Social Media Stock Market

September 13th, 2011 by Kirk Skodis under Newsworthy, Social Media

Ever wake up in the morning and sit down for breakfast to find out someone’s executed one of your ideas better than you could’ve imagined? No? Well it happened this morning when I read about Dachis Group’s new launch of the Social Business Index. Touted by TechCrunch as “Klout for companies,” the service ranks companies based on countless social media metrics.

We’d fantasized about building a similar service, dreaming of a day when companies would compete to get a better score and hopefully raise their standards of customer engagement in the process. The SBI goes several steps further, tracking industry performance and trends down to a strategy graph that tracks internal constituents’ behaviors.

It’s left me wondering how we’ll all use it. Will companies vie for competitive positioning? Will it become relevant to customers who would rank best/worst companies on sites like The Consumerist? Will we, as agencies, consultancies, etc., look to the lowest ranks for leads? In any case, it’ll be fun to watch and I applaud the Dachis Group for putting in the massive effort to provide us all with this great resource.

Join the [Private] Conversation: Skweal Steers Customers Offline

May 15th, 2011 by Kirk Skodis under Customer Service, Methodology, Newsworthy, Response

Skweal is a new company that aims to take all that negative chatter about your brand in social media and give it a private channel into your organization. The explicit benefit to companies besides keeping “negative feedback offline” includes real-time, on-premises comments, staff motivation and basic analytics. The implied benefit for customers is a more direct connection with the manager, and hopefully greater action taken to remedy problems.

The breakdown: Retailers post signs and stickers pointing to Skweal.com. Customers with smartphones pull it up in their browsers and the site finds the location. Feedback is then privately sent via email or SMS to the store’s manager who can take immediate action.

Skweal founder, Tyler Crowley, is betting that when presented with a convenient option to keep feedback private, customers will “generally do the right thing” – as he expressed in a healthy debate in the comments of an All Things Digital blog post by Liz Gannes.

We here at Trustworthy advocate anything that connects consumers with companies in an effort towards greater mutual satisfaction. Social, email, telephone, iPhone app – what matters most is that it’s customer convenience in the driver’s seat.

What brands might miss are the benefits of amplification and scale that come with social media customer service. Like even the best call-center representative, when the manager addresses a customer’s praise or offers a helpful solution to an issue, the whole experience dies when they hang up the phone (or in this case, swipe the touchscreen closed). The customer’s friends and followers never benefit from these interactions, silencing the digital word of mouth.

Speaking of scale, I’ve argued in the past against those who worry that social media response can’t scale in large organizations with even larger customer bases increasingly voicing opinions online. Holding that line of thinking against the Skweal model, the one-to-one nature of issue resolution is strained to call-center proportions.

Also, retailers must burden the customer with finding their location on the Skweal website to voice their opinion. Like the “best camera is the one you have” argument for camera-phones, as easy as it is to visit a URL on a smartphone, it will never be as convenient as using the platform they’re already on (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp) to speak out.

Cautions aside, if Mr. Crowley can get retailers to sign on en masse, we may see Skweal lead the next wave of the digital customer service revolution!

It’s 2011. Where’s My Social CRM?

February 17th, 2011 by Kirk Skodis under Customer Service, Predictions, Social Media

Photo: jurvetson

In his recent article on the Software Advice blog, Houston Neal builds a case against the existence of Social CRM. I think the real issue is that the technology providers haven’t caught up to the somewhat overhyped promise of how companies should manage social relationships with their customers.

From the moment we started Trustworthy, we envisioned a day when our services would integrate seamlessly with a client’s existing CRM software.

The implications were huge. We imagined responding to customers with complete purchase histories, tech support tickets, and demographics in front of us. Armed with all this automated info, we could respond in record time with the perfect answer tailored specifically to each customer. In turn, we’d log our interactions into the system, adding valuable intelligence about communication preferences, product usage and analytics.

