Alterian release SM2 5.0

Today marked the release of SM2 5.0 by Alterian. Ever the pioneers in social media listening technology, 5.0 takes SM2 to a new level.

My early impressions are that Alterian have sought to introduce a greater focus on the practical side of managing the listening function within your business. By focusing on assignment, prioritisation and response, brands now have little excuse to begin the engagement process. I think 5.0 is a major step towards the normalisation of this functionality within businesses today.

Of course the danger here is that the process becomes SO normal, that some try to automate the whole thing. I heard on a radio show the other day that Kodak have a Chief Listening Officer. This is all good, but again it has to be stressed that the lesson in all of this is that customers are now demanding a response from businesses on a human level. A very real and genuine response to their comments, complaints or compliments.

5.0 certainly appears to be a step towards the day when technology gets out of the way and information is served to those who carry the responsibility to make sure their brands are truly customer centric.

Are you ready to start listening and engaging right now?

Service ≠ Subservience

So impressions of the UK since returning from the Windy City – rain, gray, rain, misery, rain, poor customer service, rain.

OK, so the rain is a given, but it’s the striking difference between the US and UK on customer service that has really struck me. Since being back for just over one month now I have been told by a waitress that she only has “one pair of hands”, been served by a girl in Halfords who said not one word to me, made no eye contact and dealt with my purchase with her feet resting on her desk the whole time and been made to feel plain stupid by London Underground staff, when my ticket wouldn’t let me through the barrier, by just staring at in me looking exasperated.

I was also lectured by a conductor in front of lots of other passengers because I had no ticket – reason being that the ticket machine on my station was vandalised and other travellers clearly had season tickets. That was nice at 6.30 in the morning. Thanks Capital Connect.

These experiences have been punctuated by one or two great ones, namely at the checkout in M&S, who remembered just what sandwich I’d bought a couple of days earlier!

But overall, the experience has been rotten.

I do get the impression that the people delivering this dire level of interaction (to call it service would be quite wrong), have a chip on their shoulder. It smells of a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality, perhaps borne out of the old British class system that was refreshingly missing in the US. Whilst there, not once did anyone ask me what school I’d gone to, or ‘what line of country’ my father was in!

So here’s the thing, the level of service I experienced and came to expect in the US I feel was a result of the absence of inverse snobbery. In fact there was a real respect for those providing service. I remember the first time I rode the train and hearing the passengers call the guard “Sir”. By the time I left I was doing the same. It was natural. Customers knew that their waiter wasn’t a servant, but a hugely important part of their experience.

And they tipped well!

As I’ve written many times before in this blog, social media now gives a louder voice to those who want to challenge the level of service they have received. Complaints online are amplified through social channels and provide the complainer with a barrier to hide behind that saves them from a real confrontation (something we Brits shudder at the thought of), meaning that their true feelings come out.

The enlightened companies are listening to these voices through the SMM tools such as SM2 or Radian 6, and are engaging with customers to turn things around, listening to the issues that people are facing and using this information to develop products and services into markets with greater confidence.

The adoption of these techniques combined with more of a focus on customer service generally – thank you (Mary Portas and Michel Roux), hopefully mean brands are upping their game in this crucial area.

To serve someone doesn’t mean being an inferior or subservient, but that you are sharing something about which you are passionate, whether that be a product, food or a ride on a train!

Alterian’s Alchemy – Turning Data Into Gold





So, as promised a more thorough review of the new product from Alterian – Alchemy.

A description from the company themselves – “Alchemy is a lot of things”, so let’s break these down.

Firstly let’s explore the principles behind it. Alchemy is designed to change the way business engages with customers online and offline. Having recognized a fundamental shift in the marketing now has to be conducted, predominantly due to the impact of social media, Alterian ahs been on the acquisition trail over the last few years, buying up content management systems and most notably, the social media monitoring tool, SM2, designed by Techrigy.

Alchemy is also recognition that the existing campaign management tools available are now no longer fit for purpose in the new world.

The first thing to note is that Alchemy has been designed with the end user (a marketer, not a technician) very much in mind. To this end, Alterian have brought in a User Experience Engineer, Colin Robertson to oversee the design of Alchemy, to ensure that a user friendly interface was achieved. Indeed, Alterian sum up this approach by stating that, “the user should know what they’re doing, not how they’re doing it”. At last!

Three specific areas underpin Alchemy:

  • Technology
  • Usability
  • New Concepts

Technology – this is brand new technology, not a series of enhancements to existing technologies. Alchemy works on desktops, in browsers, on PC’s or on a Mac in a way that makes no difference to the user.

