepted, so that next time it’s more relevant (leveraging data just like in programmatic buying in the advertising industry).

Taking cues from the retro models, today’s marketers and businesses can re-start customer experience in four steps:

  1. Leverage customer community: Some customers tend to know more about a company’s strengths and weaknesses than some of the employees; companies need to listen more, tweak their approach and customers can contribute towards building or re-building the company when it is a win-win scenario. The early days of experimenting with social media programs are over; the focus now is not only about fans and followers but also about customers and advocates
  2. Leverage employee community: Just like the employees in a local shop, corporate employees tend to have rich information through various sources and can amplify, arbitrate messages within their spheres of influence (communities); with a strong internal program, marketers can leverage ‘web of positive voices’. Best buy trained 2500 tweeting employees to respond to simple customer queries online. In today’s fast and connected world, when there is a delay, a simple problem that quickly gets precipitated leads to negative customer experience despite best efforts by customer services agents.
  3. Think and act like a start-up: Successful start-ups continuously seek information and ‘external’ validation from their customers and do course-correction in order to start-up, stay relevant and grow. Unfortunately, large enterprises sometimes can slow-down due to various reasons including employees seeking information and validation in order to stay relevant ‘internally’ and grow within the organisation. George Foreman, Founder of Kodak, picked a new service on two occasions even though it cannibalized existing services but successive CEO’s didn’t.
  4. Do what you say and say what you do: In the age of ‘web of voices’, if you (businesses and marketers) don’t follow this simple rule, your customers (and communities) will say what you do, which might go viral, and your competitor might just do what you say, which might put you on the defensive. Imagine how life in the community would be for the local shop owner if there is a big gap between the brand promise and the product/service experience by customers.

Keen to hear your views. Follow me on Twitter @Ramesh_Ramki

My Blog: Programmatic Buying And Its Impact On Marketing

Programmatic Buying

Programmatic Buying And Its Impact On MarketingThe future is bright, loud and fast! We know that the global audience is spending more time connected to digital media, hyper-communicating their likes, dislikes leading to too much information.

With media buyers now moving their budgets to new areas such as display, standard pre-roll etc, media buying is increasingly happening in an automated fashion through digital platforms (eg. exchanges, trading desks, DSPs), replacing traditional routes of RFPs, negotiations, insertion orders.

In today’s SoLoMo(social-local-mobile) context and emergence of interactive media, data is gold as it’s associated with audience, ad delivery, commerce and must be available in near real-time to enable dynamically informed buying decisions, this means for large scale operations In-memory computing, Big data analytics, Cloud can make a significant difference.

Positive digital interactions with customers, prospects can propel company growth and this brings the focus onto four major parameters such as ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment), Data compliance & Analytics, Technology advancement, Company culture (shown in the diagram ) that can influence the maturity of Programmatic buying (PB). Here is some background reading on Programmatic advertising.

Impact of programmatic buying on marketing operations and Media holding company model

Marketing operations will become more efficient and can build a strong foundation based on metrics, best practices for campaign optimization, funds (forecast, reconcile and reallocate), performance reporting. There is a good chance of better campaign ROI not only because of media performance or better targeting but also because of the price squeeze, man power reduction due to better tools. Positive experience and results from the digital media will, overtime, influence marketing operations team to increase their expectations from traditional marketing channels.

Large media holding companies have been buying-out leading digital media agencies to keep up with the trend of budgets swinging towards the digital wave. With increasing transparencies and a shorter value chain, a considerable portion of the media industry is set to become a high-volume, low-margin business model (similar to supermarkets) with pricing models moving towards ROI basis instead of activity based pricing.

Customers could end up expecting similar transparencies, ROI in traditional media channels. Also with better customer platforms (DSPs), this industry will witness something (rollback buying etc in-house) similar to what happened to the publishing industry in the 80’s when desktop publishing came, lot of publishing was rolled back in-house.

