SOCAP International


  • This Week in Customer Care (Week of May 27, 2013)

    Posted on: 05/28/2013

    This Week in Customer Care is a weekly blog series by SOCAP International that takes a look at the week’s upcoming events and opportunities for customer care professionals. You’ll find out about professional development opportunities taking place across the country and get the inside scoop on new publications and research on the consumer affairs industry.  Finally, take a look back at last week’s most popular customer care news stories and catch up on any articles you may have missed.

    Welcome back from the long Memorial Day weekend!  While this week may be short, there are still plenty of opportunities for customer care professionals to network and hear from some great speakers!  In addition to the chapter events in Florida and Chicago, the SOCAP Canada Community is hosting a special half-day event on Social Media and the Customer Contact Center, which is sure to be a can’t-miss event.  Finally, there are some important deadlines coming up this week, so don’t miss them!

    Thursday, May 30 – Canada Community Spring Event
    Social Media in the Customer Contact Center

    Social Media has become a completive necessity for business leaders, who are starting to realize its full potential regarding customer experience. Pierre Marc Jasmin of Services Triad will review the top line results of a benchmarking study of corporate social media usage to understand the evolution and impart of social media over the past years. Presentations by Nygel Weishar of Scotiabank, Josée Bourdage of Fido Solutions and Jean-François of L'Oréal Canada will cover industry trends in the banking and telecom sectors as well as the customer experience through various channels. Finally, a panel discussion moderated by Matt Wheatly of Social Herd will examine effective methods of social media integration in the call center.

    Thursday, May 30 – Chicago Chapter’s Lunch and Learn at the Ole Ballpark
    “The Intersection of Technology and Consumer Experience”

    One of the most difficult challenges for business leaders is keeping up with current trends and new technologies. At the same time, truly understanding our customer's persona and their desired means of doing business with us can be difficult. Mapping this Customer Journey and preparing our strategy to meet our customers cross channel expectations is vital to maintaining a competitive edge. Join us for some great industry insight, fun customer experience stories and a roadmap for building & optimizing your customer experience strategy.

    Friday, May 31 – Florida Chapter Event: “Knowledge Management – Move From Firefighting to Prevention”
    Featuring John Goodman, Vice Chairman, Customer Care Measurement & Consulting

    John Goodman will present the latest trends in contact prevention, empowerment and knowledge management that produce improvements your CFO and CMO will appreciate. Learn about proactive education, Psychic Pizza, Flexible solution spaces and how Big Data and Knowledge Management can make your life easier.

    Top Stories in Customer Care

    Each week, we’ll take a look back at the most-clicked stories in the Customer Care News Brief.

    Important Deadlines

  • This Week in Customer Care (Week of May 20, 2013)

    Posted on: 05/20/2013

    This Week in Customer Care is a weekly blog series by SOCAP International that takes a look at the week’s upcoming events and opportunities for customer care professionals. You’ll find out about professional development opportunities taking place across the country and get the inside scoop on new publications and research on the consumer affairs industry.  Finally, take a look back at last week’s most popular customer care news stories and catch up on any articles you may have missed.

    The last full work week before the Memorial Day holiday features two great events in the Dallas/Fort Worth and Northwest Regional chapters.  SOCAP’s local chapters have made huge progress in putting together engaging and educational events for customer care professionals, with prominent speakers and subject matter experts.  This weel is also the last week to reserve a hotel room for the upcoming Data Reporting Workshop at the group rate!

    Wednesday, May 22 – Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter Event
    Featuring Elizabeth McCormick, former Black Hawk helicopter pilot and best-selling author

    You’ll meet up with other Dallas/Fort Worth-area leaders in consumer affairs for a lunch-and-learn event featuring best-selling author and inspirational speaker, Elizabeth McCormick.  This event is hosted at the Daisy Brand corporate office in Dallas and promises to leave you energized, entertained, and empowered!