The writing was on the wall, too. Software giants like SalesForce.com were already hinting at social media features that seemed ready to deliver everything we’d dreamed.

It’s 2011. Where’s my jetpack? Where’s my flying car?

So far, the best we have is a lot of talk about Social CRM from analysts and pundits but none of the providers are actually connecting the dots. Overall, monitoring tools monitor and enable engagement, while CRM tools offer shallow products integrating Facebook and Twitter tracking.

In a valiant effort to bridge the gap, Radian6 announced integration with Salesforce.com in 2009. From the R6 dashboard, you could add Cases, Contacts and Leads to a record in Salesforce, and store histories of online interactions. But just like the old-media-marketing dinosaurs the Social Age has pushed towards extinction, this conversation is too one-sided to provide much more than better lead generation and targeting. This might improve the company’s experience, but the CRM provider needs to meet them halfway if we’re going to improve the customer’s experience.

Right now, unless your company has development resources to patch together API’s and create your own custom bridge between monitoring, response management, CRM, and analytics (our approach here at Trustworthy), you’ll have to manually manage multiple services because no one provides a turnkey solution.

And while we’ll be the ones jumping up and down like a New Yorker with a Verizon iPhone when someone does finally offer a complete Social CRM suite, the real winners will be the customers who benefit from what will surely be the next level of customer service.

Zappos is Connecting with Customers

December 18th, 2010 by Kirk Skodis under Customer Service, Methodology, Response

Earlier this week, Rob Flemming and I had the opportunity to cross a long awaited item off our To Do list: The tour of Zappos HQ in Henderson, Nevada. Zappos has been an inspiration for us at Trustworthy for years. We’ve read Tony’s book and heard him speak many times. We’ve studied the Zappos Culture Book. We’ve watched the Zappos Insights videos on YouTube. But we still wanted to experience it firsthand.

First off, everything we’d heard about the Zappos culture, attitude and employees is true.

Our plane landed in Vegas as the tour was starting, so we arrived pretty late. Nevertheless, we were whisked inside by friendly people to catch up with the tour in-progress, just in time to say “Hi” to CEO, Tony Hsieh, working away at his storied cubicle in the middle of “Monkey Row.” Zappos Culture Guides, Jon Wolske and Andi Lyn were quick to make us feel welcome with warm greetings and small talk. Everything about Zappos is genuine. With daily, free tours, it would be easy for the delivery to feel rehearsed and stale. Instead, it felt more like a first-day-on-the-job orientation with your future co-workers.

Afterwards, Rob and I were pressed for time to get to a client meeting on the Strip, about twelve miles away. We were told a cab would take too long, and that they’d be happy to give us a free ride on the Zappos Shuttle. Minutes later a Zappos-wrapped Suburban whisked us to our meeting with time to spare.

The “secret sauce” of Zappos’s success is really no secret at all. They genuinely care about their customers, and they’ve developed a unique system of catering to and connecting with their customers that flies in the face of corporate best practices. It simply comes down to empowering employees to be human in their interactions with customers, which in turn, humanizes the company.

Just watch Andi explain how they handle customer service and you’ll get what I mean.

Oh yeah. They *made* me wear a funny hat and take this picture too.

Struggling with Social Media Response?

November 28th, 2010 by Kirk Skodis under About Trustworthy, Customer Service, Response, Social Media

In our first “commercial” (powered by Xtranormal), we decided to present the problem we solve in a conversation like the ones taking place all over corporate America right now.

Watch as the Director of Social Media struggles with response even after following the advice from gurus, blogs and books to a T. Lucky for him, ”Watercooler Wanda” is there to school him on the importance of letting a specialist like Trustworthy handle the response so he can focus strategy and culture internally.

Legal’s Veto Power

November 21st, 2010 by Kirk Skodis under Customer Service, Methodology

Just when I thought I’ve learned all I can from Tony Hsieh, after seeing countless interviews and reading his book, Delivering Happiness, I’m surprised to find that he encourages his managers to seek advice on risk, etc., from legal but to then make the final decision based on what is best for the customer.

