Social Media: The Elephant in the Bored Room

Pardon the idiom, and yes, the misspelling was deliberate.  You may want to grab a sandwich, this is a long read.

For the longest time it has occurred to me that most companies find themselves in a state of what I like to label Permanent Whitewater. As they careen through the rapids, it is anybody’s guess as to whether they will capsize.  And the philistines they have appointed as commissioners would be more appropriately described as Ommissioners, as they have omitted themselves from understanding the world and leading their charges.

Now, what does that have to do with anything?  Thanks for asking.

For those of you who can find California on the map, you will recall the great turnip boycott of the nineteen seventies—I know they boycotted grapes, but I like grapes and do not like turnip, so I choose to have my own protest.  Anyway, this boycott worked, and as a result, the working conditions for migrant workers improved albeit only modestly.

And here is the kicker.  An entire industry was brought to its knees.  That is not the surprising part.  The surprising part is that all of this change was brought about at a time when there were three television channels and when people actually subscribed to newspapers.

From where I sit, social media can be divided into two camps, those who have not slept since the launch of Google+, and the far larger camp of those who have not lost a minute of sleep.  Businesses, for the most part are well entrenched in the latter group.

Part of the reason why businesses are slow to adopt social media can be attributed to their lack of belief that social media matters or can impact their business one way or the other.  And frankly, I think that has a lot to do with why our economy continues to rejoice in its malaise.

So, how to those of us in the first camp get those in the second camp to see the world our way, how do we get them to jump head-first into social media.  The answer is simple.  We need to create our own turnip debacle.

They say it cannot be done, so let us show them.  The one thing that would get companies to embrace social media quickly and unashamedly would be if there was one less company.

Companies, big ones, fat ones, firms that climb on rocks—feel free to finish the tune without my help have the following issues, they think they:

–       control their market

–       own their customers

–       are managing their customers

Companies are wrong about those three assumptions and the use of social media can and will prove this.  I would ask for a company to volunteer, but that would take too long.

If ABC, CBS, and NBC were able through their coverage of the grape boycott, bring about change to an entire industry, imagine with me what impact a global, committed bunch of savvy social media users could do to a single firm.

Here is what I propose.  Let us pick one firm.  The characteristics of this firm should be that it is well known and not well liked—this way if it self-destructs we can argue that we acted on behalf of a greater good.  It should also be a firm associated with technology, a firm that ought to at least be able to spell social media.  If I were asked which firm I would choose I would pick a firm in some aspect of telecommunications, say a firm like Comcast or Verizon—an easy target, a firm facing a customer experience war armed only with their CRM.

Now, the idea of our little social project will be to provide a heads-up to all of the other companies about the start date of the importance of social media.  Let’s tentatively agree on starting on the first of November unless there is a game on television I want to watch.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate that the bourgeois, the working class, with its harmless set of social media tools, can create affect enough of a disruption to an organization to make that organization sit up and take notice, or to make it disappear.

I am sure you remember the YouTube video of the Comcast technician that fell asleep on a customer’s couch.  It went viral, but Comcast did not, and that was simply a single posting by a single customer.  What would happen if the social media mavens decided to use the tools at their disposal and concentrate their efforts at or against a single firm?

Crowdsourcing 101.

I think the end result of such an effort would have a significant impact.  The impact could easily bring about more fundamental change about how firms use social media than was brought about by the grape boycott.

Sometimes something has to be sacrificed on behalf of the greater good.  Although a rising tide lifts all boats, it can ruin your day if your firm is the one chained to the pier.

What are your ideas?

 

Social CRM meets Customer Equity Management

During my run today I passed a home whose appearance made it look like an antipodean group of internationally renowned architects had competed to design the world’s ugliest building.  I forced my mind to focus on something else, like why the US has yet to invade Canada.

I enjoy writing as do many of us.  However, I have come to believe that most of us have the ability to write a sentence in some semblance of English.  What seems to separate the good writers from the less gifted is their ability to blend disguise the joins between the sentences in such a way that they do not show.  Worse yet, there are those writers whose attempt to communicate is a pox in the same unrestrained style of prose put into play by a Chinese man selling used Volkswagen Beetles along the back streets of Puerto Rico.