    Thursday, May 23 – Northwest Regional Chapter Portland Spring Event
    A Contact Center Tour hosted by Ruby Receptionists

    At the Northwest Regional Chapter’s spring Portland event, you’ll network with and meet customer care professionals from the Portland area before embarking on a tour of the Ruby Receptionists contact center.  Wrap up your day with some tips on how to get the most out of the the SOCAP website, and prize drawings!

    Top Stories in Customer Care

    Ways to Get Engaged With the Profession

    Are you looking to become more involved with the customer care industry?  SOCAP offers many opportunities for you to share your knowledge, experiences, and best practices OR to highlight your company.  Here are some upcoming opportunities:

    • PRESENT a webinar to SOCAP’s community of more than 2,000 customer care professionals!  You can submit a webinar proposal at any time.
    • SPEAK at the upcoming Annual Conference! SOCAP’s Annual conference convenes more than 500 of your peers in consumer affairs, representing over 150 brands.
    • ADVERTISE in CRM Magazine, the leading publication for the customer care profession.  Distributed by mail and online to over 2,500 industry professionals, CRM Magazine is the premier thought-leadership publication for customer relationship experts.
  • White Paper Explores Big Data Impact on Hospitality, Travel and Tourism

    Posted on: 05/13/2013

    A new white paper produced by SOCAP International, the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals, describes how Big Data is transforming the Hospitality, Travel and Tourism (HTT) sector and, in the process, creating unprecedented challenges and opportunities for customer care professionals.

    May 14, 2013
    For more information, contact:
    Marjorie Bynum, Vice President of Education and Communications | (703) 910-2473

    Alexandria, VA - A new white paper produced by SOCAP International, the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals, describes how Big Data is transforming the Hospitality, Travel and Tourism (HTT) sector and, in the process, creating unprecedented challenges and opportunities for customer care professionals.The white paper is written to help SOCAP members-customer care executives at leading brand name companies-identify the issues, see the possibilities, and parse the options in advancing a game changing Big Data agenda.

    "Now Arriving:  Big Data in the Hospitality, Travel and Tourism Sector" delves into the HTT paradigm shift and the contribution of Big Data to company competitiveness.  Much of this shift involves the increasing use of personalization to move from simple commercial transactions to robust customer interactions based on holistic views of relevant data and the ability to anticipate changing customer needs.  Big Data also poses big organizational challenges to HTT companies, so the white paper discusses the steps necessary for leveraging this technology.

    "The importance of customer experience to the future of business cannot be overstated," said SOCAP President and CEO Matthew D'Uva.  "Whether it's traveling around the corner or around the world, Hospitality, Travel and Tourism companies will play an ever larger role in shaping this activity, and they will use Big Data to do it better and smarter.  Our members will be working to assure that this happens in the ways that truly reflect both the vision of their companies and the voice of their customers."

    D'Uva said the white paper is one of many initiatives SOCAP will be undertaking to educate its members about Big Data, including webcasts, conference sessions and additional white papers.  A copy of the new white paper is available here.

    About SOCAP

    Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia and formed in 1973, SOCAP is composed of over 2,000 best-in-class customer care executives and professionals from over 100 brand name companies throughout the U.S. and Canada.  SOCAP is a member-driven organization committed to promoting customer care and engagement as competitive advantages.  SOCAP members include vice presidents, directors, and managers of customer care and consumer affairs as well as hundreds of business partners, individuals representing the solution provider community.  SOCAP member benefits include education and training, peer-to-peer networking, relationship building, partnership programs, conferences and seminars, news and information, research, and more.

    Visit SOCAP on the web at

  • 4 Ways the Hospitality, Travel and Tourism Sector Uses Big Data to Improve Customer Experience

    Posted on: 05/10/2013

    Big data represents big opportunities for Hospitality, Travel, and Tourism (HTT) companiesto "Wow!" their customers and deliver a superior customer experience.  A new white paperrecently released by SOCAP International on Big Data in the HTT industry discusses these opportunities and includes insights from leading HTT brands such as Hawaiian Airlines, Starwood Hotels and Resorts and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG).   Although HTT has traditionally been transaction based (e.g., booking reservations, recording account balances, tracking loyalty points), Big Data-enabled interactions have the potential to help HTT companies dramatically open the customer experience to new dimensions of customer care.

    Based on the insights shared in the white paper, here are some things to think about when it comes to using Big Data to improve the customer experience:

    1. Gather the Right Data from the Right Places
      HTT companies naturally collect and generate tons of data and information on travelers and guests. Data sources such as social media provide supplemental information that can inform companies on customers’ specific interests and preferences. For example, knowing a frequent traveler’s Twitter handle and then monitoring the Twitter stream for “Just landed” or at Foursquare check in at airports can reveal useful information that can help HTT companies offer added levels of convenience to the traveler experience.
    2. Personalize the Customer Experience
      With the right data, gathered from the right places, HTT companies can also develop more complete profiles of their customers. The art in Big Data is in knowing how to use the data in an effective manner to personalize the customer experience. For example, to optimize results major hotels are using Big Data to match their best offers with the most appropriate guest profiles.
    3. Create Interactions With Customers
      Web 2.0 and the widespread adoption of social media have generated large amounts of data and information about individuals. Apps like Foursquare have gamified the “check-in” process, while travel sites such as TripAdvisor give status and rewards to users who post the most helpful reviews. Customers can share their opinions and experiences over a much broader range of channels than before, meaning HTT companies can no longer rely on just customer feedback surveys to measure the whole of a guest's experience. By analyzing data from a customer's entire online presence, companies can develop more complete and accurate customer profiles. The result of this is the potential and ability for HTT companies to better interact with their customers in richer, more meaningful, and more personalized ways. Checking in for a flight or at a hotel becomes a more personal interaction, beyond just greeting a traveler by name.
    4. Get Ahead of the Customer Relationship Curve
      Big Data offers a new capability for HTT companies to get ahead of the customer relationship curve. Big Data empowers the HTT sector with the information needed to become anticipatory, instead of reactionary, to a guest’s or traveler’s specific needs and preferences. By getting ahead of this curve, HTT companies are in a position to more effectively influence the customer experience to ensure higher levels of satisfaction, which ultimately deepens customer loyalty.

    Big Data is changing the scope and reach of customer care. Want to know more? Download SOCAP’s new white paper, “Now Arriving: Big Data in the Hospitality, Travel, and Tourism Sector” for the complete discussion on Big Data in the HTT industry.

  • Big Data v. Big Wisdom

    Posted on: 03/29/2013

    By Tim Nichols

    The term "big data" is a somewhat all encompassing umbrella for the morass of distributed, loosely connected, and often unstructured data that modern business operations are blessed with. Blessed, that is, in the same way that someone on an episode of A&E's Hoarders is blessed with a wealth of old newspapers and magazines. Information without useful access and analytics is just clutter.

    What you have is big data. What you need is big wisdom. Somewhere buried in the stacks of hard drives that litter your server room, or floating in the cloud of web service and social media sites, is a trove of data about your customers. Data, which if transmuted to wisdom about your customers, would enable you to provide better, quicker, more efficient service, to the delight of both your customers and the company. If only alchemy were that simple.

    According to Microsoft's "Global Enterprise Big Data Trends: 2013" study, customer care is driving 41% of the demand for big data solutions. Clearly there's an organizational hunger to know more about the customer, and there is recognition that customers are leaving ever larger and more accessible digital footprints. But what big wisdom can all that big data offer, and how can you go about synthesizing it?


    What's In a Name?

    This starts with knowing which data is associated with which customer, facilitated by having a complete collection of known customer handles. Handles may include actual names, email addresses, and phone numbers. But they also include Twitter, Pinterest, or YouTube usernames, or other online aliases like Amazon reviewer profile IDs.

    It's long been a best practice to unify all your contact modalities into your CRM system. In this way, customer interactions can proceed seamlessly between phone, email, chat, or even social media channels. Yet equally important, is the linking of other non-transactional activities by this customer, in which your company may be interested. These activities may include social media posts, product reviews, blog entries, or online rants. While it's nice to know that BigDogBob86 has just declared your new product to be the best thing since Chuck Norris, it's better to also know that he called twice last month, is married with kids, and lives in Austin.

    Most CRM systems support this sort of cross-modal tracking today, but in practice it's maddeningly difficult to do it well. People have multiple email addresses, multiple phone numbers, multiple Twitter accounts, and multiple internet connected devices. They feel quite free to use them all, and have little patience for your institutional clairvoyance not being up to the task of knowing they contacted you before.

    There's no magic solution to this issue, but it certainly helps if anyone or any system interacting with the customer makes a point of recording the current modality identifier (e.g. phone number, email address, Twitter handle) into the customer record. Customers will generally have little tolerance for or interest in cleaning up their records, so this opens the opportunity for you to have lots of deprecated, or even incorrect, contact information about any given customer.  But storage space is cheap, and incorrect, old, or unused handles will just never be searched. In other cases, like a shared home phone number or a Facebook page with multiple administrators, the customer search may return two or three possible customers-still a better situation than having the search return no one.  Further, CRM systems that support the addition of a "verified" or "preferred" flag on each contact handle are quite useful. In this way it's possible to denote a known-good or preferred number or address at which to contact the customer.

    There's also the opportunity to proactively mine for handles used by your customers through social media. Many people reuse handles across multiple sites. After all, the typical goal of social media is to be found, not to stay hidden. If you know one handle, it's straightforward to test that handle against other sites to see if it results in a valid page, and if so, assume it's the same user. This can be easily automated and done without user intervention.

    This collection of customer handles can not only be used within your analytics and business intelligence tools to look across disparate data sets to synthesize wisdom about specific customers, but also to create views of different demographic slices to which they belong.


    Consumer Privacy

    Consumer privacy issues are a delicate balancing act. It's in your company's interest to know everything about the consumer, but the consumer is often inclined to be a bit less forthcoming. Pitney Bowes conducted a survey in 2012 of consumers in Europe and the U.S. and their attitudes about the collection of personal information. The survey found that consumers are aware of the value of their data, and they also value their privacy. The survey found one-third of consumers are unwilling to trust any type of organization with their personal data. But for the most part, consumers are ready to part with certain types of data so long as they perceive a benefit in doing so.

    Dimitri Maex, Managing Director of OgilvyOne and author of the book, Sexy Little Numbers: How to Grow Your Business Using the Data You Already Have, suggests the value equation is different now; ".it is no longer a question of consumers' willingness to share data but one of establishing a fair value exchange." Maex's study showed that 72% of US consumers are willing to share data, as long as they receive something valuable in return.

    Millennials have an even stronger willingness to share personal data for rewards. Aimia's study "Born This Way" notes, "When asked in an open-ended question what value brands needed to provide in exchange for sharing their personal information, Millennials identified reward incentives as the top factor fueling their trust-and in greater numbers than their older counterparts. They also expect brands to secure their personal data and to use it in an ethical manner."

    The value customers receive for their information sharing does not need to be directly monetary. While discounts and coupons are always welcome, value may take the form of enhanced levels of service or even ego-appealing bonuses such as the opportunity to have their comment or review appear on your website.

    Clearly, customer privacy requests must be respected, but the chances a customer will opt-out are significantly lessened if there is some perceived value to remaining in. Further, much of the digital footprint data about customers is now public. This means that while customer opt-out requests may dictate how your agents or marketing programs interact with customers during transaction processing, it doesn't necessarily limit your back-end analytics.


    What Wisdom Lies Within?

    There are two basic approaches to analyzing big data.  One is called rich wandering, and is a relatively novel approach for data analysis made possible because of the integration of disparate data sets enabled by big data analytics tools.

    In some ways, rich wandering may be thought of as surfing through your data. Consider the times you've been surfing the web, only to find that you stumble onto something particularly interesting; something that affords a valuable insight or provides a new perspective you otherwise never would have thought to go looking for.  You arrived at that gem by following a series of links, which from the outside would appear unrelated and uninteresting.  That's rich wandering-the art of serendipitous discovery.

    In much the same way the web enabled rich wandering through information; big data analytics enable rich wandering through data.

