Australian bank dodges a bullet on Twitter

There was much noise this morning about how an Australian Twitterer was able to get a home loan issue resolved and the loan approved via Twitter. The bank in question Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) was put forward as a shining example of Australian organisations getting into the social space and using tools like Twitter to deliver a superior customer experience.

Given that I’ve blogged in the past about how poor major Australian brands are with adopting Twitter, my bullsh**-detector was shrilling like a banshee. And it turns out the detector was right.

The facts of the matter are masked by the minor tweet-storm with CBA taking the bait and coming out with a vague quote from one of their exec’s about how brilliant they are. Rather than CBA painting themselves in glory, they should have their heads down looking at their shoes saying “holy bankcartels, Batman! we dodged a bullet that time”

Fact #1 – the banks internal processes broke down with the application being bogged down due primarily to (what appears to be) processor incompetence. The person responsible for processing the application doesn’t have the requisite skills to realise they had the necessary information (just stating the known facts here).

Fact #2 – the customer involved (@coogeecoup – Alison Godfrey) is a journo for the paper that published the story, and she was contacted by @ozdj (Derek Jenkins) a person who works for the bank in a customer service role. He’s clearly not an official CBA rep and doesn’t even mention his employer in his profile. If anything, he’s a normal Twitter user with a diverse range of Tweets.

Fact #3 – the CBA Twitter presence is, well, FAIL – @CBAOnline.

Here’s their profile page.

Which bank wants to communicate with you via Twitter

Which bank wants to communicate with you via Twitter

Do you like their tag line – determined to be different?

The fact is, if it wasn’t for Derek’s manual intervention this would have gone unnoticed and been yet another example of a bank failing to deliver on their brand promise. CBA is lucky to have someone like Derek working for them; I suspect he’s one of thousands at the bank who care. Clearly he’s a diligent hard working employee who’s simply not prepared to leave issues unaddressed. But Group Executive Ross McEwan was vague if not misleading with his comment in the article:

Ross McEwan, Head of the Commonwealth Bank’s Retail Bank said the bank would continue to reach out to customers via social networking.

“Commonwealth Bank sees the trend towards social networking sites as a channel for consumer discussion as a huge opportunity to extend our customer service beyond traditional channels,” Mr McEwan said. “It gives us the chance to understand our customers’ experience with us, to interact with them in real time and reach out for on the spot resolution. We’re seeing some really positive results and expect this to continue to grow.”

I know CBA has a profile on Facebook but this reeks more of an outlet for regurgitated PR. The CBA is not monitoring social media in the context of wanting to listen and engage. If they were they wouldn’t have a locked, soulless, friendless Twitter profile.

CBA, you dodged a bullet here today and have now tried to turn a near miss into positive spin in the press. If you want to understand what you should be doing, have a look at:

And there’s many more. CBA has a way to go before they truly start listening, or even engaging in conversational listening. Until then, I guess they have to rely on the likes of Derek to keep digging them out of these holes

Social Media Monitoring and Australian Politics

The Queensland State election is over and the hacks, pundits, and SP experts are picking over the results.

I noticed an interesting piece on Crikey from Bernard Keane about the LNP (login required). Bernard made a connection between the LNP trying to execute an Obama-like campaign without the Obama-like results. His key point seemed to be that the LNP leader lacked the intelligence or deep charisma of Barack Obama. I’m not sure that this is the real issue here.

Whilst Obama is a charismatic leader, what Obama did most effectively was to use his party and those who subscribed to my.barackobama.com as the tool to get people engaged and involved. This is the critical difference and a difference that I think the LNP (or any party in Australia for that matter) has yet to grasp. Let me explain.

Firstly, let’s have a look at the respective homepages – This is Obama’s main site

My Barack Obama

My Barack Obama

Note the language? Note the reference to you the public and the request to believe in yourself. See a picture of Obama?

Lets have a look at LNP

How LNP engages

How LNP engages

Note the difference. The first thing that stood out for me was the inference “We don’t need your help, we just need your money”.

