What does social networking have to do with serious suit and tie business? Well, for one, everything. The ivory tower of senior management has collapsed. Those that come and play the social game, win. Those that don't... well you know what happened to the dinosaurs.
First let's examine some people who excel at the social networking game:
Seth Godin - Serial marketer, book writer, presenter and genuinely remarkable guy, takes the time to respond to his emails. Even ones from me.
Phil Harrison - Executive Vice President of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (responsible for showcasing the PS3 launch) has an ongoing dialogue with the blog, Kotaku. Even his chewing gum is big news.
Tim Ferriss - New Rich, writer of the Four Hour Work Week and constant adventurer responds personally to comments on his blog and his forums.
So if these remarkable people are so easily contactable, why can't I even get the contact details of someone at Lenovo above a customer service centre employee unless I make a plea on their forums?
We might find an answer if we start by taking a look at two different management team biography pages:
Lenovo - 'Lenovo Management'
Microsoft - 'Press Pass'
Similar. Same information. But different.
1. Lenovo doesn't want you talking to their execs. Suits and ties, their photos look like seniors taking yearbook photos.
2. Lenovo doesn't want you talking to their execs. There aren't any email addresses, or any phone numbers to contact these guys. They're untouchables.
Microsoft on the other hand has personality, their CEO looks like he could be someones grand dad, the head of entertainment, J Allard looks like he actually likes entertainment. It's not called 'Lenovo Management' either, it's called 'Press Pass,' they're inviting you to talk to them. There is a form you can fill in if you want to speak with them too. Aces.
The bio's might not strike you as particularly different, but these small tid bits of information show a lot about how a corporation plays ball. Here are some real life examples:
1. If you call microsoft to get your xbox fixed, a human answers. If they wipe off all your signatures on your limited edition signed xbox while in repairs, they apologise and Bill Gate's signs your new one. They show they care. $250 billion dollars and they can still show they care.
2. If you call Lenovo, their sales team will pick up in less than 2 minutes, and take your credit card details in less than 20 minutes. If you call their service centre to get your laptop fixed? 25 minutes average on the waitlist. 25 minutes before you speak to a human soul. They are over 40 times smaller than Microsoft.
What does this mean for businesses?
- Authentic communication. If you stick someone on a phone wait list for 20 minutes, don't tell them their call is important, it obviously isn't. Worst of all don't lie, I received an automated feedback email from Lenovo that was signed by Chris Askew the Senior VP of Lenovo Services. That's just insulting.
- Focus on your customer. No one cares about your processes, they just want results. Call centres have slowly become the blight of companies. In a youcan'ttalktoexecutives company, a call centre should be your biggest investment, it'll be the one time your customers speaks to a human voice in your company. What message are you trying to send your customer? Go away?
- Be available. Even if you just pretend. Invite communication. It sends a strong message when you leave a brick wall to communication. It's sending the message that you either don't know or you don't care. I'm not quite sure which is worse.
- If your customer likes you... they might not tell anyone.
- If your customer doesn't like you... they will tell everyone. With blogs, facebook, twitter, digg, consumerist... the avenues and audience become endless, and that is scary if your customer doesn't like you.
This post started out when I tried to track down Chris Askew, the Senior VP of Lenovo Services. I have been having stupid amounts of trouble repairing my three thousand dollar notebook. You can read about it here. At this moment, I still can't find Chris Askew's number or email. It got me started thinking about how different firms approach communication. I wanted to explore why some are petrified of customers talking to anyone in the company earning over $4 an hour, while others jump at the opportunity.
edit: to those that came from Seth's site, this blog is tangential, Seth's was to the point... Just show you care and the above goes away, real quick.
Flickr cred: Esthr