Execs In The Know- A Global Network of Customer Experience Professionals

Driving Social Support Through Influencer Engagement with Toby Richards

Chad McDaniel
(0:40): Good morning and welcome to Voice of the Customer Radio/Execs In The Know. And great to have all the callers joining us today with a very special conversation. We’re quite excited with Toby Richards from Microsoft joining and I’ll definitely be telling a little bit more about Toby and his background. And Toby, thank you again so much for being part of our show today and for our community and our listeners. There are a couple of logistic things I would like to tell us at the beginning of the show here and for our members in our community. We do have another large crowd gathering today that are listening to the show and we appreciate that support and the value there. For our live listeners that have called in through the telephone number (323) 679-0913, just so you know if you’ve dialed in, you can ask questions live on the air today’s show of Toby. All you have to do is press 1 on your handset and that will flag me and we’ll bring you on air and get to ask your question for Toby today. One thing we have found is that the fluid and active engagement of dialog with our listeners always goes very well for the listening and learning for everyone so we do encourage you ask to those questions. For our listeners today, who did not call in through the 323 telephone number but dialed in through their computers, thank you for joining us, there is a chat function on your screen, the dashboard there, our listeners through their computer can ask questions in the chat function. I will be actively monitoring that and responding to it. If you happen to have a Skype account through your computer, you can ask live questions on the show just like our telephone callers here today. So, we strongly encourage both our telephone callers and computer listeners to engage the show with your question, either chat, live, or via on the air.

(2:38): We’re asking that for our folks to become an active and regular follower of our show. As you know, we conduct biweekly shows, two per month for about 24 shows in the calendar year and our guest represents some of the leading corporate enterprise brands in both business-toconsumer and business-to-business, real content, real conversation, and real learning. Simply go to the radio show URL blogtalkradio.com/execsintheknow and you can click a button there to simply follow and you’ll keep abreast of our active show schedule. If you like today’s show, we ask our listeners, you have the ability to share the broadcast with your Twitter and Facebook followers. Simply go to the show URL, and with the click of a button, you can instantly share today’s recording with your social networks. As stated, the show is being recorded and it can be listened and shared 24/7. Just go to the show archives after today’s show to listen to the recording of this show and hear all of our other previous guests. Our next show, just for your calendar, please make a note, we will be back on the air with Voice of Customer Radio/Execs In The Know. This will be on Friday, April 15, 2011, at 12 o’clock Eastern. We’ve got Marilyn Otto, who is the Vice President of Customer Experience for Pitney Bowes. She is going to be talking from the business-to-business experience side and we’re pleased to have her on our show coming up the 15th. Today’s show sponsor again is the Customer Response Summit II, May 10th and 11th down in Hollywood, Florida. This is an outstanding event. We’ve got a number of key executives gathering. It’s a peerto- peer form.

(4:26): If you do not have your representative coming from your company, you may want to strongly consider it as a two-day very intense engaged discussion around the Emerging Customer Response Channels and how different companies on the Corporate America side are approaching and challenging those new realms. So, to see more about Customer Response Summit coming up, you can simply go to the main show URL, and on the right-hand side there, there are links that will directly take you to customerresponsesummit.com. We do hope that you will come out. Again, this is going to be a fantastic gathering of executives on May 10th and 11th. If you would also — you and your company would like to become a potential sponsor of Voice of the Customer Radio, you can feel free to drop me an email, chad@execsintheknow.com to hear ways that you can get multiple brand impressions by being a sponsor of Voice of the Customer Radio. So, enough of the logistics there, thank you everyone, and it’s fantastic to have the number of people gathering today. Again, we have a large group of people listening in. For some reason we ran out of active telephone lines with our cap with Blog Talk Radio. You can always go to the URL and dial in through your computer and listen through there. Toby, I was really excited when you expressed interest to be on the show, and when this opportunity I guess came to both of us and when I started to learn more about your background and what your responsibility was, it became very intriguing to me and it just fits perfectly to our community in the ways that we all have different responsibilities in our organizations. So, I was very excited Toby to have you and thank you again for your time.

Toby Richards
(6:17): Oh, no. I really appreciate the opportunity. When I heard some of the past discussions that you’ve had on this and just this topic of the Voice of the Customer, what it takes to be a great customer advocate within your company and the types of transformational changes that service and support organizations can take and marketing organizations, etc. to improve the customer experience, I was really excited to talk about some of the things that we’re doing here at Microsoft.

