Employee Customer Conversation Matrix – Where are you engaged?

As customers, brands, topic enthusiasts and activists engage in online conversations across social networks, public and private online communities, we all have the opportunity to grow our knowledge understanding and appreciation of others.

From an organisations point of view, the ability to understand the relevance of these conversations and to be able to harness and develop them in order to grow and develop their people, products and services, requires a cultural shift which embraces conversation and collaboration underpinned by a model which reflects where these conversations are taking place.

The employee-customer conversation matrix offers a model to map customer conversations which are taking place today with the areas your employees are working on delivering and improving…

Which conversations are your employees and customers engaged in today and where could you be working in partnership with your customers in the future?

    GiffGaff – A Social Business Case Study

    giffgaff is a sim only mobile network which provides a range of pay as you mobile services, wholly owned by Telefonica/02, and operated as a separate limited company.

    giffgaff is widely recognised as a social business pioneer having developed, implemented and running a member(customer)  centric social business model, partnering with their member (customer) community) to develop and build their business.

    giffgaff members are at the centre of the business model, providing

    –  peer to peer member support, reducing on-going customer support costs

    –  feedback on product features, pricing and support

    –  ideas for new product development and innovation

    –  online word of mouth marketing support



    the giffgaff member community is managed by a team of 16-20 community managers, headed by Vincent Boon, who you can follow on Twitter @vincentboon where he provides updates on the giffgaff community and their interactions.

    Looking at the giffgaff community, the most active threads are the peer to peer member support area with over 1.5million posts – highlighted in red above and the innovation, promotion and improvements thread with almost 116k posts, highlighted in green above.

    Underlying giffgaffs online model is Lithium’s online community platform which provides the underlying technology and member activity analytics.  Follow Lithium on Twitter @lithiumtech

    giffgaff encourage their members to spread the word and provide them with a range of tools to share across social networks, including facebook and twitter.  Follow @giffgaff on twitter here.     Like giffgaff on Facebook here.

    Members are rewarded twice a year, based on their level of member support activity, involvement in product testing and contribution to product ideas and other feedback.  Earlier this month, June 2012, giffgaff paid back £1.1m to the giffgaff community, a massive increase over 2 years from the first payback of £27k, demonstrating the increasing involvement and support of their member community.  Read giffgaffs update here.

    In recognition of their success, giffgaff has featured in a number of case studies:

    Lithium – giffgaff customer case study
    Figaro Digital giffgaff case study
    Giffgaff Manages Its Community To Deliver A Great Customer Experience, by Jonathan Browne.
    Case Study: Giffgaff Uses Co-Creation To Build A Differentiated Mobile Service Business by Doug Williams
    GiffGaff – a case study of customers in control by Laurance Buchanan at Ernst & Young

      Online Customer Communities, Innocent Drinks & TomTom

      Last week, I attended the European Customer Experience World conference at the Hilton T5 Heathrow, and chaired the social media stream on the first day, where we had 3 great speakers, Joe McEwan, from Innocent Drinks, Jonathan Browne from Forrester and Kenneth Refsgaard from TomTom.

      Each of our speakers provided insights into how different companies are creating connections with their customers through online communities, what struck me was the difference between Innocent Drinks and TomTom in their approach to creating and connecting with their customer communities.

      From the start, Innocent Drinks have had a close connection with their customers, from the sale of the first bottle of their crushed fruit drinks at a Music Festival to today, where they engage with them across multiple channels, online, on their packaging and through their events like this years innocent fruit sports day in regents park.

      The culture of innocent drinks is fun, collaborative and enthusiastic and it is their ability to communicate this to their customers and create emotional connections with them creating ongoing dialogue and include them in their various initiatives with great success.  The primary channels used by innocent drinks are their website, blog, facebook page, twitter feed, youtube channel, flickr and Instagram.