Positives and negatives of programmatic buying for marketing organizations and CIO’s

Positives

Programmatic buying increases the effectiveness, efficiencies of marketing organizations and increases the probability of bringing the right message to the right audience at the right time.  Today’s CMOs and CIOs have a vital role to play as enablers by leveraging integrated customer information to make consistent customer interactions across channels a reality. Similar to MDM, CDI (Customer data Integration) projects, programmatic buying could trigger data integration across first, second, third party online and offline sources in a unified manner.

Negatives

Targeting precision, ad relevance can bring a creepy feeling to customers who think they are being followed and publishers are trying to keep premium inventory in private exchanges to protect margins and brand. Non-compliance of cookie legislation could attract a penalties (this of course is evolving globally with governments getting involved) and lawsuits, giving more problems for the CIOs and their legal colleagues which could in turn slowdown data integration projects.

In case you are interested to have an overview of the Programmatic buying landscape , here it is:

Functionality and trend Benefits
Supply Side Platform (SSP) – enables publishers
  • Options across proprietary optimization algorithms (Admel) vs manual or own optimization technology (ApNexus)-
  • Increasing breadth across ad format acceptance( from basic banner formats to mobile)-
  • New features such as private exchange, variable price floor controls, anonymous participation, advertiser-level bid reporting, audience data management
  • Better packaging, positioning of media to buyers-
  • Increased monetization, operational efficiencies, multi-channel optimization-
  • Gives better control and protection to publishers worried about premium inventory or brand association with certain advertisers.
Ad exchanges – facilitates bidded buying/selling connecting multiple ad networks
  • Self-service, backend platforms enables log-in, set-up, manage campaigns, run analytics and optimize without even talking to a sales person-
  • Verification systems validate and stop an ad loading if content is not as per advertisers preference( avoid violent, competitor content etc)-
  • Some allow buyers, sellers to participate, some allow only ad networks-
  • Advertisers have visibility on the site, ad unit and publishers have visibility on which advertisers are buying their inventory and what they are willing to pay-
  • Some exchanges allow floor price settings, offering a risk free proposition for publishers ( ad networks don’t tend to offer this)
  • Encourages competition and drives up ad space price per impression, as each impression is valued-
  • Ad exchanges are different from ad networks that often sell at a lower eCPM to close high volume sales or may not be in a position to quantitatively compare different ad buy offers.-
  • Visibility for publishers help them control what advertisers and creative’s they want to encourage on their sites.-
  • Few intermediaries in the value chain offer ad budget savings
Demand Side Platform (DSP) – enables buyers
  • Advancements in expertise across algorithmic optimization, knowledge of audience management, breadth of media access, unified campaign tracking and reporting-
  • Leading vendors have more than 50% of the impression volume RTB enabled.
  • Buyers prefer a single platform  that is operationally efficient to access, manage and report inventory supply and campaigns across display, mobile and video
Real-time bidding (RTB) – enables real-time selling/buying one ad impression at a time
  • 2009 onwards, ad exchanges and SSP’s announced RTB support bringing a surge in activity from DSP’s, ad networks, agency trading desks and other media intermediaries.-
  • The EU cookie directive which came into effect in May 2011 can bring some challenges to data collection, usage and in turn affect RTB growth.
  • RTB’s have cut inefficiencies in the media buying process, offers de-duplicated reach and can cap the number of impressions that audiences would see in a particular campaign-
  • RTB is an efficient way to buy impressions in real time, having an engine that calculates real time prices can really transform results for advertisers.
Data management platform (DMP) – the audience intelligence engine
  • DMP creates a single view of the user by aggregating data across first, second, third party online and offline sources in a unified manner, including segmenting and tagging.-
  • Leading organizations are building rich user information as a differentiator in an increasingly crowded online advertising area
  • Interactive marketers now have an opportunity to leverage DMPs and run audience based marketing campaigns more effectively than ever before, however, for DMP initiatives, the time and effort required to pull various departments together, such as IT, legal, CRM cannot be underestimated.

