SAS can’t “buy” fans but knows how to attract customers #csmb2c

kamhaugThe second usefulsocialmedia presentation this afternoon was presented by Christian Kamhaug from Scandinavian airline SAS. Scandinavians are known for flying a lot for business. And Scandinavians have 5 weeks holidays so they fly a lot for leisure too; also because Summers are wet and cold in Scandinavia and they want to fly where the sun is shining. “Unlike Nissan we can’t buy any fans” Kamhaug said, so they decided to do something else instead, like using their own customers, a first-rate free resource SAS had… and that proved to be a very good idea!

from simple Facebook questions …

SAS asked its 100,000 Facebook fans “where do you want to fly this Summer?” and they asked them to suggest a destination. SAS received 800 suggestions in one week and more than 180 destinations were suggested. The top 10 destinations went for vote and Alanya (Turkey) was the winner. FLights started July 3, 2012 and will be operated twice a week year-round. SAS also used this vehicle in order to make it known that a new service is on offer: after a number of years, SAS decided to offer coffee on board after years of buy-on-board policies.



After these 2 small campaigns, SAS decided to take the initiative to the next level. Two weeks ago, SAS walked in the steps of Dell’s Ideastorm and launched What SAS has realised is that not only customers are adding their ideas, they are also commenting on other people’s ideas. “This is really what crowd-sourcing is about” Christian Kamhaug added.

In 6 days, SAS got 500+ new regostered members, 400+ ideas and 2000+ votes. “You can save millions in consultants’ fees” Kamhaug said, “all can be done online”.

Verizon: using crowdsourcing to get products right – or wrong

A few weeks ago in San Francisco, I attended the fiftieth Blogwell presentation since the beginning. Laurie Shook is portfolio leader at Verizon, a leading US telecom operator. She is a product marketer who uses social media, not a social media expert and she even describes herself as a “marketeer with a passion for Social Media” on her LinkedIn profile.

Verizon’s Idea exchange was developed in July 2010, as a place for customers to exchange ideas about services and things that customers would like Verizon to do. The platform provides means for ranking ideas. It is “semi-anonymous” Laurie said and “gives the idea to people that they can speak freely” she added. In a nutshell, it is n opportunity for Verizon clients to express themselves and “it’s also a great opportunity for marketers” Laurie said.

HD TV high on the agenda

“Many customers comment on HD TV and mostly on TV programs. “They said for instance that they’d like to see certain channels in HD or hide channels which they aren’t subscribed to and Verizon subsequently implemented that option” she said.

There are all kinds of ideas on that platform though and some of them are content related. Customers vote and propose ideas and sometimes they even propose to vote against ideas which they oppose.

913 ideas received 280+ launched

Laurie went on describing a business case study:  the “IMG 1.9” plan; IMG is the abbreviation for “interactive media guide”. “There is one release a year, it’s a lot of work and once we’re done, we involve 100 customers before launching it” Laurie said. “Last summer [2011], we extended the HD channel guide, hid unsubscribed channels, added DVR chapter selection and made the channel guide softer and easier on the eyes. That was based on feedback : ‘made fonts bigger, change the background etc.’”

Yet, even though a majority “loved the ideas”, things weren’t so easy since there also were other users who were “very vocal and critical”. Some didn’t hesitate to post comments such as “you really screwed up your tv guide” Laurie said.

what do you do with negative feedback?

The next question is familiar to any marketer in charge of communities. “what do you do with that kind of feedback?” Should you ignore it, or make it a priority? Laurie’s answer makes perfect sense:

“You don’t respond immediately. Sometimes, people are pissed off with change and you have to wait for the dust to settle. Acknowledge the status and wait. However, the post became popular, and even the most popular on the platform” Laurie went on.

facilitation tips from Verizon

She admitted to not finding this very pleasant but you have to bite the bullet and you also have to respond she said. Here are her recommendations:

  1. “Cool you jets before responding” (remain cold-blooded, there is no need to heat up and start an online battle)
  2. “It’s best not to respond immediately and to respond with the medium” (i.e. Idea Exchange rather than choose another tool)
  3. “a personalised response is necessary” such as “I’m sorry you are not of the same mind … and we will work to make you happy again”

are early innovators biased?

“Maybe it was an execution issue or a community bias, whereby people who join forums are early innovators and do not represent customers. Maybe the rank and file TV viewers aren’t represented?” Laurie went on “but when that guy commented, we had more people joining”. Laurie suggested that there was some sort of Hawthorne effect in reverse and that conclusions had to be drawn from that experiment with regard to crowdsourcing and how much hindsight you should introduce when conducting such projects.

on the positive side

Beyond this bias, there are some positive conclusions to be drawn from that experiment Laurie added. Here is what she thinks has worked for Verizon:

  1. faster customer feedback (before Idea exchange  there were disconnects but you didn’t know why or how or how much. “With direct feedback, you know immediately and you understand much better” she added)
  2. nuances of customer opinions are highlighted
  3. there is an incentive for more focus on customer priorities
  4. there are customer expectations of “Internet time” and this forces a large organisation to do things more quickly

Laurie added that “this example is strictly consumer-orientated, and that Verizon business is working with customer advisory boards, in a much more face-to-face format”.

Duval Suggests Killing More ideas Fosters More Innovation

note: this article was originally compiled and written for the Orange Business Services Live blog

Bluenove’s Martin Duval is not only a successful entrepreneur and an open-minded innovator. He is also a controversial business writer with French flair who can deliver straight to the point conclusions. Whereas most would-be innovators will lay a stress on the production of new ideas – the ideation process – Duval knows, like most hardened innovators, that the truth lays not in that process but in the more delicate art of rejection and … killing innovations. Here are his thoughts on the subject, for the benefit of our readers:

Lately, I had a chance to describe the challenges faced by French start-ups with regard to the financing of the early innovation phase and the managing of partnerships with major corporations, and that piece was published by the French High Tech weekly 01 Informatique. In that article, entitled all players in the innovation chain should play their role!, I was stating that start-ups should only focus and partner with those corporations, which have implemented a structured and proactive business incubation and partnership programme such as NOVA External Venturing, part of the manufacturing industry behemoth Saint-Gobain, or the ‘Veolia Innovation Accelerator’. Amongst the new ‘Open Innovation’ processes which have been designed and implemented by those major corporations, I did point out the ability and the value of killing innovation and potential partnerships. I know that this may sound strange coming from a proponent of innovation but I insist, one has to learn how to say NO if one wants to get to YES.

What I mean by that is that start-ups by nature have limited resources and time to work their way through the complexity of a large organisations and handle their long-winded decision-making cycles. Therefore, when a large organisation is able to implement a process to efficiently filter out potential partners within a reasonable period of time, it is in fact sending out a positive rather than negative message. I would advise a 1 month or a 6 weeks-delay at the most as a fair period for a large organisation to get back to a candidate partner with a positive or negative answer. Delaying the response for any length of time and keeping start-up owners on tenterhooks is simply not on in my eyes. The start-up in question can then decide to keep trying to partner through another part of the organisation at its own risk, or to change what needs to be changed within its project structure or even look for another partner.

Ideally, the more a negative feedback is explained and detailed, the higher the value that is delivered: such explanations can help highlight the weaknesses within the original project, so as to better identify the target market position for the new solution. As a consequence, it is an easy way for corporations to deliver value and improve their reputation within their innovation ecosystem. It is certain though that rejecting an application actually requires a lot of preparation as well as some process and resources in order to produce the analysis and manage the follow-up the within 1 month to 1 ½ month.

As a matter of fact, rejection can take place at each gate within the open innovation stage-gate process with a higher probably and more preparation needed early in the process than ever after: from screening before initial contact, right after the initial contact and/or meeting, after the feasibility study, during the partnership negotiation and after the test. To a certain extent, I even believe that a good quality rejection process delivers more attraction and better corporate image than piecemeal success stories. Besides, that kind of process applies not only to start-ups but also to universities, government-owned or private R&D labs, suppliers and customers involved in crowd-sourcing initiatives etc.

At the end of the day, large organisations can derive a real high-end competitive edge from the management of rejections regarding innovation proposals from start-ups and other innovators. The tougher the process is, the more desirable those selective large organisations therefore become in the eyes of smaller players.

Similarly, when it comes to managing internal innovation processes, too little attention and effort is devoted to killing projects in my eyes. Oftentimes, a standard innovation pipeline is contrived – as part of an innovation process – with a wide ideation spout on the left side and a narrow tube on the right, from which successful projects emerge. Once again, there is so much value in killing projects efficiently at each stage-gate of the innovation process and here are a few examples of the expected benefits:

  • re-allocating resources to other, more promising projects,
  • learning from trial and errors and capitalising on best practices across projects,
  • developing a culture of innovation – learning from errors, aiming at success – in order to foster motivation and encourage new daring ideas,
  • simplifying project portfolio management,
  • reducing overlap if not competition between projects.

Innovation processes are becoming more and more collaborative with the help of enterprise 2.0 platforms supporting ideas and project management. Thus it ensues that sharing thoughts about innovations that should not be accepted and projects that should be stopped is an absolute must-have. Once again, let us emphasise the fact that the proper number of resources should be allocated to the screening of projects and that pruning weak ideas should be an area of focus.

Both the rejection and even the killing of bad ideas/innovations can actually deliver benefits from a competitive edge viewpoint. Are you – and your company – ready to reap those benefits and image improvement from saying NO and for killing more innovations?

Bluenove is a consulting firm specialized in Open & Collaborative Innovation

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