    You might start with a search to constrain an initial data set. You might use faceted classifications to filter certain structured data elements to further constrain your set, in much the same way that EBay or Amazon lets you use facets to narrow your shopping selection. Then you might use graphing tools to create various vectored representations of the set along multiple dimensions. Each peek leads you to think about the data set a bit differently. And that leads you to try different searches, different facet filters, and different graphs. The result being that oftentimes you'll wind up discovering something valuable you never intended to look for.

    This is not to encourage spending hours wandering aimlessly about in the data. Much like web surfing, this can consume copious amounts of time. It's more akin to the process of discovering things en route to looking up other things.  A flexible real-time analytical tool will allow you to wander from your set path to satiate your curiosity-and serendipity happens.

    A second analytical approach for big data is the more traditional approach of creating and generating periodic reported metrics and showing metric trends over time.  This is not fundamentally different than the analytical techniques you are probably using today, but may require the use of tools specially designed to traverse heterogeneous and less structured data repositories to generate the reports.

    What's new here is the ability to generate metrics and trends that were previously unavailable or too difficult to track.

    For example, any state-of-the-art consumer affairs operation is already tracking all the interactions customers have directly with the company. Some are also actively monitoring their company Facebook pages or Twitter feeds for posts that require intervention and handling. But do you know what your customers are saying when they are not speaking directly to you?  More importantly, do you know who is listening?

    Net Promoter Scores (NPS) have been around for a decade now. The premise of NPS is to gauge a customer's intent to recommend or advocate for your product by classifying them as a Promoter, Passive, or Detractor based on direct survey results. NPS has often been used as a metric of success of the consumer affairs operation, but some companies also use NPS as a service differentiator. You might go the extra mile to appease a Promoter, where you might not do the same for a Passive customer who is likely to switch brands at the drop of a hat anyway.

    While being a Promoter might indicate intent to share, it doesn't usefully assess a customer's ability to share. That's where Social Influence Scores (SIS) come in. SIS is a measure of the ability of a customer to influence their social connections.

    One factor of someone's SIS is their raw number of connections, or their social graph density. That's relatively easy to measure based on the number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or blog subscribers someone has. But graph density doesn't say anything about the actual influence of that person. It merely indicates the potential to influence.

    Wisdom comes in understanding a customer's social relationship strength, centrality, and prestige.  These are more qualitative measures, but can be gleaned by analyzing:

    • The frequency of posting original content (as opposed to sharing or retweeting)
    • The number of references to a specific company or product
    • Geographic or demographic diversity of the social graph
    • The post activity in terms of total comments, replies, shares, or retweets
    • The post activity in terms of number of unique commenters, repliers, sharers, or retweeters

    By combining all these factors, a customer's true influence can be estimated, and service differentiated accordingly. It may well turn out the squeakiest wheels aren't worth greasing because, while they make a lot of noise, no one is listening.  Alternatively, some comparatively quiet voices might be having an outsized impact on your brand. This is big wisdom worthy of the investment in big data tools for customer care.


    Flipping the Equation

    The Oracle white paper, "Integrate for Insight," argues that "big data-information gleaned from nontraditional sources such as blogs, social media, email, sensors, photographs, video footage, etc., and therefore typically unstructured and voluminous-holds the promise of giving enterprises deeper insight into their customers, partners, and business."

    Accessing that insight requires investment in tools as well as the labor to wield them. It also may require adjustments to your customer care processes to facilitate the integration of, and connection between, these far flung data sets-many of which you may not control. But the results can be profound.

    Historically, customer care operations have struggled with determining what they can discern about their customers' behavior from the available data. The advent of big data turns this equation around.  The world of big data makes it impractical to start from the point of asking what you can do with the data available. It provides the opportunity for operations to seek answers to questions by asking what data will factor into those answers, and then seeking the connections and tools to acquire that data.

    Perhaps more importantly, this breadth and depth of data can provide answers to questions operations may not previously have even thought to ask.

    Tim Nichols is a former SOCAP International Board Member and currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer for Wilke Global.  You can find Tim on mySOCAP or on Twitter @TimAtWilke