And roaring into the lead it’s…. customer service

By Richard Hughes on October 18, 2011

Today is somewhat symbolic day for BroadVision.

Exactly two years ago today, the October 2009 early beta release of Clearvale introduced “activity points” which kept track of how active each member of a Clearvale network has been.

Of all the many features introduced in Clearvale since the first beta release, activity points has been one of the most contentious, and the cause of some of the most lively discussions within BroadVision. Is it meaningful to measure raw activity, without any qualitative measure? Indeed, this is one of my main complaints about Klout – I lost 40% of my score just by going on holiday for two weeks, illustrating that it seems to value activity above true influence. Interestingly though, earlier this year we did an internal survey about the most influential members of BroadVision Connect, our own internal implementation of Clearvale. What we found was a little surprising – 6 of the top 7 influencers (chosen entirely subjectively by BroadVision employees) were in the top 7 activity points scorers. Which suggests that the correlation between activity and influencer is perhaps greater than you might think.

However, it would be foolish to believe that activity alone is a true measure of influence, so we have been working hard on improving the CAP (Clearvale Activity Point) system to transform it into a more accurate measure of influence as a basis for an enterprise reputation economy.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today – more on that another time. No, the symbolic moment is not the second anniversary of CAP. What is symbolic is what has happened today.

Since very beginning of CAP, I have been the top points scorer. Over the course of two years, I have amassed 14000 points. As a vocal (OK, loudmouth) member of the marketing department, with connections into our sales, consulting and product management teams around the world, it’s not surprising that I’ve maintained this lead – I have an opinion on most things that go on inside the company, and I am rarely reluctant to share that opinion. The use of social networking within the company has given me, over the last two years, the opportunity to get involved in all sorts of discussions that simply weren’t possible in the first 11 years I was at BroadVision.

But today, I’ve been overtaken. And as a social CRM advocate, I’m delighted to be able to say that I’ve been overtaken by our European Director of Customer Support. Our customer service teams have moved all their internal communication away from email, and into Clearvale. This benefits everyone – greater visibility of the discussions gives us a common understanding of the status of an issue; allowing more people to contribute speeds up the resolution of issues. And of course, this has meant more CAP for customer support.

Almost as long as companies have been using social media, the debate has been raging as to which department should own it. In most cases it starts with marketing, but I have always maintained that the logical place for it to end up is in customer service. And, in a small, symbolic way that’s what today’s events have highlighted.

Of course, internal collaboration is just one part of social CRM. Too many people define social CRM too narrowly, whereas I have always believed that it is the combination of social media, customer communities and internal collaboration (as described in this post). But embracing a social culture inside the organisation is increasingly seen as a prerequisite to delivering true social customer service.

I believe that what BroadVision ourselves have experienced is very much in line with what many other organisations have found. After a slow start, customer service is emerging as the most active participant in social projects.

I’ll be talking about both BroadVision’s experiences of Social CRM in a business to business context, and those of our customers at the Social CRM New York event on November 3rd. Hope to see you there.