 You can follow me on Twitter @Ramesh_Ramki

Social CRM Transformation And The Path Ahead

The early days of experimenting with social media programs are over; the focus now is not only about fans and followers but also about customers and advocates. Leading companies are now embracing Social CRM to leverage social media and not only gain customer insight but to also gain market insight, increase sales, improve cross-selling/up-selling, improve pre/post sale customer experience and carry out  strategy, operations course correction, build trust,  to name a few.

A starting point in the Social CRM journey is to get the social media basics right – the ‘Monitoring andEngagement platform’, but if a company is struggling to make this work, it might make very little progress across the points mentioned above.

Social CRM programs have more to do with the intent of the company; the openness of its employees to agree when there is a problem and leverage internal information, processes to engage with the customer instead of turning a blind eye or blaming different departments. To understand the impact of the monitoring and engagement platform as mentioned above, let’s go through an example.

Nestle – On March 17th 2010, Greenpeace posted a video on youtube showing an office worker finding a bloody finger of an orang-utan in his kit-kat (The background was, Nestle bought palm oil for the Kitkat candy bars and other products from a local vendor in Indonesia that had allegedly cleared rain forests to establish palm plantations, which affects oragutans.) On the same day, Nestle managed to remove the video citing copyright infringement.

On March 18th, Greenpeace hosted the video on Vimeo generating about 80,000 in the first hour, on the same day Nestle’s facebook received negative comments and the community manager engaged in a vicious argument. March 19th, Nestle’s facebook response goes into mainstream media as ‘anti-social’.

March 20th, Greenpeace uses Google ad words to drive traffic to their site and encourages people to share the orang-utan video on their social networks. March 21st, Nestle shares the original orang-utan video on youtube, 180,000 views! March 22nd, Nestle issues a press release about suspension of sourcing with the vendor in question.

Nestle then starts discussions with Greenpeace, joined a roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil and has a team that monitors social sentiments regularly. Nestle now has moved from Global RepTrakTM(a Global Reputation pulse score) of 20 in 2010 to 10 in 2013.

Marketing is going through a transformation and for Social CRM to work, the idea behind integrating social media deep into the company has to be understood by employees; customer service is no longer a front line issue only. Employees and departments need come together to serve the customers, as delays and poor engagement due to internal hurdles will only exasperate the problem externally.  It’s not only an organisational culture transformation but is also about revisiting goals and the ways in which relevant roles should be performed in future. Here are 5 steps:

1.) Instill a sense of urgency, importance, and empathy

Social networking being 24/7, customers have a sense of urgency or expectation for an immediate or real-time response. Also emotional and sentimental aspects of customers or influencers (ie Nestle example above) need to be taken into consideration, whilst setting up the ‘Working group’ for Social CRM.

Depending upon the organisations internal collaboration mechanisms, a rapid action team can initially support the social CRM team (till a Centre of Excellence takes shape), through internal co-ordination, when sensitive issues go viral. It is important for the social media team and other employees to also think about what their own expectations would be if they were in the position of a customer, prospect or influencer in touch with them.

2.) Select the right Social media product and partner for flexibility and integration with enterprise processes

This industry has grown at such a pace that today there are many sub-categories; some companies are trying to be end-to-end players by taking an organic, inorganic route or both, leading to important integration decisions and intense competition. Here are 5 major categories,

Social Monitoring (listening) – Lithium, Radian 6 etc

Social Engagement (conversation) – Sprinklr, Spredfast etc

Social media marketing (media management) – Buddymedia, Shoutlet etc

Social analytics (measuring) – Simply measured, Adobe/Omniture etc

Social Influencer (level of influence of participants) – Klout, Kred etc.

Here is a more detailed landscape of social media software which of course is evolving.

3.) Company culture that promotes better customer experience through continuous learning

Companies that tend to control communications need to realise that in social media it’s the customer who is controlling the conversation, so companies need to engage not manage, if handled badly it could go viral.

Solving issues require managerial support, corporate will to acknowledge that the elephant is in the room, and to find a solution together. Sharing both success and failures internally will promote an atmosphere of encouragement and collaboration to repeat successes and learn from failures.

