Tag Archives: Social Media

Powering Mass Collaboration with Salesforce Communities


salesforceportalsVcommunities

My firm works with our clients to deliver world-customer service and collaboration solutions on salesforce.com. Many of our clients cite interoperability with front-office systems (sales, marketing, customer support, and others) as a priority outcome of their collaboration initiatives. For those who are contemplating, or have already invested in the Salesforce platform,Salesforce Communities offers a powerful solution.

Driven by CEO Marc Benioff’s relentless vision for social business and mobile innovation on the platform, Salesforce Communities has evolved over the past few years from a simple chat application to a robust collaboration platform, fully mobile responsive. These changes have transformed Salesforce into a recognized leader in enterprise social collaboration with some distinct advantages in certain areas:

100% Data Driven: Salesforce is always in sync and interoperable with production data on accounts, contacts, opportunities, campaigns, and more – right out of the box, with no need for a traditional data integration effort.

“Lead with Mobile” Philosophy: Salesforce has extended the full functionality of the Salesforce platform, enabling you to automatically leverage your knowledge workers in the field to dramatically increase the freshness and accuracy of data. This built-in mobility also allows you to spend more of your implementation effort on functionality and outcomes vs. development of a “mobile version” of your social applications.

Mass Collaboration on “One Version of the Truth”: You can include customers, employees, and partners directly and securely into your front office processes on one, central database. Having this system of record dramatically improves data leveraged in the user experience. The various components of Salesforce Communities – such as Chatter, Chatter Answers, Knowledge, Cases and even Visual Workflow all leverage a consistent data set within your community.

Connect and Extend: When the need arises to integrate to core systems outside the front office, the Salesforce platform is among the most secure, and extensible on the market. The freedom to further enrich the customer/partner/employee experience by syndicating data from other enterprise systems is another way that Salesforce Communities can increase system-use efficiency and enterprise collaboration.

Measure to Manage: The Salesforce platform embeds powerful analytics to make fact-based decisions on the iterative evolution of your social business. You can share reports, and now Salesforce dashboards with Salesforce Communities users to measure and guide behaviors for community activation, adoption, and ongoing optimization.

Link to the Broader Public Conversation: Salesforce allows you to participate in the conversations that happen outside of your four walls as well, with social listening and outreach tools such as Exact Target Marketing Cloud and Radian6 Social listening and strategy are a core offering of 7Summits. We can now integrate these enabling technologies to complement your Salesforce system for real-time open social feedback on your collaboration efforts.

Mass collaboration and social business solutions can be a powerful factor in driving your business outcomes and aligning your front-office operations.

If your enterprise technology playbook includes Salesforce, 7Summits can help you take those outcomes to the next level.  Feel free to contact me to continue the conversation: (Twitter) @tim_kocher

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The Big Question on Social…Can It Move The Needle? (Spoiler Alert…YES)


The NeedleI’m often asked various forms of the question “What can ‘social business’ actually deliver in terms tangible benefits?”It’s a fair question, for a relatively new set of processes and tools for the vast majority of companies today, social collaboration can sometimes seem like alchemy.

One way to provide some answers is to quote statistics that have emerged from the industry as it matures. For example,McKinsey estimates that through added value and productivity, social could add $1.3 trillion to the economy.

But perhaps a more valuable (or at least more tangible) insights can be gained by real-world examples of organizations that are doing it right. One solid example is a client of my firm, 7Summits, who was entered for a 2014 Forrester Groundswell Award, Penn Foster. Penn Foster is the nation’s leader in distance education, offering more than 105 accredited and career-focused degree, diploma and certificate programs. The school is also a Training Partner to over 1,000 corporations and 400 schools and institutions, and has over 25,000 graduates each year. For a full description of their recent initiative and it’s impact, please see this post on the 7Summits Blog.

Here is how Penn Foster answers the big question:

  • 200% increase in user adoption
  • Over 60,000 registered users within the first year of adoption
  • 30% reduction in email interactions for 2013
  • Cost per interaction has improved by 45%
  • Increased engagement with students and unprecedented access to personal insights that help tailor communication

That’s the sound of the needle moving!

In Customer Relationships, Stasis is a Myth


ImageStasis (n.) from Greek στάσις “a standing still” may refer to:  A state of stability, in which all forces are equal and opposing, therefore they cancel each other out .

Stasis in your customer relationships is a myth.

Consider these situations in your life.

Personal relationships are either improving or declining. There is no stasis.  It’s true with siblings, spouses, friends, bosses, and on and on.

