Social media and customers

August 1, 2012

First of all I picked up from a Tweet by Jerry van Leeuwen that there was a new item on the Harvard Business Review blog network by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss. Nothing particularly new there, for as they say “social media improves service by making the market for peer-to-peer opinion more efficient”. They break this up into three components – ‘service recovery’, service improvement’ and ‘customer training’.  Then a post on the Econsultancy blog on 24 July 2012 by Patricio Robles entitled “Is Twitter creating a VIP customer service channel?” repeats a similar argument with examples concluding that “social media is a supplement to existing customer service programs, not a replacement”.

This was then reinforced by the weekly news email from Gerry McGovern who stated that “many customers go to social media sites to complain”. Gerry states that “Organizations have abused words such as community and loyalty for a long time. There s a need to get real.” This is combined with an attack on the ‘sticky’ websites of old. He states that there research indicates the need to help customers:

  • trust the information they receive
  • receive clear messages at each decision stage
  • weigh the options confidently

This is equally appropriate to government and the failure to do so is why citizens continue to use multiple channels. The advise from Frei & Morriss, along with Patricio Robles, might help regain that trust. Whilst I remain less skeptical on social media for government I do think any approach needs to be done on a strategic basis and follow some of the best practice already identified.


Another survey

September 23, 2009

The Oxford Internet Institute have released the report of their latest survey, The Internet in Britain, which contains a comparative analysis of results from 2009 with the years 2005 and 2007.

One of the quotes from Helen Margetts (p.26) contains the statement: “Information seeking remains the most common e-government activity, similar to the way e-commerce developed (although slower). However, the frequency of online transactions such as paying for government services, taxes, fines and licenses has started to increase.” So information, not transaction remains the killer application.

Interestingly, local services remain more popular than central government ones, whether policy or politicians, although all see a small but steady increase.

However, an added reminder came from Gerry McGovern in his latest e-broadcast , when he stated: “The purpose of marketing and advertising used to be to get customers to do the things you wanted them to do. The purpose of web marketing and advertising is different. It starts off by accepting that the customer is on the Web to do something. It then focuses on helping that customer become more successful in doing that thing, not getting the customer to do something else.”

In the case of government, what we need to remember is that primarily we should be using the web to help citizens, not to help ourselves!

Optimization techniques

August 23, 2009

Hot off the McKinsey press comes a piece about optimization techniques using customer satisfaction as a metric.

Authors Sebastien Katch and Tim Morse in the latest McKinsey Quarterly describe how the public sector, unlike the private one,  can’t use metrics around cost-to-serve or profit and describe the approach taken by a US federal agency wanting to improve its call centres and paper-processing better i.e. two services channels.

It sounds like quite a complex mathematical model was created to shuffle staff between the two tasks, while attempting to maintain customer satisfaction at an optimum level.

In my simple view, the key learning is that citizen satisfaction is a useful and straghtforward metric for controlling channel quality and hence juggling priorities between them.

Gerry McGovern picks up this theme in his current newsletter, pointing out that:

“Before we can measure success we need to understand the customer’s task.”


“Measuing success based on volume encourages bad practice.”l

His attack on what he describes as  the “cult of volume” is appropriate to the other channels as it is to the web one.

The evidence base

April 5, 2009

I’ve mentioned Gerry McGovern before, followed his writing for ten years, and along with the thinking that pops up on he frequently calls us to Gemba. His latest epistle does no less and uses examples including Amazon and Walmart.

I highly recommend a read for those who want to see how successful web managers do it! It applies univerally, as well.

New thinking

March 15, 2009

Since reading Gerry McGovern’s book The Caring Economy when it came out ten years ago (doesn’t time fly), I’ve been a fan. I don’t always agree with everything he has to say but about web publishing in general he’s frequently correct, although not always on the specifics relating to government.

His latest email newsletter concludes as follows:

“Websites fail when they focus on the content or the technology. We must instead focus relentlessly on our customers’ top tasks. We must measure success based on our customers’ ability to quickly and easily complete these top tasks.”

I’d extend this to all service delivery mechanisms, whether ‘phone, face-to-face or via the Internet. His newsletter describes how the Microsoft Office team improved their site by focusing on the customer and culled a great deal of useless content in the process.

Take a look and subscribe yourself, it only arrives once a week: