We’re so delighted to add Deutsche Telekom Germany to our Lithium family. As the leading telecommunications company in Germany, Telekom recently launched a Lithium community with Forums, Q&A and Mobile v2 to name a few features.
The Telekom community is a consolidation of three different Telekom customer portals, making it one of the largest online communities in Germany. We’re happy to give Telekom a platform to allow their customers to have one online destination to exchange ideas with each other, share feedback and get answers from experts.
Lithium is helping brands all over the world meet the rising expectations of customers and Germany is an important market for us. In fact, a global survey found that about half of the Germans surveyed (46%) will only call a toll-free number for customer service as the last resort. Telekom is getting ahead of this trend with their community as it helps connect their customers with peers and experts to help simplify the customer service process.
The Telekom community has over 360,000 registered members with more than a million posts. Feel free to check it out at: https://telekomhilft.telekom.de
For more information, please read our press release.
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Before you write your RFP...
You’re considering buying a social customer service tool, but you’re not sure what are the most important things to ask in your RFP. Beyond the normal questions about vendor service agreements, implementation, pricing structure, and such, here are some often overlooked questions that can make all the difference in the world when it comes to finding the right tool and provider.
Ask these six questions.
1. Is it purpose-built for social customer service? Ask whether the functionality and metrics are aligned wi th your customer service team’s workflow and goals. Will your agents be able to manage workflow within the tool or will work-arounds be necessary to provide the best customer care possible? Will you be able to manage agent efficiency and hit target SLAs? Will the platform route and prioritize posts for your agents so they don’t have to go looking for the right posts?
2. Does it allow agents to reach maximum efficiency? Is the tool able to filter out the noise and prioritize conversations allowing agents to focus only on what matters: responding to customers? Does the tool have a user-interface that is easy to learn and use? Ask for a demo and make sure the conversation is focused on how your agents work and how you manage your agents. Talk to the vendor’s exi sting customers about the responsiveness of the product team and whether the release cycle and features being released meet the needs of an evolving workflow process.
3. Am I able to make data-driven decisions? What are the analytics available for customer care? Are they providing metrics that will let you understand SLAs to allow you to manage to those service levels and balance agent workloads to provide consistent service? Are the metrics real-time so that you can identify and address emerging issues? Analytics need to be easy to understand and read. You also need to be able to download the right reports to create your own set of data and benchmarks.
4. Will my agents understand who they're talking to? Can agents see the full thread of the current conversation without having to search for that information or use workarounds? Can the agent easily see past conversations with that customer to understand history and context so the agent can provide a high quality customer experience? Does the agent have access to rich author profiles through CRM integrations, data capture and profile integrations? Can the customer be routed and prioritized based on specific tags or profile criteria so key influencers and customers get the attention they need?
5. Will I have the opportunity to work with a partner to maximize use of the tool? Ask about the launch process. Will you have access to an expert that can guide you in the use of the tool? Are there resources to provide training for both agents and managers? Make sure the advice provided is customized to your needs. Find out if there are also resources that can provide guidance as you change and grow your team and want strategic services to help you make a smooth transition.
6. Will I be able to scale? As my social customer service team grows, and I get more visibility within the organization, will I be able to scale the team? Find out if the platform is built for scale. How much volume do their high-volume customers see? Ask for customer referrals and ask those customers how easy it was to grow their teams. Find out if the platform has team handling. Is there an easy way to manage different products and brands in the tool without cross-posting mistakes?
Find the right vendor...
These are just a few important questions that often don’t get asked until too late in the buying process. Ask them up front in your RFP. It will let the vendors know that you know what you’re looking for and help you to select one that offers the strongest value.
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Strategic is the key word.
You know that social is where your customers are. You know that investing in social will have a major impact on business results. But how do you talk about social with senior executives in a way that will engage them? (No, don’t Tweet them). The answer to gaining executive buy -in is to speak their language and address issues they care about. (Which, by the way, are also issues you should care about.)