The real critical difference is deeper than the websites though. Obama motivated people to engage – he mobilised the groundswell and then let the local troops continue to foster that engagement. Obama was all about getting people interested and engaged – both Queensland Labor and Queensland LNP failed on this front.

After reading Keane’s article, we sat down last night and mapped out a strategy that a political party could use to really connect to their community. I think over the space of an hour we put together an Obama-like strategy. At a high level, to be more like Obama LNP needs to:

  • Set up each candidate with their own blog – this can be their own local website – and get them actively blogging and using twitter to drive engagement at the community level.
  • The leader should be using Twitter and Facebook to drive engagement NOT just with the leader but with every candidate they’ve put forward – i.e. “I’m the leader but have you seen the post my local candidate put up regarding the slow response of the Government to the oil spill, go here to read more”
  • Visits to rural areas can be seeded with active efforts to get the local community involved – Twitter or blog and ask them what questions they want answered?
  • The local candidates should be using the local press and their own resources to reinforce the option to engage directly.
  • The leader should be posting comments across his candidate base – 5-6 times a day – jump on a candidates blog and add a comment – recognise a contribution that a member of the public has made or remind the local candidate that the leader is expecting him to have local questions lined up for his pending visit.
  • Hand outs shouldn’t be about the party line; it should be about come and engage. I received 3 letters from my local LNP candidate, none of which suggested I could engage other than by phone or email. He doesn’t have a website, a Twitter account, or a blog

A key element to this high level strategy is the ability (read: desire) of the party to listen to the community. This involves moving beyond what the press has to say and dialling into the groundswell. I had the opportunity to turn on Radian6 over the last week of the campaign and I tracked what was happening with both leaders and both the major parties (Anna Bligh from Qld Labor was the incumbent premier).

Once I filtered out the usual press noise I was able to get a very clear picture of what was happening. Aside from the fact there wasn’t much noise (reflecting the fact neither party really got engaged) I was amazed at how much more noise the Labor party was generating. They sustained this, whereas LNP fell away badly as Election Day approached.

Radian6 demonstrated clearly how important it is to listen so as to generate meaningful community engagement. As I just said, neither party did this well.How can you engage if you don’t listen?

The question now is whether any of the parties, local, state or federal are prepared to really listen.

Social Learning – Changing the Learning Paradigm

As we researched the social media space and started putting together our strategy plans this idea of social learning kept coming up. The idea first came to my attention back in October 2008 at the Selling Power Sales Leadership conference in Chicago. Daniel Perry of Aramark spoke about how they create internal communities so that new hires can share information, reinforce their learning’s, and provide mutual support.

This sounded really interesting – a sales organisation utilising social media tools and strategies to provide a platform for greater collaboration and knowledge capture – but the idea of social learning hadn’t gelled. In fact it wasn’t until one of my TEC group members (known as Vistage in the US) raised a point about the problems they were having in capturing informal knowledge from the field that I connected the dots. At the same time as this I read a couple of blog posts by David Wilkins from Mzinga and I realised just how important social learning has become.

In simple terms, social learning is about using social media technologies to close the gap that exists between the training/learning the enterprise provides and the informal learning that is always happening within the enterprise. I thought what Aramark was doing was very cool and I often mentioned this example to people as a good example of using social media tools to reinforce key learning and knowledge.

That was until I read David’s post about the future of training. The key thing with this post is the Cross and Jarche model of social learning (see diagram)

Jay Cross and Harold Jarche map the future of learning in the enterprise

Jay Cross and Harold Jarche map the future of learning in the enterprise

Jay and Harold describe a pyramid where emergent practices come from the workers, established practices and processes come from management, and workers actively collaborate with each other as part of the normal work experience.