Usability – Colour schemes have been devised to help the users fell comfortable with where they are at anytime. Specific colours are used to indicate the following parts of this product – segments, campaigns, engineering data, reports, design, tactics and question sheets.

Training in the use of Alchemy should be shorter and easier.

New concepts – Campaign tools that are accessible to the ‘non-power’ user.

But, what’s under the bonnet?

The building blocks of Alchemy are data and tools. As Alterian say, ‘data is the object, tools are the subject’.

So to start, a marker would typically look to create a data segment. The drag and drop feature is fabulous from a  user point of view, but also great is that as you add criteria to your selections, the volume of data that you are creating changes and is visible to you, so you don’t have to wait to hit ‘submit’ get disappointed and start again. So you can pull, females, born in August who, given their transactional history, are likely to purchase within the next three months online, all through the drag and drop functionality.

The other stand out feature for me is Alchemy’s integration of social media into the overall campaign management system. Essentially, once a campaign becomes live, Alchemy listens to the ‘buzz’ that it is creating on social media and can respond to this buzz, based on a series of events and triggers.

An ‘event’, is defined as anything that is brought in from the outside – for example a ‘tweet’ or a blog post. Once an event happens, a ‘triggers’ can be set up to occur – an email campaign, direct mail piece of tweet for example.

The ‘Engagement Persona ID’ ties together all the information known about a customer and be used to personalise elements of a campaign in a particularly impressive way. The example that Alterian use is a campaign that offers a 15% discount to anyone who tweets a particular hashtag. Assuming all permissions are granted, Alchemy then captures the Twitter handles of all those who have done so, then tweets them back with a link to a url that takes them to a personalized website, promoting products that are likely to stimulate a purchase.

Alchemy appears to be a great, user friendly tool, which draws together the increasingly disparate actions available to customers in 2011. This is a huge achievement in itself, but in giving the marketer a simple and straightforward user interface, it makes brings down the barriers that are present in some systems, so that maximum value can be extracted and all of the features can be used without fear.

Alchemy from Alterian

I watched a presentation by Mike Talbot, Alterian’s CTO on Thursday, of his new baby – Alchemy.

I have to say I was blown away.

I often talk here about tools just being tools. What’s important is how these tools are used and in my mind they are far more effective when they are simple to use.

Alchemy seems to offer marketers a super simple way of managing everything. It provides the means of making the new marketing work.

Having talked recently about marketing being broken, with the customer now truly in control, Alchemy draws together all of the disparate threads of a consumers behaviour to create a real time, individually crafted strategy for each individual based on trigger points.

For example and at a very simple level, by promoting the tweet of a hashtag by customers, Alchemy can automatically reply to that customer with a unique url, which takes the customer to a personalised website experience based on all the data held about that customer.

Along with Right Now’s CX product, the tools are now available for marketers to respond dynamically to customer behaviour and support a customer engagement plan.

A more detailed review of Alchemy will follow.

The Opposite Of Love

Ask yourself that question – just what is the opposite of love?

Clearly all the cliches will dictate the answer is ‘hate’ – and that it’s a thin line! However, this post will seek to point out that, in the context of business and customer relationships, the opposite of love is indifference.

If a customer complains to you directly, you’ve already probably talked to your customer care team, to treat this as an opportunity to over deliver in making things right and delighting them with the resolution.

Of course this is absolutely right. But what if a customer becomes disillusioned with you, but doesn’t take the step of complaining?

Well I would suggest that this is worst scenario of all. If you’re measuring your customer loyalty rates and need to grow your level of retention (and who doesn’t?), then other than reach out to them with emails, catalogues or advertising, how can you address this silent majority of people who don’t communicate with you directly anymore?

First of all, consider the results from the Alterian (Your Brand at Risk? Or Ready for Growth? 2010) suggests the following

  • 84% of people trust recommendations from their friends
  • 70% of people trust recommendations from complete strangers!
  • But just 5% of people trust advertising

So if you’re tempted to increase your promotional spend to reach out to this group and consider that if just 5% of people will believe what you say, but  70% of people trust what a complete stranger says, then the power of word of mouth very soon, becomes apparent.

But if they’re not complaining to you directly, how do you find these customers?

Firstly, you have to listen. I’ve written extensively about the various SMM (social media monitoring) tools that are available to dial in to conversations about your brand or your products. But the skill in maximising on the opportunities that these tools offer, lies in learning where the communities of lapsed customers are hanging out.

If you can build positive sentiment amongst your key influencers – SMM tools can help you identify them and their communities – then you are in a really strong position to win back these lapsed customers. It’s almost a case of redefining testimonials.

How are you looking to engage with your lapsed, indifferent customers?