Tag: social media

Avoid the “Gotchas” in Purchasing Next-Gen Tech Services | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The new technologies sweeping the market hold great promise of competitive advantages. But there’s a disturbing trend occurring in the services sales process for these technologies that poses a risk for buyers. Look out for providers talking about cloud, mobility, big data, the Internet of Things, and social in the same breath as SaaS/BPaas, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Providers that jumble these technologies together as though they are homogeneous really don’t understand the implications of what they’re trying to sell you. They’re basically throwing mud against your wall and seeing what sticks.

The possibilities with all of these technologies are exciting, but they have distinctly different impacts on the buyer’s business.

As illustrated in the diagram below, we can bucket one class of impacts as those that create new business opportunities. They provide new types of services that enterprises can use to change the composition of their customers or provide different kinds of services. For example, the Internet of Things holds enormous promise around allowing enterprises to provide a completely different class of services to their customers. In mobility and social technologies, the digital revolution holds the promise of changing the way businesses interact with their end customers.

Changing technology opens up new opportunities but also creates strategic challenges

Changing technologies

The second class of new technologies (Saas/BPaaS, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence) changes how services are delivered. For example, SaaS takes a functionality that was available but delivers it through a different mechanism. Automation and robotics changes the way service is provided by shifting from FTE-based models into an automated machine-based delivery vehicle.

The two buckets of technologies have different value propositions. The first class of technologies (cloud, mobility, big data, IoT, and social) are about getting new and different functionality. The impacts in the second class are lower costs and improved flexibility and agility. Each class of technologies has different objectives and value propositions and thus needs a different kind of business case. Buyers that mix these technologies together in a business case do themselves substantial disservice.

The way you need to evaluate the two distinct types of technologies (and providers offering them) is completely different. A provider that recognizes that automation, robotics, and SaaS are about changing the nature of delivery will have a much more thoughtful conversation with you and build its value proposition around flexibility, speed, and quality of service and cost.

A provider that recognizes the impact of mobility, cloud, big data, and the IoT technologies will talk to you about a value proposition around standing up exciting new capabilities, creating new offers and changing the conversation with your end customers.

So, buyer beware. If you’re talking with a provider that mixes these technologies’ distinct value propositions together, you’re dealing with a provider that really doesn’t understand what they’re offering.


Photo credit: Flickr

Oscar and the Emergence of Consumer-Centric Healthcare | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

As I’ve blogged before, the healthcare space is at the cusp of a transformative change. Consumers are assuming greater ownership, control, and responsibility of health outcomes. Consequently, the decision making is shifting to the individual. Consumption patterns have undergone a significant change owing to disruptive mobile computing, rapid adoption of social media, next-generation sales/engagement channels, and ‘‘anytime-anywhere’’ information access. As individual consumers (patients and physicians) become more empowered, healthcare is transitioning to a principally patient-centric operating paradigm, with focus on cost, efficacy, and equity.

Analogous to what Uber has done to transportation, in progressive (and controversial) ways, there is a fundamental transformation in healthcare, placing patients at the center of all the action. These changes are reflected in the way reimbursements are distributed (moving from volume-based to outcome-based) and the onset of personalized medicine therapies based on real-world evidence. These gamut of changes are also aided by various cultural and socio-economic forces. The disruptive shift – from a healthcare provider-centric to a more customer-centric model – is driving significant healthcare investments in digital enablers of consumerization – social media, mobility, analytics, and cloud.

Healthcare consumerization levers

The New Kid on the Block

These winds of change have given rise to an immense opportunity to cater to this new patient-centric paradigm leveraging next-generation technology channels and enablers. Which brings us to Oscar, a New York-based health insurance start-up. Health insurance in the United States has conventionally been complex and non-transparent. With the advent of PPACA and health insurance exchanges (HIX), there has been a greater sense of accountability. Oscar aims to bring big data/analytics, design thinking, and transparency to the often-puzzling world of health insurance, making it smart, intuitive, and simple for consumers.

The idea for Oscar was born when one of its co-founders received his health insurance bill and realized that none of it made sense to him. The complexity and high entry barriers to health insurance can be gauged from the fact that Oscar was the first new health insurance provider to launch in the state of New York in more than a decade. The start-up sells coverage to individuals through insurance marketplaces in New York and New Jersey. The insurance plans offer free basic care including doctor visits, phone calls with doctors, preventative care, and generic drugs.