      On the other hand TomTom is a different type of company, selling technology based products, which attracts a different kind of enthusiast and advocate than innocent drinks.  innocent drinks, have brand advocates who identify with the culture of the company, the fun lifestyle reflected in their communication, packaging and events where TomTom advocates have a keen interest in technology, what it does, how it works, the problems it solves and share their technical knowledge with each other helping to resolve product support issues.

      TomTom provides a range of communication channels for their customers, their website, a hosted customer community, facebook page, twitter feed, youtube channel, linkedin careers group and google+ page, all of which are managed by the TomTom community team.  TomToms’ hosted community partner is Lithium who provide both the hosted platform plus the expertise in growing and developing an active and vibrant community.

      TomTom use their social channels to communicate with and facilitate conversations between their customers as well as informing prospective employees about current opportunities and life at TomTom.

      Both organisations have successfully created an engaged customer community, however both their initial approach and on-going conversations are different.  The following table highlights some of the key areas and the differences between the 2 companies:

      Community   Strategy Innocent TomTom
      Primary Business Goal Brand Advocacy & Marketing Customer support
      Approach to growing community Organic with the business Hosted community launched on a specific date
      Strategy Evolving, learn as they go Structured strategy for hosted community
      Communication Channels Combined offline/packaging/online web and   social and live events Strategic Initiative – customer
      Contact with Brand Direct Direct
      Communication Tone Responsive and reflective of consumer   conversations Responsive – allow community to solve each   other’s problems, with TomTom support where necessary or if community slow to   respond
      Primary communication direction Brand to consumer and consumer to Brand Peer to Peer – facilitate customer to customer   with internal  brand support and   knowledge
      Feedback Product Feedback channel – innocent respond to   customer feedback on products – altered flavour of Thai Pot Product feedback channel – used by NPD and innovation   teams
      Management Small team with access to whole company – all departments Small team – primary function is support but   can feed to others where necessary
      ROI Not primary focus, as customer conversations and   accessibility of internal teams is part of company DNA ROI is related to customer support cost   savings, which are measured and reported.
      Geography International site with international   communication International site with international   communication

      It would be good to hear your feedback on these observations or your own experiences of creating and developing online communities, please leave a comment or contact me directly.


        Understanding Social Conversation Data

        Over the last couple of years, I have worked with a social media monitoring and online community management and market research companies and each one advocates the value of their access and ability to interpret social conversation data, however very few, if any can position themselves in the overall social conversation space.  In order to highlight the different layers of social conversations which offer organisations the opportunity to filter and mine social data with the goal of extracting consumer and market insights I have developed the social conversation sphere.

        The social conversation sphere highlights 6 layers of online conversations which take place across all social channels including, websites, forums, blogs, social networks, public hosted communities and private communities:

        All Online Social Conversations

        The largest sphere contains all online social conversations on all subjects across all channels and provides access to the broadest levels of conversation.  This area can be used by an organisation to answer a broad question about their company, products, customers, and competitors, current and potential new markets.

        For example an organisation may launch a new brand, product or website and after a period of time, they can carry out some broad analysis of conversations to find out customer and market perceptions based on the key themes which emerge from any and all conversation around a particular word or phrase.  They may find the key messages have got across successfully and the target customer group are using the product/service as intended or they could find that a different group is using the product in a different way.  All findings provide feedback and understanding for an organisation.

        Social Media Monitoring tools can be used to filter conversations to narrow down the social data sets.  See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.

         Subject Ecosystem

        The subject ecosystem contains all social data from all social channels filtered by a particular subject area, for example you may be interested in coffee, alcohol, fast food, travel or some other broad subject area.  This layer of social data is refined and narrowed down by key search terms which restrict the data set to one which is relevant to this key subject area.

        This is where social media monitoring and filtering tools kick in and help you identify subject, segment and market social data sets.  See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.

