An excerpt and correction from a recent procast with Adam Lesser

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I am pulling this excerpt from a recent procast with Adam Lesser and David Coleman (see Why social business tools matter for the future of the enterprise), partly because it’s a good case study, but also to make a correction. When I spoke about Cablevision, I should have said O2, the British broadband and cell network. The following excerpt has been lightly edited to make that correction.

Adam Lesser: You’re saying that companies feel like they must have social tools in their business, that it’s a must have. How do you measure the value of becoming a social business? Are there metrics to measure an increase in productivity? Is there any way to approach this to ask ‘what’s the value?’

Stowe Boyd: I think [the question of value] is another argument for looking at things in a very tightly focused way, a very functional mindset. For example, O2 is a really great case study.  In July 2012, in Britain there were all sorts of power outages and people were really pissed off, but the company did a great job of dealing with people’s concerns. They were very open, they did a great job of informing people exactly where they were in the fix up. They turned what could be a bad disaster into a masterclass: a case study of how to avert a disaster on the social media side.

What you must have in place to do that is people who are trained, [who] understand how to do it [social customer support]. You have to have the systems in places to keep your several dozen or 50 customer support people connected to twitter or wherever the source of these gripes are that are coming in. And being able to rapidly work with customers and solve their problems.

That works well with very functional and focused tools, so they [the customer support staff] can effectively deal with hundreds of thousands of people who are pissed off. It’s not just pissed off people: [this] can be generalized to average day-to-day dealings — not just emergencies — but having that [social customer support] in place.

And deciding to train and transfer people from the old model, transferring people from a phone bank to a social network, it requires a time commitment and proficiency in middle management to get that to take place.

To measure: that is customer satisfaction. What are the metrics you have from doing an analysis of customers’ emotional state when [they talk] about your products online? You can obviously measure that over time, as you become more and more adept and you become more and more savvy in the social context. You will see the numbers you can track go in the right direction, if you do it right.

I think the metrics — if you are doing social support, selling or HR — you have to do the metrics in the right scope. You can’t adhere to some general idea of productivity or contribution to very vague strategic goals like profits. You have to look at metrics that are more meaningful, like touch points with customers and [track] your interactions on a social level.

This is one of the reasons that tightly focused social activities and tools to support them are so attractive: it is far easier to define success criteria and measure against them when the domain is tightly bounded.