Kindled Meme

– exploring the purpose of connection

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Social servicing – building customer value

Last month JD Power surveyed more than 23000 folks on how they used social media to reach out to brands with interesting results. While SM has always been leveraged as a messaging channel – more and more people are using a social channel to speak with a brand – seeking service, some help, information or assistance.


There are differences across demographics – us oldies are happy to engage with the MarCom – while Millennials are storming ahead using ‘social’ as a customer service channel.

There’s a brief reprieve for the companies that aren’t up to this task yet– right now only 18% of baby boomers are escalating into social. But once they catch on look-out – they are the only generation with disposable cash and they sure can complain. You want these dudes on your side!

The JD Power numbers back up the findings of the Social Habit project that told us that people want to find service over the social web – but they also want it to be responsive. 42% expect a response to a social query within 60 minutes and 24% expect a reply within 30 minutes.

Yes, we are pushy, but social has no barriers.

We’ll wait for response to an email to a faceless ‘info@’ account or suffer the pain of a call centre – but if you are on social we expect you to be ‘on’ – and we expect an answer. We don’t want to watch the marketing team flounder to handle a customer complaint, or tip-toe around the holes in your post-sales experience. We want access to info whether its from a helpful account handler or from being plugged into a social community of similar users who can help.

A Service Dominant-Logic View

Companies that see the value in stepping into social space need tools to help with this task but they have also got to get their heads around how all this builds value.

Professsor Grönroos, a thought-leader in customer experience believes service is tough for companies that think they are in the product business – guys who believe they are creating value when they ‘ship the tin’, sell the denim or publish the app. They see value exchanged when a transaction is completed and they think the job is done – that value is a number tied to an invoice.

And that’s just not good for service thinking.


Grönroos argues that a customers perception of value gets created when you interact with them – educate, share, enlighten and compell them to adopt what they have bought. The Customers perceived value is the value-in-use not the value in the dollars they handed over.

When you address a service request – through social or elsewhere – you are unlocking the value when you interact. And its this customer perception that is at the heart of service.

Does it scale?

In truth interaction and intimate service is time consuming. We get our heads around service – we shift in mindset and adjust a culture to be customer-centric, service-oriented – but it continues to be a one-on-one approach.

The more service you engage in the more trouble-tickets you open and the more you find yourself answering the same questions and learning-pains – what should be an epiphany in customer delight become mundane and repetitive.

Closed-service just doesn’t scale – and worst it ignores the greatest asset of the social era – the wisdom of the crowds and the puddles of expertise that social connects up to build oceans of community.

If we are looking for customers to find value it’s a three-way gig – the company, the customer and the community of folk that are in the same game.


There is a great quote in Cluetrain:

“Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.”

These interactions build value and create spaces where people want to be. We live in collaborative times right?

So who’s doing it?

The JD Power report gives us a heads up as to which sectors are making use of social – six industries:

Airline, Auto, Banking, Credit Cards, Telecom and Utility are all on board with this thinking. Automotive are the best at it.

If you are in these sectors how are you plugging into social and communities to create value? Are you engaging with style or are you up to the task of servicing your community?

If you are not in these sectors you still need to keep your eyes pealed – check out the behaviour of the “Social Servicers” list in the report – learn from JetBlue, Ford, Chase, Sprint Nextel, Pacific Gas & electric.

Check out their voice, their responsiveness and effectiveness – what tools are they using and what are they doing that makes it all scale.

Being part of the social world may seem a bit unwieldy and it’s a change from the traditional way of business – but at least its transparent and we can learn from watching.

Why not pick a role model and bust a move – this stuff just became strategic.

Time for a plan.


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The Grief Cycle of Social

How do we become social and connected? As a business or a person, is it just a process? Are stories and collective wisdom enough to make us change?

Is there more to it than following a process? Is it like any other change – going through cycles of fear and distrust before deciding it’s for us?

When you gain social, you have to let a bit of your ‘old self’ go. You need the space to grieve.

If we are going to make a change we need to be compelled and find the support of others around us before building new competencies and making a sustainable change.

Where are you right now on the Grief Cycle of Social?

Grief Curve

(This is inspired by the insightful work of Anthony Bradley at Gartner – check out his work here:  Andrew Bradleys Blog)


Yahoo’s workplace pivot – Distance is bad

Marissa Mayer has caused a disturbance this week with the comments about making her workforce come into the office.

In a digital world where we are always on and always connected, the idea of locking someone to a desk seems backwards and not in keeping with a company trying to create itself a new future. When trying to balance up the value behind the Yahoo CEO’s moves, seeing Donald Trump backing these moves confirms the action is more aligned to industrial thinking than the digital era.

You would expect in our social age with a glut of collaboration and communication tools that we don’t need to be in the same location to do great work. The 37 Signals guys are spread all over the world and anyone who works for a tech company pretty much expects to be remote. We’ve got Hangouts and Skype for a focused ‘synchronous’ exchange and circles, yammer and email for all the other bits. There are plenty of ways to be ‘glued’ these days.

The bigger question here is what has Mayer found that needs fixing – not the choice of action.

We know we do our best work when fully engaged when we’ve got great colleagues, great products to work with and customers that are believers in what we do. That can happen whether we’re in the same office or virtually – its about having a purpose to what we do. So whats missing at Yahoo?

What’s missing in the mindset to makes it a creative and collaborative environment – a place that’s action-oriented and start banging out products ad services that people need, want and want to talk about. What have Yahoo got in their ‘unwritten rules of the game’ that is blocking the CEO’s progress – when she is putting a stake in the ground I wonder what it is that she is trying to stamp out. And what happened to the trust – the T-word that is at the centre of all collaborative work – whether near or far.

When looking into collaborative climate in organisations one piece of research that my professor on Knowledge Management pointed me towards captures the core of what is needed to be effective. These guys – Sveiby and Simons – set down a number of key dimensions to being collaborative and having people pull together.

Older is better – connecting the right people to act requires social networks within organisations that junior staffers don’t yet have

Power is knowledge – junior ranking staff do not have the influencing skills to shape their environment

Big is Better – SME’s are not as good as large firms as finding and distributing knowledge within the company

Distance is bad – initiatives that bring us closer should be profitable investments

Private is better – Public institutions are simply not as effective at knowledge sharing as private companies

Social networks, influence, sharing knowledge, proximity and effective connection of resources – at a macro level all these themes resonate with the wider digital and social environment we live within today. The goals of a collaborative climate resonate with the best digital behaviours of the social media savvy. We live in collaborative times.

And yet “Distance is Bad” does not sit so easily. And when Mayer brings her staffers back to HQ this is what she is eliminating. Surely technology has bridged this gap – is distance really a blocker these days. Trust is built through micro-interactions, project sharing is effective through Yammer conversations and the water cooler conversations are now replaced by instagram ‘likes’ and twittersphere downtime.

The Sveiby research was conducted 10 years ago – but has our Social Era technology blown away that point?

Or is it the case that you can only do great collaborative work when a group of folk are ‘connected’? Joined by a leader, a purpose or a vision – and maybe supported by common geography.

Are we getting distracted by the ‘What’ and ‘How’ of Marissa Mayers actions and not yet know the ‘why’? There has got to be a reason behind her choice. What is missing in Yahoo right now that needs recalibrating before the trust and climate come back.

And thinking laterally…. if I had the chance to be in an office with Marissa Mayer I would be taking it – wouldn’t you?


Strategic questions – rethinking winning

I spent today talking strategy with a guy who lives and breaths it – intent on using it to push through a lasting change to the way his company serves its community. And so a post by Roger Martin on the HBR blog today came at me at a useful time.

Roger says that strategy is making of an integrated set of choices – positioning the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage relative to competition and deliver superior financial returns. He encourages people to answer 5 simple questions in a strategy – and he makes a separation between building budgets and delivery plans (which most people confuse as strategy) from the informed clarity of a strategy that sets direction for a period ahead.

Rogers questions are familiar – its the ‘Traditional Strategy’ view – about resources and winning – which Nilofer Merchant has declared as dead.

Nilofer questions whether this self-serving view of strategy is still valid in todays world and looks rationally at the role of collaboration and communities and their co-dependence. This coupling of organisations is know to drive innovation and offer all kinds of benefits as part of a business model – and a strategy is more about a company being ‘coupled’ than about the firm winning alone.

I like Nilofer’s contrarian views and in many cases agree with her – Ive seen the impact and opportunity in innovation partnerships in the UK  – people working as complements to each other can be a real asset and open up opportunities well beyond the capabilities of a single firm competing solely upon its own resources.

