Enthusiasm – the real “Focus”

MG Siegler at TechCrunch wrote a great piece a couple days ago on the role of enthusiasm. I think he’s dead-on, but I’ll add my little bit of advice: Make sure your Enthusiasm is the right kind.

The Enthusiasm you need is really a deep love for what you’re doing. This is the kind of enthusiasm that gets you up early full of energy and ideas.  A quote from Siegler’s TechCrunch piece:

… When co-founder Biz Stone says he thinks Twitter can change the world, it may sound crazy, but it’s not, because he believes it.

[From The Importance Of Enthusiasm In Any Product]

This kind of Enthusiasm goes beyond just the rush of being part of something successful. It’s a belief in something that’s not only bigger than you, its bigger than your product or even your company. The best kind of Enthusiasm comes when you truly believe that what are doing matters.

In the most stark form, the wrong kind of enthusiasm is the kind that comes only when you are growing and successful. This celebratory enthusiasm is cheap. It will not focus your effort on making great products, on working diligently for your customers, or on building a great team. It certainly won’t sustain you through any rough patch in your business. When you are successful, growing, and getting a lot of fabulous press, it’s very hard to separate the enthusiasm for success from the Enthusiasm for what you are doing.

Enthusiasm and passion are so important, no matter what you do. If you don’t feel like you have that towards the company you are with, you should seriously consider leaving.

Better yet, if you have the power in your company to start something that you are passionate about, do it.

[From The Importance Of Enthusiasm In Any Product]

This isn’t just about making it easy to go to work every day. It’s not just about keeping your energy high. This deep Enthusiasm brings that elusive “focus” that often seems a cliche’.

When you are truly Enthusiastic about what you are doing, you have a deep understanding of what you are creating and why it’s important. You are constantly refining that concept of why your company and product matters.  It helps you make the right decisions for customers. It informs your marketing and sales efforts with that sense of purpose. And it makes all the difference when you need to make those tough choices about what you are NOT going to do.

Enthusiasm is the real “Focus.”

Bringing you the news

Importance of “filters” has been over-stated. As my friend John Pederson puts it:

Managing your own filter is critical. The other kind of filter that lets things in vs. preventing things from coming in.

[From Dean Shareski on attention.]

A filter is a screen that keeps things out. My information problem isn’t solved by keeping things out. What I need is to bring the right things to me, and that’s different.

What I want is not a filter, but good editors that bring me the news that I need to see. These editors could be a staff of professionals, but there’s also a role for technology in bringing my news to me.

There are already several services that try to do this, but none of them is really as easy, ubiquitous, and natural as I would like them to be. WIll someone solve it?

Favorite Podcasts: This Week in Startups (TWiSt)

My friends all know that I enjoy good PodCasts. My daily commute only is about 8 steps from my bed… maybe a bit more if I detour to the stove to start the tea kettle before starting work. But when I’m visiting clients and or attending events I’m usually going at least 40 minutes (Palo Alto) or an hour (SF or Silicon Valley). PodCasts are a fun, productive use for that time.

Today I’m writing about one of my favorites. This Week in Startups has only been around for 13 episodes as of this writing, but it’s proven to be one of the most interesting, entertaining, and useful PodCasts that I follow.

The host is Jason Calacanis, a serial entrepreneur with a no-nonsense approach and a New Yorker attitude. He attracts some great guests, all entrepreneurs themselves.

Episode 13 is a particularly good one. It features Matt Mickiewicz, founder of Sitepoint.com and 99designs. Matt’s been an entrepreneur since he was 15 years old. Amazing guy with some great insights.

One small complaint… There is a trailer for the movie “We Live in Public” that was just too long. If you agree, just hang in there, or skip over this section to get to the good stuff.

My favorite part of TWiSt is the “Ask Jason” segment, where people can call in to ask advice. Well, it has been so far. In Episode 13, they introduced “Jason’s Shark Tank”, where they allow two entrepreneurs two minutes each to pitch Jason and his guest. It was great and if it has legs it’ll be a great addition to the show.

Part of what I like about this podcast is that it’s not all hard-nosed business advice. Jason, the guests and the whole crew have a lot of fun during the taping. In this episode, Jason gives dating and marriage management advice that’s just classic, with some great stories illustrating how to put a little extra thought into the time you spend together.

I also appreciate all the companis that sponsor all these Podcasts that enjoy, and following Jason’s lead I’ll fulfill my “Giri” and give my thanks to these great companies that sponsor TWiSt:

webspy

So check out TWiSt, and let me know how you enjoy it. If folks like this review, I’ll do more.

ciao!

The Public Flow

These conversations happen in the pub, in the bleachers of our kids soccer games, and just about everwhere. We're all having public conversations all the time, where the only privacy is that of proximity - you really don't know who that is sitting at the next table, and usually you really don't care. Now many of those conversations have moved to Twitter, or Facebook, or your blog. Some of those are open conversations that are easily found, searched, and aggregated and some aren't.

I’ve been wandering recently, in my thoughts, around and through something I’m calling “The Public Flow.”

It started as a vague concept, triggered by conversations about “The Flow” – the moving stream of information that’s always there, described by Stowe Boyd, Kevin Marks and others. Doc Searls calls it “The Live Web.” But some of that flow is obscured, private, shared among friends and our web contacts or inside walled garden systems. I think what’s most interesting is the portion of The Flow that’s happening out in public – The Public Flow.

People have always spoken in public about their lives and what’s happening around them. Most of it has always happened outside formal community forums such as the Town Council.  These conversations happen in the pub, in the bleachers of our kids soccer games, and just about everwhere. We’re all having public conversations all the time, where the only privacy is that of proximity – you really don’t know who that is sitting at the next table, and usually you really don’t care. Now many of those conversations have moved to Twitter, or Facebook, or someday on Google Wave. Some of those are open conversations that are easily found, searched, and aggregated and some aren’t.

