Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 115 – page 115
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I watched the @ThatKevinSmith and @SouthwestAir brouhaha erupt live on Twitter but didn’t write about it last week. Bunches of tweeters and bloggers hashing out who was right and wrong based on second, third, or five hundredth-hand information simply wasn’t interesting enough to warrant adding to the noise. Getting ready for a social media presentation tonight though, I’ve been thinking about service defects and service recovery in the world of social networking. I sought an analogy to help think strategically about how a company prepares for an angry customer who wants to be heard and starts tweeting incessantly: handling a hostage situation is very comparable. Rather than a person though, it’s a brand’s reputation being kidnapped by a customer threatening irreparable harm unless demands are met. With the one-to-many communication capabilities of social media, this type of threat has never been more credible. 

Here are five hostage negotiation principles and related implications for preparing to handle when your brand’s good name is being kidnapped:

1. Have a negotiating team ready.

This means more than a single person monitoring Twitter and handling responses. In hostage negotiations, the primary negotiator, who is ideally the sole contact with the hostage taker, is joined by a coach/commander in charge of the situation and personnel along with a secondary negotiator to help monitor, listen, and offer input.

Strategic Questions – Does your company have a pre-identified team and protocols for how it will work together in a social media-based service recovery effort? And how would you incorporate front-line employees when you’re trying to recover from a service failure playing out both at one of your company’s locations and online?

2. Gather as much solid information as possible right away.

Beyond having standard questions to run through, there’s added complexity in a social media-based service recovery effort. Suppose the customer issue IS taking place in-person. With social media monitoring removed from the scene, it may not even be possible from a customer’s messages to determine where the issue is occurring. This creates an interesting implication for enacting rapid service recovery.

Strategic Questions – If it’s clear the issue is taking place in the presence of front line employees, what steps will you take to identify the location and establish communication with them immediately? Since multi-person communication with the angry customer is almost a given, how will you ensure your multiple contacts are speaking with one message?

3. Connect on a personal level.

Social media throws a whole new wrinkle into this, especially when you want to move interaction with the customer to a private messaging stream. If it’s even available, the company may have outdated phone information on the customer, making direct contact challenging to establish. A corporate tweeter may have to try to get a brand kidnapper to “follow” the company so direct messaging can take place. And typically, the corporate tweeter is communicating under a corporate account without a personal avatar. It makes establishing a personal tone of, “I’m here to try and fix the situation,” difficult when the customer is receiving tweets with the corporate logo.

Strategic Questions – Are you following your customers on social media? Do you have multiple ways to reach out to customers? Do your company social media people have work-related, personal accounts they can use to reach out specifically in these cases?

4. Communicate openly and actively listen.

When you have face-to-face contact, listening, and the silence that goes along with it, is easy to convey. It’s a little tougher via phone. But in a medium geared toward short, back-and-forth messages, a pause associated with listening or contemplation comes across as being distracted or ignoring the other person.

Strategic Question – Beyond having plans for migrating service recovery conversations to private channels, are you actively training your social media response team in dealing with the dynamics of these new service recovery situations?

5. Show empathy.

One way hostage negotiators demonstrate empathy is by delivering on aspects of the demands that have been made. Granting small, detailed requests is done in real-life hostage situations to slow and drag them out, which is desirable. In a service recovery situation (especially one playing out in public), the last thing you want to do is extend it.  

Strategic Questions – Who is on your social media service response team? Have you included your best customer service people – the ones with strong understanding of what you can do to solve customer problems and are best at understanding issues from a customer’s point of view?

No matter what your company is doing in social media, you have to address this reality. Even if your company doesn’t want a proactive social media presence, there’s a greater chance every day your customers will be talking about your brand via social media. When they do, and the discussion gets negative and brand threatening, you better have thought about your strategy, with a plan for what you’ll do. Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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3

As I mentioned the other day, I did a session locally on linking blogs to business strategy. One segment of the presentation addressed writing less for a blog by featuring guest authors and incorporating more videos.

After the presentation, Jill Tran came over to talk. She has her own interior design firm in Kansas City and is also a blogger. When I asked Jill to do a future guest blog for Brainzooming on creativity and interior design, she suggested we video something. And that’s what we did!

So here’s our first video guest blog, with Jill talking about the intersection of creativity and interior design. (You can click on the link if the video doesn’t appear.) Enjoy!

Now that Jill’s done it, our repertoire of ways for you to be featured on Brainzooming has grown. If you’d like to create a short video on strategy, innovation, or creativity, let me know. If you’d prefer to write a guest post, here’s some background information to get you started. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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10

Last Thursday, I presented on linking blogs to business strategy at Kansas City’s Central Exchange. While discussing editing blog posts, one potential blogger asked about overcoming the problem of perfectionism when writing. I rather flippantly answered psychological help might be in order.

While trying to be funny, the answer wasn’t completely facetious. I love when things happen exactly on strategy. Through years of observation, however, I’ve come to realize very few mistakes mean even a “figurative” end to the world. Why drive yourself crazy trying to solve every little issue.

This realization began in earnest early in my career, when another person and I were working on a matrix comparing our company to major competitors. It was an arduous project, with many revisions and lots of eyes (including eyes senior to ours) reviewing various drafts. It was eventually published for several thousand sales and management people in the company.

Everything was fine until I received a call from someone who pointed out our company’s goal of “reducing customer exceptions” was mistakenly printed as “reducing customer expectations.” Figuring we were both fired, my co-worker and I went to our boss and informed her of the mistake.

We didn’t get fired. In fact, no one else ever came forward as even noticing the problem.

Despite lots of effort to avoid them, mistakes happen all the time in life. Not that I condone poor performance, but don’t waste your time seeking needless (and often self-defined, not customer-defined) perfection or losing your temper when mistakes do happen. You’ll be much more content and better off if you use a different strategy.

When mistakes occur around you, look hard for what’s actually better because of the mistake than what was originally planned.

In the case of the “lower customer expectations” gaffe, what was better was it made me a more careful editor. Does that mean I’m a perfectionist in writing. Not necessarily. It means I’ve learned and developed a whole repertoire of techniques for overcoming proofreading problems.

For you other perfectionists out there, what strategy do you employ to protect yourself from the tendency to be too correct?  – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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2

HBO ran a program on preparations by four-time NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson and his team for racing in the 2010 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

At the first 2010 team meeting, Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus called the team’s attention to the bare walls in the meeting room. He highlighted the absence of all the awards and pictures celebrating the team’s fourth NASCAR championship in 2009. Knaus let the team know it is on the hook to perform at a level in 2010 to allow them to fill the walls once again with racing successes.

Maybe a move like that is easier when you’ve won 4 NASCAR championships in a row! But it’s a great reminder for any of us:

  • Don’t rest on your laurels. Instead, get motivated for the successes that lie ahead of you.

So when you look around your office, what do you see? Are you stuck in past wins, or do you have motivators for the greatness that’s yet to come?Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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14

Okay, first, this has to be said: the Business Communicators Summit sponsored by the Kansas City IABC was INCREDIBLE!

While I leave many conferences feeling like, “Oh crap, I’m so far behind and won’t ever figure out the cool things other people are doing,” nothing could be further from the truth after yesterday’s conference.

Leaving Kansas City’s Uptown Theatre at day’s end after hearing Steve Crescenzo, Chris Brogan, and other great presenters, my brain was zooming with pages of ideas including some breakthrough ones which only seem to emerge during a highly-creative day removed from the regular routine.

Rather than writing presentation summaries, here’s a sampling of innovation instigators from throughout the day.

  • If you’re in B2B, continually watch the consumer world for ideas to co-opt. People make every B2B buying decision. Appeal to what motivates people as individuals, not as businesses. And people care about people, so put actual people with genuine stories in communications.
  • Great refresh of the tired old “Ask for forgiveness, not permission” quote from Steve Crescenzo: “Proceed until apprehended.”
  • If you’ve got customers who are spending time on social networks, then there’s got to be a customer service dimension to whatever your company’s considering in social media.
  • A pivotal mashup idea from the mouths of Steve Crescenzo and Chris Brogan: Communicators need to be talent scouts. That implies looking for people inside the company who are passionate and ooze the brand. These are your communicators in social media channels, regardless of what department they live and work in. Time-saving tip: when you start your talent hunt, begin in customer service.
  • Deliver people an artifact as quickly as you can, even if it’s a rough version of a concept. People unfamiliar with new concepts will say “no” until they’re presented with something tangible. That means you start big ideas before you get permission, and share tangible stuff before you get perfection.
  • Customers don’t give a crap about the mechanics of what you do. They’re interested in recommendations, and most importantly, the results. Go there first and fast!
  • Just like “-ista,” adding “-ati” to the end of a word makes it sound like a bigger, cool deal.
  • Great presentations are example and story-based. Are you (and by “Are you, I mean “Am I”) taking dramatic steps to make sure your presentations reflect that? Now I’m completely rethinking a blogging presentation scheduled for next Thursday.

This is simply a smattering of ideas triggered by the innovative content on social media and broader communication strategy.

If you attended the BCS (and there were a few Brainzooming readers I talked with), please share what big revelations you had in the comments section.

If you weren’t in Kansas City or were and didn’t make it to the Business Communications Summit (go ahead and kick yourself – no need to wait for permission from me), check out the live tweet stream, while it’s still available. Or as another cheat, here’s a link to notes from Chris Brogan’s presentation the day before.

Thank you KC IABC. What a day! So glad I attended. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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0

In contrast to last week’s UK-based post from Andy Wolf, this week’s guest author is a veritable neighbor of mine. Carol Kobza is a creative force with incredible innovation experience in creating brands, leading new product development teams, art directing new products, and focusing team efforts toward results.

I’ve gotten to know Carol over the past year as we’ve both been getting our businesses fully going. We’d talked about Carol doing a guest post, and I was so excited when this article arrived talking about how you can build a trusting environment that “nurtures creativity” in an organization:

Imagine that you are new to an organization. You’re enthused as you participate in one of your first meetings. A manager says, “We’re having trouble coming up with an idea for an activity for the executives’ meeting in Philadelphia next week.” You say, “How about the symphony?”

The response: “Bwaaaaaahhh!” followed by huge laughter that fills the room and bounces off the walls. No one else gives another idea. You leave the meeting and describe the occurrence to your co-workers. “What a rotten thing for her to do,” they whisper…and it begins. The manager becomes a regular subject of jokes in the cafeteria. Before you know it, there’s some serious, negative politicking going on.

Trust among people in organizations is a tender twig that is easily broken. And it is one of the elements of an environment that nurtures creativity.

How can you build trust in your organization?

  • Allow and reward people for discovering problems. Identifying a problem is not a criticism. It’s often an honest attempt to creatively improve the way things are done.
  • Sponsor and support ideas. Everybody with a great idea needs someone, who will protect them from the power of “NO” and clear paths around obstacles.
  • Support rather than undermine one another’s creative efforts. If people know they won’t be punished or laughed at for speaking up, they’re more likely to continue to give ideas. Who knows? The next one might save or make millions.
  • Encourage creativity. It doesn’t cost a dime. Studies show over and over again that a sincere compliment or “thank you” is more motivating than cash.
  • Let people be who they are. Diversity is more than race, gender and sexual preference. It’s also about the style in which someone thinks, speaks and dresses. The research bears this out. Diversity equals a happier, healthier and, guess what, more successful organization.
  • Free up information. Face it. Everyone has access to information so why put a choke hold on it? Where there is collaboration and sharing of information and knowledge, you’ll find people who enjoy their work and want to see their company succeed. – Carol Kobza

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1

How do you cultivate relationships initiated and largely conducted online via social networking? And how does it work with thousands of people following you?

The answer to the first question is, pretty much like you do offline relationships. And the answer to the second question is…the same.

For me, “shared experiences” are at the heart of successful relationships. The extent of peoples’ common experiences strengthen and sustain relationships, even when contact levels may be minimal at times. The degree of emotional intensity in the experiences also drives memorability.

While social networking allows for many more “shared” experiences, it doesn’t facilitate a comparable expansion in emotional capacity. Thinking about Twitter, it’s clear an RT or a brief DM exchange provides little emotional impact. That makes it tough to remember some people you may have engaged with even a few months ago.

For those with tens or hundreds of thousands of followers, it’s no different than an offline star: emotional intensity isn’t always bi-directional , i.e., fans have intensely emotional experiences with (Twitter rock) stars who have no emotional connection in return.

Beyond simply managing numbers, it’s important to manage how you create opportunities for shared experiences online and offline, (i.e., participate in tweetups) and emotional connections within your network over time. By actively, acting on these variables, you can introduce new shared experiences to help keep a waning relationship going within an expanding network. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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