Here are six key questions to discuss that will help you talk strategically about social. Just be sure to do your homework first. Then be prepared to discuss these issues when you talk about social with senior executives:
1. What do our customers want and how well do we really know them? Customers are always on executives’ minds. Social can help you meet customer expectations and get to know your customers better. This results in a more finely-tuned offering that makes customers happy, and in turn, results in revenue. Here are questions to ponder: How well do we know our customers? Who are they? What are their interests? Are they customers we want long term? Do we need new or different customers? Be mindful that social can answer these questions over time, but if you don’t have a baseline understanding of these answers up front, plunging straightaway into social may not be the best way to find out.
2. How are our competitors leveraging social? How well do you really know what’s emerging in the marketplace and how your competitors are using social to innovate, track, respond to customer inquiries and needs, and market? This information is critical to shaping your own social strategy and the social imperative for your company.
3. What business goals and objectives should social solve? Social needs a strategic purpose to exist in business. That purpose has to be to meet specific business goals and objectives. What are the problems or issues that social can solve for the business? Do you want to elevate the brand? Create a competitive differentiation? Improve customer loyalty? Solve customer service issues? Map out what it is that social is meant to do for the company and be sure it ties specifically to creating solutions for existing needs.
4. Who is the C-suite champion? This one is a bit trickier to decipher, but it’s critical that you do. Why? Because social fails when there is no executive champion sponsoring its relevance and role in the company. Who is passionate about social among the executives? Who is already active on social and seems to really understand the business advantages? Do a bit of digging and then spend time gauging who might be the best person to take up your cause.
5. What is the budget impact? This one is huge. The impact and the financial models you care about with social will be directly tied to your goals and objectives. For example, if you want to reduce customer service costs, you might invest x to save y; but if your goal is brand enhancement, you would invest a different amount and expect it to perform differently. The questions to ponder are: What budget are you willing to put up against this? What financial models and what return on investment or savings do you expect to yield from that investment? How will you measure it?
6. Where do you want to prioritize social roll out? Your business goals and objectives will determine this to a large degree. But if you have more than one issue to solve with social, you may need to choose where to focus first. For example, if you have substantial customer service problems, perhaps you want to gear social first to focus on solving customer service. Or if you have a cutting edge product coming out, maybe you want to use social to activate early influencers and garner early demand for it. Knowing where the pain points are in your product/services will help you prioritize the social roll out that you want.
Plan for success.
These six areas will help you to address the issues that hit home for senior executives. Remember that while executives are savvy, many do not have the level of familiarity that you do with social and how it plays and integrates across the organization. Be sure to be prepared to educate, have statistics to back up your claims, and keep revenue, innovation and meeting customer expectations at the forefront of your discussion.
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If you’re anything like us at Lithium, you’ve probably already had your fair share of pumpkin spice lattes to celebrate the return of Autumn and all of its delicious glory.
And it’s highly likely that back in September, when the air started to chill and conversations about the upcoming holiday season began swirling about, you thought to yourself: “I’ve still got a couple months to prepare, I’m not going to worry about the holidays right now.”
Well, surprise! It’s November now – and the start to the official holiday season is merely weeks away. (Go ahead, feel free to have a quick moment of panic, we’ll wait.) But don’t fret, you’ve still got time to get your holiday preparations in order – for yourself and your business.
Go fetch yourself another pumpkin spice latte (you’ll need the caffeine), download our Holiday Readiness Checklist , and grab the reindeer by the horns (ahem, antlers!) because there’s no better time than now to make this your best holiday season yet!
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The need for strong engineering talent has never been greater, nor as competitive as it is today. The staggering growth of the tech industry has made it an engineer’s dream job market. Today’s top engineers can essentially “cherry pick” the roles they want to fill, as the demand for their skills and creativity is in a constant state of exponential growth.
As such, Engineering and HR departments within tech companies have been challenged to not only hire top talent, but also devise ways of motivating top talent to stay. We sat down with Lithium’s SVP of Engineering, Sunil Rajasekar, to talk about how he makes it a daily priority to keep his world-class engineering team engaged, empowered, and truly excited about the work they do.
