Having Difficult Conversations


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Most companies still have a mass mentality. The individual knowledge, skill and creativity held by staff is hidden behind processes devised in the image of the assembly line.

Products and services are viewed as a source of profit at the point of sale, not after - so talking to customers who have already spent their money is seen as a cost not a source of value.

This presentation, the Keynote at Unicom, held in London on 03 June 2009, shows how social media can change all this and provides a 4 step approach to the process of socialising the way your organisation listens, acknowledges, engages and collaborates with consumers, audiences and stakeholders.

Presentation by Robin Hamman, Head of Social Media at Headshift and Visiting Journalism Fellow at City University London

Published in: Business, Technology
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  • Having Difficult Conversations
    Robin Hamman
    Head of Social Media at Headshift and Visiting Fellow, City University, Department of Journalism
    Keynote at Unicom (#ECSM)
    London, 03 June 2009

    You can find out more about Headshift at http://www.headshift.com and Robin Hamman at http://www.cybersoc.com

    Follow me @ http://twitter.com/Cybersoc
  • Headshift helps a range of organisations - from law firms to consumer brands, petro-chemical companies to political think-tanks - to have conversations.

    Our ENTERPRISE team implements user focused knowledge management and collaboration tools to help employees behind the scenes.

    Our SOCIAL MEDIA team, which I lead, creates consumer and audience facing propositions that help organisations have deeper, more meaningful engagements with consumers, stakeholders and audiences.
  • We're based in London with small offices in New York, Sydney and Zurich. We've also bucked the trend by continuing to increase in number - there are now 37 of us, half of which are consultants and the other half design, develop and implement solutions borne out of the consultation process.

  • Most companies still have a mass mentality. The individual knowledge, skill and creativity held by staff is hidden behind processes devised in the image of the assembly line.

    Products and services are viewed as a source of profit at the point of sale, not after - so talking to customers who have already spent their money is seen as a cost not a source of value.
  • \"Customer Relationship Management\" is a system used to identify the next Jeff Jarvis, who famously kicked of the DellHell campaign many of you will be familiar with, and placating him whilst driving the cost of dealing with the remaining 80-90% of the mass market down.

    The result? Companies spend a fortune on call centres that make their customers hate them.

  • When I was at the BBC, I looked after a range of online communities created around programmes and services. It was obvious very quickly - and Headshift's experience of working with a range of clients in different sectors bears this out - is that the reason people complain is they feel let down. They expected you to do better. They want you to do better. Turning that energy into something quite positive can be surprisingly easy.
  • People are using a whole range of social networking tools and discussion platforms to discuss your products or services. The first step to understanding where the problems are, and extracting the value this feedback can bring, is find it and listen.

    Let's look at how...
  • You can start doing this yourself for free or on a shoestring budget. Tools like pageflakes, netvibes and yahoo pipes let you - for example - pull together key word searches you've created to monitor mentions on youtube, flickr, blogs, twitter and elsewhere. More specialised tools exist - we're working with several and the results are insightful.
  • Acknowledge... that you've seen it, that you'll take responsibility, that you actually do care...
  • Once you start to listen, you may want to think about what to do with the conversations you find. Here the BBC used delicious to store and organise the bookmarks and, going a step further, set delicious up to publish directly into the side bar of one of their blogs so that readers could see what the editors were reading.

    (note: With that simple to make link between what was once an administrative process they're suddenly generating and sharing content.)

    [The BBC is a Headshift client]
  • Comcast Cable in America is often lambasted for it's poor customer service. Now they're using twitter as their early warning system. They acknowledge issues quickly and, where possible, resolve them.

    140 characters seems a pretty efficient way to deal with customer issues - perhaps it's a better way too?
  • Responding to consumers and stakeholders isn't something everyone in your organisation will want to, or should, do... it's almost certainly not the job of the IT guy in the basement, yet many organisations still put him in charge of their corporate website...
  • BUT it is a real opportunity to push your most talented people - the people you've hired for their creativity, knowledge and skills - out the door and let them, with a bit of training, shine.

    This is David Hone. He's Shell's Climate Change Advisor - a leading scientist in the area and, now, a frequent and vocal contributor in the search for a solution to the climate disaster facing us all... you, me and people who work at Shell alike.

    [Shell is a Headshift client]
  • We've already spoken a bit about engagement or, at least, small bits of engagement by the right people. What I want to talk about here is direct engagement...
  • Engaging in their space....

