The FT Word – February 2011

By Technical Support

The FT Word

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Welcome to the February 2011 edition of the FT Word. Please forward it to your colleagues. (They can get their own subscription here.)

Topics for this month:

  • February number of the month – 17%
  • Integrating social media and CRM – what can be done, what is done today
  • Upcoming events: speaking at TSW Spring 2011, Third Tuesday Forum, 10 Best Web Sites competition, and more

The Number of the Month: 17%

In TSIA’s 2010 member survey, 17% is the percentage of respondents who indicated enjoying full or some ROI on their social media initiatives. What about the remaining 83%?

  • 11% found no ROI at all (yikes)
  • 65% have not measured ROI and another 7% said they were busy measuring other things, which in my book says that an astounding 72% of respondents had no ROI measurement. Double yikes!

Ever hopeful, I dug deeper into the data (props to Shawn Santos of TSIA for his assistance) and found a glimmer of hope in that a majority of respondents who had had social media initiatives for more than two years reported positive ROI (not a wide majority, 62%, but still). So perhaps you we can just wait and see. TSIA members can find the full report here.

If you want to measure the ROI of your social media initiative, I can help. There’s an upcoming workshop you may want to attend or contact me for a custom approach.

Integrating Social Media and CRM

Many thanks to Jan Biller for suggesting this topic: how can we and should be integrate social media and traditional CRM?

First, why try to integrate? Because both social media and CRM are environments where we interact with our customers, that’s why. For instance, we may want to:

  • Pull forum threads into CRM cases if needed to reach a positive, personalized conclusion. Not every topic is suitable for a public discussion and it’s handy to be able to transfer a discussion into a private case if the customer issue needs some privacy.
  • Repurpose forum threads into knowledge base articles. Threads are ideal fodder for data mining since the topics are clearly of interest to customers, the answers are often right there for the picking, and while reading threads is certainly possible it’s o so much more pleasant to read a nicely-formatted article instead than a raw thread.
  • Run root cause analysis on a unified environment. While it’s always possible to create reports against two separate repositories, root cause analysis especially benefits from ad-hoc reporting, which is very difficult to achieve if you have to interpolate between two different systems.
  • Run joint productivity metrics or customer activity metrics. Here again it’s possible to run metrics on disconnected systems but it’s much easier with some kind of integration.

How about using a single tool? Unfortunately, the reality today is that most traditional CRM vendors have no or weak offerings on the social media side. (I will focus here on the first two goals described above, so looking at functionality around community forums.) And vice-versa, the most innovative and successful social media tool vendors don’t have a robust CRM functionality on offer – although a handful do offer some serviceable knowledge management functionality. So if you are looking to use a single tool you will have to make do with limited functionality. Is that a problem? Perhaps, depending on what you are trying to achieve. If all you need is a basic discussion environment, your CRM vendor may fit the bill, but if you are looking for a way to designate accepted solutions, reputation management tools, or sophisticated personalization, your CRM vendor will fall short.

Be realistic. How much do you really need advanced functionality versus the benefits of integration? It’s very cool to have a fancy reputation engine. I want one too! But are you thirsting for the coolness factor or will you really, truly use the additional functionality and require it to service your customers? If you are presiding over a small community, chances are that you can make do without the cool (and powerful) stuff, at least for now. Functionality alone does not guarantee a successful community. Hard work and sturdy processes do.

Support organizations tend to be profoundly conservative. A good portion of the disconnected social tools that we see today come about because it’s very hard to shake the entire organization into experimenting with social media, so a small maverick group picks a convenient SaaS or free tool for social media and runs a little experiment. The experiment is successful (and in any case it’s cool) so it grows and pretty soon, the experimental tool becomes “the” social media tool – and it is completely disconnected from the existing and often stodgy CRM tool. If you are in that situation, take the time to stop, rethink the strategy, and perhaps bring the experiment back into the fold. However painful it is to migrate in the short term you will benefit in the long run if you can simplify your tool portfolio.

That being said, tool integration may be required so you can benefit from strong functionality on both ends. If so, I would focus the integration on these aspects:

  • Moving threads to support cases, so support staffers can easily “upgrade” a thread to a case when needed for personalized treatment. It’s always possible to cut and paste, of course, but that’s an awkward and time consuming exercise.
  • You could also conceive of a kind of timer that would automatically signal to the support team that threads remain unanswered for more than X hours and need attention. The idea is to bring some SLA structure to the discussion environment.
  • Mining forums for building the knowledge base. A basic capability would be to bypass cut and paste to harvest threads into knowledge base articles. It would be great for the system to automatically suggest candidates for data mining, for instance threads that are marked answered, or threads with copious activity..

Finally, there’s the always popular wait and see approach. Considering the intense interest in social media solutions, it’s likely that CRM vendors will enhance their offerings in that area, perhaps by purchasing a social media tool vendor – and we may see the opposite happen, too. So this entire discussion will likely become moot down the road.

FT Works in the News

Lots happening this month and in coming months!

TSW – May 2011 in Santa Clara, CA

I will be presenting a day-long workshop on the first day of the TSW conference, Monday May 2nd, entitled A Gold Mine? Calculating the ROI of Community Projects. Six solid hours to build a meaningful ROI for your community. Bring your spreadsheet and join me for a sure to be animated and opinionated discussion. More information here.

I will also have the pleasure of facilitation a workout session with Rob Shapiro of Oracle entitled Start the (Metrics) Revolution, discussing metrics and best practices for support communities in an open discussion format. Please join us on Tuesday May 3rd at 2pm and add your voice to the debate.

To register for the workshop or for the conference, go here (and yes, you can attend the workshop without attending the entire conference!)

Articles and Publications

TSIA published an article I wrote about my favorite topic, metrics, in its publication Inside Technology Services in January, 2011. The article is called Perfect Metrics: A perfect Resolution for the New Year and can be found here:

And two more items of interest:

Third Tuesday Forum

Are you based in the San Francisco area (or will you be there on Tuesday March 15th)? That morning, David Kay and I will be hosting The Third Tuesday Forum, a roundtable for support executives to discuss the topics we embrace and wrestle with every day. The presenter will be Cordelia Naumann of Cisco and she will speak about Knowledge-Centered Support at IronPort, where it started on a shoestring, all the way to the much larger environment of Cisco. You can register here, sign up for the mailing list. You will be the first to know about new events. You can also join the Third Tuesday Forum groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

ASP 10 Best Web Sites Competition

This year, I will once again serve as a judge for the ASP 10 Best Web Sites contest. Entering the contest is a great way to compare yourself to others and get some recognition if your site is amongst the 10 that win. You can see details of the program and enter at (see the top left-hand side of the screen).

Curious about something? Send me your suggestions for topics and your name will appear in future newsletters. I’m thinking of doing a compilation of “tips and tricks about support metrics” in the coming months so if you have favorites, horror stories, or questions about metrics, please don’t be shy.

Françoise Tourniaire
FT Works
650 559 9826

About FT Works

FT Works helps technology companies create and improve their support operations. Areas of expertise include designing support offerings, creating hiring plans to recruit the right people quickly, training support staff to deliver effective support, defining and implementing support processes, selecting support tools, designing effective metrics, and support center audits. See more details at

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