Working for a global company like HP, what are some specific challenges you have faced in managing communities across multiple languages and cultures?
What a company needs is global governance, a global strategy, a global direction. Execution on that often needs to be regional. Even in the Spanish community, you have people from Mexico, Spain, and all over Latin America. Even in the same region, there are differences in culture so you also have to have a flexible support strategy. Communities evolve at a different pace. For example, North American communities tend to evolve a lot quicker then other languages. In the end, one size does not fit all. So keeping a global strategy while allowing for different flavors and regional specifics is already a challenge, not only across regions but also within the language community itself. The way the customer sometimes moves - the touch points that they go through - doesn't always align with our organizational set up, not even within the region. For example: Spain customer on the Spanish forum might have had an issue that rolls up into HP's EMEA organization. The Spanish community is run from Latin America and its difficult for that region to manage that onward, unless there is a cross-regional process in place. It isn't one size fits all - we keep an eye out everywhere and think "who does this impact?"
People talk a lot about going "global" but they have a lot of questions about what that really means. What can you tell us about interpreting and adapting corporate policies across individual markets and how do you organize your efforts so they reflect both local and global issues?
If you say for example "we're going to do social media support and this is our global framework on how we're going to do that - this is our global governance" first of all, its impossible to build a global framework without regional input so that's already a challenge. You have to make sure the right organizations are involved. Even if you design global governance, it doesn't mean it will fit everyone. You might need a different support model in one country vs another because of legal differences, cultural differences, different laws, what different competitors are doing that in that country. You have to tailor for many flavors. From a program perspective, its a challenge. From a community management perspective, we have different type of cultures, different type of languages, hosted by different regions. Its very important that you connect the dots - that you have that great collaboration with your peers to make sure you can easily jump into a customers needs, even if its outside of the country you manage.
Does your online community deepen your customers' relationship with the brand? How?
One example are "Expert Days." In the EMEA region, we use our contact center agents on these days to leverage their language and technical skills. We had "Expert Days" t-shirts created and I'd been traveling literally around the world to bring "Expert Days" tshirts with me everywhere I go to give them out to either moderators or to experts from the Latin American Region. I started for the EMEA region but I bring them to everyone who needs them. I want to make them proud to be part of Expert Day. I even sent them to our volunteer experts - that's really me going to the post office, mailing them out.
Expert Days are a great example of deepening our relationships with our customers. Its the best thing we've ever done. If I look at my region, we set up expert days, we get the best experts from the contact centers. We set it up as a special day on their location with posters and all. For agents that are usually on the phone or on email, its a special thing to be part "Expert Day" - there's a separate room with food and drinks, its all set up. Then, we invite our volunteer experts, and then we get people from the product generations, globally, the engineers in the midwest or people that write technical documentation or do product design, or even in our own organizations, we have a lot of languages, different category support teams - we get them all together in a virtual setting. It is a day where everyone connects to achieve the same goal - to help customers on the forums. There are no politics, there are no support boundaries. Just people connecting in a virtual room to connect with each other to help these expert agents out on the forum, answering customer's questions. If you look at HP as a whole, its probably touching many of the consumer support organizations and they all unite and provide that synergy. That's why I'm so excited to host them - it is so much fun.
On another level we have asked 9 experts to participate in product launches on the French and German communities. We gave the experts a laptop and printer for a year to test drive and then share that feedback on the forum. Its kind of like a win-win situation and in the end, that's what you want to achieve. After a year of using the products, we asked the experts to donate the products to a charity. Its really nice - the first donation was last July where the computer and printer were donated to a non-profit organization that facilitates meals for the homeless people and the needy so its just wonderful. Its a very small thing - I know - but still - its something they can be proud of doing and we can be proud of being part of. At the end of the year, we provide new products and do it again.
Which social customer experiences has HP delivered through the community that you are most proud of?
One thing that I'm most proud of might be silly. When we collaborated with Microsoft, we started to reach out asking them to invite some of their MVP's to their community and one of the experts in the German community stayed on as an expert, even after the Microsoft collaboration. Unfortunately, he was bringing help but his tone was off. Every time we had to a program to implement, he always had "something to say." Every time he was verbal, we engaged with him, both openly and privately. We were building trust with him. Sometimes his tone was nasty but we worked with him and said, "we're going to stick with you, so you stick with us." He's so warm hearted. We could have said, 'he's so difficult' and bump him down to a normal user, forget about it. But we are not like that and we wanted to get to know him. He's very picky, very specific. It takes time to know someone and the moment he was positive, we had a party! We turned him over!! The summit was the best moment and now he's full of love. He's still giving feedback but we didn't want that to change, we wanted it more constructive. When you can turn someone into a fan, that was very important for my team. We just don't let them down.
What does the phrase "brand nation" make you think about—what do you think a brand nation might be?
Brand nation today is an opportunity to reach out to customers and make "the pledge" - being the promise that we care, we listen, we want to be social with you. I think that is the brand nation. But go deeper and think, what is the "brand generation" - what is the next generation going to be like when they grow up? We have to make sure that we already engage with them, get to know what the new brand generation looks like.
What would you like the HP brand nation to be?
I would like to have HP customers or fans to know that the community stands for what we offer. A place to come, they can connect with experts from everywhere and that they can post their questions and really get that solution to their issue. You'll also get a personal touch with empathy and compassion. I think - for me - its not enough to only answer a customer and solve an issue. We have to show that we understand. Our experts have to show that they understand. Doesn't everyone want to have that? It is that extra touch to getting an issue resolved. If they show they understand what it means to you, to me, that makes the perfect situation.
Tell me about the future goals of HP Communities?
What we really want to do for our community is grow the pool of experts. We'll invest in identifying experts at the earlier ranks, start to reach out, make them feel welcome, build trust and identify what they need. For example whenever we have information from the inner circle, whenever we can we'll also share with pre-level experts. We're also investing in finding HP native speaking experts in our local offices. We need a little bit more dedicated agents so the HP voice is really heard. Need a little more because customers do expect HP to be part of the forum that resides on their pages, we have a lot of responsibility there.
Erin Korogodsky is Lithium's social media quarterback. Obsessed with social media, Erin has worked with Lithium clients to monitor their brands and brainstorm social strategy, with a focus on enlisting and engaging passionate fans. She is a frequent blogger on the Lithosphere (as ErinKoro) and you can follow her on twitter at @erinkoro and one of the team on @LithiumTech.