Real life lessons on how to build a social business – Interview with Bian Salins


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Today’s interview is with Bian Salins, Head of Social at Now TV, BSkyB. I was introduced to Bian by Martin Hill-Wilson who suggested I should talk to Bian as she was one of the few people that really ‘gets’ what it is to be a ‘social business’. More importantly, he said, she doesn’t just talk about it….she makes it happen for big organisations. Therefore, I was very excited when Bian agreed to spend some time sharing her experience and a few insights around social business and what it takes to make the transformation into a more social business.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: The Tools To Deliver Amazing Customer Service Every Time – Interview With Shep Hyken – and is number eighty three in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things and helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Here are the highlights of my interview with Bian:

  • Social brings together two of Bian’s loves: writing (journalism) and connecting with people.
  • Her roles now are generally as Head of Social now which means that often she is acting as an internal evangelist for making a business more social and communicating the benefits thereof.
  • She helps business functions understand how social can work for them within their function and context as well as helping them put in place processes, systems and behavioural changes that will help them succeed in that space.
  • Poor product or service design has led to a service avalanche.
  • Social media has created immediacy, transparency and reduction of effort when it comes to customer service.
  • Companies when initially responding to customer service on social media did so as a result of being fearful of the impact on their brand of negative comments. This meant that they started to resolve issues voiced on social media quicker and were treating them as a form of escalation.
  • That ended up training customers to use social media more as it meant that by doing so they would get a quicker answer to their issues.
  • However, now, companies are learning the value of customer service on social media as it has led to quick resolution, positive sentiment, higher advocacy and less churn.
  • Being a social business does not mean a company that is just using social media.
  • Social business is how a business adapts, changes and thrives in a changing consumer environment. That requires business to be willing to have conversations and to collaborate with their customers, suppliers and employees.
  • You can’t collaborate with your customers before having the tools and structures to be able to collaborate internally.
  • Therefore, in the journey towards becoming more of a social business, Bian believes that businesses should first have the right process and people in place to allow employees to collaborate internally before starting to collaborate with customers and partners.
  • You have to have your own house in order first.
  • In many big businesses that have thousands, if not millions, of customers it’s very easy to forget that their relationship with the customer is a relationship with a person and then just treat them as a number.
  • However, that is a trap that many fall into and once you do that you lose the essence of serving, pleasing and communicating with people as people.
  • The environment and expectations have changed and customers just want to be treated as people and with respect. That change, for many businesses, will take time. However, businesses don’t have the luxury of time to make that change.
  • Businesses need to put the right people, processes and behavioural changes in place now if they are to survive and thrive in the future.
  • There are many challenges to becoming a more social business.
    • One of the first and biggest one is the word ‘social’ and what it means. Social really only implies that a change in consumer behaviour is taking place and business needs to adapt to that change.
    • The second big challenge is understanding how ‘social’ fits into business as usual.
  • Rather than having a single social strategy, Bian has found that working with each function to fit ‘social’ into their context has been a much better strategy.
  • The next big challenge, and the biggest challenge, is the structure of organisations. Normally, businesses are organised around business function and social demands more collaboration across silos.
  • That demands a culture change and that really needs backing from the top to make it happen and back it up.
  • Having a single view of the customer and having everyone being able to access that view is essential.
  • Companies are slowly finding their way there but, often, it’s not happening quick enough for consumers.
  • Perhaps, social business should just be renamed ‘future business’ or ‘future business operations’.
  • There is a theory that this may require a different type of leader that is driven by the customer. One that has both IQ and EQ.
  • If you want to start making your business more social then start with insight. People can say no to people but they find it much harder to say no to data or insight. Therefore, gather customer feedback, what customers are saying about you online, where and who are they churning to, what your competitors are doing etc etc to support your argument, case for change and help you start that conversation.
  • To further help with that, find other people in your organisation that share your view or are feeling the ‘pain’ of a changing environment and build a group or network of allies.
  • Work with this network to educate people about what changes are required so that you create a groundswell of opinion about the need for change.
  • Finally, Bian would encourage you to do two things:

About Bian

Bian SalinsBian Salins is a journalist turned social business evangelist. Bian’s career started out writing for one of India’s first ever online ventures, After that she moved to be Associate Features Editor for ELLE Magazine before leaving to come to England. Since then Bian has worked with the Times Education Supplement and then spent nearly 10 years at BT working in different roles from editorial to digital project management to, ultimately, becoming Head of Social Media Innovation, BT Customer Service at British Telecom. In this role, she oversaw the strategy and implementation of BT Consumer’s social media channels for customer service. This lead to them winning the Best Use of Social Media award at the UK Customer Satisfaction Awards 2012.

Bian is currently Head of Social for Now TV, BSkyB, where she has developed and is currently implementing a cross functional social media strategy covering brand awareness, acquisition, customer retention and customer service.

Do check out her LinkedIn profile and say Hi to her on Twitter @b1an

Thanks to Dave Gray for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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