By Carla Baynard
Expansive, suspended cables appear harp-like as we approach the incline of the bridge. As our bus rolls over the bridge, I view Alcatraz from the distance. For that one moment, the light mist from the rain makes the scene appear like another world. Then.it hits me! I am in San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, heading towards the Napa Valley. Destination: Sterling Vineyards. The Sterling wine tour was the start of my 2010 Annual Conference experience. Other attendees, like me, launched their conference experience on a second wine tour at William Hill Estate Winery. Later that evening, the official kickoff for the Annual Conference was held at the Welcome Reception hosted by Levi Strauss at the company's beautiful store in Union Square.
With just the right blend of networking opportunities and educational workshops, this year's SOCAP Annual Conference had something for everyone! While each attendee's own conference experience may be different, I am pleased to share some personal highlights from the general sessions at SOCAP's 2010 Annual Conference:
Day 1 – Morning
The Annual Conference opened with an announcement from SOCAP Board Chairman, Susan Baranowsky of The Campbell Soup Company that conference attendance stood at 500 people! Susan said that this number marks a record attendance for SOCAP at an annual conference. There's a lot of excitement and buzz from the audience!
The welcome remarks provided by Businessweek.com Columnist Carmine Gallo set the proper tone for this year's conference focus-Customer Engagement: Social Media - Customer Care Meets Marketing - Sustainability. Carmine reminded us that being engaged means being creative. He shared Steve Jobs' quote "Creativity is just connecting things" and expounded that it is about connecting things from different fields and applying it to "your thing." In this age of customer engagement, we must be innovators. Innovators have three common qualities. They are passionate, visionary and creative.
Carmine's address paved the way for the featured address from keynote speaker, Charlene Li. Charlene is the author of the books Groundswell and Open Leadership. Her keynote address focused on Relationships in the Era of Social Technologies. Charlene asked us these key questions as it relates to engaging with customers with social media:
- When something goes wrong, what is the first thing you do?
- Are you proactive or reactive?
- How do you give up control?
She advised us to create a strategy around the customer relationships you are going to form and reminded us that it's not about who owns the tools or the technology. It's about who owns the relationship. Everyone in the organization is responsible for the customer relationship. Once this idea is realized within the company, then fighting over who owns the technology becomes a moot point.
Charlene shared four goals that leaders should have in using social technologies:
- Learn from your Customer.
- Dialogue with Them.
- Support Them.
- Innovate with Them.
Charlene wrapped up the address by highlighting some key points from her book, Open Leadership. She discussed a case study about Best Buy where Barry Judge, the CMO, started Best Buy's Blue Shirt Nation-which created a culture of sharing among the employees. The idea was to practice internal networking before external engagement takes place. She talked about leadership and challenged the audience to ask this important question: How are YOU going to lead differently?
She ended on the topic "preparedness" and asked how do you roll up your sleeves and get the job done? But she didn't leave the question unanswered. She recommended these three things:
- Discipline is needed to succeed.
- Ask the right questions.
- Prepare for Failure (and quoted Google's mantra, "fail fast, fail smart").
Day 1 - Afternoon
The afternoon's keynote address was presented by John Gerzema, Chief Insights Officer, Young & Rubicam. John spoke to us about Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution is Changing the Way we Buy, Sell, and Live.
John highlighted these observations:
- In today's economically strapped highly technological society, we are moving from mindless to mindful consumption.
- 55% of Americans are driving the "Spend Shift" MovementTrust in brands declined by 50% over last 6 years; people began to rethink the value of the brands they used.
- Kindness and empathy increased by roughly 400%.
- We are connecting with old values and virtues but are "powering" them with new technologies.
He wrapped up by sharing five spend shift scenarios and shared key results of the Spend Shift Movement:
- We are moving from a credit to a debit society.
- There are no longer consumers only customers.
- America is an emerging market for value-led innovation.
The Spend Shift Movement is about moving capitalism from being about "more" to being about "better."
Day 2 - Morning
The second day of the conference was just as informative as the first! This time around the interview format was used. First up was Craig Newmark, founder, craigslist. Rohit Bhargava, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Ogilvy PR, conducted the interview with the craigslist founder. In the interview, Craig elaborated on the culture of craigslist. He said his company's culture is simply to give people a break and to treat people like you want to be treated.
Craig's overall business philosophy is to keep it simple when it comes to communicating. The primary tool for talking is to send people an email. Here's how Craig responded to question about the craiglist website:
"We intentionally keep the site basic and uncluttered and without graphics to make it easy for users to move around in the site. Unnecessary graphics slow things down.The site is community-driven. Our philosophy is simply to listen to people and act. We are looking to begin use of ideation tools to help us segregate the good ideas from the bad ones."
Craig also talked about the importance of being authentic and the importance of leading by example. His final thoughts can be summarized in these three bullet points:
- Treat people like you want to be treated.
- Get good ideas from your people.
- Management follow through is imperative.
Following the interview with Craig Newmark, Rohit then switched gears and moderated a social media panel discussion featuring Frank Eliason, Senior Vice President, Social Media, Citibank; Helen Horsham-Bertels, Senior Director, Consumer Affairs, Starwood Hotels & Resorts; and Bryan Rhoads, Senior Digital Strategist, Intel HQ. The panel gave some helpful tips about the role that customer care should be playing in engaging with consumers using social media.
Day 2 – Afternoon
The closing general session at the Annual Conference included the presentation of SOCAP's 2010 Chapter Awards. We also heard from two great keynote speakers-Don Knauss, CEO of The Clorox Company and Dan Roam, author of THE BACK OF THE NAPKIN.
Dan Roam's main message was that many of the problems we face can actually be solved with pictures! He showed audience members how to draw ideas on a napkin and then use these ideas to identify solutions to challenges. This presentation gave a whole new meaning to my concept of doodling!
Carla Baynard is a Client Services Director at Telerx where she designs and manages service care programs on behalf of several major national companies and one non-profit company. Telerx is a teleservice bureau specializing in contact center solutions for customer and consumer care. Carla is a member of SOCAP's Publication Committee. Her full article on the SOCAP Annual Conference will appear in the December issue of CRM Magazine.
Visit www.socap.org for additional highlights from the 2010 Annual Conference.