Chad McDaniel
(6:47): Well that and we’re just delighted to have you. And before we go further, for our listeners today, I want to give them a little bit more background to your footprint and kind of a man that you have, Toby, which is quite large. And by the way, for any of our listeners, if you happen to be interested in being a potential future guest of our show, you can also let me know, chad@execsintheknow.com, but Toby Richards is the General Manager of Community and Online Support for Microsoft Corporation. Let me tell you a little bit about what his footprint is to put all this into perspective as we get in to some dialog here. So, as a General Manager of Community and Online Support, Toby you’re responsible for the online and social support strategies for Microsoft’s Global Customer Service and Support Organization, which is quite large, and when we get in to your discussion, I’d like you to kindly define that footprint a little bit more for us.

Toby Richards
(7:35): Sure.

Chad McDaniel
(7:36): So, in this role, Toby oversees the development and execution of the community Q and A offering such as Microsoft Dancers, which I think a lot of us are familiar with, and the planning of online support experiences that reach a variety of customer segments including consumer, IT professional, and developer. In addition, Toby, your organization runs the programs that identify award and enable community employment service around the world with the goal of developing a deeper relationship and feedback opportunities to improve Microsoft products and services. I know you gave me an example, was the Microsoft most valuable professional, I guess you call the MVP Program, which involves 4,000 individuals whose technical expertise in community contributions provides an effective feedback source for you guys. So, with all of that, I know there’s going to be a lot of questions because you guys are really on the forefront of not only traditional channels of Customer Response Channels, but we really get in to these emerging channels. You guys have been on the forefront and pioneering a lot of that. So, without further ado, Toby, why don’t we give our listeners a little bit of more background on that and we’ll get started in some dialog here.

Toby Richards
(8:49): Yeah, you bet. Well, Microsoft has business in a lot of countries. We have a lot of different product technologies. And when we think about our — the value that we can provide in the support business, it’s — we really don’t want to think about it as kind of a necessary cost to doing business. We really want to think about our support business in such a way that really adds incremental value on the great innovations that our product teams develop. And so, large support business globally, we deliver about 3.1 billion support transactions a year. Over 95% of those happen to be online through content or what we call engineered or automated assets and our community and social support vehicle. So, big part of the business is exciting from the standpoint of customers really want to see support and service delivered on the web and that’s not just for companies like Microsoft, but I think it’s for really any company out there. I mean that the customers tell us today that they would rather go to the web to get their support then make a phone call and so the more we can do to reduce their effort by delivering solutions to them on the web, that’s really our main goal.

Chad McDaniel
(10:16): Oh, fantastic. And you said that — I mean, I guess — let’s talk a little bit about some of the traditional channels of support you guys have today. I mean, obviously, you’ve done a lot of the traditional telephone. You’ve got X number of call centers and X number of calls coming in, but your area has really been in that migrating path on the web support and live support in that regard and some of the community answer stuff.

Toby Richards
(10:40): Yeah, exactly. And so, we obviously — as any company does, we create certainly a lot of content. We’ve transitioned a lot of our content focus to what we call solution assets that are engineered so that rather than go through maybe the six steps that an article would prescribe, just click a button and that issue get solved automatically. And then over the past four years, the highest growing area of support for Microsoft is the community support or the ability to ask questions and get an answer either from Microsoft support engineers or more often community participants, people who are passionate about technology or passionate about a particular — have a particular interest and we identify great leaders in those communities, we award them. And when we take a look at the mix of answers across all of our community properties, roughly two-thirds of the answers provided in our community forums are from the community, not from Microsoft. And honestly, that’s a great a thing. Customers want to hear from other customers. I would say more often than not, the context that a customer can provide in a support or a how-to situation goes well beyond what our support engineers can provide because those customers are dealing with these topics every single day in our daily lives.

Chad McDaniel
(12:17): Yeah. I know that’s a whole different conversation. I definitely want to make some time later in our discussion for those organizations that are picking into that potential. I mean, what a great way to get subject matter experts in the community to help drive some of that support and service, and relevance and answer identification. There’s probably been a lot of trials and tribulations you guys have done in that journey and what’s work, what doesn’t work, and I definitely want to save a segment for their because I know there’s — that’s a new emerging area for sure and a lot of people with interest. Now, I do want to go back and make sure I had my metrics correct. You said — I think you had 3.5 billion — could you clarify the 3.5 billion [Crosstalk].

Toby Richards
(13:04): Yes. 3.1 billion support transactions in a given year. I mean, that continues to grow. Over 95% of those transactions are on the web. And then when we look at that number just on the web, that is roughly 40% transactions in just static content, 50% in the community Q and A forums. And then a very fast-growing area is those automated assets that I talked about, which are diagnostics and automated troubleshooters so that the costumer can get healthy with a click of a button. And that’s probably an area where we’re investing significantly because as we’ve learned, if we can reduce the customer’s effort to solving their issue, there is more likelihood to be loyal to the company and to the product.

Chad McDaniel
(14:09): And for clarification again for our listeners, the 3.1 billion customer support transaction in a year is absolutely incredible. I mean, you said 95% web based or online and 40% of that being static. Can you define static for the listeners when you reference that and people may know this, but just for reference?

