Ed Koch passed away today at the age of 88. This is a very sad event for me. You’re probably going to wonder what the heck an ex New York City celebrity Mayor has to do with social media. Stick around and I’ll explain.
I was seven years old when I moved from Paris to New York City in 1974. Ed Koch was the first US personality (any personality for that matter) I had ever met live. I was walking downtown with my mom one day when we came upon this guy, all by himself, hanging out in public with his constituents asking “How am I doing?” — No bodyguards, no press, no speeches, no bullshit. Just a genuine - yet powerful - leader mixing it up with normal people chewing the fat, and asking them for feedback.
Coming from Europe, this was a total shock for me. Imagine a powerful politician actually lowering himself by engaging with the masses! Mano a mano. Unthinkable in the old country where such folks live on pedestals in glass houses. And their shit don’t stink.
During the short fray, at some point, my mom and I came across him and he shook both our hands. Like everyone else’s. I was speechless and in heaven. I never forgot that moment.
Throughout the years, I didn’t always agree with his policies or opinions. But fact was, with Ed Koch, what you saw was what you got. And he listened. And when he made mistakes, he fessed up. I never met anyone, regardless of party or politics, who didn’t at least like Mayor Koch the person.
Those days are long gone for public figures and brands. Much like the Twin Towers in the picture above. But I’m hopeful that can change. Matter of fact, I’m pretty sure it is changing.
Because nowadays, with the scalable, conversational, and 24/7 features of social media communication, it’s become easier than ever to re-engage with people one-on-one, globally, and ask voters or customers “How are we doing?” - There is no excuse to not do it anymore. Unless of course, you don’t care about the answer. In which case, guess what? People will notice.
When Mayor Koch went out in public to gauge his popularity - which he did regularly - he was simply communicating. Nowadays, he’d be on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, you name it. It’s such a simple and obvious concept.
I’m always surprised to notice how many institutions or companies still don’t get it. Especially now that all the tools are at hand, essentially free to use. And the only reason not to use them is if you truly don’t give a hoot. And if you really don’t care, you’re irrelevant or soon to be.
The advent of social media brings us back to “How am I doing?” communication. That’s the hope. The ROI. I believe it’s inevitable. And Ed Koch was “social” way before his time - one manly handshake at a time.
The sad news of Ed’s passing comes at a strange time for me. As I’m heading back to my New York City roots after a long long time away from home. What goes around comes around. The important thing is to stay social my friends :)
I sometimes hear people say that providing customer service over social channels is no big deal. That doing so merely adds new digital channels to the same old thing. Just as email took over from phones, now Twitter or Facebook takes over from email.
This is sheer nonsense. It fails to recognize the nature of a channel “carrier medium”. And more importantly, it fails to understand that traditional support mechanisms and processes are inherently orthogonal to social service. Why?
Because social channels each have unique flow patterns and “heartbeats”. I like to think of it like radio waves carrying sounds, music, information. And if you provide service in tune with this “wave”, without friction, in the direction of the grain, that is how you enchant customers. With flowing, real-time, friction-less experience. It’s just how social hearts beat.
In this modality - whatever the social channel may be - the support issue, the customer pain point, is ephemeral. It’s a passing annoyance but no more. It’s part of the “flow”. You fix it, and just move on. The Twitter life cycle is super fast. A good social service experience on there shouldn’t be rememberable two hours later. A mere glitch in the flow. Noise. Life goes on.
Anyone who’s ever gone scuba diving in strong current understands this concept. It’s like surfing. You have to “go with the flow” — and fighting it is not only futile, but often deadly.
Social service is the same way. But if you use traditional tools and processes to handle these “cases”, you’re swimming against current. I’m thinking big-ass CRM systems, case management kahunas, complex escalation processes, endless approval and escalation levels, and pretty much any of the IT and procedural junk associated with classic service pipeline processing. The kind of stuff that makes service reps rip their eyes out.
All that stuff does is yield 3 day resolution times versus 20 minutes on social channels. And it pisses off customers. And it goes against the natural flow of social service channel heartbeats. That’s why providing social service is indeed a different animal than traditional “case management”. Mixing the two is incompatible and painful for all involved.
Which is pretty normal if you ask me. As these case management and CRM systems were all designed to please businesses and their IT people. They’re “stop and go” step function systems. Not flow-based ones. And worse yet, they’re all about corporate users, and not customers. Wrong place to be.
So stay social my friends, and swim with the current :)
In the “This is so freaking brilliant why isn’t everyone else doing it” category, I submit to you today: Keljob video recruiting!
Keljob is a French job-hunting site. And it lets hiring managers post videos pitching the positions they seek to fill. Keljob only has eight such clips so far but I suspect this amount is going to grow hard and fast.
Overall, the videos seem pretty home-grown and genuine. I think seeing a quick video job pitch from a potential boss is simply precious. All you get besides the quick video is an email address you can apply to. Which turns out to be a classified ads address at the Figaro - I don’t know why it doesn’t point directly back to the employer, but that’s another story.
Given the sad state of the recruiting industry when it comes to using social media effectively, I can’t wrap my head around the following question: why on earth isn’t every job hunting site in the world doing this? We had to wait for a French recruiting site, of all things, to come up with this? Mon dieu! :)
You know what? I’m particularly grateful for my Autodesk social media crew this Thanksgiving season. That would be my community managers Camilo Lemos in Neuchatel, Switzerland and Philip Schmelzer in San Rafael, California. I’ll tell you why.
