Social business process: tying your teams together

When reading and hearing about social business, what is your image of what its ‘ambassadors’ want? My impression is that they want change before anything else. Unfortunately, ‘tearing down silos’ in large organizations like many innovative minds want isn’t popular with the people who will be doing the answering if things go wrong.

I agree with the ambassadors’ plea to get a good number of people involved in social media for business – and train them properly: in possibilities AND in risks. But how do you avoid getting yourself into a complete mess?

The case for a unified social media approach

I’ve talked before about the way marketing may well be up to the ‘social challenge’ but that it doesn’t help much if your customers get stuck elsewhere in your organization. Getting one team onto a level that shouts ‘social business!’ and neglecting the others can be worse than… Well I might say “doing nothing” but let’s settle for …starting quietly and watching what happens. Let me give you an example.

Social Business Process

Social business process: where do you lead your customer?

Andrew Grill recently had a dismal experience in the world of ‘4G’. In a post this week he gave the issue some thought in terms of social business. He refers to his earlier post “Mind the social media gap” in which Dave Evans tells us:

“Marketing sells the expectation, marketing creates demand, … Operations delivers.”

The social media gap is the gap between expectation and delivery. Any kind of gap between the two drives conversation. The good part is it works whenever you do better than you promised (unless you promised way too little). But the reverse is also true.

In the case Andrew describes, marketing was clearly so far ahead of the game in terms of social media that this led him to expect a great (social customer) experience on every level. But operations wasn’t half ‘social’ enough. Andrew lists all the things that went wrong in the ‘support’ phase, thus giving an excellent to-do for anyone who seriously wants to go social.*

It might have been less of a problem if Andrew had not been a social media ‘native’, or if support had been able to get hold of someone who could actually manage the support process via social media. The way things went, the whole company looked bad.

The conclusion has got to be that you can’t limit yourself to training just the marketing team.

Tying teams together: sales to support

Perhaps you don’t get many questions via social media right now, at least from customer services.** What you could do to get a clear picture of customer feedback is contact a few people from different teams:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • After sales
  • Customer service

Now I won’t go all ‘agile business’ on you – classic Prince II project management tells you to “manage transitions”. It’s your job to find out where valuable customer information falls into the cracks of your organization, and then seal the cracks. If the only viable way to seal the cracks is to redesign the whole process, fine, that’s your next step.

First you can check:

  1. If marketing or sales are actually taking care of part of customer feedback via social media – because they have established a presence there.
  2. Whether all feedback is addressed efficiently.
  3. If anything is referred from one team to the other.

The least you can expect is to get some idea of what everyone is doing, and whether or not different parts of your organization are showing the same ‘face’ to your customers.

Extending the ol’ sales funnel

Information from any customer-focused team should be accessible both ways: up and down the customer process. The ‘normal’ way would be for customers to get ‘handed down’ the process from marketing through sales to after sales. In case of issues, customers are then handed into the care of customer service.

But anything which comes in after sales should be added to the existing customer account, and any kind of feedback – positive or negative – on the sales process should travel back up and get serious attention and follow-up. Don’t let complaints just sit in your customer database – or worse, a separate customer service database. Check a number of complaints for clues that point toward underlying issues, and address those.

Working your way toward a social business process

What I would like you to consider is this:

  1. give teams a reason for working together,
  2. add a structure like regular meetings and calls to exchange information.
  3. enhance a starting cross-teams trend by providing any common support (unit) you can think of.

Even if you have a clear picture of where you want to go, you need to look for transitional stages that ‘work’ every step of the way.

One last addition: today’s interview with Frank Eliason of Citibank reminds us that customers don’t want “social services” – they want you to get things right the first time. If your cross-team session hints at problems, use that knowledge to make sure no customer will ever need your customer services.

Literature:

* Andrew Grill, Had EE Been a Social Business They Might Have Survived Launch Issues – Socialmediatoday, November 5.

** EMarketer, Social is still a small part of customer services. November 7

Further reading:

  • Amanda Nelson, 60 smart social media marketing tips, Radian6/Salesforce Marketing Cloud Blog, November 6. Amanda serves up a long list devided into aspects of social media marketing you need if you’re to call yourself a social business. One aspect is Workflow and Automation, where you’ll find some of the things I mention in this post.
  • In case you are a Microsoft/Yammer user: Yammer Announces Deeper Microsoft Dynamics CRM Integration – Microsoft.com, October 29.