Toby Richards
(14:34): Exactly. When I say that I’m speaking specifically of what we call Knowledge Base Articles, so you go on Bing search. I have a sound problem of Windows 7. You would likely get to what we call a Knowledge Base Articles. And then on that article, you can either take the steps necessary to remedy the situation, or in most — in the cases where we have analytics that show this is a very popular topic, we would create an automated fix to that, we call it a Fix it, and rather than go through the steps to correct it yourself, with a click of a button will solve it for you. And so, that’s what I mean by static. And then we have a term called Assisted Support, which would be what you would typically do with the phone, or with email, or chat that would — where you’re interacting directly with a support agent. So, that’s then like — that’s kind of the smaller percentage of transactions.

Chad McDaniel
(15:37): From your opinion, Toby, how different is it — is it real different to engage your customer in a chat versus email versus traditional telephone, or through community — I mean, we hear a lot about customers wanting to engage in their channel of choice and I get — and I understand that and appreciate that. But is it — then you start to think about the rules of engagement, scripting and agent and training and all these other components. And I guess that when you’re engaging in the chat, email function is going to be a different sort of experience and approach then it would be versus telephone, or would you disagree with that and say a lot of it there’s overgoverning principles and here are these principles, but with the caveat of X or something like that. How would you…?

Toby Richards
(16:23): Yeah, that’s a good question. I actually — I was at __16:27__ conference couple of weeks ago. I had the same question of how you really think about the processes, just even philosophically how you think about support. When customers call, __16:42__ want to get off that call, and as a support engineer or a support team, you probably want to get off that call because phone support is expensive. And so, our phone culture both from the customer perspective and from the business prospective has kind of grown up from the standpoint of let’s get this thing done as quickly as possible. To a model today where social media is really forcing customer service organizations into thinking about how do you balance that in terms of getting issues solved quickly with — how do you engage in conversation? How do you create relationship? And that relationship could either be with Microsoft or helping to facilitate that relationship between like customers. And that is a different __17:34__ to think about your support business. And actually, we struggled a few years ago when we started moving from just the traditional phone support to the community Q and A, where somebody would ask a question in our forums and we would answer them like we would have phone call. Here’s your answer, here’s the link to that Knowledge Base Article you have done and the costumer will come back and say, “Well, yeah, I already went to the Knowledge Base Article that’s why I posted a question here. I was hoping to have some dialog.” And so, the types of readiness as well as just kind of cultural transformation that we’re making in the space is about how do you nurture dialog. Have you nurtured relationships?

(18:19): I mean, you certainly have to do it in such a way where people aren’t just constantly in the blogs and perhaps not adding as much value as you want and getting on with other customers who have needs. But transforming the business to a more conversational relationship approach has been an area that we’ve been added now for about four years. We’re getting much better at it, but there are certain cases where we have dedicated social support experts who 100% of their time are just in the Q and A and kind of Twitter space because they’re really good at generating and nurturing dialog.

Chad McDaniel
(18:59): What would be the kind of the size of FTE count in that dedicated space? Is it 3 to 5 FTE and — or is it much greater in your world or…?

Toby Richards
(19:06): Yeah. For our Twitter work, I want to say it’s a few dozen across the globe, now again keep in mind, we do business in nearly 100 countries in about 40 different languages. But it’s — the Twitter work is rather small relative to the rest. In the community forum space, we probably have enough words of about 300 dedicated forum engineers who are in the Q and A area full-time across all of our different product sets. And I think as I’ve mentioned earlier, their answers represent roughly 25% to 30% of all the answers in our forums and the rest are the contributions of just passionate people in the community answering questions for people like them.

Chad McDaniel
(20:03): Okay, are you there?

Toby Richards
(20:05): Yeah, I’m here.

Chad McDaniel
(20:06): Okay. __20:07__ for a minute. Sorry about that.

Toby Richards
(20:08): Yeah. No, that’s okay.

(20:10): I should say from our percentage, we have about 8500 full-time employees in our company and thousands of agents who we contract with. So, it’s a pretty small amount.

Chad McDaniel
(20:26): And I want to ask a couple of quick questions because we have a lot people raising hands to ask questions. Again, you are listening to Toby Richards, General Manager, Community Online Support, Microsoft Corporation. For those that want to engage on air, you can press 1 on your telephone set to raise your hand or use the chat function if you doubt into the computer. Toby, a couple of quick questions. We’ll go to a live caller here shortly. If, on the metrics, going back to — I’m sure when you look at the cost per transaction for a chat support function versus email or these other components, when you look at some of the community support and other ways to measure. I’m assuming that it becomes heck of a lot more cost effective driving towards that channel or something, or would you again describe it differently or can you share any kind of metrics that we can get our teeth around just for a benchmark for cost of support. Because we know telephone is going to be the most expensive, right?

