SOCAP Events Never Disappoint!
Margot Heiligman, SAP
SOCAP events never disappoint! We come together. We share insights, experience, and knowledge. We get to know one another and support SOCAP while making sure that technology doesn't trump the value of content we share.
The recent chapter meeting in South Florida was much the same! On a regularly scheduled call in February, we explored a variety of venues for the upcoming chapter meeting. Since South Florida covers a wide terrain it was difficult to agree on one location - Orlando or Miami. A few of the members posed the idea of co-locating the meeting in the two cities. Our speakers would attend the Orlando location, and we'd videoconference between Orlando and Miami so that all participants could view, listen, comment, discuss, and enjoy a unified experience. Our chapter members agreed that this was doable, but it would all come down to the execution.
Starwood properties would host the Orlando contingent, while SAP volunteered our Miami city offices for the downstate members. Videoconferencing being our conduit - we scheduled several tests and dry runs to make the event run smoothly.
On the day of our March 9th meeting, we gathered in our respective locations and kicked off our mornings with coffee (we will not go into the healthy debate about which city has the better coffee). Both rooms were well-equipped, and the acoustics were beautiful. We dialed in for some excellent audio conferencing. Unfortunately, the video conferencing had to be scrapped - internal videoconferencing vs. external videoconferencing is a dog of a task, and time just wasn't on our side; we simply ran out of runway to pull it off (though we'd thought that we'd resolved everything in advance). However, all was not lost.
In spite of no videoconferencing, we were forced to:
- Pay close attention to our illustrious speakers
- Listen to all the voices in the room(s)
- Introduce ourselves to both a live audience and an 'audible-only' one
- Wait our turns across the divided table
…plus an added advantage for us in Miami was that there were fewer people with which to compete in our door prize drawing! Thanks again to Jarden and SPi Global for their generosity toward our door prizes and giveaways!
Once David Johnson (Uniters) dove into his topic of Online Reputation Management, the power of his words kept us all captivated: video or not. Even without the enhanced technology, members in both locations could view the speakers' slides. Cliff Moore (COPC, Inc.) shared the eagerly awaited 2011 Multi-Industry Benchmarking Survey results, and we learned a great deal about how we've all evolved from a year ago, especially in how we are all handling social customer service in its many channels and forms.
It's rare that we take the time to go around the virtual room with others involved in customer advocacy and exchange knowledge and experience from one industry business segment to another. However, the next part of our meeting was devoted to just that. We each rated ourselves in our level of sophistication and proactive strategy concerning the new social customer and the way we engage in our call centers today and learned more about each others' businesses as well as our own. Companies ranged from "newbie" to "highly engaged" and the level of skill and strategic acuity of participants in the room was astounding.
Although I could write an entire novel on the shared knowledge that day in the two rooms themselves, spanning many industries, business segments, brands and channels, I am prepared to leave that for another day. It was a privilege to have the time we spent together - and the manner in which we ran this chapter meeting made us all feel just a little bit closer to one another even if only for a half day.
Top 5 Reasons to attend SOCAP's Annual Conference
SOCAP’s 2011 Annual Conference is right around the corner, and here are the top 5 reasons you should register now
Network with your peers and colleagues from the customer care profession! You won’t find a gathering of nearly 500 customer relationship experts from leading Fortune 1000 companies anywhere else.
Breakout Sessions on the hottest customer care topics, PLUS a new Advanced Track for senior customer care professionals! This year’s breakout sessions cover a wide range of important topics, from mobile technologies to writing skills. Supercharge your professional education with our NEW Advanced Sessions that take a deeper dive into key proficiencies.
A sold-out exhibit hall showcasing the latest innvations and developments in customer care.
Amazing keynote speakers that will inspire, motivate and entertain you. You’ll hear from senior executives representing Kimberly-Clark, Dell, USAA and more, plus experts on the emerging mobile industry.
Bonus sessions to round-out your Annual Conference experience. Whether you hit the links at the annual Golf Tournament, enjoy a serene start to your conference at the special SOCAP spa event, attend a tour of the Darden Restaurants call center or sharpen your leadership skills with the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, there’s something for you to deepen your conference experience.
And that’s not all! The 2011 Annual Conference is the premier event for customer care professionals with the most education, networking and inspiration you can find. To register, visit www.socap.org today.
