How often do you need to know?

In the vein of reinterpretation of a simple phrase from “The customer is always right“, I’ve got two different ways I look at “How often do you need to know?” and you need to know them both right now.

How often do you need to know?

The amount of time it takes for a given situation to spiral out of control varies enormously, so you’ll need to take your own lead on it. But the general guideline is half of that. If an hour of negative comments on your Facebook wall will hurt your brand you need to know within half an hour if things go wrong. If you manage a team who’s work output for a day controls your success, you probably don’t want to wait an entire day to know how productive they are.

Ultimately the difference between a problem and a crisis is time, and how often you can get the relevant information decides which of the two you are going to face. The greatest leaders and managers I’ve ever worked with had one thing in common they never seemed to be surprised by things. The poorest? They were often blindsided by news, changes and problems. The difference is how often they knew what was going on. And a large part of that is knowing what to know. Cut things down to the relevant information and you have more value, more time, more control. I’ve been amazed many times by leaders of business, managers, team leaders and even reporting and analytics experts who learn things from reports, charts and spreadsheets while discussing them. I’ve seen people ask questions about the last quarter that they needed to know in the middle of it, and I’ve seen call centre managers blindsided by their own divisions performance the previous day failing to achieve targets.

Let’s step through a simple example.
We have XYZ Social media monitoring that you are using to monitor discussion of our brand XYZ Plumbing.

  • We can stream in relevant news, mentions, competitors info and negative remarks, look through them watch, and respond to anything we notice.
    We won’t see everything though, and as news streams in we’re constantly going to fall further behind
  • Alternatively we could monitor specific keywords for us and some for negative sentiment. Real time dashboards to show content volumes in the last 30 mins and over time, and a small sample of up to date content for live review.

Ultimately we’d have just as much control and information, but it keeps us real time, more up to date, and time is the only thing that matters.
Have a step through your working KPI’s and day to day goals. How often do you have the information you need to make those decisions?

How often do you know, the things you really need to know?


How often do you need to know?

Facts and figures reign supreme in the information age. The more information you can lay hands on the better you can do. But we need to be able to let go of the facts and be more fluid. There’s a lot of things we “know” when we need to “feel”. There are tools built by third parties we use for stats and monitoring,  we have communities filled with thousands of customers, staff who work for us, and through all of this we maintain assumptions and status quo.

With so many variables and things beyond our control, we need to make time to not know. To take our facts and re evaluate them.
For everything you know as a fact on your own, it could be changed.  Does a page view still mean a page view? What happens if I refresh? Force refresh? Switch from a mobile view to a full one?
What about our Communities? How do they react to a specific post or type of? Has a new leader appeared in their midst? Has a topic started and pushed a new word/phrase into the vernacular?

It’s easy to fall into habits, and auto pilot makes it faster to get things done, but making a deliberate effort from time to time to pull things apart, to push yourself back into a place of ignorance and learn something all over again will ultimately mean you have the chance to get it right, and keep it that way.

The goal isn’t to start back at the drawing board literally every time, just a regular check in on key things you need to know to make sure you know what you think you know. I’d suggest keeping up with vendor documentation on tools as they update, conversations with support staff around specifics of facts and what they really mean.  And if you think it won’t happen to you? Here’s a few of the blunders I’ve seen from things people “know”.

  • Million dollar staffing decisions based on call volumes that did not include calls where the customer hung up first.
  • Positive sentiment dropping by 40% overnight due to defaulting to neutral and it subsequently being removed from the equation.

Simple things that someone knew. But the mechanics behind them had changed.
The incredible value in the end more than outweighs the time cost to know in the first place.

This week choose something you know. And find out just how much you still know.

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2 Responses to How often do you need to know?

  1. Andrew Monday, October 24, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Agree with the notion that you need to know about something before it becomes a problem, but I think your algorithm is off.

    It’s important to know how long it will take you to respond to something.

    If damage will occur in 60 minutes of negative coverage and it takes you 35 minutes to respond your 30 minute alert will come too late.

    There’s some serious stuff being done on real-time reporting. Best I’ve seen is General Mills in the USA. They use real-time call logging out of their contact centre and will alert their executive team and potentially recall products on the back of one customer contact.

    In their case; the negative impact could be death from food allergy.

    You can take steps to reduce the time taken to respond to something by having canned, pre-approved statements, processes etc. At the end of the day your warnings should occur at an interval shorter than half your response time.

  2. Timps Monday, October 24, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    That’s a really good point.
    For now I’ve disregarded the response time itself and taken this as based on knowing about an issue is the point in time you need to formulate a plan.
    Well worded though, that’s something I think a lot of people need to consider.
    And real time monitoring has made amazing leaps forward, a recent animation from Twitter showed geo tagged tweets accelerating out from an earthquake, 6x faster than the earthquake itself.

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