As part of our ongoing company Q&A series, I sat down with the brilliantly (and hilariously) insightful Paul White, who previously served as the CEO for Sword Ciboodle Americas, taking the company forward by leaps and bounds, and is now serving as Worldwide CMO based in the UK. This was a great opportunity to get a “wider lens” view of the company, market at-large and general perspective on CRM-related topics:
Liz Erk: When it comes to working with customers in terms of sales, marketing and service (CRM), what are the similarities and differences between the US and UK?
Paul White: I’d say there seems to be a tremendous synergy between mature companies no matter where they’re based, as in the more mature they are, the more they’re enabling customers to communicate with them the way the customers choose. So the companies we tend to work with are looking to solve the same problems and progress the same way in both the UK and US. So we seem to be attracting companies that truly understand they need to move beyond, for example, just the web.
We are seeing a lot of dynamic self-service options and the continual addition of “layers” that enable companies to demonstrate they’re truly paying attention and responding to their customers. So I have to say, from our vantage point, we aren’t seeing many differences because the companies who choose to work with us just plain get it. They are looking to get away from silo-style customer service, which you see many companies are still quite guilty of all over the world.
Liz: What role does Social Media play with respect to CRM? For instance, is it too overwhelming and vast? Have people lost focus on the contact center?
Paul: Social media is currently viewed as “too overwhelming and vast,” but that’s because it seems to be the channel people turn to when they’re frustrated and don’t seem to be progressing through other channels. So it plays a huge role in relation to the contact center because it needs to be the step consumers can take and not only hopefully resolve what they’re looking for, but it also needs to be where customer service agents are acknowledging social media use. It does seem that many companies still aren’t taking social CRM very seriously just yet, and they absolutely need to.
The popularity wave of social CRM is going to continue and grow. Some people say that the “social CRM bubble” will eventually pop, but I disagree. I think that’s just wishful thinking on those individuals’ parts because they can’t really control that channel. Peer to peer is empowering consumers and companies need to embrace it, and be sensitive to it.
If a utility contact center receives a call from a customer who has Tweeted about them, or shared something with the company via its own Twitter channel, for example, consumers are expecting agents to be aware of that. Even more so, if a customer posts on a company forum and the company agent doesn’t know they have done so, customers should be annoyed and they’d be justified. And you’ll especially find that social media early adopters freely let the world know about their feelings, too!
Liz: You and Winston the Bulldog were on hand to share holiday greetings and predict some positive activities for 2011. We’re over six months into the year, what took place as expected and what were a few surprises? What are your expectations over the next six months for Sword Ciboodle?
Paul: First off, Winston and I feel it’s been a FANTASTIC first six months of the year! We’ve closed a lot of great new business and so far we are on target with our ambitious growth plans. In fact, we’ve closed more new clients in these last six months than we have in the previous three years, which shows a few things: the market is picking up, we’ve solidified some excellent partnerships that were spot-on, such as global partnerships with CSC and IBM, all helping us bring even more to our customers.
One thing that we’ve been campaigning and discussing with the analyst community is that BPM is going hand in hand with customer service. In the last six months we have been proven right with the buzz we’re seeing amongst press, blogs and research reports.
Another huge impact on our company moving further in the right direction has been the hiring of industry experts and leaders like Mitch Lieberman and another individual we will be sharing with the world very shortly…
So for what’s to come… well, quite a bit! We are looking at possible acquisitions to add to our portfolio to further broaden our superior offerings, plus we are continuing to adjust how we brand ourselves, hence part of our reason for partnering with The Jaxson Group!
Liz: There are tons of CRM-centric terms being tossed around the industry. What are a few you see as hype and a few you see as legitimate? For example, in a MyCustomer.com interview you mentioned “customer service renaissance.” Is that something you feel resonates with the UK market or can that term catch on in the U.S.?
Paul: Ahhh, the things I come up with! I really was trying to make a point that from the consumer standpoint, a company needs to design the art of communication and service based on the way they do business. The customer service renaissance is really about the idea of a Leonardo DaVinci sculpting the right CRM experience. So maybe that concept will catch on… What do you think? Is there a book idea in here somewhere?? Hmm…
Liz: Exactly two years ago Ginger Conlon of 1to1 wrote a post about CRM buzzwords. Her list included “the big idea, buzz, critical mass, customer-centric, integrated solution, it is what it is, low-hanging fruit, make it pop, organic growth, outside-the-box, paradigm shift, ROI, and synergy.” Fast forward to 2011, what new terms would you add to this list?
Paul: You know, I’d say “customer effort” is a bit beaten. I hear that all the time. “Social CRM” seems to be another, but I wonder how defined that one will have to be before it is really tagged as a buzzword. I’d say the day Mitch Lieberman declares it an over-used term is the day that will be true.
Of course, cross-culturally I am thoroughly amused by different terms I hear that are either foreign to one region or translate poorly to another. “Chin-wagging” is one I chuckle at. Then there are some I see raised eyebrow reactions from like “pop off.”
Liz’s Added Thoughts: I just have to jump in with a side comment, Paul and I got a good laugh when we shared some common, poorly used terms we’ve both heard. From the female perspective, I told Paul about one I find horribly offensive which is “open the kimono”. He then shared a meeting he sat on where someone tried to use that term and got it entirely wrong, stating “we need to open the kimode.” (Paul said he made sure to let the individual know how ridiculous he sounded)
I think I could have kept going with Paul beyond the hour discussion we had for putting this together. I am looking forward to my next chat with him, especially towards the Fall when we’ll have completed a few more milestones and events that we’ll want him to weigh in on. In the meantime, many thanks to Paul. You are the “bees knees!”