        Company/Product/Brand Ecosystem

        The company, product, brand or service ecosystem contains all social data from all public social channels, both third party sites and earned ecosystems, which is filtered by a particular company, product, brand or service name.   This layer of social data is refined and narrowed down by key search terms relating to your company/brand/product or service, providing the opportunity to extract insight from relevant conversations.

        This is where social media monitoring and filtering tools kick in and help you identify data sets relating to your company/brand/product or service.  See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.

         Earned Company/Product/Brand Ecosystem

        An earned ecosystem is one where a company/product/brand or service has garnered public support/engagement across third party public social networks owned and managed by organisations and individuals not associated to the company/brand/product or service.  Conversations which take place on an earned ecosystem provide different types of insight to those on hosted or own public and private social networks, as many of these sites offer a level of anonymity and may have different guidelines and moderation services to those managed and hosted by a company.

        An earned ecosystem property may be an industry publication or website, an independent blogger, a forum or social network run by a fan or customer, a competitor’s site or a comment on a news of blog item.

        This is where social media monitoring and filtering tools kick in and help you identify data sets relating to your company/brand/product or service which take place within the earned ecosystem.  See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.

        Hosted, Managed and Owned Ecosystem

        As more and more current and potential customers use online resources as a means to research companies, brands, products, services and individuals, there are more and more social channels to access both independent information and also platforms for more direct access to a company, brand, product, service or an individual.  Companies can and do monitoring conversations across all channels, but may not respond across each and every one, but use their own platforms both on public social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and also public hosted customer communities on their own websites like Dell’s ideastorm.com, Starbucks, mystarbucksidea.com and skys help forum.

        This ecosystem provides the opportunity for a company, brand, brand, product, service or individual to have the opportunity to invest more time and resources into facilitating conversations between and with existing and future customers; provide a platform to extract ideas about new products and enhancements to existing products and services and opportunity to reflect back to the community about the actions taken based on feedback in these communities.

        This provides a deeper level of insight and provides a test bed for product development ideas, market and campaign messages.  There are a number of companies who provide hosted online communities and forums, these include:

        Lithium, buddymedia, pluck/demandmedia, liveworld, salesforce,

        Private Online Customer Communities

        At the heart of the social conversation sphere is private online customer communities, which provide a platform to create in depth on-going conversations with a small group of engaged customers over an extended period of time, this may be anything from a few months around a particular project or over a number of years.  These communities bring together customers who are happy to participate in a range of market research activities, the output from which is fed back into an organisations market research, insight and new product development teams, influencing business, marketing and new product development decisions, de-risking innovation and accelerating the success of new product launches.

        There are a number of companies who provide Private Online Customer Communities, these include:

        Communispace, Vision Critical, Promise Communities, Insites Consulting, Brainjuicer, Facegroup,

        Social Media Monitoring Tools

        There are a range of Social Media Monitoring Tools and service providers, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses, some being more suitable for some work than others, a selection of providers include:

        Radian6, SDL/SM2, sysomos, neilsen buzzmetrics, visible technologies,

        The paper below provides an overview od the key features and functionality of social media monitoring tools and guidance on areas to think about when selecting them.

          Social Search Will Change Your Business

          Recently, Google announced changes to their search results, incorporating Google+ Circles social data into an individual’s results, there have been many reactions and conversations about this new product “Search plus Your World”.  However you view this move good bad or just confusing, it is the start of the change and merging of search and social data and it is just the beginning.

          From a business perspective this is changing the game significantly and where a number of successful online businesses who have built their online business and revenue model  based on an SEO strategy and played lip service to social, if they have not seen an impact on their bottom line, yet they will do so unless they acknowledge that the world is changing and SEO is no longer dominant and that the future is a combined strategy, with specialists in both areas, working towards the same goals.

          In the diagram below, we show the 2 current silos and the way we envisage the Social Commerce Model to evolve with SEO, social data funnels merging to support the businesses goals.