Great teams are often times the result of strong leaders. What’s your management philosophy and why do you feel it’s been effective in creating a world-class engineering team?
People inherently want to do well and to be successful in their jobs. It’s rooted in our DNA. My role as the engineering team lead is to create the opportunity for everyone on my team to be the best they can possibly be. I see myself more as a coach than a traditional manager. I help set the vision, hire and retain the best talent, and create an environment where my team can thrive. Once you have that, magic happens.
I have not only learned a lot about how to create a world class engineering team from my own career and experiences, but also from talking to my peers and learning from best practices at companies like Amazon, Netflix, Google, and a handful of start-ups – all of which have set the bar quite high.
There is more demand for engineering talent than there are engineers to fill those roles. How do you compete for top talent?
We rely heavily on word-of-mouth. Great engineers oftentimes know other great engineers. The challenge we face, however, is that people still don’t readily know what Lithium is or what impact they can make by joining our team. So we’re constantly in a position of having to give people a reason to join. I personally believe it’s a no-brainer. We’ve got a compelling story. Here’s why:
We’re in an emerging and exciting space. We are now in the “age of the customer.” Customers have all the power. They are much more knowledgeable and informed than ever before. Most companies are unfortunately struggling to keep up. At Lithium, we’ve not only adapted to this reality, but we’re also helping to define it for the benefit of our customers.
The company is well-positioned. It’s got the stability, resources, and funds to support technological innovation much like our larger competitors. However, given our small size, there’s a tremendous amount of room for engineers to grow and make a serious impact through their day-to-day work.
We are solving big tech problems. Engineers want to be challenged. They have an appetite to learn and to improve their skills through the work they do. They want to provide solutions to the biggest questions facing the tech industry today. Our engineers are spearheading innovations in social, mobile, high-volume Saas, and more – all at global scale (and we’ve got over 100 million monthly users to prove that our solutions work!).
So once you’ve convinced them to come on-board, how do you motivate them to stay? What are the rewards and incentives that matter most to engineers?
First off, engineers want to enjoy the work they do. My role is to enable that. And let’s be honest, a day-in-the-life of an engineer isn’t always 9-to-5. They are tasked with solving challenging technological problems and every day is different. They are constantly coming up with ways to make our products better for our customers. So it’s important to create a working environment that affords them the space to be creative problem solvers, but also gives them the flexibility to manage their workload the best way they see fit. But, ultimately, they want the freedom to innovate, the opportunity to improve their skills daily, and a clear line-of-sight into how their work directly impacts Lithium’s customers.
At Lithium, we’ve got an engineering culture that’s focused on sharing and learning. Our engineers are active bloggers. Many regularly contribute to open source projects. We also host industry meet-ups often. What I love most are our hackathons – events where engineers literally camp out in the office for 24 hours working on “pet” projects. They’ve been incredibly successful, so much that many of our most recent product innovations have stemmed from hackathon ideas.
If you were to identify what makes managing engineers different from managing other groups within a company, what would you say stands out the most?
It requires a blend of art and science. The art comes from engineers needing a flexible work environment that fuels creativity and innovation. The science comes from a constant focus on developing high quality products and applications that perform well at scale. The challenge for many companies is finding the right balance between the two. I believe Lithium has struck that balance. We are in position to move at the speed of a start-up, but operate like a well-established business – and are able serve some of the biggest global brands as our customers – thanks in part to our architecture, release practices and how we are organized around autonomous teams.
As Senior Vice President of Engineering, Sunil oversees core development and delivery of Lithium's enterprise social customer platform.
Sunil is a seasoned technology executive who brings more than 15 successful years of enterprise, small business and consumer software experience. Prior to joining Lithium, Sunil served as Vice President of Engineering, Operations and Program Management at Intuit Financial Services and held a variety of senior roles in the Intuit Small Business and Central Technology groups. His passion is building innovative and successful web and mobile offerings that companies and end users love. Previously, Sunil worked at Oracle, Cisco and several startups.
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