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This past Thursday and Friday I attended Lithium’s annual customer conference on Community Management and Social CRM: LiNC 2010. I have some experience in these areas not only because I’ve worked on products to support Community Management and Social CRM (a.k.a. CRM 2.0) but also because as a User Experience professional, my job calls calls for customer empathy and a deep understanding of their needs. When I worked at a small start-up, Zaq Interactive Solutions in Toronto and Montreal about 10 years ago we were pushing online communities and community management. This was well before marketers and other areas of the organization were ready for it and that’s why the business failed. More recently I worked at Yahoo! and I was involved in the research, design and development of their first social shopping product around deals where the desire for customers to connect was extremely clear.

As mentioned, the main topic of the conference was Communities and Social CRM. Of course now, thanks to twitter, conferences like this one easily generate their own time-based community. I tweeted constantly throughout the conference (under the wrong impression that I could win an iPad; contrary to what you might read below, sometimes user incentives DO work :)). The sense of community and the feeling that I belonged and was being heard was validated by responses, retweets and new followers. Even our complaints about the cold rooms made and impact and after a few tweets the temperature was promptly turned up.

Below is a summarization of what I heard and learned during the conference.

Your customers are everywhere. Are you?

Great idea and aside from sounding creepy it’s what you’re going to need to do. According to Patrick Riley, the Director of User Experience at Lithium:

  • “Gen Y triggered the movement towards the Social Customer”
  • “Now there’s more communication via social networks than email.
  • “3/4” people on the web are tied to social networks. They’re also very conversant with the various technologies available to them.
  • “Users are 4x more likely to contribute on mobile devices vs. desktop because they’re the most engaged. And Facebook mobile users are 6x more likely to contribute.

And consider this: “From first call resolution to first contact resolution, there’s a lot of stuff that’s gone on before that call.” – Paul Greenberg

Users want to be heard, recognized, and loved

The community feeds people’s needs to be understood, recognized, and valued. Letting the customer get control of their experience with the company is the core of everything. Customers want appreciation, not swag. Bragging rights are meaningful and receiving props from other community members is the kind of recognition they’re looking for.

While introducing the concept of Customer 2.0 at an Inside Sales conference last week, my colleague shared a truth in marketing video that sums up the above point about user recognition perfectly. Customer: “I’ve changed, we don’t hang out in the same places anymore. You don’t listen…”

There’s a shift towards transparency to gain customer trust

In Social CRM the company is “the man”. A lack of transparency making it difficult for customers to get the information they want affects loyalty. You should be brutally honest with your customers and speak in your own voice.

According to BestBuy the corportate culture and employee adoption is key. There social media engagemnts align with core philopsophies to empower employees and drive the customer experience. And Scoutlabs, recently acquired by Lithium, thinks every person in the organization should be in tune with the customer. They focused on making their system really easy to use because the voice of the customer doesn’t just below to marketing.

All superusers are not equal.

Superusers are your most valuable customers. They represent the “1” in the “90-9-1” principle. They are more likely to contribute to community sites and do positive brand marketing (via blogging) and defend your company on your behalf. At the conference, one of our prospects (and current product uses) asked to speak with me about my company’s user community. InsideView doesn’t have a formal community yet; that’s why I was at the conference checking out Lithium. I asked Matt (the prospect) why he would join our community and he said it’s because he’s so passionate about our product, SalesView and that he’d like to help out others with their experience with the product. These people do exist, you just have to find them. They come in 4 flavors:

  • connectors
  • critics
  • creators
  • collectors

Connectors help you sell. Critics give rich, actionable feedback. Why focus on these superusers who represent about 1% of your customer base? Because 1% of customers / trendsetters drive 15% of sales” (unknown source).

But don’t just focus on them. The real opportunity to grow your business is between the 9 and the 1 in “90-9-1” principle.

Don’t make participating in the community like work

Community contribution shouldn’t be like work. Or it won’t work. Adding labels and tags to make community content searchable is not something users want to do. The company can do that. Use your community to validate content. They’ll tell you if it’s wrong. And keep in mind that it’s much easier to start knowledge in conversation vs. on a blank page.

The Net Promoter Score is only the beginning

How do you measure the success of your products and services. We’ve been using the Net Promoter score for years. But we’ve been stopping short. Paul Greenberg asks what’s next? If step one is asking a customer how likely they would be to recommend the product(s) or service(s) to a friend, step two is “did you recommend…?” (that’s right; observed behavior is the only trusted measure), step 3 is “did they become a customer?”, and step four: “were they profitable?”.

Different types of customers require different types of communities

There are 3 types of communities:

  • 911 – break / fix
  • 411 – learn and improve
  • 511 – explore and discover
  • The users of these communities display different underlying behavioral patterns and it’s important understand what they are.

    Overall it was a great conference where much was learned. You can see all of my conference tweets using this search. I’ll leave you with one of my favorites:

    Beth Goldman
    Manager of User Experience