Florida and Nashville Blossoming
Both Florida and Nashville will hold regional events to gauge interest in having regular events or maybe even forming a SOCAP Chapter in the future. In a change from previous practice, areas without existing chapters are holding meetings/events of interest to the members in their area. This concept of focusing on the event is being used in Ohio and New England with positive results.
In Florida, Rita Wood with Network Direct has initiated conference calls with existing members to plan an event in the Miami area this Summer. Following this, there will be an event tied to the SOCAP Annual Conference, Oct. 16-19, 2011 in Orlando. After two calls with the members in Florida, August 1 was established as the meeting date and Carnival Cruise Lines stepped- up to host the event. Members will come to Carnival's Miami Terminal, register and then board the Carnival Cruise Ship, "Imagination." There will be a lunch followed by a program on aligning corporate culture with call centers. A panel of experts will interact with those in attendance for a valuable networking and educational event.
Leslie Skybo with Mars Petcare has become the driving force behind an event in the Nashville area. After hearing about the value of chapter events in other areas, she reached out to SOCAP staff about starting a chapter in the Nashville area. Mars, Paralax, iostudio, Nissan and Support Seven representatives met by conference call on June 7th to discuss how best to initiate interest in their area. They will hold an event in downtown Nashville the first week of August.
SOCAP currently has 17 chapters that add significant value to SOCAP membership. Members can follow the events that each chapter is holding and are welcome to visit any chapter event that interest them. For instance, the Georgia Chapter held an annual event that brings members and others from across the country. It has grown into an industry event that attracts hundreds of professionals involved in consumer affairs and contact center operations.
The Great Lakes Chapter invited members from adjoining chapters to their Technology Summit that was held in May and their June 9th golf outing.
There are numerous ways to get involved with SOCAP on the local/regional level. Just review the write-ups in this e-newsletter or check the SOCAP Website at your convenience. If you are interested in holding an event in your area, contact Ike or Chad at SOCAP.
A Member Speaks: Customer Care in the Hospitality Industry
Chris Zoloth is the Director, Global Customer Care for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). Chris has been absent from SOCAP for a few years as he focused on repositioning IHG's overall customer care strategy to better support guests and hotels. We caught up with Chris and asked him a few questions about how things have changed in his world. Here is what he had to say:
SOCAP: Tell us about InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and your role there.
IHG is an international hotel company whose goal is to create Great Hotels Guests Love. The big picture is 7 hotel brands, over 146 million room nights per year, more than 640,000 rooms and over 4,400 hotels in 100 countries and territories around the world. Our Brands include: Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, InterContinental, Staybridge, Candlewood and Indigo. And let's not forget about Priority Club Rewards, it is the world's first and largest loyalty program with over 56 million members worldwide.
As for me, I've been with IHG for just over 18 years and my current responsibilities include directing IHG's global Service Recovery Teams and Priority Club Rewards operational support. These teams are responsible for protecting the integrity of IHG's brands and driving guest loyalty. My teams handle 4+ million guest interactions and transactions per year; answering questions related to Priority Club Rewards as well as pre and post stay support for our guests.
SOCAP: You have been away for a few years, what enticed you to come back to SOCAP?
I came from Hotel Operations and Franchise Support, so I originally joined SOCAP as a way of ramping up my customer care contact center knowledge by networking and attending webinars, symposium and conferences. After gaining additional insight from colleagues, I took an internal deep dive and completely restructured IHG's service recovery processes globally. I introduced One Contact Resolution to reduce guest effort and a hotel fee based support system that financially rewarded high performing hotels and eased the burden on IHG system funding of Service Recovery. We went from an answering service function to a fully empowered customer care service recovery team.
IHG's business model focuses on managing and franchising hotels and has over 3,000 owners around the world that are passionate about their property and protective of their investment. The goal was to deliver contact center service recovery solution that would drive guest preference, increase the owner value proposition and guarantee long term sustainability of a corporate Customer Care Operation.
Our new processes have been in place for 2 years and it's time to start reaching out to the industry to benchmark our success, share best practices and learn from other successful companies. SOCAP is a great way to do this.
SOCAP: SOCAP has several industry communities including the Hospitality, Travel, Tourism Community. How do you intend to use this community?
