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Why Work from Home Works….Sometimes

2 Mar

All this week I’ve been reading the commentary on Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s leaked memo to her staff ordering everyone back to an office. There’s been a rather large uproar, mostly from us digital types, who know that working from home can be just as productive if not moreso than being in an office. But, I got to thinking about it on a broader scale and as sometimes happens on a Saturday morning while I sip my coffee, I thought “Hey, maybe I’ll write about it”.

My biggest concern about the brouhaha is that it’s basically a modern day witch hunt. Let’s remember, it was a leaked memo – we have no real context around it, no honest insight into the situation within the company (some may of course) and we have no idea what the home/office ratio actually looks like. There a big problems with this – most of the mockery going around is based on assumptions that she’s forcing all of these awesomely talented, highly productive, incredibly creative and collaborative people back into a box where some say the best ideas and insight are born.

*Devil’s advocate hat on*

But what if that’s not the case? What if many of the people who are working from home are not highly talented and productive? What if some actually ARE channel surfing, flannel wearing, coffee sipping slackers who aren’t meeting company needs or pulling their weight? Isn’t this is a good way to sift through and find out?

In my mind, work from home is a great privilege and should really only be used sparingly by companies and employees. It should be a ‘reward’ of sorts, that an employee is able to take advantage of when needed and not feel as though they are being scrutinized. And I agree that it’s valuable to have a team, in person, on site – I do think that insights and collaboration is born of impromptu meetings and hallway conversations. People feed off other people – if you never physically see your colleagues, it’s very tough to feel connected. On the other hand, sometimes the office becomes a place where work turns unproductive – the water cooler effect, overuse of meetings, horrible commutes and uninspiring spaces can all have effects on worker productivity levels. Sometimes, rolling out of bed, grabbing a coffee and setting up shop on the couch actually IS more productive.

These are all points I think a lot of us would agree with one way or another, but the bottom line for me with all of this, is that the woman seems to see a problem and it making an effort to resolve it. I highly doubt she is purposing requesting everyone into an office as some form of punishment and who’s to say that it won’t be reinstated to a lucky few in the future? Sure, to the outside it seems extreme – but could you imagine if 75% of your workforce worked from home? Or if your company Receptionist decided to work from home? Maybe Marissa herself would like to sit home with a cup of coffee too! My point with the extreme examples is just that we don’t know the situation – but my guess is that she didn’t do this on a whim, and she sees a problem in her organization that needs some fixing.

Just my 2 cents.

 

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Memories of MOCC

15 Oct

The world has lost an amazing man: Mr. Michael O’Connor Clarke. Many of his friends and colleagues past and present have written posts for him, but I think we’d probably all agree that there really are no words that could begin to truly describe the kind of man he was, so I won’t try too hard. All I can say is that he will be missed by so many and instead, I thought I’d share a memory or two…

The first time I met MOCC, I was interviewing for an Account Coordinator position to work with some of his tech clients. I vaguely recall the interview, but I do remember one specific piece of career advice. He said “Start as generalist, specialize later.” I took this advice very seriously and tried learning everything I could about public relations, social media and communications in general. Now, nearly 5 years later, I can’t say that I’ve discovered what my speciality is, but true to form, the last Twitter DM I have from Michael is telling me to be patient, I’ll find it. I also feel the need to add that Michael did not actually hire me after our first meeting. But I’m sure I made him regret that a few months later when the health team at the same company did. Although, I doubt he really regretted much – we became great friends anyway.

Over the year and half that followed, we developed a great friendship, mostly based on our love of somewhat offside humor. I spent many hours in his office bouncing on an exercise ball as we cackled at a random cat toy that creepily said “I luf you”, the latest story of his beloved children’s shenanigans or the newest internet meme. I also have a very fond memory of Michael jumping up and down in an oversized building recycling bin as we moved offices. (Thanks @slaister for sending through the photographic evidence of the shenanigans). I still have a random snow globe of the Space Needle that he gave me when he was cleaning out his office – I keep it on my desk still to remind me of one of the most important lessons he taught me: A strong beverage and a good laugh with good friends will solve almost any problem you come across.

I have so many memories of him and all are good. His laugh, his mischievous grin and the twinkle of his eye just before he spouted his latest wittism or random Irish slang. He was a kind soul, willing to listen, provide advice and ALWAYS come to the defense when someone needed it (ie. Account Coordinators who made mistakes).

I’m so sad to end this post if only because there is so much more to say. Which is sort of ironic because I regularly teased him about being a tad long winded…really, I was just jealous of his amazing way with words 😉  Rest in peace my dear friend.

PS: I never got to tell you – I’m marrying an Irishman. I know you’d be proud.

Wrong vs. Different

6 Oct

Recently I’ve begun to ponder this point on a fairly regular basis. It’s something I’m guessing that everyone has done at least once and in my case, many times. That is, have a discussion with someone because their opinion or thoughts are not the same as yours. Even after initial arguments have been presented, we continue to push our point of view while the person we’re speaking with does the same. So what happens when you reach that inevitable point of no return and realize neither is going to budge?

Well, I’ve begun asking myself this: Is what the other person saying actually ‘wrong’ or is it just ‘different’ from my point of view? In my mind, there is only one true way to discern if something is actually ‘wrong’ – and that is by facts only. Logic is not enough unfortunately, as logic often varies greatly from person to person. For me, it has to be facts. Otherwise, it’s just different.

Now, the different part for me is the struggle. Once I’ve determined that the other persons thoughts are simply different than mine, it becomes a question of energy and value. How much energy is this discussion worth and how important is the outcome to me?

Here’s an example: After a few blissful months of living with my boyfriend-turned-fiancee, I’ve noticed a few things he does that irk me. In particular, how he loads the dishwasher. Every time I empty it, I shake my head at what I perceive to be a waste of space (and thus water/energy etc.) as he lays the bowls face down in the top rack. You can fit so many more cups/bowls etc. on that rack if you lay them sideways. BUT, I have never actually said anything to him about this because I took the time to determine that his way is not wrong, it’s just different. I can see that in his mind, if you lay them face down, they’ll get more water and the inside of the bowls will be cleaner. Because I took the time to weigh this and actually consider his point of view, I was then able to also address how important it was to me to say something and potentially start a silly argument to which there was no ‘right’ way.

I’ve realized I need to make more of an effort to do this everyday. I (and many people I know) spend far too much valuable energy discussing things that really have no right or wrong answer. Everyone has a different point of view, different thoughts and feelings that inform it and different ways of expressing it. It’s going to take a lot of practice I think, but eventually, I’m hoping I can get in the habit of slowing my reaction.

Now, if only I could get him to fold the pizza boxes in the recycling bin 😉

The Results Are In…

15 Jul

Well, it’s done. My final research project has been signed off on by my supervisor and delivered to the program coordinator. So, I figure now that it’s done, I’d share with the world the results of this crazy ride to completing my degree. It’s been over 2 years since I started my ‘final project’ however I changed the entire topic last fall and the direction still veered away from that in early spring. Eventually, I settled on the idea of enabling online customer feedback mechanisms to support social customer relationship management and customer loyalty. The end result it summarized below in my extended abstract.

ENABLING ONLINE CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

Support for Social Customer Relationship Management

Introduction and Problem Definition

In what has been coined “The Age of the Customer”, it has never been more important for companies to build strong, long-lasting relationships with their customers. Customer retention has become one of the more important concerns within organizations, as research suggests it is far more cost efficient for organizations to retain current customers than to acquire new ones. With the emerging and rapidly changing online world accessible in nearly every home, pocket, and cafe, it is necessary for companies to use these new channels to monitor, engage and support their customers in a meaningful way. Enter: Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM).

Methodology

This research sought to look closer at the cognitive reasoning behind the submission of online customer feedback. Using an interview method of data collection, the researcher probed participant’s individual and unique thoughts, perspectives and experiences throughout the process. Instead of making general assumptions about the motivations for the behaviour, this study took a qualitative analysis approach to look for broader trends which could be funneled into actionable buckets that support the use of SCRM in the context of Hirschman’s theory of Exit, Voice and Loyalty.