Toby Richards
(21:27): Yeah. Telephone is definitely the most expensive. Email — actually email support isn’t that much less expensive. You’re still dealing with an agent and their time, maybe minus the telephony and infrastructure cost. Community support is quite a bit more cost effective because we have a multiplier effect. Because in the community, the answer is searchable, right? So, if somebody has asked the question in community and then somebody comes later and searches for it, they’re going to see that answer. And so, we’re able to — we’ve got a pretty significant multiplier effect there. And so, if you are to spread your cost around all of the customers who actually view that answer — I mean, we’re getting into the pennies. And so, it’s a pretty significant cost savings. And as I mentioned — I mean it’s been an important thing from a cost perspective, but from a company value proposition perspective, it’s really the relationship and the dialog that we are helping to enable which we feel is really helping to add a lot of value to the overall experience that the customer has with Microsoft.

Chad McDaniel
(22:39): Absolutely. It’s not just the cost component, it’s going to be that satisfaction and customer experience. They’re leaving feeling satisfied in answers and so forth __22:48__ it’s so important part of equation. My last follow-up question and I’ll move to the live caller, I promise. We’ve got a number of them out there. When you were describing a few minutes earlier in our conversation, if I was sitting in your chair with some of the complexities that you described and I’m going to put on my vendor community hat, what would — four years — where does the vendor community need to really step up and either provide assistance or solution or help people that sit in your chair, is there an opportunity, not an opportunity from your perspective, then where do they really need to kind of step up in your perspective? There’s no right or wrong answer. I’m just trying to — because there are a lot of things out there but are there things that really — it would be great to be where you’re at in your chair.

Toby Richards
(23:37): Yeah, you bet. We actually use a lot of support vendors. In fact, we do — we had a vendor summit, where we brought in all of our key vendors about a year ago to talk about what we’re seeing in terms of the changing nature of the support business. And we certainly think that there is an opportunity for our vendors to think more broadly around the overall customer experience. Not just taking a particular program and supporting that well via the phone, having more social expertise, not just from an engagement perspective with customers but also from the listening perspective. Hey, do you have any sort of analytical capabilities in terms of how you can transform knowledge coming from Facebook, Twitter, etc. to value for us to allow us or to help us create better solutions, create better products, etc.? And then I would say some technical expertise in terms of how we can think about integrating our technical web-based solutions into theirs. We — as an example, we share a lot of the same customers with our hardware vendors, the vendors who sell the laptops, etc. with Windows 7, and they have large support businesses. And so, when we think about them as partners, what are some of the technical capabilities that we need from them in order to share customer contacts? Again, if we can share contacts, if we can federate or syndicate as content and assets to them, whether that’s directly to their agents or directly to their customers via the web, some level of technical integration that leads for Microsoft is a really important thing to be looking at when we’re talking to the various vendors.

Chad McDaniel
(25:35): And that’s a terrific insight and perspective. Now, I’m going to ask all of our live callers and people listening to the show today postshow to please share this link with your contacts and network because there’s just some incredible insight and additional information here that Toby is providing us and well appreciated. I’m going to move to our live caller. We’re going to area code 706651. Please introduce your name and your question please.

Caroline
(26:03): Yeah, my name is Caroline and I’m a senior social media response specialist.

Chad McDaniel
(26:08): Caroline? Caroline?

Caroline
(26:09): Can you hear me?

Chad McDaniel
(26:10): I’m having a hard time hearing you. Can you speak up a little bit? I’m sorry.

Caroline
(26:13): Okay. Can you hear me a little bit better now?

Chad McDaniel
(26:15): Better now.

Caroline
(26:16): Okay, great. I’ll put my mouth on the phone piece. My name is Caroline and I am a senior social media response specialist. And you’ve touch based on a lot of things, Toby, and I really appreciate that. I recently read an article that was written by Tom Kennon, it’s “Marketing in the New Machine” and he had pointed out that shifting those budgets from advertising into more organic forms of behavioral marketing is what the smarter brands are already doing, which you’ve already demonstrated __26:43__ you’ve been saying. The question I have from a customer service perspective, we have a lot of social media and it doesn’t just evolve around Twitter and Facebook, obviously we’ve got Community Forms Web 2.0 already, was generated from the precursors which were involved with chat rooms, but the dialog is still out there and in search results, all of this information still keeps coming back. So, if a consumer has a problem or an issue when they post on the customer service standpoint, somebody has got to be out there to catch those responses and try to manage the brands, reputations. So, my question is, from that perspective, what type of metrics are you aware of that can actually analyze that kind of response mechanism, where companies are reaching out the consumer and trying to act more like consumers and not like competitors.