The company is backed by seasoned venture investors Peter Thiel and Vinod Khosla as it attempts to bring Silicon Valley mojo to health insurance. It was co-founded by venture capitalist Josh Kushner (an early stage investor in Warby Parker and Instagram), Kevin Nazemi (a Microsoft veteran), and Mario Schlosser (MIT Media Lab and hedge fund experience). The company’s strong digital health ethos is reflected in the senior leadership team – CTO Fredrik Nylander is a former Tumblr executive, Dave Henderson (ex-Cigna and EmblemHealth) is Oscar’s president of insurance, board member Charlie Baker is former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and senior medical executive hires from EmblemHealth, a leading health plan in New York state.

Oscar

What’s different?

Oscar’s value proposition is on being a more personalized health insurance provider, with a strong sense of convenience and personal attention, aided by marketing, design, and consumer service practices that are aligned to the needs of the millennial generation. It has a sizable emphasis on telemedicine (offering it free of charge), and lets customers speak to doctors 24×7 with a goal of 10 minute wait time or less. To help answer medical questions, the company has doctors on call to chat online or over the telephone with customers. Oscar also lets customers check prices for procedures ahead of time and offers three free in-person doctor visits and free generic drugs.

The company faced minor bumps in the beginning with poor reviews and complaints (an average Yelp rating of 2 stars), but has instituted a feedback input mechanism based on customer interactions. The company aims to productize every customer interaction by implementing feedback as soon as it receives it. It has a slew of partners and tie-ups in line with its strategic focus.

In December 2014, Oscar announced a partnership with Misfit (a wearable tech company), by offering members free fitness trackers, along with Amazon gift cards, as part of an attempt to incentivize healthy behavior and bring down employee healthcare costs. Oscar also offers services at many hospitals and retail locations such as New York CVS CareMark. It is a health insurance company that resembles a technology start-up rather than a faceless insurance behemoth, sort of a health insurance start-up for “born digital” natives.

The future

Since commencing operations in July 2013, Oscar has had a reasonable start. It had about 15,000 members and estimated revenues of U$72 million in 2014. It doubled that member base to 30,000 in January 2015, with one month of enrollment left to go. Oscar is seeking approval to enter California’s individuals exchange by 2016. The primary litmus test for Oscar is going to be the same as for any health plan – managing risk, keeping premiums reasonable, maintaining margins, handling payer-provider convergence, and improving health outcomes. Oscar is a prime example among modern companies looking to shape consumer-driven healthcare in the United States leveraging next-generation technology. As it looks at a reported valuation of significantly more than US$1 billion (implying a handsome 14x sales multiple!), the bet might just pay off.


Photo credit: Oscar

Social Analytics and an iPad to Chop Veggies | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

I recently watched a WhatsApp video in which a woman was visibly pleased when her advanced-age father said her gift of an iPad was “great,” then became baffled and shocked when she saw him using it as a vegetable cutting board!

While this is certainly an extreme example of something being used for a different purpose than its intent, we’re seeing the same type of disconnect with social media platforms and the associated analytics. Lots of organizations have deployed social analytics tool to assess the typical engagement metrics (e.g., number of users reached, time spent per user), beauty metrics (e.g., hashtagged or liked), or perspective metrics (e.g., positive or negative sentiments). Much like the iPad veggie chopper man, these enterprises believe the solution is doing its job well. However, like the daughter knew, this is not what social analytics platforms are made for.

Social analytics platforms should be deployed to generate value beyond tracking customer portal trawls. They are meant to listen to, engage, and amaze customers and prospects. However, very few organizations use them for those purposes. Hardly any of them have integrated social data with the main customer data bank. Moreover, there is little collaboration or coordination across social media, analytics, and sales teams, each instead working in its silo. Why is that? Although enterprises may give different excuses, I see four main reasons per my market interactions:

  1. Organizational challenges in terms of structure and complexity that no business manager wants to disrupt

  2. Lack of forceful evangelization

  3. Limited understanding of how to leverage social media and analytics

  4. Deployment of social media and analytics for “buzz purposes,” rather than as something meaningful

In various organizations, the entrenched old school senior management fundamentally does not believe in “new age toys” of social media. Many of them admit that social media is good to impress the CEO and tick mark their key performance indicators, but not good enough to drive meaningful business. This reluctance results in half-hearted strategies with little focus or commitment.

These reluctant organizations, however, have a very potent argument. They believe there are limited, if any, successful adoptions of analytics solutions that have resulted in revenue enhancement. While they think that analytics may help in running operations more efficiently, reducing costs, and enhancing their brand, they consider its direct impact on revenue to be weak.

Responsibility for this misperception falls both on technology providers and the buyers of analytics solutions, more with the providers. They publicize client adoption focusing on cost savings than revenue enablement. This diminishes the real value a business can derive from analytics adoption. And there are indeed organizations actively deploying social analytics to generate insights, serve the customer, and build the next product, many of which now have a Chief Data Officer overseeing the adoption of analytics solution.

How can an enterprise become truly social? Can it align the wide range of business units – including procurement, HR, finance, sales and marketing, product development, customer support, and quality management – to become social? Can it embed the philosophy behind social initiatives into its business processes? While the challenges are significant, this is where the value from social media initiatives lies. Silo-driven deployments will only add to the fragmentation, instead of helping the business.

Is your company using an iPad to chop its vegetables? Our readers would enjoy hearing your social media experiences.

Don’t SMAC Your Customer! | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The service provider community is very fond of clever terms, and SMAC — standing for Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud — is a good example of that. However, if you’re a service provider looking to sell to new or existing clients, talking about SMAC may not be the most productive way to hold the conversation.

The most productive way to uncover a significant opportunity is to talk to your customers in their language about the business issues they have. Sure, they’re looking for technology answers to their issues, but very few of them use the term SMAC of their own volition.

So if you’re talking to a retailer about their out-of-stock condition, for instance, talk about the practical ways that your solution will help them identify where they’re out of stock and how you can help them prevent that from happening.

Software tools can be very powerful. But as I’ve blogged several times in recent months, decision rights and buying influence are flowing toward the business users rather than CIOs. Providers must change terminology and communication to successfully capture their attention and serve them well.

Use simple business terms to communicate what you can do for a customer. If you use clever technology terms, you’ll probably just marginalize your impact and consign yourself to the realm of being a geek.

My advice: Keep the acronym out of your sales toolkit. Don’t SMAC your customer!

Social Media Exploding in CCO | Market Insights™

CCO 2013 annual report - EGR-2013-1-R-0906b4-I3

While still the smallest channel base, social media experienced explosive growth of 85-95% in contract inclusion in 2012. The email channel experienced robust growth of 20-25%, and chat grew 15 to 20%, and voice 8-10%. CCO providers and their clients continue working together to determine how to drive optimum value and impact, not only from the social medial channel, but overall channel mix as well.

Visit the report page

Social Network Platforms: A Missing Link in Global Delivery Models | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Put aside for a moment the growing noise about social networking being the next bubble, as users are flooding to social networks like there’s no tomorrow, and both corporations and non-profits are jumping on the bandwagon at a dizzying rate to build brand and interact with customers and targets. What’s surprising to us is that although global service providers have invested heavily in creating well distributed global delivery models, they have largely neglected social networking’s capabilities to improve and augment this delivery model. Rather than building out valuable social network or collaboration platforms, they instead have continued to invest in knowledge repositories and Q&A forums for answering queries, mostly technical in nature.

Everest Group’s just completed research report analyzed the key challenges with today’s global delivery networks, and evaluated the role a well designed social network can play to address these challenges. Key global delivery network challenges include:

  1. Project delivery: The distributed nature of a global delivery model makes the difficult task of project delivery even more challenging (e.g., decision-making, accountability, inconsistent practices, coordination, and collaboration costs).
  2. Staffing: Service delivery managers cite staffing as their biggest challenge. They believe that the needed resources are available in the system, but identifying and on-boarding required staff members in a reliable time frame are a critical challenge in a distributed delivery model.
  3. Communication overload: Efficient global delivery requires finely-detailed process, methods, documentation, and communication. While this is of course advantageous to clients, it creates tremendous overhead for the provider.
  4. Training: As the churn rate is high, service providers keep on hiring new talent, but all new hires require basic training to become productive.
  5. Knowledge sharing: There is a plethora of knowledge available within providers’ systems across service lines. Yet, apart from the typical Q&A forums, little investment has been made to enable tapping this vast source of knowledge during a project life cycle.

