Do online social newtworks actually exist?

In the Mansfield Journal, Holly Harman Fackler pondered over whether the word “online community” was an oxymoron. In the online space, civility, accountability and consideration don’t follow the same rules as real world relationships. It’s a group of faceless people congregating in one spot. She also points out that many neighborhoods in our country are the same way.

But an online community can:
-Facilitate a place for people to come together and generate ideas
-Challenge ones thinking and lead to greater self awareness
-Lead to communication
-Lead to understanding

So an online community can be a great place to do all of these things, but a truly successful online community culminates when there is off-line participation in meetings and gatherings. A community goal should always result in both virtual and actual meetings.

So what do you think? Is “online community” an oxymoron?

Customers 1st 2009 Podcasts: A Conversation with Kathleen Peterson: Part 4

As we get gear up for the 2009 NACCM: Customers 1st Event this year, we’re going to be interviewing and getting to know the speakers and sponsors who will bring their perspectives on customer service to you. We recently sat down with chair Kathleen Peterson to talk about the event, both today and what has changed since she first chaired it back in 2003. This podcast will have five parts, so check in next week for the final installment from Kathleen Peterson.

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Question: This year’s NACCM is all about what companies must focus on now, so that when the dust settles, they will emerge on better, stronger, more relevant than ever. It’s about short term actions now for long-term sustainability. Why do you think this focus is on point with what business leaders need now?

Kathleen Peterson: I think really we’re about what we already know, what do we need to know, what are we learning more about, what are we going to do, how did it work and what actions are we taking.

The bottom line comes down to if we don’t do it now, it could be never for some organizations. Because there is no [time], the delay, the analysis, a lot of those things were luxuries that we’re going not necessarily abandon but we’re certainly going to have to look at what has the past five years taught us. In terms of the approach we take to business and to learning. I think one of the number one takeaways from this is what have we learned? Every single day, people should be asking themselves what do I know today that I didn’t know yesterday? What is that, where is that relevant in terms of our short terms action, and how will this impact us over the long term. What do we need to change?

I think the whole concept of bringing people, management and staff members, everyone into the corral so that the energy is being built around what do we all do, how do we all contribute, how do we make all of our jobs easier in some ways. Because I think what we’re learning here, people used to say that their businesses were so complex. And now they’ve realized they’re complicated. We not complex, we’ve just complicated it. As we start to take apart processes, and we learn more about the learning of technology will become infinitely important for anybody in a position looking at marketing or customer centricity, customer service or customer care. We have to be in the process improvement business. If we’re going to be in the pursuit of process improvement, and we’re going to be committed to the a quality experience for our customers while simultaneously doing more with less, then we really need to be partnering with our IT folks about what technologies makes sense for our business. There are enormous promises that will save you money, make you more productive, improve your customer experience I think people need to make sure in this market, a good thing in some ways because we’re not too loose with the pocketbook, we’ve got to really make a case and say an investment here in a particular kind of technology that will enhance process to allow us to better service at a higher level of quality is going to be an investment that will have a significant return to us but I think it takes multiple parties. The days of the learners of the customer contact continuum, everyone has to get their needs clear, and their technology questions answers so they partner with their technical experts within their enterprise to make that work.

When we talk about training in Powerhouse, we talk about learning. Training is an event, but learning is the experience we want people to leave with. So the approaches and techniques and technologies associated with the ability to keep people current, up to date, and consistent in the relationships cross functionally is going to be critical. Because it is so often knowledge errors or communication errors that cause failures within the customer experience that needs to be ironed out. And I think sometimes people look at those, it may be something simple at first, but you realize over the longer term, errors have been reduced, customers need to call has been reduced, subsequently cost has been reduced and contact with customers has a much higher value. Contact with customers because of problem loses value every time they have to call you on that.

Business leaders now are going to have to come to a conference like this to learn what the other are doing, what works, what doesn’t work, how do we improve process, people and communication. And especially how do we improve operations. For years, this has not been sexy. But now, I think it’s going to become a very worthy investment. It’s not the big bang things that people do to make a difference. Now, it’s turning the dials. Making sure that all the dials are turned up, and everyone is marching in the same direction and singing from the same song sheet.

How to reach your niche market online

At the Free Biz Blog, they have a few suggestions on how to find your niche market online to do more research. Find the keywords, and search for their communities online. Also look for forums where your niche market is already talking. Join the community and begin participating in the conversation. Often times, that will lead to more in-depth insight.

Verizon to tackle customer service issues

Long Island Business News reports that Verizon has owned up to their poor customer service issues and according to their blog, have released a set of new procedures that the company will follow to enhance its relationship with customers.

Here is the copy of their revamped online customer support:

Online Customer SupportFirst, need help right now? To chat with or e-mail a customer service representative click here. It might just be the easiest and fastest way to get help, ask a question or wrestle a problem to the ground. Another great way to ask questions and find help is right here on the Verizon Community Forums, where users help users get answers. We established the Forums last summer, and they’ve become an increasingly popular place for customers as The New York Times recently noted. We have also a streamlined way for customers to get the help they need online. Our consumer support site,, provides customers with self-help procedures for an array of topics concerning broadband, television, telephone and wireless products and services. The Web site has earned praise from the Association of Support Professionals, and customers are using it to answer technical and product questions on their own.
What do you think of the procedures that Verizon has outlined with its customer support? What other changes can Verizon do?

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Great customer service an exception in the hotel industry

At Elliot, they recently looked at the great customer service someone received from the Courtyard Orlando Lake in Buena Vista, Florida. The hotel staff took time to listen to their customers complaints, and took extra steps to make sure that the customer was comfortable in their situation. They even took the time to go above and beyond the customers expectations: Not only did they honor my request, but they upgraded us to a much nicer room, and also granted our request for a late check-out the next day (2 p.m. instead of noon). With much of the travel industry hurting, it’s important that they keep up their service.

What are some of the experiences you’ve had lately when traveling? Has cut budgets affected the services you’ve received while you’ve been on vacation?

Market Research Shows Apple has 91% Share of $1,000 computer market

The Business Insider reports that Apple has a 91% share of the $1,000-plus computer market, Betanews reports, citing market research firm NPD. Mac sales, measured by revenue, are shrinking, but Apple’s market share of $1,000-plus computer sales is up from 88% in May 2009 and 66% in Q1 ’08.The average selling price of all PCs in the U.S was $701 in June 2009. For Windows PCs it was $515. The average selling price of a Mac was $1,400.

So how is Apple doing so well, as a luxury brand, within this economic climate?

As market research professionals, we’d like to hear your thoughts.

Twelpforce: Best Buy’s new customer service

In an article at the Examiner, they look at Best Buy’s new effort to reach a tech-savvy crowd with customer service. They’ve launched a new Twitter, Twelpforce, to combine both online customer service and online marketing and sales. Customers ask questions either @Twelpforce or add the hashtag #twelpforce to their entry, and someone within Best Buy will respond to your question. Employees from throughout the company will be chipping in to answer questions from customers. This launched on July 19, and has since accumulated 2,531 customers.

Personal branding versus content

Dawn Foster recently looked at the interesting topic of focusing too much personal online branding. She states that while online branding is important, don’t overlook the importance of the content provided on the website. She uses several sources such as blogs and Twitter, and has never had personal branding as a focus. She suggests that a strong base of content can change views on the importance of personal branding. What do you think? What have you focused on when you’ve begun to build your brand online?