            Social Commerce & Innovation in Online Travel

            In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article How Expedia Plans to Make Travel More Social Expedias vice-president of the US, Joe Megibow, discusses Expedias recognition of the value of travel bloggers and intend to introduce and their blog posts into the online experience of their travel customer.

            Online travel is an industry which is best placed to benefit from developing an integrated social commerce and mobile proposition, which delivers each individual customer with a personalised service and has the potential to enhance the online experience and also combine a mix of travel content, bloggers, published content, customer reviews and local destination tour and activity providers to improve customers in destination experience.

            In the spring of 2011, I met friends from Dallas in Paris for a couple of days, they were on a 5 day trip with their 2 sons and wanted to maximise the experience for all the family during their short stay.  In order to do this, Laura, carried out extensive desk research from her home using both online and guidebooks she purchased about Paris, she identified a range of activities from sightseeing, guided historic walks, places to eat, drop by for a coffee and take time out to relax and from this built a great schedule which she skilfully led, with the aid of her iphone, her husbands blackberry and google maps, their 5 day trip and my couple of days with them.

            This inspired me to carry out research into the online travel space, an area I have been interested in since 2001, to look for a joined up consumer experience which would have created the type of city break my friend and her family were looking for and was surprised to find that this was not available, there were vendors doing the individual areas, but there IS NO_ONE joining this all up to create a streamlined customer experience….so I met with a number of technology vendors and carried out research into what makes travel sell on line and developed a contecept called CITEZE – a social commerce and mobile citybreaks travel service which I introduced to a couple of online travel companies, who expressed some interest but no urgency to develop this new customer experience and I have to ask why?

            Below is an outline of the travel concept and I welcome views and opinions and volunteers companies and/or individuals who may be interested in developing this beyond a concept…look forward to hearing from you…..

              Why Do Consumers Participate?

              My interest and fascination with online communities started in 2001, and spurred me on to launch a startup to create an online brand community centered loyalty service for the hotel, airline and online travel industries. The concept was well received, by both potential customers and venture capitalists’; however there was some nervousness about consumers’ willingness to put their personal data online. However, there were signs that things were changing and that individuals were changing their behaviour online and becoming more comfortable with sharing their personal details and participating in online communities, blogs, forums and early social networks where there was a common interest.

              My interest in this area grew and prompted me to ask two questions?

              • Do online communities have identifiable characteristics which can help us understand why consumers participate in them?
              • If we can identify key characteristics, how can this help us create online communities to support different business goals?

              In October 2003, I enrolled in a Masters in Strategic Marketing at Kingston Business School in the UK, to try and answer these questions through researching and writing my dissertation “online communities: why do consumers participate?  why should marketers care?”

              At this time, there was limited marketing based academic research in this area and literature was used from brand communities, online trust, and customer loyalty and non-marketing research in participation in knowledge communities.  The dissertation looked to answer 2 questions:

              • Is there a relationship between the characteristics of an online community and a members participation levels in the community?
              • Is there a relationship between an online community members internet experience levels and their participation levels in an online community?

              The research process combined both a literature review and an online survey of participants active on Living TV’s forums and message boards, which was introduced via popup adverts and regular requests by the community moderators requesting participation from the members.  The survey ran for a period of 10 days, from the 12th August 2004 and the results showed that

              • There were key characteristics which were predictors of levels of participation in online communities, these were:
                • Interest in the core subject discussed in the community
                • A feeling of being included in the community
                • A level of personalisation in the communication within the community
                • A level of expertise in the key subject areas
              • member experience (experience being their level of proficiency online) is not a predictor of participation in an online community
              • over 46% have been members for more than 12 months, demonstrating a level of loyalty to the community
              • over 64% visit the community more than once a day, demonstrating that engagement and relevant content bring members back throughout the day
              • over 51% post on the community more than once a day, demonstrating that members can be active on a regular basis

              The survey was carried out on one type of online community, forums and message boards focused on topical discussion around current TV programs which were airing on the Living TV Channel.