Ten subjects were interviewed and their responses recorded. Interviews took place between April and June 2012. Responses were professionally transcribed and subjected to a qualitative analysis based on reoccurring themes within the various responses. A grounded approach was used for coding, as themes emerged throughout the data collection with all analysis taking place following the interviews.

Results

After being qualitatively analyzed as outlined above, the following themes emerged and results showed that four elements were prevalent in the participant responses:

Accessibility
  • Customers must be able to easily connect with the organization from their most desired contact point.
  • Customers do not want to have to go looking for the opportunity to provide feedback, they want to communicate where they are (Facebook, Twitter etc)
  • Customers are likely to be familiar with the web and quite likely to be digital natives.
  • Customers want to be able to provide feedback via multiple means – smartphone, PC, tablet, telephone etc.
Personality
  • Customers who provide feedback are likely to be extroverts who are comfortable with technology.
  • Customers are likely think highly of their opinions and want recognition for their contribution.
  • Customers are likely to be social with others online and are eager to share their opinions and experiences.
Investment
  • Customers need to feel a connection to an organization in order to see the value in providing feedback.
  • Customers are more likely to provide feedback to regarding a service or product that they use often.
  • Customers are more likely to provide feedback to a company which they want to see succeed and have an interest in the outcome of their service.
Experience
  • Customers are more likely to provide feedback if they’ve had a negative experience with a service or product.
  • Customers may be more likely to share positive feedback with others regarding a smaller organization.
  • Customers feel a sense of goodwill after sharing positive experiences with others.
  • Customers are likely to be more vocal regarding a negative experience that goes unacknowledged.
  • Positive experiences lead to the opportunity to create brand advocates and increase positive sentiment through word-of-mouth.
Overall Insights
  • Customers want to provide feedback to help organizations improve their service or products.
  • Customers want to ensure that others do not experience the same negative service they have.
  • Customers want to be acknowledged for their feedback contributions.
  • Brand loyalty may increase as a result of feedback implementation.

Conclusions

The following conclusion addresses each of the above results as framed by Hirschman’s theory of Exit, Voice & Loyalty and provides suggestions of practical application for management consideration:

Exit – To combat customers from exiting the customer cycle, this research suggests a benefit to online channels designed to collect customer feedback which are easy to locate online and available to customers in the most convenient location possible. Actively look for opportunities to surprise current customers and engage positively with potential new customers.  Know when to stop.

Voice – Build unique, individual or emotional elements into the feedback process which allow customers to feel as though their thoughts are valuable to the organization and in turn that they are a valuable customer as a result. Make the experience unique to each customer – avoid using general website Feedback Forms” and generic email addresses if at all possible. Depending on your customer demographic, they may be more inclined to use different tools or technologies. Do the research to understand their preferences and monitor those spaces for opportunities to engage in a positive manner.

Loyalty – Look to create internal processes which complete the feedback loop with the customer – this means funneling the customer feedback to the appropriate departments or stakeholders, and it means communicating back to the customer, what the result or outcome of their feedback is. This may be online, or it may incorporate more traditional means, but customers want to be acknowledged, ideally by a person – not just an auto-response to their submission.  Organizations should be clear about this process and outline on their website or in another accessibly location, what happens to feedback once it is submitted.

The research results and theory explored above provide support for an overall social customer relationship management strategy which would help to decrease customer Exit, validate and facilitate customer Voice and as a result increase customer Loyalty.

Rooting for the Little Guy

9 Jun

I’m juuust about finished with the interview aspect of my research having done #9 today and I’m still amazed at all the new insights that just keep coming out of these. Sure, there are common themes that really are no brainers and total common sense – for instance “I submit my feedback to companies online because it’s easy and convenient.” Not a surprise. But one respondent today said something that really jumped out at me that none before had honed in on.