Toby Richards
(27:39): Alright. That’s a good. I think that’s a good question.

Chad McDaniel
(27:41): Wow! Great question, Caroline.

Toby Richards
(27:43): Yeah. That is a good one. I would say first and foremost, we’re learning in this area just as you are. We’re looking at a few types of metrics right now in terms of our service and support business and we certainly look at — in the context of, are we — from a responsiveness perspective, from a how are we transforming the data we’re getting from listening into actual change into the company, as well as just generally how we’re reducing effort in terms of the support that we are providing. I think one of the — when we’ve talked about social medial with other peers in the industry, it’s not just about, “Hey, I’m ready to catch that customer issue or complaint and respond and then not have any store of kind of historical reference to it.” And so, everything that we’re doing right now has a strong analytical focus combined with the relationship focus that we’re doing. So, we are looking at average time to response. We’re looking at how we can look at changing customer — or not changing — tracking kind of — I would say static or anonymous customers to engaged customers. When we can start to be able to look __29:20__ they’ve started inquiries on — in our forums or they’re going to our site, how can we start tracking that customer in such a way that they’re participating more? That may be through asking a question. That may be through answering question. That may be through other types of ways, in which you can start to see the community participating more.

(29:43): So, those are some metrics that we’re actually looking at right now in terms of getting a sense of whether or not the brand is gaining strength in terms of how customers are participating more in our community and on our websites and in our social media experiences in such a way that we are leading them with better and better experiences down the road or every time that they come to see us. So, that is an area of investment that we are doing a lot of analysis on right now is that engaged user.

Caroline
(30:22): Okay, thank you.

Chad McDaniel
(30:24): Caroline, thank you very much for a great question. I’m going to move to our chat — people in chat. One of the questions came up, how are the MVPs incented to participate in your support program?

Toby Richards
(30:39): Yeah. So, the MVP Award, the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award Program is an award for technical leadership within community. So, the people who are — what we consider the best and brightest, who are sharing their knowledge in such a way that it’s benefiting others. The incentive is the brands. These 4000 individuals across the globe find tremendous value in being recognized by Microsoft as the best and brightest, and I would say that’s probably the single most important thing. The second thing is the benefits that we give them. If you are an MVP, you have direct access to our product teams. We facilitate constant dialog between the MVP community and the actual coders and spec writers of the products. And that’s not only a valuable relationship from the MVPs perspective, but also from the product teams. And so, the type of dialog that occurs between these two groups is very impressive. And so, I would say the brand is one and the commitment that we have as a company to engage in a much deeper level with these individuals are probably the single two most important things that really incense these folks to continue being leaders in the community.

Chad McDaniel
(32:06): Thanks, Toby. A good question and also I love the specifics, Toby. So, thank you for giving us as much as you can on some of those details. I want to go to our chat thing. We have another question. It says, “I’m interested to know how Toby feels about a virtual chat tool. Has he used one before? They can replicate the call center experience and the cost per contact is dramatically less than a live chat or phone support.” Any experience or thoughts in that regard, Toby?

Toby Richards
(32:36): Yes. In fact, we are a believer of kind virtual chat capabilities. We think that there is opportunity of using that technology in areas where you need kind of a guided support experience on the web or in area where you can help scope a customer’s search experience. And so, in fact, we have implemented a number of solutions for our Windows Phone 7, our Office 365, online solution for businesses that’s in Beta, I believe in the next week or so, to really enable a much better experience. And so, how we’re informed in terms of really developing that experience is through great analytics, putting a virtual chat in place that doesn’t have a lot of analytics behind it in terms of really knowing what the best solutions are to guide that customer, that’s gonna be — if you don’t do that, then it’s not a great experience. And so, we have a lot of architects who are behind our discoverability solutions so that when people do go through that virtual chat experience, we are doing it in such a way that’s not static, but we’re learning as we go and making sure that every time people go through that, it’s — that we show some agility of the solutions that are being provided. But, yeah, we’re a believer of that. I wouldn’t say that that’s available on all of our product sites, but we are finding it as a way in which to improve discoverability greatly and you’ll start to see that more in some of our support experiences.

Chad McDaniel
(34:29): Excellent. And I just got a question to myself. I did not introduce myself at the beginning of the show. I apologize. I was so excited, Toby, about having you on. My name is Chad McDaniel. I am the President of Execs In The Know, www.execsintheknow.com. It’s our community of 40,000 Voice of the Customer professionals. We engage our community through Live Event, Webinar, Blog Talk Radio, and many other components. If you get a moment, please check out the site and hope you can be part of our group. We also do have the largest group on LinkedIn, world wide contacts and our professionals, vice presidents, and above only. If you’re not a member of one of our groups on LinkedIn, please look at that also. I’m going to go to another quick question here, Toby. They’re flying in so people are enjoying this conversation. The question is does the internal contact center work directly with Microsoft Product Development to co-develop new contact management tools. So, does the internal contact center work directly with Microsoft Product Development to co-develop new contact management tools? Any insight on that?