              The conclusion from this research was that

              “online communities have the potential to offer marketers a tool which assists in the creation of a loyal customer base, a forum through which customers and other stakeholders can voluntarily engage in a relationship with the community or organisation and through the different forms of participation can enable an organisation to both educate and learn from the community members.

              The key to online communities is consumers voluntarily engage in a relationship and provide personal and lifestyle data, something that marketers have been trying to achieve through the implementation of customer relationship management systems.”

              Since 2004, there has been an exponential growth in social networks and online communities it would interesting to develop this area of research further looking at a range of social networks and online communities in order to refine our understanding of individual’s behaviour and motivations for participation in online communities.

              A copy of the full dissertation is below and I would be interested in hearing from you if you are interested in helping me develop this research further or sharing your views opinions and research on this blog.

                Business Cases for Social Strategies

                As more organisations and their business partners look to develop social strategies in one or more areas of their business, the need for cases studies is increasing. We have compiled a selection of social business cases studies, which show the business value from an individual social media campaign, to customer service, social commerce, evolving business models and developing a new business model with social at the heart of the strategy.

                This is not an exhaustive list, but it does demonstrate that social both in discrete projects or areas of the business, to disrupting business models. If you have other business cases, you can point us to please drop us a line or comment below.

                  Intercontinental Hotels Private Customer Communities

                  Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) have been working with Communispace, the private community company, to build on-going relationships with 300 elite customers, who provide feedback and insights into all things IHG.

                  The private communities have provided IHG with the opportunity to

                  • raise over 3,000 questions within the community
                  • provide a platform for peer to peer customer engagement resulting in a further 7,000 questions being asked and answered by the community
                  • listen to and learn from the customers
                  • provide tactical feedback on campaigns and messaging
                  • provide strategic feedback on new product development and customer experience
                  • facilitate sharing of member generated content ie photos, views, opinions and questions
                  • provided internal education for senior executives as to the value of developing and running hosted customer communities

                  Following the continued success of the private communities, IHG have developed an external public community called Priority Club Connect, where priority club members can share their photos and travel blogs with other members. This has a growing number of members and participants.

                  InterContinental Hotels Group: Inside Out: How Private Communities Catalyzed Our Social Media Efforts, presented by Nick Ayres from GasPedal and SocialMedia.org on Vimeo.

                    Social Business Strategy Development

                    The Altimeter Report identified 4 internal requirements common to organisations who they perceived to be advanced in the implementation of social business projects:

                    1. Baseline Governance and Re-enforcement: Established  and reinforced a corporate social media policy that allows employees to participate professionally
                    2. Enterprise-wide response Processes: Defined processes for rapid workflow and engagement with customers in social media
                    3. On-going Education Program and Best Practice Sharing: Fostered a culture of learning through on-going social media education Leadership from a dedicated and shared central hub: Organised in a scalable formation, with a cross functional “center of excellence”

                    The full report is below.

                    The Purple Spinnaker Social Business Framework provides organisations with a social business strategy framework and an operational implementation process which helps organisations to:

                    1. Develop their first social business strategy
                    2. Provide a framework for existing social business strategies
                    3. Develop an internal education program for all levels within the organisation

                    As, with all social business strategies, the core of the framework is based on listening, learning, engaging and growing your business:

                    To support our framework, we have identified the key workstreams a business needs to manage to develop and implement their social business strategy:

                    Central to the success of your social business strategy is putting a team in place, which combines an internal social business leader with executive level support and the identification and engagemnt of external partners who can help you:

                    1. Develop your company and/or projects social business framework
                    2. Land the social business strategy into the operations of the business

                    Social business strategies are adding value to companies across all industries today, but we are in the infancy of this area of business and as we see more successes, then we will see the evolution of the framework and also more experienced and skilled professionals leading and managing these projects.

                    Today, it is still a bit of trial and error, but if you dont try you dont learn anything!

                    Altimeter Social Business Readiness: How advanced Companies Prepare internally: