Career, Customer Experience

The first goal is to keep learning

photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/heycoach/1197947341
photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/heycoach/1197947341

My first goal as a college senior was to have the kind of job where I would never have to wear a tie. Achievement unlocked. But that didn’t really get to the core of the issue. I was really trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. A person who helps customers every day was the answer.  Continue reading

Customer Success, Marketing Strategy

Why should an Influencer Care About Your Brand?

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelheiss/8710606842/
Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelheiss/8710606842/

How do you define influence? Simply put, it’s the ability to ask for something from others and have them follow through on your behalf. Following through could mean completing a specific action – like “share this article” or “buy this product” or “try my product” or something more subtle, like “recommend this to your friends”. Or it could mean something a bit more complex, like “make sure that people whom you know will think of our [brand] or [idea] when they consider others in the same type of product or brand”.

Influence is not just the ability to ask – we do that all the time – but also the forecast that you will be able to count on people to take action on your behalf. It is a tremendous force that needs to be used judiciously (as Stan Lee said, with great power comes great responsibility), and it can disappear quickly with the wrong ask.

What are influencers?

Influencers are individuals who persuade people to take action (including purchase decisions) through their authority, facts, charisma, or relationship.

Influencers have the power to get others to do what you ask just because you ask. –@meshfire

If you don’t know what this feels like, try advocating for a brand or a service or an organization that you respect and use. Try pitching their goods or services to a friend, and see what the reaction is like. You might find that you do this every day, or it might be unfamiliar. Sharing a recommendation is a powerful way to help others. When that recommendation is a good one, it’s wonderful positive feedback. When that recommendation is not acted upon or when the person says, “not for me” it’s also great feedback that you need to refine your pitch or pick the person more carefully.

Influencers may also be brand advocates (highly satisfied customers) and are more credible to consumers when they are knowledgeable consumers and wield influence.

People engage in these activities because they feel intrinsic motivation (satisfaction from just the action of helping someone out) or extrinsic motivation (sharing content that is popular can make you more popular, or a trusted resource, or a linchpin for a process). Finding the key that makes people respond due to intrinsic motivation leads to a stronger bond.

What are some of the reasons someone might be an influencer?

Influencers engage typically because they share an affinity group (perhaps an alumni group from a university); a place (geography); an activity (athletic or otherwise); or an interest (may overlap with activity or be distinct – a combination of one of the other types).

Influencers share information to help their communities; to gain influence themselves; and to be a source of knowledge and information.

What can you do to help them understand what you do?

Start by putting yourself in their shoes. WIFM (What’s In It For Me) is a good acronym that helps you think about why they would want to take action on your behalf:

What are you asking them to do? Do they know how to do it, is the goal attainable, and will they want to do it?

When do you need them to do it? Have you given the person enough time to consider what you’re asking them to do and have you made it very easy for them to comply? Have you asked them to do anything else recently?

Why should they do it? Does your action present an obligation for them and are they putting their reputation on the line by completing your task, or are you simply asking them to share information?

Then, THANK them for taking action on your behalf – and do it in a way that matches the communications you’ve had before. Not everyone likes being thanked publicly. You might send an email, a card, or pick up the phone. You might send a tweet. And you might say hello in person and buy that person a cup of coffee. The point is to display gratitude – to let that person know that their action mattered – and to help them stay motivated to help you in the future.

Career, Life Hacks

What is your Superpower?

Courtesy of ap-photographie on Flickr
Courtesy of ap-photographie on Flickr

What is your Superpower?

Are you Super? Some programmers are 10x+ times better than their peers. And this distinction applies to team productivity in general. It makes it really important for you to know the thing you do better than anyone else. Doing more of that thing will make you happier at work and in general.

What is the one thing you do better than anyone else? If other people were to talk about how you interact in the world, what’s the “signature strength” they would talk about when they talk about you? Continue reading

Customer Strategy

How do community managers build community?

courtesy of  https://www.flickr.com/photos/31246066@N04/4936872846
courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/31246066@N04/4936872846

Talking to customers. Understanding their needs. Brokering disputes. Learning what’s best for the community as stated by the members of the community. And communicating that to others. These are some of the things that the best community managers do (online and offline) to build a great community. But what do they do, really? Community is a messy thing and not well understood – primarily because participants in a community perceive that community differently based on their life experience and their goals for participating in community.

Continue reading

Customer Service, Marketing Strategy

Small Companies Care More About Customers

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Quick, name the last time you dealt with a big company and had a great experience.

For most of us, it’s hard to think of a time when that happened.

Now, think of a neighborhood business or a shop or a small business and remember the last time you had a really great experience. That’s not hard at all – it’s something that they do every day.

Small companies care about customers because they have to care. Any one customer interaction can make the difference between finding a lifetime advocate and disappointing someone who tried out your product or service and found it wanting.

One of the biggest challenges for any big company is to seem more human. The other day when I went into the AT&T store on 4th avenue in Seattle, I was ready to have an awful experience. And I was pleasantly surprised. Both Caleb and Martin were patient, pleasant, competent, did more than asked, and solved a set of complex problems in under an hour.

Why doesn’t this usually happen?

  • It’s difficult to script – many of the non-standard issues that happen in customer service are edge cases – and you must rely on the best judgement of your people
  • You can’t teach empathy easily – companies focus on tools and processes which are necessary and not always sufficient for a good customer outcome
  • My interaction happened in person – some interactions are more high bandwidth than others (think text message vs in-store experience)

What should big companies do to solve this problem?

Kaizen, or “good change”, is a great tool to find the next biggest problem you can solve. Used in a business sense, Kaizen is a philosophy of improvement that enables change in very small increments.