Physical fitness – either you are putting the time in at the gym or outdoors and you are getting more fit, or your are not and you are growing less fit.  It is hard to find an equilibrium.

It is also true for the seller and the customer. You are either getting closer to your buyers in an account or falling further away.  There is no such thing as “everything is fine.”

The number one challenge on corporations’ minds today is customer intimacy.  So what are you doing about it? The good new is that there are more choices and tools to leverage than ever before to help you go from stasis to proactive customer engagement. But, you have to be in it to win it.

Here are just a few examples of approaches to being more proactive on customer engagement:

  • CRM and Customer Service Platforms – Manage the customer relationship in 360 degrees
  • Social Media  – Access more opinions publicly than ever before – but only if you tune in
  • Portals/Communities – Transform customer service into customer collaboration 
  • Mobility – Interact with your customers where, when and how they choose
  • Web meetings / Video conferencing – Warm up  typical conference calls with visual queues
  • Face to face meetings – The no-substitute preference for establishing rapport and consensus

The bottom line…as outlined in a recent Forbes article, “The Future Of Marketing: A Little Less Campaign And A Little More ActionCompanies are shifting from “awareness and acquisition” towards the “customer experience and retention.”  They are asking, ”How can we better serve and support the customers we have?” and they are taking concrete steps to get it done.

Don’t imagine “everything is fine” with that customer – Or it may be your competitor who teaches you that stasis is a myth.

The Value of “The Human Interface”


face to faceIt’s an unfortunate paradox, but one that is harder and harder to ignore.  The more energy we all pour into our computers, social media, and mobile interfaces, the less time we spend on our person-to-person, human interface.  There are many articles highlighting this dynamic – that social media is ironically making us less social human beings. A great Facebook-focused article on this topic can be found here in The Atlantic.

But you don’t need to do comprehensive research for this information, the anecdotal evidence is all around us – kids texting from across a school bus aisle, adults arguing via Facebook posts, even teens impersonating other teens using “text spoofing” and other electronic interfaces.

The Workplace version of this story took on a new reality last week.  Here is what happened, according to Tech Crunch:

While at a Python programming conference, a developer who used to work for a company called Playhaven apparently made a joke about “big” dongles and “forking someone’s repo.”

Adria Richards, a developer evangelist sitting in front of them, called them out on Twitter and in a blog post for making the conference environment unwelcoming toward women

A huge, nasty online exchange erupted on the social media universe, and ultimately, both the programmer and Adria lost their jobs.  Very serious.  Very sad.

What if instead Adria had simply turned around and told the programmer that she found his comments offensive?  It’s easy to imagine that with face-to-face communication, this conflict could have been resolved much more effectively.

So, what does this have to do with sales and marketing?  A lot, I think.

I believe that we as Sales and Marketing Professionals have also lost some practice with direct human communication.  We use voicemail, email, text, and even social media to carry out much of the communication that was once almost exclusively face-to-face with our customers.  Have there been efficiency improvements, absolutely.  But, I can’t help but wonder how much more effective some of our critical conversations would be if we delivered them on the human interface.

“Engagement-To-Cash”


A Holistic Solution for Meaningful and Profitable Customer Relationships

Falling short of customer expectations can be fatal.  Once iconic businesses like Polaroid, Yellow Pages, Border’s, Circuit City, Pontiac, and Blockbuster have ceased to exist.  There are no doubt widely varying factors that contributed to their ultimate disappearance.  But some may have fallen prey to what digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist Brian Solis calls “Digital Darwinism” in his book The End Of Business As Usual.  How well did these companies keep pace with customer relationship expectations?

At my firm, EDL Consulting, we take a unique point-of-view on customer relationships that we call “Engagement-to-Cash.” It’s a process that allows businesses to turn the liability of disjointed customer relationships into integrated, holistic customer interactions.

E2C

Engagement-to-Cash is deliberately represented as a cyclical process as opposed to a linear one.   Each phase is interdependent, and if managed properly, the cycle will renew based on your customers’ willingness to repeat it.  Your customers will grow your business over time if they continue to derive value from their relationship with you.

EDL Consulting was founded in 2001 with a perspective that businesses operate more efficiently and effectively when marketing, sales, commerce, and customer service functions (the “front office” or “customer facing” functions) work together holistically.

The Internet, the acceptance of cloud computing, as well as mobile, social, and real-time communications have radically accelerated the transformation of what is possible and what is necessary for Engagement-to-Cash. The rules of the customer relationship have changed profoundly.  If you are still managing these core business functions as you did even 3-4 years ago, you are behind the curve.