The negatives and the positives from social media programs should be used to improve the performance and effectiveness of members within the company, not to use it to blame or show a department or team in poor light

4.) Governance to make it work

A critical step in enterprise wide corporate initiatives touching customer, influencer communities is to start with a clear communication on expectations, execution and measuring mechanisms. Best Buys, execution mechanism has a matrix model for Social CRM which is similar to the IT industry, where horizontal initiatives (such as various technologies, services) cut across verticals (industry functions).

In this model, Best Buy has formed a Centre of Excellence with members representing different departments or programs. The corporate guidelines are owned by the Community team, whereas each group manages its own initiative but works under a common strategy. Overtime this has improved internal knowledge sharing, networking and morale across the company.

5.)  Design KPI’s by looking into the holistic customer experience

The pace and transparency of social media networking will expose broken or inefficient processes due to KPI gaps between departments.

Imagine you are discussing about alternative cable tv providers with a friend on facebook, then you get a cable TV advert and using their site you locate a sales stall in a nearby mall. When you visit the stall, the sales person whose KPI is to secure signed service order forms talks to you and gets you to sign the form with some basic details. Because the sales person is typically measured based on number of signings and not on the installation customer experience, he is not incentivised to correctly record all relevant information from the customer that would help the technical team. Installation problems due to technical teams lack of customer information which was already discussed with the sales person leads to re-scheduling, delays and a bad customer experience.

KPI’s should be built based on the overall customer experience standpoint, the impact of each role on Customer experience and seamless handover across roles instead of a fragmented one.

You can follow me @Ramesh_Ramki

Social Networking Could Have Saved Kodak

Social Networking Could Have Saved Kodak

By Ramesh Ramakrishnan, Published on Business Innovation from SAP on May 17, 2013

Thanks to social networking, the recent past witnessed hyper-communication in most of the fields with different ideas and views flowing through. We know that there are benefits of two-way or multi-way communications where an idea, strategy, thought could be looked at from various angles to either build it or sometimes bury it! Whilst crowd-sourcing is a step in the right direction, is it enough? Let’s step back in time – 1970’s and look at a particular company and the importance of culture in addition to communication.

Let’s look at what happened to Kodak or more importantly what did not happen inside Kodak. When Steve Sasson, the Kodak engineer who invented the first digital camera in 1975, shared his idea with Kodak management:

But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was,’ that’s cute—but don’t tell anyone about it’.( source New York Times 2/May/2008)

So did the management fail to see the new trend or did the thought of cannibalizing their revenue streams blind them – perhaps both.

For the next 3 decades, the management was in denial about the emergence of this digital trend. While the founder of Kodak, George Foreman managed to embrace a new trend at the right time twice (once when he turned down profitable dry-plate business to move to film and then when he invested in color film even when their black and white business was doing well), the successive CEO’s managed to stay on the same old trend and failed consistently.

The next failure, in 1996, was its $500Mn project Advantix preview film and camera system (this was 10 years after developing its first mega pixel camera). The Advantix preview would allow the users to preview their shots and select the number of picture prints required and this was possible because it was a digital camera (Source Forbes 18/Jan/2012) . The major cause for failure was the introduction of film into a digital camera just because Kodak was in that business!! Would you really buy a digital camera and still pay for film and prints?

So what’s the root cause – Management stopped ‘listening’ thereby didn’t see the impact of the chinks in their armor then went on to refuse embracing the new trend, even worse,  they spent millions of dollars on research to force fit an old trend (films) onto a new trend (digital) using Advantix preview. If Kodak had a two or multi-way communication mechanism ( like social networking today)set-up in 1970’s, 1980’s and marketing-employee relations and other stakeholders picked up on the pro and anti ‘digital trend’ views, and made a futurist decision perhaps Kodak would be bustling with growth today

To look at the issue, let’s draw an analogy between a company and a person. Companies tend to behave like people; in addition to other qualities successful companies and people tend to have a right balance between conviction and self-awareness. For an organisation to start a journey of building this balance, the following 3 aspects are critical

1.)  Multi- way communication (social networking is just one platform) with all stakeholders (customers, employees, prospects, analysts, investors.) can be very helpful provided companies actively listen more and say less. Social media technology including employee collaboration tools can empower R&D, sales/marketing and other department members in order to make the wider internal community notice the importance of a new trend.