Toby Richards
(35:33): Oh yeah, that’s — yeah, great question. Well, we have — we do create some great applications in the CRM space Microsoft Dynamics. CRM and many — well, we run on that, our customer contact centers. And so, we are — well I would hope that we are their best customer in terms of the capabilities that we can provide out to the general marketplace. And not just from a customer contact perspective, but also in terms of some of our knowledge management solutions. If you think about how you need to get agents readiness content out socially globally in our particular case, some of the things that we’re doing with Microsoft SharePoint Server, the great learnings in terms of our practices are going into the capabilities that they’re building into those products. So, we certainly have a very rich dialog with the product teams in the area of kind of customer care, customer engagement, as well as knowledge management and there are probably many other things that I could think of, but those are some of the key relationships that we have as an organization.

Chad McDaniel
(36:52): Excellent. And just a reminder to our live callers, if you want to ask a question on the air of Toby, please press 1 on your handset and we’ll bring you in to the show. Going back to the chat, we have a lot of users listening via the computer. Another MVP question was how are the MVPs secured?

Toby Richards
(37:12): How are they secured?

Chad McDaniel
(37:14): Yeah. I don’t know if there is a collection process or what [Crosstalk].

Toby Richards
(37:20): Yeah. MVPs are nominated. They are nominated by Microsoft employees or by other leaders in community. We go through a quarterly award process, where we look at new opportunities to award new individuals and so it’s all by nomination. And we look at their impact in community in terms of the type of blogging that they do, look at the people who have high reach. They all have to be great technically. I mean, this is not just having a blog, but not really having a lot of great context behind it from a technical perspective. But yeah, that’s pretty much how we run that program. And we’ve been running it, believe it or not, for 18 years, but it hasn’t really been until the last seven or eight years where the company has really put a lot of investment in it because we recognized that customers really want to know who the experts are, and so if we can identify who those people are through these nominations, then that really adds tremendous value to the market at large.

Chad McDaniel
(38:28): Okay, very good. I’m going to ask our callers, we are moving to another thing. But if there is one thing you really would like to get answered or really want Toby to answer or hear today, again, raise the hand or drop a quick question and we’ll try to get them into the show for everyone there. Caroline, I don’t know if you had another question. I am going back to 706651?

Caroline
(38:51): Yeah. I’m here.

Chad McDaniel
(38:54): Did you have another follow — up question?

Caroline
(38:56): Yeah. There are a lot of social media software programs that promise Mount Rushmore and then you get a little __39:04__. And the one thing I’m trying to discern honestly — and again it has to do with metrics. Everything — let’s say your offer online has a lot to do with branding and marketing, which is wonderful. They have a lot of great tools that are out there that are even free. But they still have not narrowed it down against the metrics of the consumer response area. I’m wondering in doing this and taking this respect of as far as engaging customers and building relationships and long-term relationships and bringing customers back into the realm of developing and helping to develop future products. What is your suggestion on the better response mechanisms, and this has nothing to do with metrics at all, just in general conversation — what kind of dialog would you propose as far as, let’s say a customer __40:00__ I just bought Windows 7 and I just really don’t like this product — what would be one of the things or approaches that you would use in relation to something like that?

Toby Richards
(40:13): Yeah. In that particular case, we’ve got — certainly we’re listening for those types of conversations. We have a small team that looks for that at Microsoft Helps, that’s the team in our Twitter. Reaching out to those customers, engaging them in such a way to: 1) Get a little bit more detail; 2) If someone has some specificity to their issue, we tend not to have a long dialog in Twitter. We would tend to send them out to our Microsoft representatives like in Microsoft Answers, where we could have a longer, richer dialog with them on kind of what their issues are, that sort of thing. Again, we have — because we have the MVP Program, we can rely pretty heavily on people in the community to represent us in a positive way. But I’ll tell you, MVPs, I mean they are our biggest fans, but they are also our toughest critics and so the type of relationship we have with this community I think is pretty objective and so when they then engage with the customer, the type of customer you describe with, I think they come across as independent, they come across as objective, and they can really help — those influencers can really help move customers through an emotional and technical process of being a little bit more happy and so don’t — you really don’t forget about how you want to engage with those really influential people. You may decide, “You know what, we need to program like that.” I’m not necessarily saying the MVP Program is right for every company.

(42:13): But if you know who your influencers are and you know that they have following — based on our experience, we think it’s an investment really worth making not only from the customer value that takes place in that scenario we just described, but also in the dialog that we create within our company because their feedback is just incredible.

Chad McDaniel
(42:26): Excellent. Thank you again. I’m going to keep __46:28__, Toby, I’m sorry but we’ve got a lot coming in. What are — here’s the next question, what are the qualities you look for in your team members who will be responsible for engaging in the social media arena and do they differ by platform Twitter, Facebook versus online community __46:47__, great question and any insight you can share with us on that?

Caroline
(42:46): Thank you. Thank you very much.

Chad McDaniel
(42:48): Thank you again, Caroline, I appreciate that. We’re going to go back to — we got a lot of questions still out there and thank you. I’m going to really encourage that our listeners attend or have a representative come to the May 10th and 11th Customer Response Summit in Hollywood, Florida. We are going to have this level of engagement, this peer-to-peer forum type of conversation. We have 15 corporate speakers, all corporate speakers, FedEx, Bank of America, General Motors like — I can’t remember them all, but we just have an incredible lineup of people gathering to really do this two-day live event engagement in Hollywood for May 10th and 11th. I strongly encourage our listeners to send a representative out. Toby, I’m going to go to another question and — okay, have you experienced a high volume of calls into the call center even though you have a robust offering of self-service support on the web and then the follow-up question is would that kind of insight be valuable to you? So, have you experienced a high volume of calls into the call center even though you have a robust offering of self-support on the web?

Toby Richards
(44:05): You bet. I mean — I’d love to say that all the calls have stopped, but that is not the case for a couple of reasons. One is — I mean, there is a segment of the general population that would prefer be the phone to a few scenarios and a lot of research shows this, is that older generations do prefer the phone from a customer service perspective. I would also say that scenarios where a customer is having a very operation down enterprise, a mission critical type of scenario, they’re going to get on the call. I mean, they’re not going to waste their time searching and hunting and pecking from being searched into the Knowledge Base Article. So, we still need to have a robust phone infrastructure and we get millions and millions of calls. Now, the value there is that through our various listening systems, we code the majority of those calls, and on a very regular basis, we have a feedback process called RedZone that we deliver to our product teams and we go through not only kind of the systemic and top issues that we’re hearing in social media in our community forums, but also here are the really significant call drivers that — the calls are often times that things that are really driving a lot of complexity in the customer’s environment and are big dissatisfiers. And so, making sure that we have strong analytics on our call business is pretty critical, but what I would say is that we think about going out into the market with a new product or a new offering. We’ve got what we call a Last Mile Excellence process, where we’re looking across.

(45:59): “Okay, what are we offering on the phone, what are we offering online, what are we offering with our channel partner or partners of the B2B work to support that.” And all of those channels are relevant to somebody and all of those have different kind of listening or inputs back into the company that we use in such a way to deliver great voice of customer back to our product teams.

(46:53): Yeah. Well, the ones on Twitter I look for are really resourceful what I consider a concierge like people. People who have a breath of knowledge who are –obviously you need some tools and processes in place to get the customer to the right place. Those that we look at for the community forums base and like Facebook are going to be a little bit more kind of — understand social media and conversation and so maybe a little bit more blogger types, maybe not long in the tooth, but they could still be pretty succinct. Yeah, you certainly need some really great written communication. I’ll tell you, in our English forums, the majority of our support engineers are based out of Shanghai, China. They are fantastic representatives of the company in our forums, in our English forums, and just really good at that. But that said, if you’re an English speaking customer, you call, we would put on the phone for obvious reasons. So, those are a few things that we look for, but certainly really that social orientation and kind of that — somebody who can really engage in dialog and demonstrate that they are like the person on the other side, asking the question is really important.

Chad McDaniel
(48:30): Very good and again great question. Thank you for the follow up. This is kind of a followon question and I’ll reference to the previous question and that’s sort of a new question. The previous question was around to know about how you felt about virtual chat tool and have you used one before, and have you replicated the call center experience and cost per contact, what we’ve answered before. And the follow-up question to that was to clarify. Would you want to capture feedback from customers as to why they are opting to call versus you self-service? Would you like to collect this type of analytics or is that something you guys may be are doing today? I’m not sure.

Toby Richards
(49:10): That’s a good question. I would — I mean, we do have an assumption that the majority of our customers do go online and we also have an assumption that if we make our customers which channels, if we’re unsuccessful delivering the solution online and they have to call, then that — statistically proven that switching support channels degrades the loyalty equation and so we are — we do want to learn that. Some of the things that we’ve implemented in our online capabilities is some online assistance support that as you go through the process from online to phone, we can pass contacts, we can pass what operating system you’re using, and that sort of thing. We can actually also look at where you — some of the things that you searched for and where you were unsuccessful because you went to a particular article and you clicked not helpful or not relevant. So, we are tracking that data, but it is certainly with the beginning assumption that when customers do have to switch, that’s not a good thing. And so, those analytics really do help us improve our self-service because we know how we need to maybe edit a particular article or how we need to change some of our self-service workflows so that their effort is reduced and they don’t need to go to the phone. So, great question.