Judging the literary skills of some, it would appear they are wrestling with the parts of speech and fighting a losing match.  These are the same individuals who were they to write about a famous religious figure would name the Flying Nun, unaware of the non sequitur.

Oh well, enough of that, back to the business of changing business.  There may be a few dozen firms that ‘get it’…Amazon, Apple, Ebay.  The rest of them, yours included, are still busy trying to change their customers and prospective buyers to make them buy things according to their notion of how the selling and buying process works.  These are the same firms who think CRM, customer relationship management, is a valuable management tool.

CRM is everything it never was.

When a customer or prospect walks into your facility, or sees your organization online, everything you thought you knew about your business and about them is over.  The thing most firms miss is understanding that the market power has shifted from the business to the customer.

See if you can answer this question.  What is an iPhone, or a Kindle Fire?

They are shopping carts.  The moment a customer picks up the device they begin thinking about what they are going to put into that shopping cart.

The same process works whether a customer is walking into an auto dealer, a patient is walking into a hospital, or a subscriber turns on their television.  They are ready to make a buying decision and most firms are trying to manage them—good luck.

These people—customers—have done their homework, their due diligence on your firm and you offerings.  My sense of that if you were to segment customers by those who did their homework and those who did not, those who do are going to be the customers who spend the most.

The smart firms have stopped trying to manage their customers.  The very smart firms are using the social web to facilitate their customers shopping experience.

Customer Equity Management.  What is one customer or patient or subscriber worth?

 

Social Media: The Elephant in the Bored Room

Pardon the idiom, and yes, the misspelling was deliberate.  You may want to grab a sandwich, this is a long read.

For the longest time it has occurred to me that most companies find themselves in a state of what I like to label Permanent Whitewater. As they careen through the rapids, it is anybody’s guess as to whether they will capsize.  And the philistines they have appointed as commissioners would be more appropriately described as Ommissioners, as they have omitted themselves from understanding the world and leading their charges.

Now, what does that have to do with anything?  Thanks for asking.

For those of you who can find Vietnam on the map, you will recall the great turnip boycott of the nineteen seventies—I know they boycotted grapes, but I like grapes and do not like turnip, so I choose to have my own protest.  Anyway, this boycott worked, and as a result, the working conditions for migrant workers improved albeit only modestly.

And here is the kicker.  An entire industry was brought to its knees.  That is not the surprising part.  The surprising part is that all of this change was brought about at a time when there were three television channels and when people actually subscribed to newspapers.

From where I sit, social media can be divided into two camps, those who have not slept since the launch of Google+, and the far larger camp of those who have not lost a minute of sleep.  Businesses, for the most part are well entrenched in the latter group.

Part of the reason why businesses are slow to adopt social media can be attributed to their lack of belief that social media matters or can impact their business one way or the other.  And frankly, I think that has a lot to do with why our economy continues to rejoice in its malaise.

So, how to those of us in the first camp get those in the second camp to see the world our way, how do we get them to jump head-first into social media.  The answer is simple.  We need to create our own turnip debacle.

They say it cannot be done, so let us show them.  The one thing that would get companies to embrace quickly and unashamedly social media would be if there was one less company.

Companies, big ones, fat ones, firms that climb on rocks—feel free to finish the tune without my help have the following issues, they think they:

–       control their market

–       own their customers

–       are managing their customers

Companies are wrong about those three assumptions and the use of social media can and will prove this.  I would ask for a volunteer, but that would take too long.

If ABC, CBS, and NBC were able through their coverage of the grape boycott, bring about change to an entire industry, imagine with me what impact a committed bunch of savvy social media users could do to a single firm.

Here is what I propose.  Let us pick one firm.  The characteristics of this firm should be that it is well known and not well liked—this way we can argue that we acted on behalf of a greater good.  It should also be a firm associated with technology, a firm that ought to at least be able to spell social media.  If I were asked which firm I would choose I would pick a firm in some aspect of telecommunications, say a firm like Comcast or Verizon.

Now, the idea of our little social project will be to provide a heads-up to all of the other companies about the start date of our little social media experiment.  Let’s tentatively agree on the first of November unless there is a game on television I want to watch.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate that the bourgeois, the working class, with its harmless set of social media tools, can create affect enough of a disruption to an organization to make it sit up and take notice, or to disappear.