I realised then that Aramark had only part of the solution. Aramark were using the technology to make sure training was sticky, that sales reps stuck to the pitch and that the field sales managers didn’t start debunking the training with “real world observations”. For Aramark, the real advantage would come if they embraced learning from the field and formalised this into their enterprise. So rather than suppressing “real world observations and variations” they would encourage this and formalise this into their enterprise memory (and therefore their training).

Given most learning and collaboration happens away from where training is delivered, capturing this informal learning is the real challenge for the enterprise. But it doesn’t stop there. Like most social media initiatives, changing the cultural attitude around learning will be challenging also. A great place to start for organisations wanting to start down this road is to implement enterprise wiki solutions like Confluence from Atlassian (Disclosure: we’re an Atlassian partner for the Confluence product). Confluence (as a hosted Wiki) can be live in minutes and allows collaboration to start occurring. I’d still recommend getting a strategy in place and getting wide buy-in, but starting with something is still the most important first step.

The outcome of reading David’s stuff is we’re putting more research effort into understanding what this means and how it fits into an overall social media strategy. When you think about the idea of opening up your enterprise information and allowing the community to take it, use it, and add value, we mustn’t forget that the community is in fact a series of intersecting communities as David noted in a later post.

A very useful image from David Wilkins of Mzinga

A very useful image from David Wilkins of Mzinga

As I noted to my TEC colleague – harnessing this knowledge and learning represents real strategic advantage. So whilst we talk about the fantastic marketing, PR, and sales benefits to flow from social media, we must also keep our eye on the positive impacts this can have on how the enterprise learns and grows.

Accountants and Blogs

I had a very interesting discussion with the Marketing Manager for one of Australia’s premier tier two accounting firms about whether an accounting firm would get any value from one or more of their partners having a blog. Clearly my view was that a blog was essential and would add tremendous value on a number of fronts. This was a view not shared by my coffee partner.

Two key barriers dominated the discussion before we could get to the exciting bit about the possibilities and thinking about these barriers led me to a deeper understanding of how to position blogs in the B2B world.

The barriers were:

  1. Accountants are boring
  2. You have to be so technical in what you write – people won’t want to read this

Here’s how I dealt with these barriers.

Accountants are boring

OK. No argument here.

In reality though, accountants are in a very strong position as trusted advisors and can use this position to communicate on a number of different levels.

Firstly, this firm has multi-dimensional relationships with their clients. What I mean by this is that they often deal with the Financial Controller or the CFO, along with a number of the executive team – CEO, Chairman, GM-level. What they have is an audience that wants different things from them often around the same subject. A blog represents a simple way for the Partners to communicate a variety of messages – ranging from semi-technical op-ed pieces to general business commentary. As long as they think about who they are communicating too, they can easily write highly engaging posts that communicate the depth of expertise and care that I know this firm has.

An accountant’s blog needs to be technical

Clearly no one is going to spend time reading about the riveting changes to AASB 45c. But what people will spend time reading is where a Partner seeks to share some experience or advice that is relevant. Examples might include:

  • Sharing an experience around how they’ve helped another client
  • Sharing a client success story – give us some happy news amongst the doom and gloom.
  • Mentioning pending business deadlines and suggesting where a client should be in terms of their business preparation
  • Discussing common misconceptions and encouraging a conversation on the topic

The simplest analogy I gave the marketing manager is that the partner needs to view a blog as an extension of the types of business discussions that they might have when meeting 1 on 1 with their largest clients. It’s all about the conversation.

Here are two links I passed onto this client to help them get comfortable with the idea of an accountant’s blog:

I’m quietly confident I’ll get a chance to work with this firm on the introduction of blogs to their business. If we do get the green light, you’ll hear about it first here.

Will Government in Australia ever get Social Media?

Smart Company had an interesting story yesterday about the brains trust at StateRail of NSW working hard to crush innovation.

This story amazes me.

The idea that a Government department would seek to crush someone trying to help them do their job is just stunning.

Why wouldn’t they engage this person and seek to exchange ideas? Who cares if they are building their own mobile app? (a) it’ll suck anyway, and (b) what’s wrong with choice?