Taking this holistic point of view enables our clients to maximize performance by increasing engagement and customer satisfaction, increasing revenues and customer lifetime value, and trimming customer acquisition and retention costs across multiple disciplines.

There are several key enablers of these results:

  • Cloud Computing – Businesses can now pivot with more agility than ever before with flexible and scalable IT infrastructures and applications, no longer tied to the “digital concrete” of heavy, on-premise systems.
  • Social Media – There is more meaningful customer information and interaction for businesses to leverage than ever before. By joining social conversations, companies can engage customers with meaningful, value-add content.
  • A Unified Customer Database – The holistic Engagement-to-Cash cycle represents technology as well as process. A world-class, integrated Force.com framework is delivering on the CRM promise of “one version of the truth.”

Viewing the front office in this way frustrates traditional point solution technology vendors, whose products typically apply to a distinct piece of the total solution such as marketing automation, social media, eCommerce, or customer service, and whose products therefore fail to address the inherent interdependencies of a holistic business cycle.

There are two flaws with a point-solution approach.

The Silo Effect
: For example, an eCommerce solution may include a powerful new system, but because the vendor focuses only on the eCommerce component, the new system will most likely involve a disparate customer database than exists within the enterprise CRM system, bringing the implied added costs of maintaining, developing, and integrating two source systems.

The Hammer Looking for a Nail
: This is a fundamental distinction between Engagement-to-Cash and traditional point solution philosophies. The holistic approach is not limited to a one-size-fits-all answer.  It ensures that you bring forward what you need, not what they have.

In sharp contrast, through our strategic alignment with salesforce.com and BigMachines, EDL Consulting has found technology partners that complement our Engagement-to-Cash philosophy.  Salesforce and BigMachines provide a state of the art, cloud-based platform and flexible, software-as-a-service continuum along which our customers can begin where they prefer and then evolve as they prefer, moving in a modular fashion to optimize their Engagement-to-Cash cycle, regardless of where they start the journey and where they are headed.  Each of the phases of the Engagement-to-Cash cycle can be addressed by these technologies.

EDL organizes the Engagement to Cash process into eight distinct phases which are explained in greater detail below:

Engagement – Foster Customer Intimacy

Customers are talking about your company. The only question is, are you participating in the conversation?  EDL helps to ensure that you have the systems and processes in place to join in. EDL can enable your organization with best practices for planning and internalizing best practices in engagement through social media, as well as best-in-breed tools like Radian6 from salesforce.com to help you enhance customer engagement.  This engagement continues throughout the Engagement-to-Cash Cycle as a thread of each phase.

Demand Generation – Turn Targets Into Leads

There are a variety of channels you can use to communicate with your customers  – your website, social media, marketing, field sales, campaigns, events, etc.  How do you fill your funnel and turn targets into prospects and leads? EDL leverages the best in breed marketing functionality and campaign management of salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud to ensure you have a more focused and effective demand generation effort.

Lead Management – Creation to Qualification

It’s a question that keeps marketing and sales executives up at night – “Have we followed up on your leads?” EDL helps our customers put processes in place to close the loop from lead creation to qualification. How does your organization contact, qualify and promote leads to opportunities? This process helps create certainty that you’ve followed through on your important investment in leads by leveraging best practices in salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud lead management functionality.

Opportunity Management – Prioritize and Qualify

Now that you’ve created the opportunities, you’re trying to allocate your company’s finite resources to the most appropriate opportunities to maximize customer satisfaction and revenue. We help you to ensure you have the process and systems in place to effectively track and prioritize sales activity and qualification through the sales pipeline. EDL leverages salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud to enable measurement and proper management your pursuits.

Configuration – Fast and Accurate Pricing, and Quoting

The importance of getting quick, accurate estimates and proposals to your customers can be the difference between winning and losing business. EDL excels at implementation of both the basic product pricing in saleforce.com, and the more robust configuration, pricing, and quoting (CPQ) solutions of BigMachines, the best-in-breed software CPQ solution in the salesforce.com ecosystem.

eCommerce – Enterprise-class Cross-Channel eCommerce

EDL brings deep experience in resolving and simplifying the complexities of developing and maintaining effective eCommerce systems.

With over ten years of experience improving online tractions, we bring the domain expertise to address your eCommerce needs.