Yet, if a firm is resource-rich its theory of business will be grounded in making the most of what its got and controlling all that you need internally – removing ambiguity, being planful and  being in control. The guy I was meeting with today was within a multinational bank – you can be sure he has resources.

I recently found this video by Clay Shirky talking about the communites in the software industry – a great speaker –  he talks about how value is created in loosely-coupled but strongly aligned open-source communities. If you like control and your own resources this doesn’t compute. He makes fun of guys at AT&T who didnt get the open philosophy – about how you can be ‘porous’ to external value.

“They didn’t care that they had seen it work in practice becasue they already knew it wouldn’t work in theory”

It depends how you see the world – and its a strategic choice as to how you leverage partners, customers, suppliers and your own staff. Getting intimate, listening and learning, and acting in close-step with external groups around your business is not for everyone – but the evidence is there that it pays off.

Roger’s article says Strategy is about answering 5 questions – and hurrah – you should  be able to do that on less than 5 pages. Not because strategy is light weight – but because the choices it captures are built upon solid thinking, research and market insights.

When you have the facts to hand – the killer choices you should make become much clearer.

Rogers 5 questions are these:

What is our winning aspiration

Where will we play

How will we win

What capabilities need to be in place;

What management systems must be instituted

When I think of Rogers focus on winning I think of the anecdotes from Prussian military strategy that my MBA taught. Its pretty clear its about winning – with stories of fools that get it wrong.

Rogers questions are not the same questions that my Prof challenged us to ask – but then there is no one dominant way to do strategy. No one model that is correct – we accept all have strengths and weaknesses. All though, are good at framing an inquiry amongst teams and offer a common language make sense of our worlds and structure our choices.

And when I think of Nilofers perspective of how strategy needs to change, I think of new business models with the Key Partners and emerging social business channels that are shaping the world today. Both need engagement, shared beliefs and some degree of trust to make them work.

We still need to win but we will be doing it through others – sharing risk and co-building value. When I look at the ‘TS’ perspective – about the resource-based view of strategy – about finance, IP, assets that you have as the basis of a plan- these are all still valid – but relational capacity is about to become so much more important – culture, attitude and collaborative beliefs that underpin our reputation as good people to do business with.

For my part I believe that traditional strategy is still valid we just have to rethink how we define winning – keeping our eyes on creating and unlocking value and less focus on spilling our competitors blood on the streets.

For a bit of cheeky fun – check out Nilofer Merchants obituary to traditional strategy below.

And this is the link to Roger Martins Blog that started off my reflection.


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37Signals Rework – Are you Hip or Hip-Replacement?

I am reading Rework now – it arrived at my home on 24th December and I was more excited by it than the rest of my ‘scheduled’ christmas presents. It doesn’t disappoint.

Its by the guys from 37Signals – doing tech with a vision and big thoughts. Their blog is here – RSS it.

I have had it on the list for some time after reading this:

Real-World people are filled with pessimism and despair. They expect fresh concepts to fail. They assume society isn’t ready for or capable of change. Even worse, they want to drag others down into their tomb. If you’re hopeful and ambitious, they’ll try to convince you your ideas are impossible. They’ll say you’re wasting your time. Don’t believe them. That world may be real for them, but it doesn’t mean you have to live in it.”

It struck a chord. Because often people have a predominantly – and resiliently persistent – gloomy view on business and human nature.

Sometimes a good book at bedtime is whats needed – especially one that reinforces some aspirations.

I do however live in two worlds – a connected, human, entrepreneurial community online and IRL – and here I find Rework to be of the same mindset. And on the other hand, a world is outside the front door – doesn’t do social, fears for its future and is suspicious of the current zeitgeist.

I try to avoid too much contact with the later – but at the same time the latter group are more than likely to be your consumers and clients.

I wonder if the latest business skill is to be a rework-er without making the non-rework-ers feel unsettled?

I stumbled on Elains Blog today – talking about Rework and I liked this – just because its fun

I find two approaches to business – one is hip and the other is hip replacement.  Chris Brogan – hip.  Donald Trump -hip replacement. Guy Kawasaki – hip.  Jack Welch – hip replacement.  Jason and David, co-founders of the remarkably successful 37 Signals (and if you don’t know the company, watch those stairs) definitely fall into the hip category.

I can hear them say now “Yeah, but Hip doesn’t pay the bills, Sonny”

Have you read Rework yet?

(Warning to the academics – its perilously full of opinion – you’ll hate it)