Connecting Top, Bottom, and Middle in Social Business

If you've been keeping up with the Dachis group then you may already be familiar with some of the ideas I'm going to present concerning social business. In that case, this post aims to serve as a case study for you to reference. If you aren't familiar with the term social business, distinct from social media, this post should serve as an introduction.

Instead of focusing on using social media as a tool to broadcast marketing messages, social businesses seek to use social media as a connection between consumers and companies. Perhaps the most compelling reason to engage in this sort of business is that it simultaneously increases the number and depth of customer touch points, giving brands more frequent and deeper interaction with customers on an individual level. With that in mind, one of the most important tasks for a social business is to develop a corporate culture and a corresponding set of tools that will facilitate social involvement from everyone in the company, rather than from one or two individuals. Skipping past this crucial step has a tendency to create reoccurring problems and render the company's outward efforts less effective.

Yesterday was the Zappos Insights Live event where Zappos shared some of their thoughts and inspirations for running a good business. Jon Dale was at the event and seemed to have a good bit of fun with it. He stirred up the hornet's nest when he tweeted:






Well, as you would expect, the phones at the Zappos call center started ringing off the hook. Jon doesn't work for Zappos, but in spite of that, perhaps even because of that, this free shoe giveaway is one of the best examples of social business I've ever seen -- he even had Tony Hsieh, the CEO at Zappos, give the okay for people in customer service to transfer callers to Pat Norman's office where Jon was. But even though I consider this a tremendous success for Zappos, who is a leading pioneer in the world of social business, there was one major flaw that I hope to learn from.

This isn't a knock on Zappos, Jon, or any of the people working at Zappos in any way. In fact, I have an enormous respect for all of the patient people working in customer service at Zappos -- hats off to you. But, every success has room to improve. The main issue with Jon's free shoe give away is that it took forty minutes for someone to get through to Jon and claim the prize. His tweet was aptly worded, "first person to get through to me", rather than "first person to call". And this isn't because the customer service people at Zappos were unwilling, or that the higher ups at Zappos were unapproving -- remember that Pat and Tony were both in on this. The problem, it seems, is that it took about forty minutes for the higher ups' approval to get down to the customer service reps.

You might be thinking: Forty minutes. Cry me a river, dude. But that misses the point. This free shoe give away didn't get sent out in the morning newspaper or something, it went out on Twitter. The attention lifespan of a tweet is far less than forty minutes -- a fact proven by Jon's need to restate about halfway through that the shoes were still available. In between the time that Jon made his first tweet about the shoes and the time that someone got through to him, a large number of people called and were unable to get transferred due to an apparent Zappos policy on transferring callers. I called three times, got three different representatives, and by the last one was getting asked "is this about the free shoes?". I'm not sure exactly how many other people were calling in, but it seems like it was alot. Jon got a shocked and appreciative note about it from the people at Zappos and some of the customer service reps even started telling people that there was already a winner before there really was one.

So how do you solve this muddle of confusion and chaos? Pretty simple, really. Connect people. The call team can't monitor Twitter 24/7, but they don't need to. A simple broadcasting notification system for higher ups, employees involved in social media, and customer service teams would streamline situations to fit with the real time scenarios produced on the web. But this isn't about tools. There are plenty of tools. The point is that for companies to perform socially, they have to be connected internally. Here's to connecting.

Written by Chris Allison on July 16, 2009


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Chris says:

Hey Monty,

to answer your question: a socially active business is involved both internally and externally, not just one or the other. So it is with customers, and within. That being said, most people get the point that they should be involved externally, so the point of this post was indeed focused on the need for internal development. Also, as Jon and I discussed in the previous comments I would do some research on Zappos if you want case studies for internal development. Even though they were the "target" of this post, they are probably the best example at this time of good social business. I'll keep an eye out for more case study worth examples and maybe we'll compile a list of them here.

"Connect people ... But this isn’t about tools." Good teaser for your next blog!

If it isn't tools you're hinting at, then you must be speaking of business processes and vertical communications. Yawn.

"...Important tasks for a social business is to develop a corporate culture and a corresponding set of tools that will facilitate social involvement from everyone in the company."

Involvement with the customers - or involvement within? It sounds like you're advocating using social media attitudes and tools to help a corporation to connect & communicate better internally. Now, I'd like to see that topic explored with some real world case studies!


Chris says:

Hey Jon, thanks for the clarification; that was awfully sly of you to tell us to say Tony said it was okay haha. I actually did try that on one of my attempts. =]

I don't doubt that Zappos monitors Twitter very well. Like I said, it was a big success in my mind and considering it was a curve ball and not something planned I can't say that anyone could have handled it much better. That being said, I think your curveball did a very good job of illuminating what could be very real problems for some companies modeling themselves after Zappos.

Thanks for stopping by and for being thought provoking wherever you go.



Jon says:

Great post! Thanks for sharing the story. In Zappos defense I didn't have their permission or authorization to offer this.

Tony hadn't actually given authorization for people to be transferred. I just wanted people to be creative.

Within 10 minutes the supervisor on duty had emailed the entire team to let them know what was going on.

Zappos monitors Twitter and blogs better than Amy other company I've come across.

For me it was an experiment to see how the Zappos team would handle a curve ball. They were amazing. The only problem was that Pat kept getting calls so the transfers weren't working.

Thanks again for the post.

Written by
Chris Allison