2.) Marketing/Employee relations to work 2 in a box to understand employees’ views on company’s products, services, new trends, challenges in addition to traditional employee relations work.Customer Experience is no longer a front line issue only; it has to be an enterprise wide philosophy.

3.) Management/Leadership culture that is keen to listen to the findings of Marketing and other departments. Conviction and Self-awareness need to go hand-in hand. Management with too much conviction and very little self-awareness will lead to a Kodak moment, too much self-awareness and very little conviction is a non-starter.

Back to the issue of whether social networking could have saved Kodak?  Maybe, it would have created more awareness in order to embrace the new digital trend or a tleast generated some noise which would have received some more attention and over time the management would have become a bit more self-aware. Social networking can help with awareness; adoption has to come from within, where culture also plays a role. More so now than ever, for a company with competency and resources to be successful, management needs to get their employees behind their strategy and drive the company forward. This does not mean building a strategy in isolation and hard selling to the employees and customers to get their support or this does not mean trying to find a democratic strategy – this means continuously running programs to socialize ideas and to listen to the views, solutions that emerge and/or to listen and pick up new ideas and monetize them.

Today, leading companies evaluating/implementing various customer impact systems such as CEM (Customer Experience Management), Social CRM etc are backing it up with Big data analytics, In-memory computing and leveraging Cloud’s elasticity. Long term players are teaming-up with the right partners in order to stay relevant; the future is exciting provided you are equipped for it.

Would be keen to listen to your views and experience!

You can follow me on Twitter @Ramesh_Ramki

5 Steps To Success On The Customer Experience Management Journey

Published in Business Innovation from SAP on April 26th 

The Customer Experience Management Journey

In the business world, we often hear the expression ‘People buy from people’ which is fine; however, in today’s real world with too much information and too many choices perhaps the more appropriate expression should be ‘People buy from predictable preferences’.

Though Customer Experience Management (CEM) systems and programs are still evolving, knowing individual customer preferences could be a differentiator based on buying patternsbig data analytics or from within customers’ spheres of influence (personal, professional community). These day’s customers expect companies to offer a list of customer preferences in order to reduce the buying cycle time and increase the overall value.

Business Journey

I’m reminded of Malcom Gladwell’s TED speech in 2004 about choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce. In the 1970’s Pepsi approached Dr. Howard Metzenbaum to find out the optimum mix of aspartame between 8 and 12 % to make the best Pepsi. After conducting a nation-wide study, Dr. Metzenbaum concluded that there is no perfect Pepsi, but we can have perfect Pepsis. So they concluded that instead of looking for one choice, they should look for many choices. Campbell soup and many other companies followed this route and today we have so many variations which are overwhelming to say the least.

Systems Journey

In order to look into CEM, let’s have a quick look into the CRM journey. During the 70’s when companies shifted from being ‘Product centric’ to ‘Customer centric’, it was a breath of fresh air and overtime other companies started to follow. In the 70’s (ecommerce emergence) and 80’s (database marketing) the talk about CRM systems emerged and we had proper CRM systems in the 90’s. Despite the effort and investment in CRM systems, the programs were more employee (customer service, campaigns, marketing etc) efficiency and control based rather than customer relationship improvement based.

With an increasing number of channels and the need for consistent experience, early 2000 onwards we have been hearing about ‘Customer Experience’ systems, which is still evolving.  The journey from CRM to CEM, though still within the customer centric domain, marks a significant shift from an internally focused to externally focused solution to offer better customer experiences. Being internally focused gave more time for companies to adopt and evolve, but in the CEM era, companies don’t have the same amount of time – they have to play catch-up if they are slow in adoption.