Feel free to share your thoughts about what a social business process could look like in your organization!

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Social business organization: elements of change

Since I started to write about social business and agile business, I’ve had some feedback (thank you Twitter) that said something on the line of “useful stuff – like to read more”. Lucky me – I’ve discovered I have a lot more to say. So much in fact that it’s never going to fit in one post.

In this post I’ll go into a bit of organization history and the present-day trends and I’ll tell you how I propose to deal with the topic of social business.

Business organization in theory

History is a wonderful thing so long as you don’t have to live it. If you don’t believe me, imagine life without toothpaste. But here’s the thing: we do live history. At least many of us do – we work in organizations that are too big for us. How’d that happen?

Social Business Organization - Elements of Change

What’s your view of change?

In any group of people it will soon be obvious that some people have different affinities and skills than others.

In larger-scale businesses (let’s say in the Industrial Age) it made perfect sense for successful, growing organizations to form teams and departments that could function relatively independently from each other.

In management literature the term ‘span of control’ is used for the number of people any manager (or whatever he/she is called) can manage effectively. Managers were given a group of people they could actually oversee, and the ‘managees’ didn’t have to deal with 200 colleagues every hour of the day – just people in their team, and their manager. In terms of organization theory that must have seemed very efficient.*

Unfortunately, these silos have some major drawbacks, like a lack of communication between teams and valuable information falling into a crack somewhere. We’ve learned over time to deal with the status quo by using work-arounds of every description and ignoring the bits we can’t solve.

But in our current, information-overloaded society these negative side-effects of the nature of our organizations are no longer something we can safely ignore. And we don’t have to.

Technology-driven changes and your business organization

Technology has reached a point where it can actually help overcome the age-old problem of working in an organization its ‘inhabitants’ and its customers can’t oversee. But these new ‘social’ solutions need a different mindset from all those involved. And at some point some CXO is going to have to decide to ditch some of the old structures, procedures and software to make way for the new social working method.

Most businesses stop short of that, settling instead for add-ons and plug-ins. The thing about plug-ins – as any self-hosted blogger will tell you – is that some of them make your blog run a whole lot slower…

My credentials as a social business or change management pro

Here goes:

  • Affinity with the subject: check
  • Any kind of topic-related study: started with an introduction on organization theory, been interested ever since.
  • Strategic role within a company: nope
  • Strategic change management experience: nope
  • IT implementation: yes, on the user side of the equation (functional requirements).

I basically know what doesn’t work, and I have some ideas about why something will or will not take off the way you’d like it to. Standard procedures for supporting or facilitating online collaboration on any level, of any description don’t lead to adoption by employees of its own accord. A lot of tech stuff has got so many handy options, giving it to your average employee is like handing a Swiss army knife to your granny and telling her to open the door with it. It won’t work in a hurry – unless your granny had an unusual career that is.

Elements of change: proposed subjects

There are many ways to start changing your business, and I’m sure every single one of them has its challenges. To increase my chances of writing sensible information about each aspect, and hopefully add some useful articles for further reading, I will deal with one view in each post:

  1. Bottom up – employees are changing. I’ve written a post that addresses some issues. How do you enhance and direct changes in your workforce?
  2. Top down – strategy talk. I’ll get into it when the time comes.
  3. Manager level – this is actually a part of larger organizations that should not be overlooked. It’s more interesting than it looks from the outside!
  4. Tying your teams together. Buzz has it that you should be tearing down the silos inside your organization. You’ve just read a paragraph or two in which I stated that those silos used to have a function. Like it or not, they’re hard to get rid of. The fact that most articles about social business are focused on marketing led to my writing my “Back to Front” post.

* Literature I’m loosely referring to in this post:

  • The organization classic: Mintzberg on Management
  • Steven van Belleghem: The Conversation Company (which I mentioned in an earlier post before reading it)
  • And there are any number of great titles out there that focus on the role of conversations within the confines of your organization, like Crucial Conversations and Conversations for Change.

The central issue I’d like to ponder is what it takes from all those involved to adapt to the changes which look set to turn your organization into a social business.

Do you have thoughts or must-read literature you’d like to share? How do you view your own organization – and your role in it – in light of the whole social business buzz?