As Tony explains in his recent interview on This Week In Startups, legal has an unreasonable stranglehold on decision-making in businesses and when weighed against other – oftentimes more expensive – risks made daily in other departments, they pale in comparison. But because of the fabricated authority given to legal in most organizations, they get the last word even when it goes against the best interests of the company.

Does your legal department’s veto power stop you from giving great customer service?

Interview with Aaron Kaufman of THQ, Part 3

October 26th, 2010 by Kirk Skodis under Customer Service, Methodology, Response, Social Media

We wrap up this 3-part interview with a big, ten-minute Part 3 in which Aaron Kaufman, Community Manager of UFC and WWE brands at THQ, tackles troll-management, community self-defense techniques, the importance of speed in response, and how to effectively coordinate real-life community summits.

Aaron leaves us with some valuable words of wisdom for companies wanting to emulate his success in community building, growing and sustaining.

Thanks, Aaron!

UPDATE: Be sure to watch Part 1 and Part 2 of this interview!

Interview with Aaron Kaufman of THQ, Part 2

October 18th, 2010 by Kirk Skodis under Customer Service, Methodology, Response, Social Media

In Part 2 of my conversation with Aaron Kaufman, Community Manager of UFC and WWE brands at THQ, we discussed how he deals with up to 400 comments per Facebook post, and when it’s appropriate to leave the public forum for more private conversations with individuals.

But more importantly, what’s with the nickname, “Tank”…?

Interview with Aaron Kaufman of THQ, Part 1

October 7th, 2010 by Kirk Skodis under Customer Service, Methodology, Response, Social Media, Social media marketing

Last year, I blogged about how some Community Managers seem to have tunnel vision when it comes to social media response.

Aaron Kaufman is not one of them. He’s the Community Manager of UFC and WWE brands at THQ, a worldwide developer and publisher of video games, and he’s one of the best I’ve seen.

I first worked with Aaron at Electronic Arts when my other company, Real Pie Media, redesigned the website for the real-time strategy (RTS) genre franchise, Command and Conquer. As “APOC”, Aaron became the face of EA as far as C&C fans were concerned. He was their covert operative inside the company, fighting for their rights to annihilate the enemy more effectively in the next iteration of the game. Now, I have the pleasure of working with him again on the Smackdown VS Raw Community Site for THQ. He’s reborn as “THQ TANK” on forums, fansites, Facebook and Twitter – and crushing it with the exuberance of a WWE Superstar.

Recently, we sat down to talk social media response and community building. Aaron generously shares his secrets and wisdom from over six years in the trenches (So generously in fact, that I’ve had to break the interview into three parts). Video game fans are notoriously the most avid and critical fans a brand could hope for, and Aaron makes nurturing and earning their trust look easy.

In Part 1, we discuss how Aaron sees his role sandwiched between customer service and online marketing, if his communities have virtual boundaries, and what it means when he signs his forum posts:

“When I am not posting, I am working for YOU”

Whose Facebook is it Anyway?

September 21st, 2010 by Kirk Skodis under Customer Service, Methodology, Social Media

So you set up a Page on Facebook for your company.

How are you going to manage the content that people post on your Wall?

Is it incumbent upon you to play by open, community rules and allow any and all posts and comments to run amok because you’ve deliberately created an outpost inside their community?

Is Facebook even a community like other communities?

Or, since Facebook plays by different rules, are you within your rights to moderate (ahem, delete) content posted on your Wall as you would your own personal Facebook? How would the troll like it if you went on his Wall and called him an idiot? Wouldn’t he remove it ASAP?

Are you setting up a representative extension of your polished brand in a popular new channel? Or are you participating in an exchange of opinion and feedback with people who feel strongly (one way or the other) about your brand?

Remember, even the trolls had to Like your page in order to comment on it.

UPDATE: AT&T’s open approach was profiled in this morning’s Marketplace Morning Report.