I'm looking forward to engaging in the Hospitality, Travel, Tourism Community Discussion Board by posting questions related to current challenges and hearing what other companies are doing.
SOCAP: You are attending the SOCAP Symposium in Las Vegas, what do you hope gain there that you can use when you return home?
Yes, there will be a few of us attending and we are really looking forward to the networking and having face to face discussions with experienced customer care professionals. Also I am interested in the online engagement session. As contact volume continues to shift to online channels, I'm interested in hearing what other companies are doing to better communicate with customers through these channels but also how to better manage the people resources that manage these channels.
SOCAP: Your offices are located in Utah, which makes it difficult to attend a local SOCAP meeting. How will that influence your continued membership?
That's a great question and we did struggle with this in the past. I'm going to re-evaluate the chapters, to see if we can participate in one based on who is in the chapter rather than the location and try to attend a few meetings throughout the year. I know Hyatt is involved in the Heartland chapter which is only a few hours away. Starwood is involved in the New York Chapter, so we will just have to see which is best for us.
SOCAP: Anything else you want to say about SOCAP?
IHG Global Customer Care is looking forward to active membership and taking advantage of the tools and relationships available from SOCAP.
SOCAP Chapters - A Great Place to Meet
Cindy Fritton, ConAgra Foods and SOCAP Chapter Relations Chair
SOCAP Chapters cover different regions of the United States and Canada. They serve as a local gathering place for those consumer affairs professionals who want to build on their professional development. SOCAP Chapter meetings also compliment SOCAP National events by providing a setting to learn from each other.
SOCAP chapter events are opportunities to really network and grow. In the Heartland Chapter, we cover 4 states and usually meet in Omaha, Nebraska. At these meetings I have the opportunity to network and learn how other businesses view good customer service and how they operate. I am in food and beverage, but since we don't have a lot of companies in the food and beverage industry in the Heartland Chapter, I have the opportunity to learn from other industries. This gives me a broader view of customer care. Before I really got involved, I didn't know what I had at my disposal - both nationally and locally. I have been able to benchmark our operations, use people as a sounding board and share my experience.
Over the last four years, I have grown as a person by taking on leadership roles within SOCAP. Public speaking often comes to mind when assessing the value of leadership, but there are so many other avenues you can travel to develop your leadership skills. For instance I have learned what is most important in budgeting, program development and meeting planning. As president I try to impact every individual who shows up at a meeting. I want those people to get a great return on their investment of time and money.
Our meetings are valuable because we drive meeting content depending on what is most important to members. Because of our strong connection to SOCAP national, we know the most important topics nationally and as a board we look to impact people on the local level. We want them to come away with something actionable that will positively influence their job. We survey the members and our board has lively discussions on what is timely in the industry.
Meeting content is only part of the experience. It is critical to meet and greet as many as you can at a meeting. Our Heartland board tries to reach out and touch every member. We try to give new members a real cooks-tour of what is going on with the chapter. We also make sure we are giving them what they want. We explain how we want them to participate and that they have a voice - we learn so much from each other.
At a typical Heartland Chapter meeting the board members greet everyone and check them in. Then we introduce them to others and help them mingle. The first 15 minutes is the President's greeting and an explanation of the agenda for the day. We have a program in the morning with a break, then one hour for lunch. After, and sometimes during lunch we often have round-robin table topics. Then there is an afternoon session that always ends with door prizes. Sometimes there is another social event after that.
Most chapters have a board of directors with officers, however some newer chapters get started by holding meetings a few times a year until the interest grows into becoming a more formal organization. I understand the reluctance to take a leadership position, but in Heartland we really support each other so that the burden is not too great on any one person. We will come to the aid of anyone who has a work conflict or whatever prevents them from performing their duty. Although the board members are willing to contribute on all levels and all are committed to a successful meeting, we all realize that work comes first.
I find that members often need a nudge to participate. You search for people who are engaged, want to make a difference and want to make SOCAP successful. But you don't have to be a leader or a board member to make a difference. There are opportunities to speak on panels, for sponsorships, for planning a meeting or bringing in a new member. The key is to get involved, because what you get in return is immeasurable.
Your total SOCAP experience is most intense when national services are combined with those you receive in the local/regional SOCAP Chapter. If you do not have a chapter in your area and would like to start one, get in touch with our national office or me.