I am sure you remember the YouTube video of the Comcast technician that fell asleep on a customer’s couch.  It went viral, but Comcast did not, and that was simply a single posting by a single customer.  What would happen if the social media mavens decided to use the tools at their disposal and concentrate their efforts at or against a single firm?

Crowdsourcing 101.

I think the end result of such an effort would have a significant impact.  The impact could easily bring about more fundamental change as to how firms view and use social media than was brought about by the grape boycott.

Sometimes something has to be sacrificed on behalf of the greater good.  Although a rising tide lifts all boats, but it can ruin your day if your firm is the one chained to the pier.

What are your ideas?

Social CRM–Patients are like little thunderstorms

The web never ceases to amaze me. I’ve gotten to the point if I can’t find something I’m looking for, no matter how obscure, I figure that I did something wrong in how I framed the search.

For example, I was trying to connect to a high school classmate, someone I hadn’t spoken with since before Al Gore invented the internet. This guy got a pair of boxing gloves for his 14th birthday. We each wore one, and jousted only long enough for us each to land a blow on the other’s nose. It hurt—a lot. We gave up boxing.

In tenth grade biology, we bet him five dollars that he wouldn’t jump out of the second floor window. The teacher, who knew of the bet, turned her back to write on the blackboard. He jumped. Go straight to the office, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. We used to see how fast his red and white Mach II Mustang would go railing down Route 40. He was the guy you voted best person to keep away from bright shiny objects. The last I heard he went to a teaching college.

Anyway, I Googled him—from the imperative verb Google—I Google, you Google, he, she or it Googles. I can’t tell you his name for reasons that will soon become apparent. Google spits back links to things like military intelligence, think tank, counterinsurgency, small wars, and army major.  I think I’ve made a spelling mistake—this cannot be the same guy who jumped out of classroom window—and I add his middle initial to the search criteria. Up pops a link to CNN’s Larry King—the air date—just days after 9/11. The topic of the show; ‘the hunt for Osama Bin Laden’. To quote Lewis Carroll, “things keep getting curiouser and curiouser.”

The web. Social networking. A great tool if you’re one the outside searching, deadly in the hands of your customers.

If your firm is targeted, you are pretty much defenseless. Each patient is capable of creating their own digital perception of your hospital. True or false, makes no difference. Patients are like little thunderstorms popping up everywhere. Healthcare providers scurry around like frightened mice passing out umbrellas and pretending it’s not raining. They’re late, their patients are wet, and they are telling everyone. Very few firms have learned that they can’t put the rain back into the clouds.

Sort of reminds me of the line in the movie Young Frankenstein, “Could be worse, could be raining.” It’s raining, and even the best firms have run out of umbrellas. What is your firm doing about it?

 

Your brand ain’t what it was

Many brands have been redefined by a hospital’s patients through their patients’ use of social media.  Your brand is now what their patients—their social mediaphiles—say it is.  How’s that for a wakeup call?

Hospitals spend millions of dollars each year marketing to build their internal and external image; to what end?  At best, a hospital’s only barometer for how well they are getting their message across is a metric for name recognition.  Do more people know your name than they did a year ago?

I bet they do.  I would also bet most hospitals would have the same recognition factor if they did not spend a dollar on marketing.  Many organizations have no return on their marketing investment.  Installing a billboard on a highway a mile away from the hospital depicting a picture of smiling urologists is not bringing new patients or helping you retain current patients.

It may be time to figure out what the market and your employees are saying about your organization.  Chances are good that many of their messages are far different from your hospital’s vision statement and mission.  Chances are also good that their bandwidth and access to your customer base is significantly higher than yours.

Patient Relationship Management (PRM)

If you watch too much television your brain will fry. Sometimes I feel like mine is in a crepe pan that was left sitting on the stove too long. Two nights ago I’m watching Nova or some comparable show on PBS. The topic of the show was to outline all the events that took place that helped Einstein discover that the energy of an object is equal to its mass times the speed of light squared, better known as E=mc². It was presented to the audience at a level that might best be described as physics for librarians, which was exactly the level at which I needed to hear it. It’s physics at a level that is suitable for conversation at Starbucks or any blog such as this.