People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing. – Dale Carnegie

Enabling line workers to contribute changes with Kaizen helps the individual customer and the larger group of all customers.

What should small companies do to avoid becoming complacent?

Whenever you hear a complaint from a customer or identify a win, add it to a list where you can better count how often it happens. The most recent customer complaint may be a brilliant example of a long-standing problem, or it may be a single customer’s opinion.

Life Hacks, Productivity

To Get More Done, Automate the Stuff You Hate

Inbox Art

Like you, I spend a lot of time doing the same things over and over again. In physical space this is easier to think about: when you have clutter in your home, if you attack each area systematically you’ll eventually get to a clean room. It’s impossible to ignore a stack of things in your way that cover every surface. In contrast, it’s really easy to ignore a stack of digital things when you’re not looking at your computer screen. So what should you do when you have a lot of unwanted emails that keep showing up in your inbox?

I’ve tried a lot of solutions to this problem, and read some great suggestions about getting your inbox down to reasonable level. Getting your inbox down to true zero might be overkill, and there are some great easy tips to make that task faster and more manageable. But the thing that helps me the most is SaneBox – it’s a simple subscription service that makes my life easier. Sanebox connects to my email accounts and automatically files the emails I might not need to read immediately into SaneBulk and SaneNews folders. It also catches my important emails – those from people I talk to frequently – and puts those emails into the SaneTop folder. Sanebox makes the daily email scan easier because I’m reading (or deleting) emails of the same type.

My favorite Sanebox feature is SaneBlackhole, because it magically makes unwanted email disappear. I subscribe to a lot of newsletters and blogs, and sometimes my name makes it onto an email list and I’m not sure how it got there. Instead of having to figure out how to unsubscribe, I just drag the email into SaneBlackhole and Sanebox makes sure I don’t see more emails from that sender. The best thing about Sanebox is that it doesn’t care what email program I use – it just works. So if your inbox is making you crazy, I’d recommend checking out Sanebox (yes, I’m a subscriber).

Media Mind, Social Networking

Keep Twitter Weird

https://twitter.com/Laser_Cat

Twitter is the best open social media network there is. Unlike Facebook – which openly states that they control your newsfeed – the basic idea of Twitter is that you follow and find the news, content, and people you want to see. That’s changing – partly because Twitter is a chaotic mess – and partly because it’s easier to consume “channels” of pre-packaged content rather than to find the curated ideas or hashtags that make Twitter great.

Twitter is weird. It is a place where you can find almost any interest represented. Twitter contains bots, it contains parody accounts, weather forecasters, pundits, celebrities, and regular people. And for the most part they all use Twitter in similar fashion – because they have to. Limiting posts to 140 characters remains a brilliant idea because it forces people to be creative and focused. Recent ways that people have changed the form of Twitter have been to use photos to increase the visibility of tweets and to use longer form “Tweetstorms” to express their ideas, stringing together 140-character ideas into longer proto-essays.

Twitter is also free. The combination of free and weird is not likely to produce the predictable revenue stream justifying billions of dollars of valuation. (Although you might look at some of the political movements that have expressed themselves on Twitter and rightfully conclude that there is a billions of dollars of societal motivation happening on Twitter, and that it’s just not monetizable yet.) So what would help Twitter to make money while keeping the service quirky and weird?

In the spirit of a Tweetstorm (where this idea started), here are a few ideas that might help to keep Twitter more open and less like the Walled Garden of Facebook.

1/ #KeepTwitterOpen by reminding #Twitter that in-stream purchase ads > controlling tweets that we see

One of the best ways to #KeepTwitterOpen is to remind Twitter that most people would prefer to be able to buy things from Twitter advertisers to pay for things rather than having the timeline that we either meticulously (or not so carefully) created get selected for us. It’s neat to have an area called “Trending” because that’s a way for people to learn about unexpected things. It’s not so neat to have promoted Tweets for things you don’t care about show up in your tweetstream.

If I follow a brand, I might want to buy things from them right from Twitter. And if there’s another brand out there who would like to engage with me, I’d rather that they start a conversation with an @ reply rather than serving me a promoted tweet or an ad.

2/ #KeepTwitterOpen by creating paid/advertorial curated streams (the Best of Twitter)

It would be nice if Twitter lists worked well. They’re a pain to read and to use unless you use a client that specifically makes this easy. I for one would rather have “advertorial” curated streams – something akin to a sponsored list – to show the best items on a topic. What, you say? #Hashtags are the way to do this – they are organic expressions of people’s tweets on the same topic. And hashtags sometimes also get spammed – it’s hard to know what you’re reading and whether someone is an active participant or just a troll.

Curated streams on a topic or an event are the future of social media – Twitter should figure out how to do this well and then charge a small event fee or a monthly subscription for the “best of” feed.

3/ #KeepTwitterOpen by creating reports on the way people use Twitter and selling those

Analytics are cool. Learning more about the way that people use social media is really compelling. If Twitter isn’t already creating specialized reports for individuals and companies based on the way that people use the service, they are missing out. These reports would be most useful when categorized by “People Like You” or “People in Your City” and would be less interesting to find out “things your friends favorited” since you might already be seeing this sort of content anyway.

4/ #keepTwitterOpen by reminding networks and publishers that many people voluntarily spend time on this network

Twitter has great engagement from the people who use it. Publishers who try to tell Twitter “what to be” and make “experiences” using the network are missing the point that social networks are … well … social. They consist of conversations with people and brands using this unusual format. Twitter has a private and public conversations happening at the same time. It has Tweets and SubTweets. And Twitter is confusing and wonderful and horrible and great. It’s a picture of human nature. Please keep Twitter weird.