It was something along the lines of being more likely to give positive feedback to a smaller, local company. This isn’t something I recall any previous subjects alluding to, but I think we probably do it more often than we realize. There’s something altruistic about rooting for the little guy and giving him a shout out. As the respondent mentioned, it’s easy to crap on the cable company after a bad experience. In fact, in some cases customers wear it like a badge of honour as if to say “Hey, I got bad service too! I’m part of the club!” Whereas, if you had a bad experience at a new independent restaurant, I suspect you’d be less likely to say anything at all – you just wouldn’t go back.

Really, I think this all ties back in with the idea of having a connection with company or brand. If it’s a company or brand you care about and have an investment in (like your local java hut), you’ll be more likely to vocalize a positive experience online. Until the respondent mentioned this, I hadn’t really thought about it – but when I did, I realized I do the same thing. I recently Tweeted about my how awesome my dog-training service is – because I have an investment in them beyond being a customer. I’ve had a trainer in my home, I’ve seen positive results which have made my life better and I wanted to share that experience with others. How did I find out about them to begin with? Through word-of-mouth. Again, someone else thought they were awesome, so they passed it along.

But I don’t really remember the last time I gave a shout out to a big brand that I use regularly. There’s a certain higher level of expectation with larger organizations…but that’s a whole other post.

My paper still feels like a whole lot of jibberish nonsense, but there are moments like this where insight just seems to jump out at me. Hoping to have a complete-ish draft by end of next week…wish me luck!

A Subtle Shift

17 May

Depending on how you look at it, it seems that my research has inadvertently taken a ‘subtle’ shift (or perhaps a hard-right?). In my efforts to assess the motivations that people have for offering their ideas to companies for product development, at some point or another, I realized what I was actually looking at is much bigger than that. But let me rewind for a moment…

Setting out to decide on a research topic is no easy feat. Most times, you start with a very broad concept, then start to narrow in on exactly what it is you want to look at. And although 60 pages may seem long to some, if you bite off more than you can chew, you can end up with a lot of unfinished nonsense and some a lot of wasted trees. So, I thought I was being pretty smart by starting with a narrow focus: motivation for idea generation. However, I’ve now come to realize that this activity isn’t quite popular enough yet to easily track down the appropriate number of interview subjects to make it worth studying.

So, fast forward to around 11:43pm last night, laying in bed, eyes wide open staring at the ceiling. All of sudden, the hamster wheel was chugging and I realized what was actually in front of my face the whole time. It all became clear to me: Online Idea generation is just another form of customer feedback.

What I really need to be talking about here is social CRM! Experience/Motivation/Advocacy. I think? I’m still wrapping my head around exactly how all the pieces fit together here, but the topic and question are clear.

Tapping into Social CRM: What makes a customer submit feedback online?

I have my suspicions from the interviews I’ve done already, but overall, I think social CRM is the direction this needs to go. Who knows, maybe some companies out there would be interested to know too 🙂

Investment + Relationship = Feedback

4 May

As I mentioned in my last post, now that I’ve started my interviews, I’m finally getting my head wrapped around all of the factors that go into providing an organization with feedback. Two of the most common themes that seem to be appearing again and again are around the idea of an emotional attachment or investment in a product or brand, and an ability to build a relationship with the organization who provides the product or service.

At first glance, this seems like a no-brainer. But after closer examination, I wonder if most brands actually realize that you ideally need BOTH of these aspects in order to get quality feedback from a customer. In the age of social media, customer feedback can and should be a two-way street. The days of sending out an email survey (solicited or otherwise) and collecting valuable, thoughtful and focus feedback are over (if they ever really existed IMHO).

Now feedback is about building relationships with customers who have a vested interest in your product or service. Sure, you can still send out a survey, but my research seems to be finding that people are more likely to provide honest and in-depth feedback when they feel like they have connection to the product. They want to see the brand continue to grow, building their offering to include more products that they would be interested in buying.

On that flip side, they want recognition. They want to know that not only are they being ‘heard’…but they actually being ‘listened’ to. There’s a big difference here – recognition that someone submitted an idea is a start, but recognition that they’ve provided something of value to the organization is what will help to build a stronger relationship. And in turn, that customer is more likely to visit again and continue offering quality feedback.

Again, it all seems so simple…yet, it seems like few companies are investing in this approach.

More on that later too…Stay tuned.