We have packaged all that knowledge in a best in breed product called CloudCraze developed natively on saleforce.com’s Force.com platform.

Order Management – Improve Operational Efficiencies

The order management process results in a faster path to improved operational efficiencies and higher customer satisfaction. Depending on your business model, there is/are? a myriad of ways to fulfill an order – download, shipping, integrate with your existing systems.  EDL can provide the integration experience to connect your eCommerce system with your back office systems.

Customer Service – Create Long-Term Customer Relationships

Your customer interaction will either lead to a “once and done” transaction, or a long-term relationship.  EDL can help enable your organization with the processes and tools to move to long-term relationships with repeat transactions. Each of your interactions is a precious opportunity to further customer engagement. Your customers are demanding more and better service. EDL can help you provide a more holistic experience across all channels‹from the contact center to customer social networks ­ by implementing saleforce.com’s Service Cloud. Continued follow up and nurturing of relationship helps guide the conversation from problem resolution to new sales opportunities.

Let’s Get Started…

Engagement-to-Cash is a fresh perspective, one that leverages decades of technology and business experience into a holistic solution approach, helping companies forge deeper and more successful customer relationships with systems that integrate cleanly among your customer relationship processes.

I would be delighted to discuss your business objectives for the coming year, the ways in which your organization currently handles the Engagement-to-Cash Cycle, the many benefits that our customers are realizing by changing the game – and you can too.

Contact Me:

Tim Kocher

tim.kocher@edlconsulting.com

Time Travel…A Tale of Sales Tool Evolution!


The tools of the [sales] trade have changed remarkably since I began my career 20 years ago.  That fact struck me on a recent business trip to San Diego even harder than the strange weather (It was 30 degrees warmer in Chicago than Southern California – in March!).  On this trip, I got more work done during my flight than I could have done over the course of an entire week 20 years ago.  It was truly like time travel.

Yes, sales tools have changed…Actually, sales tools have been radically transformed over the past 20 years.  Only after the day had ended, when I was eating dinner and reflecting, did I piece together just how amazing the transformation has been.

Here is a summary of the tools that I leveraged.

First, the travel itself.  I booked my trip through Travelocity, managed my trip through Tripit on my iPhone, and boarded the plane (using my mobile boarding pass of course).  In the “old days” this would have called for me collaborating with a travel agent via phone while the agent looked up options on their private terminal.  Then, I would have received physical tickets in the mail, and checked in at the airport to receive physical boarding passes.

On to the research.  I began by  the exploring the backgrounds of the clients with whom I was to meet, literally gathering more information than a team of people could have done over several days in the 1990s.  I accessed bios on each attendee of my meetings via LinkedIn, then accessed breakdowns on their company via Data.com and Google Finance.  Finally, I Checked Radian6 and HootSuite for any social media postings by or about them or their company.

Then there was the preparation of meeting materials.  While in the air for the 4 hour flight (which used to be 4 dead hours) I worked on my PowerPoint presentation, connected to the in-flight wi-fi on American Airlines, collaborated with my co-workers via Skype to complete the presentation, then emailed it to my team at the destination.

Suddenly, Radian6, my social media listening tool flagged a newly published article about another key client of mine.  Before I landed in California, I had clipped that article, emailed it with a congratulatory note the my key contacts at this important client, and landed a meeting with their CEO, all of which was neatly and automatically tracked and summarized in my cloud-based CRM system, salesforce.com.

On the way to my meeting, I called up the mobile version of salesforce.com on my iphone, downloaded a map to the meeting place, called my contact, and logged a note to remind myself of our conversation.

Amazing.  Nothing short of stunning, really.

In one day, I had leveraged “sales 2.0” tools including:

  1. Wireless internet during a flight: Go-Go in-flight internet on American Airlines (converting 4 dormant hours to productive time)
  2. Cloud-based CRM: salesforce.com and integrated Outlook email
  3. Online intelligence:  Data.com, Google Finance
  4. Social media: Radian6, HootSuite, and LinkedIn
  5. Mobile solutions: salesforce.com mobile, Google Maps,

This is such a fundamental paradigm shift for someone who began in sales at a time when the fax machine was breaking its own paradigm of physical document delivery (Remember?…”It sends the contracts over the phone lines as data and then re-assembles them on the receiving machine!”).

So, before jumping into your next big day, take a moment to reflect and appreciate the progress we’ve made.

Of course, as a famous time traveler once said,”It’s always a big day tomorrow – I’ve got a time machine; I skip the little ones!” ~The Doctor