So here’s what I think I understood from the show. It tracked the developments of math and physics in 100 years prior to Einstein’s discovery. The dénouement appeared to occur when Einstein and his fiancée were riding in the bow of the small boat. Apparently, he was leaning over the side of the boat and noticed that the waves generated by the front of the boat moved at the same speed as the boat. He then noted that fact only held true for those persons in the boat, who were in fact, traveling at the same rate of speed. However for those persons watching from the shore, that same wave was not only moving slower than the boat it got further behind over time. Some other things occurred, yada, yada, yada, and there you have it. Clearly, the details are in the yada, yadas.

So here’s what happens when you watch too much television. As I’m running this morning somehow my mind takes pieces from that show and staples them together to yield the following. Let’s go back to the equation E=mc². For purposes of this discussion I’ll redefine the variables, so that:
E = the percentage of Patient Complaints/Inquiries.
m = Patient in-bound calls.
c = number of Patients
If this were true–this is an illustration, not an axiom–the percentage of complaints in the call centers of an healthcare provider is equal to the number of in-bound calls times the square of the number of patients. So as the number of calls increases the number of complaints/questions increases and as the number of patients increases the number of complaints increases exponentially. Of course this is made up, but there appears to be a grain of truth to it. As a number of calls increase the percentage of complaints is likely to increase, and as the number of patients increases there will probably be an even greater increase in the percentage of complaints incurred. I think we can agree that a reasonable goal for a healthcare provider is to decrease the percentage of complaints and perhaps to shift a hefty percentage of inquiries to some form of internet self-service vehicle.

I think sometimes the way providers like to assess the issue of Patient Relationship Management  (PRM) is by looking at how much money providers throw at the problem. I think some people think that if one provider has 2 call centers, and another provider has 3 call centers, that the provider with 3 must be more interested in taking care of the their patients, and might even be better at PRM.  I don’t support that belief. I think it can be demonstrated that the provider with the most call centers, and most Patient Service Representatives, and the most toys deployed probably has the most problems with their patients. I don’t think it’s a chicken and egg argument. If expenditures increase year after year, and resources are deployed continuously to solve the same types of problems, I think it’s a sign that the provider and its patients are growing more and more dysfunctional.

How does this tie to Einstein and his boat? Perhaps the Einsteins are those who work with the provider; those who are moving at the same speed, those in lockstep. From their vantage point, the waves and the boat, like the provider and its patients, are all moving forward at the same speed. Perhaps only the people standing along the shore are able to see what is actually occurring; the waves distance themselves from the boat in much the same way that the patients distance themselves from the provider.

PRM is such an easy way to see large improvements accrue to the provider, especially using social media.

Social media isn’t what it never was.

Social media isn’t what it never was.

The term ‘social media’ is too polite to effectively communicate its importance to what it means for healthcare.  To me, Social Media sounds more like a coffee clutch or a discussion that would take place on Oprah or on The View.

Social media (SM) is often a targeted, violent dialogue fraught with vitriol.  There is nothing convivial or social about it.  It is not undertaken with your organization’s permission or its wellbeing in mind.

It may be easier to understand what it is not than to describe what it is.  SM is not B2B Facebook—it is not throngs of people who want to friend your organization and share nice comments about what it does.  SM usually begins with someone who has a bone to pick with your organization.  Their intent is to fan the flames of their discontent and turn it into a digital conflagration.  It need not be fair or honest.  For the most part SM is propaganda, and its purpose is to sway others to the propagandist’s way of thinking.

If your firm is looking at how to participate in SM, it is best to begin with an understanding of the ground rules—you have some, your opponents do not.  Their approach is like guerilla warfare.  Who knows where they will appear next.  Twitter, Youtube, blogging?

Most organizations who are considering enhancing their SM presence look at it as in IT initiative—enhance the web site, put up a Facebook page, maybe even starting to Twitter.  Just so you know, none of the opposition is throwing social jabs at your IT department.  IT can get you a presence.  What the presence consists of belongs to the likes of marketing, operations, and the executives.

If you have a good PR firm, pull them into the conversation.  It will be like taking your firm to a therapist and starting its own twelve-step program.