I think back to when we started together a year ago. From scratch. Our mandate: find out where we need to be out there, and how we can provide “social service” at scale on multiple channels simultaneously 24/5 and in real time for millions of customers. Then go “spread the social love” across departments. Figure it out with little resources. Just make it happen. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.
And I look at what we’ve accomplished since then with AutodeskCare. And I think to myself, man, was I lucky to score these dudes!
You pick a couple real sharp guys with no social media experience. And you hope at the very least, that with training and experience, they’ll do OK. Only to realize right away that in fact, you hit the jackpot with natural-born digital and community top guns.
And then it’s not about just “doing OK”. It’s about excelling at your trade every single day of the year. No exceptions. About growing, learning, and adapting on the fly. And sharing a work ethic, a passion for quality, attention to detail, and a customer advocacy spirit like I have seldom seen (or experienced) in the industry.
So together with ^PHL and ^CAM (their handles on Twitter), we built and staffed our Twitter customer service channel. Then we injected ourselves and trained numerous colleagues to engage inside our Autodesk Discussion forums. Then we did the same thing on Facebook. And Google+. And Youtube. And the blog. And numerous external communities. And we’re still growing the social service beast by leaps and bounds. Talk is cheap. Check out what we do every day of the year uncut and live. And if you’ve gotten any sort of service or support on any major Autodesk Facebook product page lately. Well that was us as well :)
My guys listen, engage, create, produce and publish content, train, monitor, and nurture our online community like they owned it. Because actually, they do. And every day, you’re damn right it’s personal.
And truth be told, I’m not always easy to work for. If you know me, you just got a chuckle out of that one :) Although I’ve gotten mellower over the years, I’m still a perfectionist, fundamentally impatient, and not much of a word mincer. I like to get shit done. And to succeed in social service, often enough, you have to be pretty good at excelling within controlled chaos. There’s little time for niceties, mistakes, or hesitation.
There aren’t too many teams who can sustain this kind of pressure 24/7. Lucky for me, I picked a couple superstars who don’t mind doing this for a living. And we’ve grown into this kind of organic synchronized entity - like a well-oiled watch movement - where the whole is better than the sum of its parts.
Hardly a day goes by where I don’t think to myself “Wow, these guys are f’ing awesome!” - And whenever I think there’s no more room for surprises - there comes another one my way.
There is nothing better for a manager than to be surrounded by people he can trust blindly, who have each other’s backs, who can be consulted and relied on any time of day or night. There is nothing better than working with people who are inherently smarter, better, and faster than you can be - and are only getting started at it.
So that’s what I have to be grateful about this year. Because I’ve been around a lot of places, and I’ve worked with a lot of folks over the years. But better than my two guys Camilo and Phil on our social media crew at Autodesk — well I had yet to experience.
As my grandfather used to say “In life, you will have crap days, and you will have good days. Today happens to be a crap one”. As usual, it sounds better in French :)
Some work days go better than others. And during the rough patches, I always like to remember one of the biggest advantages to working here. Namely, the people who surround me on a daily basis - both on and offsite. Specifically, my two partners in crime who, together with me, form what we refer to as “the 3 legs of the stool”.
You see, we have a three-pronged social service strategy fueling our Strategic Content and Community Team at work. In one phase, we fan out on external social channels to listen to and engage customers in need. When needed, we route them to our support communities.
On the community side, we drive peer-to-peer expert community support with a healthy mix of employee-driven engagement.
Finally, we produce, curate, and disseminate content judiciously so customers can get pertinent information at the point of need.
Chris Mottla, our dancing guy on the left, is our digital content strategist. In the middle is my friend and community strategist Brian Kling (of Mr. Forums fame). And I’m standing on the right very happy to apparently have started a new fashion trend at work - black is beautiful man!
It’s rare in one’s professional life to be lucky enough to work with one superstar on a daily basis. Much less two of them!
Makes the occasional crappy day quite a bit more bearable! And I feel very grateful about those and the numerous other superstars I’ve been working with globally at Autodesk in the past 18 months!
As we like to say here, stay social my friends!
I started thinking how this might apply to social service. You hear talk sometimes about “minimum viable customer experience”. This always sounded like some sort of SEAL Team Ops semantics to me. What the heck is a minimally viable customer experience anyway? Is zero support viable? Why not. Giffgaff does it.
How about only providing email support? Phone? How can we know what customers consider “minimally-viable”? Would they be honest or not? Why not simply ask them?
I think too often companies design social service around what’s convenient for them — their infrastructure, their processes, their legacy, and yes, too often enough, their internal politics.
When in fact it would probably be more efficient - and certainly more genuine - to go out there and tell people up-front: look, we can’t be everything to everyone. And we either can’t or don’t wish to be like Dell, Apple, Amazon, or Virgin. Additionally, we feel it’s more sensible to invest in a single channel and really knock it out of the ballpark. So pick a channel, and we’ll commit to being the best at it.
Did you say phone? Fine. We’ll invest in phones and have the best freaking phone support you ever met. You want email? Deal. We’ll invent the most amazing way to do email support. Chat? Facetime? Skype? Carrier pigeon? You got it. We’ll be the best, most efficient, most innovative company in that single channel. And nothing more. For now (that being the key phrase)…
Deep down I think that’s a deal most frustrated customers would probably sign off on. Matter of fact, it’s been proven. I know I would! How about you? Fair enough?
Under-promise. Over-deliver. Stay social my friends :)