To address these challenges, service providers need to revamp their existing silo based social networks and enable them for global delivery. Indeed, a social network can have positive impact on delivery management, staffing, communication, training, and knowledge sharing.

Internal social platforms of service providers

The crux of this next generation platform is its integration across different global delivery management and other systems to support staffing, skills training, unified communication, and project management. Service providers can even extend these platforms to their strategic clients, enabling improved project governance, a partnership model, reduced management overhead, and co-creation of IP.

Our research suggests use of an Integrated, Tracked, Cool, Holistic (ITCH) framework to create next generation social platforms that can seamlessly integrate with global delivery systems and enhance the delivery of services.

Bottom line is that those service providers that transform their stand-alone and silo-based social platforms to enable them for global delivery of services will be the winners in the game.

To learn more about social networking and global services delivery, download the report Social Networks for Global Delivery – Get that ITCH.

What Do You Get When You Combine Social Media and BPO? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Hopefully the next generation of consumer analytics.

Want to know what your customers think of your latest product or service? Ask your BPO service provider. Are you launching something new without first speaking with your provider? You may be missing an important piece.

BPO service providers are increasingly focused on helping their clients achieve growth and business success, not just taking costs out and running things better. In many cases, this means getting considerably closer to the relationship their clients have with their end-customers. In hyper-competitive segments like pharmaceuticals, CPG, retail, and telecommunications, these customer relationships are increasingly shaped by social media channels, self-proclaimed and bona fide influencers, and bloggers. And while these industries have for years made investments in customer-oriented business intelligence and analytics tools, they haven’t yet met their full potentials. This is where BPO service providers come into the picture.

Over the past year or so, BPO providers have aggressively invested in the tools and capabilities needed to help their clients better understand consumer sentiments and behavior, as well as influencers’ thinking, and then achieve greater effectiveness in responding to this market feedback. The focus here could be anything from social media monitoring to internal business intelligence and analytics. And many are actively building out capabilities in social media monitoring, data analysis, and advisory capabilities to support their clients with real-time awareness of current, and impending, customer viewpoints, and a better understanding of how to respond to both the good and bad out there. For example, Genpact recently announced its acquisition of EmPower Research, and Capgemini has forged a relationship with Attensity, both of which are social media monitoring and analytics firms. And while IBM has long had strong analytics capabilities, it has increasingly focused Cognos’ resources on deciphering the world of social media.

BPO service providers are going in this direction for a few reasons. First, as the traditional BPO market matures and overall service provider capabilities round out, new sources of service provider differentiation need to be established. For several years now, Everest Group has discussed the steady move toward more industry-specific and verticalized capabilities among those BPO service providers historically focused on the horizontal processes, e.g. HRO, FAO, customer care, etc. Tackling the universal customer relationship challenge goes right to the heart of the industry-specific challenges of several key segments. For many BPO service providers, moving into customer analytics is another step in evolving their value proposition along the spectrum of operational to strategic.

Providers are also driven by client needs. Grappling with social media reminds me of the Greek mythological hydra – once you’ve immobilized one head, two grow in its place. Today’s consumer-centric companies can’t do this alone, and most don’t have the resources or expertise to invest in the needed talent and tools. Leveraging service provider capabilities in service delivery, analytics, tools, and expertise to tackle consumer issues just makes sense. Additionally, BPO service providers have already partnered with their clients in so many areas that they understand the intricacies of their internal workings and challenges. This presents the opportunity to create meaningful linkages between back-office processes (non-core) and front-office (core/revenue) processes in a way that is compelling for both the client and the provider.

I believe the very field of social media monitoring (or whatever we’ll be calling it in the next 12-18 months) is real, and its immediacy is driving priority over the more traditional consumer analytics space. BPO service providers and their clients are taking the reins in shaping a new process area. However, the key question in my mind is…how can BPO providers drive more value out of this experiment in consumer-centric analytics and consulting compared to past generations of business intelligence and customer analytics? I think the secret sauce lies in combining customer insight with execution.

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