The Company Social Network

Ever since Andrew McAfee started the Enterprise 2.0 theme, businesses have been implementing Social technologies to utilize the wave of innovation that swept in from the Internet with user-created content and person-to-person communication via text, voice or video. According to McKinsey over 80% of businesses use at least one social technology and two thirds utilize access with a mobile device. But after the initial rush and some fast benefits it becomes harder to increase those. Mostly, the main executive goal is to increase productivity, but that is not achievable without tackling organizational barriers. While organizational barriers are created by management methodologies such as BPM, one has to ask if productivity is truly the right approach to justify Social technology.

As I pointed out years ago, Social and BPM are not complementary.

Adding Social communication to a BPM platform does nothing if the methodology manages processes the old way – analysis, redesign, implementation, deployment, monitoring, improvement. BPM holds back the benefits that Social could bring. BPM rigidizes what Social tries to make more dynamic. The moniker Dynamic-BPM does not describe a process that is Adaptive or Social. But no one looks at the possible conflict of interests. Studies indicate that executives seem to believe that it is purely a social skill problem while consultants point to cultural issues. Both may have some effect but I propose that it is a larger issue in management styles and concepts that clearly has an impact on culture.

Managing processes in adaptive style is one way to bypass the barriers. Changing to a goal-oriented definition and execution of processes is the only thing that will bring a dramatic benefit. It does open up process management to become part of the social interaction. BPM flow-diagrams block Social.

There is another faith that says that the full benefits will only be realized when the Social functionality is moved to Cloud and Mobile. They say that internal deployment and the rigidity of IT procedures are still a hindrance. That too may have an impact, but it is the same issues of control and security that will reduce the ability of a business to deploy via Cloud and Mobile. Gartner does say that the Nexus of Forces – Information (aka as Big Data), Social, Cloud and Mobile – will drive the change in IT in the years to come. They are most probably right, but I think they overestimate the flexibility of people and most of all of executives and IT departments.

Is Social really about increasing productivity?

These considerations are in my mind only sensible when they take a practical view towards more than productivity. A key element in the Internet age is the empowerment of the customer. We have already moved so much of our customer interaction to the Internet. BUT … customers have no emotional ties to a Web or Mobile interaction. Studies have shown that even long-term customers switch vendors at the drop of a hat when there is no human contact.

Loyalty programs do not deliver new business with existing customers and new customers are five times more expensive than the same revenue with existing ones. I am not flying more with one airline because I get miles that I can spend. It is a silly discount scheme that I can offset by flying with cheaper airlines. I do not choose an airline because of the online check-in and because I get my ticket on my mobile. Flying has become this non-sensical ‘cheapest-fare’ game. I might pay only a $100 dollars for the ticket, but I pay another $70 to change my ticket, and when I want one additional suitcase it is another $50. And more money for the slightest improvement in service or a snack aboard the plane. It is ridiculous and makes me feel treated like an idiot. Only the mileage status that gives me preferential treatment by the staff  makes me fly more with an airline. So self-service via Internet and Mobile have really produced a negative effect despite the cost reduction and increase in productivity KPIs.

Can the customer disconnect be offset by Big Data?

I doubt it. Predictive analytics to provide the customer with additional offers produce nothing of value. Online sales leader Amazon tries to sell me more cameras when I just bought one. It is annoying to say the least. The few accessories they offer I already bought. While they do have a complete record of all the things I bought at their site, they are unable to use it. They are unable to go cross-market-segment and offer me books on photography about the particular camera that I just bought. Which means they lack the ability to assess the content and context of my purchases. The most useful feature is the user ratings of products (not just the number of stars but the textual content) and what other customers bought after they looked at or purchased a product. That is after all similar to what we offer at ISIS Papyrus with the User-Trained Agent when we recommend tasks and actions that other users performed in a similar situation in the case/process.

The key element in making ISCM – Information (content not big data), Social, Mobile, Cloud – really do more for the business is to look at it though the lens of customer engagement. Social has the ability to connect customers with employees but that is not what most businesses want. For the short-sighted cost-cutter the ideal way to do processes is lights-out execution or straight-through-processing. Keep employees out of the game to reduce costs as much as possible. Customer contact centers are stuck in optimized and thus rigid processes that are unable to achieve FCR – First Call Resolution – which is the key to increase customer satisfaction. To achieve that, the call center employee must have all the customer information AND have decision making authority! That is like blasphemy to many MBA-trained optimizers …

The information that allows FCR is not in a database table and is not controllable by simple rules because otherwise there would be no need for the customer to actually call. The information is in the CONTENT of the communication and it has to be interpreted by a human with a caring attitude to make the customer happy. More blasphemy coming your way.

“In 2013 Customer Service Is Moving From Cost Center To Differentiator.” (Kate Leggett – Forrester Research)

Businesses are now in a situation where marketing can’t fix bad reviews on the Social networks. It won’t be solved by simply buying and implementing Social or ACM products. It clearly is about empowering employees to create the positive emotional experience for the customer, because that is the only thing in the Internet age that will create customer loyalty. If your choice of technology is driven by cost cutting and short ROI time frames your business will go the way of HBOS and Kodak.

  • Companies have to learn from experience that customer loyalty is an essential driver of business success.
  • A goal-oriented approach to service processes is the only thing that will allow them to improve.
  • Just measuring some metrics and reward employees for achieving them does nothing.
  • Employees need authority, goals and means for the customer as well as recognition and security for themselves.
  • Adaptive processes allow you to not just optimize the service call, but to remove the reason for the customer calling.
  • One integrated system of engagement makes it easier to manage, measure and improve multi-channel experiences.

Coming back to company culture enabling social interaction: Yes, culture impacts what gets done and how it gets done.  But culture in itself does not do anything. A great company culture will be able to execute a great strategy and the two have to be aligned. A customer-focused company strategy won’t be implemented through BPM methodology or rigid processes. The objectives of your strategy have be translated to explicit goals in your adaptive service processes and employees must be empowered to achieve them. No need for Big-Data, a Social culture or Cloud deployment.

If your company strategy does not consider the change that we are experiencing through digital communication, it won’t drive company culture and the use of the right technology to stay emotionally connected to your customers.

I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Papyrus Software, a medium size software company offering solutions in communications and process management around the globe. I am also the owner and CEO of MJP Racing, a motorsports company focused on Rallycross or RX, a form of circuit racing on mixed surfaces that has been around for 40 years. I hold 8 national and international championship titles in RX. My team participates in the World Championship along Petter Solberg, Sebastian Loeb and Ken Block.

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Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Business Strategy, Customer Communications, Social Media
One comment on “The Company Social Network
  1. nleary7 says:

    Max, I think you have characterized this very well! Those who continue to use the old paradigm will likely be left behind.


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Max J. Pucher
© 2007-19

by Max J. Pucher. All rights reserved.

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