    - brave
    - potentially risky
    - often done by employees who care, not employees who have to
    - guidelines can help support those who do
    - always understand and respect norms and conventions of the community space you enter
  • The BBC Manchester Blog, a project I dreamed up and ran with Richard Fair at BBC Manchester, was an attempt to engage a bit differently. Instead of asking people to participate on our website, we asked them to create there own - which we then linked to and quoted from. BEFORE we launched, we set up the social media antennae we needed to track mentions of the blog so that - as happened off the back of the first post - bloggers wrote about the project or questioned our motives. In this example, we heard Kate of Manchizzle, quoted and linked to her comment, then responded in full. We also posted a comment on her original post pointing people to our response. Her response? She wash shocked the BBC had bothered to respond and we won over her support. She later became BBC local radio's first ever blog correspondent, doing a 10 minute weekly audio review on BBC Radio Manchester.
  • Getsatisfaction.com provides a platform for companies to engage with consumers. All complaints and comments appear publicly and users can see which companies bother to respond. Using a site like this acts like a magnet - it pulls all the people who might otherwise blog or tweet about their bad experience into a single place where they can be more easily and effectively be responded to.

  • iPM on BBC Radio 4 - it's \"a blog with a radio station wrapped around it\" - Eddie Mair

    They've opened their entire programme making process up to scrutiny but, more importantly, are involving their audience at each step of the way - asking for story ideas, feedback on suggested running orders, contacts who might be good interviewees, etc.
  • Dell became more responsive and user-driven thanks to Jeff Jarvis and the Dell Hell saga, but can it really become user-driven?
  • Something we built for Compass, the political think-tank... users contribute ideas to better society and others help refine those ideas by commenting alongside individual sections of the document. We did this very inexpensively using Wordpress, some custom style sheets, and by further developing an open source plug-in.
  • Enabled by Design, another website built by Headshift, let's people share their ideas for more well designed prosthetic devices. Users then comment on the ideas and the hope is that, in time, the best ideas can be passed to manufacturers to make prototypes. The prototypes can then be tested by the community and, eventually, when they come into production can be sold back to that community.

    Crowdsourced innovation - testing - and marketing...
  • Spot.us is a San Francisco based journalism project where users and journalists submit story ideas, journalists then pitch to do the story by quoting experience or unique angle, users then select a journalist to do the story and donate money to make it happen. The articles are published under a creative commons license so that the community that funded it can share it and use it as they like.
  • Shrink wrapping customer experiences is more expensive than most realise - they damage relationships

    Bespoke products, services and experiences humanise. Listening, acknowledging, engaging and collaborating is not just a cost, it's also a source of profit.

    Social media gives us new opportunities to do all these things, so let's start replacing the assembly lines people hate with some genuine humanity.

  • Having Difficult Conversations

    1. 1. having difficult conversations http://www.flickr.com/photos/blmurch/2193301140/
    2. 2. headshift.com About
    3. 3. London, New York, Sydney and Zurich About
    4. 4. how do companies talk to customers?
    5. 5. responsibility hides behind mass production http://www.flickr.com/photos/steepways/2962645024/
    6. 6. CRM: we do not value you or your call http://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/2657100921/
    7. 7. what have they forgotten?
    8. 8. people who complain give a shit http://www.flickr.com/photos/coxy/2358433454
    9. 9. step one: listen http://www.flickr.com/photos/metrojp/92038203/
    10. 10. http://www.pageflakes.com/Cybersoc
    11. 11. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bellatrix6/66880602 step two: acknowledge
    12. 12. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet
    13. 13. http://twitter.com/comcastcares
    14. 14. http://www.flickr.com/photos/20after4/283153964/
    15. 15. http://blogs.shell.com/climatechange/
    16. 16. http://www.flickr.com/photos/renaissancechambara/3543135684/ step three: engage
    17. 17. “Nick… is one of the BBC people who is prepared to get stuck in and engage with his critics on this site… We generally don’t agree with him, but he argues courteously and cogently… It’s not done to try to get a blogger into trouble with their employer, and if you really have done this, then I for one deplore your action.” full story: http://nickreynoldsatwork.wordpress.com/2007/10/21/my-friends-at-biased-bbc/
    18. 18. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/manchester/2006/08/starting_a_conversation.shtml
    19. 19. http://www.getsatisfaction.com
    20. 20. http://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent/3402730480 step four: collaborate
    21. 21. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ipm
    22. 22. http://www.ideastorm.com/
    23. 23. http://www.howtoliveinthe21stcenture.org.uk
    24. 24. http://www.enabledbydesign.co.uk
    25. 25. http://www.spot.us
    26. 26. shrink wrap not included
    27. 27. @Cybersoc robin@headshift.com