My friend Laura Fitton, aka Pistachio spoke about Twitter at Google back in April. In discussing the organic flow of information on Twitter, she made this point:

When you go out and do focus group research and explicit market research, people freeze up a little bit and don’t quite get the right natural answer about how they really feel about a product, how they really experience a problem that a product might solve, how they really interact with information. But when someone bothers to tweet about it, that’s a very natural, authentic thing, so the quality of data and the volume of data flowing through it are potentially extremely valuable, and I think we’re just beginning to see good search tools…

What will happen as we develop better tools for understanding and participating in this Public Flow? How will life change? How will business change? How will our communities change?

How will it change us?

Worried about the cost of Support? Focus on making it Effective!

You want the virtuous cycle, or the vicious one? The key is to create a virtuous cycle of great support, product improvement, and customer loyalty & recommendations. It's a virtuous cycle of good will. Here are the steps:

What customers want, more than anything else, is for your support to be effective. They want an answer their request promptly, they want us to understand the problem they are having, and help them fix it. Maybe they’d also like to understand a bit about it themselves. Oh, and could you make it so that this problem doesn’t happen anymore?

Tall order. But we all know this is right, because it’s what we all want. But it’s too expensive to deliver that sort of service to everyone, right?

Wrong.

Delivering effective support is more cost effective than any alternative. It solves problems the first time, eliminating call-backs and telephone-tag. It understands the problem, and takes the right actions to document the work-around, file the right bug report, and make the right change to the documentation. It gets that understanding built into the product, making the product better and more valuable.

You want the virtuous cycle, or the vicious one?

The key is to create a virtuous cycle of great support, product improvement, and customer loyalty & recommendations. It’s a virtuous cycle of good will. Here are the steps:

– Do a great job of supporting your customers and understanding their problems

– Build what you learn back into your product

– Repeat

This is simple, but it’s not easy. And this isn’t just the job of the support team. It takes a whole company focus.

How to Hire for Tech Support

Tech Support folks should also be friendly and like helping people. They should be communicative both inside the organization and with customers. Dont just expect your team to "be professional". That admonition is at the core of the wooden, scripted responses that frustrate customers.

What should you look for when hiring Tech Support staff? My answer to this may be a little counter intuitive.

Great Tech Support people are:
– Problem solvers
– Friendly and they like helping people.
– Communicative
– Confident enough to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”

This last point is very important, and too often overlooked. It’s critical in Tech Support to have a team that will respond well when presented with something they don’t know. Every one of them should not only be comfortable with it, but should relish the opportunity to figure something out.

Tech Support folks should also be friendly and like helping people. They should be communicative both inside the organization and with customers. Don’t just expect your team to “be professional”. That admonition is at the core of the wooden, scripted responses that frustrate customers.

“Knowing the answer doesn’t scale. Hire Tech Support people who can figure things out.”

Why didn’t I include something about technical qualifications? While a foundation of technical expertise may be important in your business, a candidate who is a better problem solver and better with people will still be the best choice, even if they lack experience in some aspect of your product or market. The best Tech Support people learn very quickly, and learn best while solving real problems.

Knowing the answer doesn’t scale. Focusing on “knowing the answer” is part of the “Quick Resolution Paradox” – it puts you on that treadmill that brings ever growing costs and support staff burnout. If you know the answer, you should be working to make sure you never get that question again, first by putting the answer at the fingertips of your users, and then by fixing the product so that this problem goes away forever.

Knowing the answer is a side-effect of providing good support, not its goal.

To make a great Tech Support team, the right hiring is critical. The right folks, with the right skills, will build your reputation with your customers with every call.

How to use Twitter in tech support

Twitter is getting another big wave of adoption and many people are asking again what it’s for. How could short broadcasted text messages limited to 140 characters be useful? What utility could it possible have?

For tech support organizations I think it’s very useful, in two primary ways:

1. for “eavesdropping” on people who are talking about your company or product, and starting a conversation with them

2. as a signaling mechanism – a way to get a short, simple status message or announcements to an interested group.

Continue reading “How to use Twitter in tech support”

Service feedback, done right.

Check out the post by Jon Mountjoy on the feedback request from Apple after getting his Macbook Pro serviced at the Apple Store. The folks at Apple have done a very nice job on this process. Compare it to what you do. How does your feedback process make your customers feel?

An interesting example is the feedback process for in-store support at the Apple Store:

… There was no logging in, no tedious filling in of silly details. I’m a community member (okay, a customer) – they have all that recorded and integrated with this web property. Awesome. Now I want to fill it in – after all I just had to push one button to get here. Nice touch in having the Genius name there too.

[From Get better at soliciting explicit customer feedback — Jon Mountjoy]

Commercial email, or even tweets, aren’t necessarily spam

  Spam in Twitter is becoming a problem. Full 75% of my new followers yesterday were some kind of crass commercial, “I’ll show you how to twitter for money” or “check out my new multi-level marketing scheme.”

But some folks are using twitter for their business in some useful and interesting way. The latest I’ve learned about is a bunch of food twitters, including @chezspencergo, just profiled on sfgate.com:

Continue reading “Commercial email, or even tweets, aren’t necessarily spam”

Managing ROI for Community Managers | TheLetterTwo.com

My friend Ken wrote a nice piece a couple days ago about ROI and the role of the community manager. In particular, I liked this observation:

… The community is not a structured presence. You cannot simply pen in the community as they’re a wild herd of virtual voices. The skill of the community manager is their expert knowledge in finding these “voices” and listening to them.

[From Managing ROI for Community Managers | TheLetterTwo.com]

Darius says “Go read the whole thing…”