The balance is between great customer experience that drives loyalty and ‘relevant preference’ that will drive commerce. Here are 5 steps to get the best out of CEM initiatives.

1.) Build seamless interactions both external and internal:

Customers are expecting seamless interactions across traditional channels such as in-store, call-center, online and new channels such as mobile and social. Though technology can play a role in enabling this, employee (internal) based seamless interactions can really transform customer (external) based seamless interactions. While connected channels through CEM give a unified customer experience; social collaboration applications such as Succesfactor, Chatter, Yammer can also help iron out counterproductive KPI’s, policy issues.

2.) Deliver consistent value and experience across channels:

Consistent experience across channels due to end-to-end processes, functionality rich channel systems, decentralisation to harness channel incubation, management commitment offers a chance for customers to build trust.  Customer experience is not only a front line issue; recently I attended a digital marketing webinar from Ducati hosted by Infosys, Ducati mentioned that it set-up a web channel in Jan 2000 and sold more than 2000 bikes in one week! To use web as a primary channel 13 years ago and offer consistent offline-online experience shows the level of commitment, agility across the company, benefits of IT partnership models ( outsourced vs central IT) and the functionality richness to make it happen. Flexible and functionality rich solutions across fast moving channels such as social, mobile will help companies deliver consistently in a fast paced environment.

3.) Offer relevant preferences using real-time or just-in-time approaches:

Connecting the customer transaction data, front line interaction information and non-enterprise data such as social, mobile can help companies to understand the current and future needs of the customer. This is no simple feat as it might involve legal obstacles particularly in 2nd and 3rd party data usage as companies have no governance control over vendors in terms of adherence of data protection and privacy rules.  Leveraging big data and analytics to come up with relevant preferences for customers will be a key differentiator considering the number of alternatives available. Real-time solutions through Big data, analytics, In-memory and human intelligence (through collaborative networking) is set to transform commerce and customer experience. Just-in-time type of production philosophy could be applied based on acceptance signals from system generated customer preference in order to fine-tune the big data strategy within the company.

4.) Develop a partner ecosystem that can collaborate and complement each other:

Customer Experience management is a cluster of various products that have to work together to offer a holistic solution. It’s critical to have the right set of partners who are innovators, have a good partner ecosystem, and are open to integration with other vendor products. The danger in such a fast paced environment is for one or two partners to become a drag, which will slow down the entire CEM program; as due to competition sometimes vendors tend to block integration programs. Long term vendors who have invested in this ecosystem are critical to the CEM journey due to merger and acquisition volatility in this space as CMOs will spend more than CIOs.

5.)  Implement Total Customer Experience (TCE):

In Total Quality Management (TQM) concept the quality of products and processes is the responsibility of everyone involved in the creation and consumption ecosystem. To coin a similar term for CEM – Total Customer Experience (TCE) should be a philosophy across the organisation, not just front line staff. Customer experience is not just a front line issue – internal competition, delays and bottlenecks across departments can badly impact customer experience. In the connected media age where customers immediately share more of their negative experiences than positive ones and other customers look to find out any negative issues before buying something, such negative stories can impact commerce.

Customer experience management is not only about technology, it’s also about organisational culture and TCE shift to make CEM happen, otherwise it will go down the path of CRM implementations which were mainly used to improve staff control and efficiency issues. CEM will continue to evolve due to innovation and customer trends; hence companies must create an ecosystem that is agile, nimble.

Social Media technology Landscape

ImageSocial Media technology industry has grown at such a pace that today there are many sub-categories and some companies are trying to be end-to-end players. Though the attached picture ( reference infographic from Buddy Media) shows the landscape in some detail, here are 5 major categories,

1/ Social Monitoring (listening) – Lithium, Radian 6 etc

2/ Social Engagement (conversation) – Sprinklr, Spredfast etc

3/ Social media marketing (media management) – Buddymedia, Shoutlet

4/ Social analytics (measuring) – Simply measured, Adobe/Omniture

5/ Social Influencer (level of influence of participants) – Klout, Kred etc.

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