Chad McDaniel
(50:39): And we’ve got about 9 minutes left and I always like to ask our guest, this is more of a chat thing, but I would like to get kind of a prediction of the future or some insight and one of the questions I wanted to ask was as we got kind of a future thinking head on here, what kind of impact is social media having on your customer support business kind of today and do you have any predictions as we look 5 to 10 years from now? I mean, yeah, I know we’re talking theory here, but I’d love to hear some of the best minds out there and hear what some of the predictions are. But let’s talk about the impact of social media is having today on your customer support business and any predictions?

Toby Richards
(51:23): Yeah. I mean, huge impact. One is obviously just a new channel, but I think more importantly to that, it’s a medium that if a company service organization really embraces, it’s one in which you can really help to generate some good relationships. But there are some early successes of companies in the social media space and then you kind of peeled back the covers and all you really found was that they were just non-scalable response mechanisms to people who use their strong followership as a way to complain, whereas if you think about social in the context of a broader customer experience cutting across the try, the buy, the adopt, the support life cycle, then there’s endless opportunities around the social media space from the standpoint of how we listen, how we engage, the relationship between customer service and marketing. I mean, years ago, there was no relationship in our case. Now, when a marketer goes out and really wants to talk about the value proposition of the product, there is no way they can do that without having a strong support arm behind them to really engage in deeper dialog around help and how-to or support and things like that. So, what we see over the course of the next many years is the blurring of lines between customer service and marketing around how we think about the life cycle of product adoption and support, not being just this function at the end of the line, just in case somebody wants to call or just in case somebody asks.

(53:11): Social media will require customer service organizations to really think about their role in nurturing relationships and helping to earn loyalty and drive, repurchase, and recommend. So, really that’s where we see it going. And the social space for us is growing at a rate of 30% to 50%, depending on the audience here you’re talking about. In a developer space, it’s always been a very socially minded support business for us. And so, that’s growing at a lesser rate than the consumer audience and IT professionals, which are growing very rapidly through all the social media capabilities.

Chad McDaniel
(53:56): Excellent. I mean, I’m just absorbing all of this and I’m sure everyone else is also. What would you — Toby, last question is already here and then we will do some wrap up. But if there was one thing you really wanted to leave the show today with lasting impression or best advice in what you’re journey and experience has been or hang tough whatever, what would you want to leave us with today just to help us through this path?

Toby Richards
(54:25): Well, I would say it’s really about leadership. It’s about culture. It’s about really thinking about how service and support can add more value to the business and more value to the customer experience. I mean, we’ve got a support business that has grown up around the phone experience and we’ve tried to deflect phone calls, we’ve put a bunch of static content on the web. If you’re in a competitive environment like we are, and I would imagine every single person on this call, and you think about how support can be a competitive differentiator for you, one that generates loyalty, then you think very differently about support and you’ve got to really look at your leadership and the culture of the business and ask the question, “Are we in a position where we can transform and really take this kind of reactive approach to support to one in which we are driving those relationships in such a way that’s generating company loyalty.” That’s the transformation we’re in right now at Microsoft for our support organization and we’re not done and we’ve had a lot of hiccups and a lot of missteps that we’re learning from, but if you’ve got a very self-critical lens to your business and you’ve got that level of customer advocacy in your blood, then there are a lot of things that you can do with capabilities out there that are really putting a lot of power in the hands of customers and in the hands of customer service organizations.

Chad McDaniel
(56:11): What a fun evolution you’re in. What a great mandate you’ve got, Toby, very inspirational. I hope you’ll come back and join us again some time?

Toby Richards
(56:21): I’d love to.

Chad McDaniel
(56:22): And folks, for everyone, our listeners today, first of all, at the end of the show today, the recording will be there. Please feel free to share it with your community. There’s been some great insight. If you have any feedback or recommendations you’d like to give me about future show formats, you can email me, chad@execsintheknow.com. I’d be happy to take a look at all feedback to continue to bring a more enriched experience for all of us. But, Toby, you were fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for more and I really appreciate your time. Final thing is next April 15th, do not forget to mark you calendars for Marilyn Otto, Pitney Bowes, Vice President, Customer Experience. You can listen to all of our previous shows, archives. We had John Bowden from Time Warner Cable, Jeff Russakow from Yahoo, and Toby Richards from Microsoft today. And that’s just been some great experience for us. Toby, thank you again so much, it’s been an absolute pleasure. And this will conclude our show and see everyone back on Voice of the Customer Radio/Execs In The Know, April 15th. Thank you.