Closing out the day, four intrepid reference professionals took to the floor to answer a set of topical questions posed by the wider reference community.
|Peter Hindle – HP|
|Nadia Nizar – Vodafone Global Enterprise|
|Patrick O’Halloran – Orange Business Services|
|Yolanda Andreuccetti – Avaya|
The mood in the room was relaxed as the first question rolled on to the screen…
Q. Is it time to move on from the standard PDF case study? Are we ready for new reference formats – what have you seen that’s caught your eye?
Peter: We are certainly looking at interactive – the limited amount of time people have and the ability to be constantly connected to the internet is playing its part in shaping our direction.
Nadia: I’m not so sure we are ready internally to move away from PDF. There is an expectation with internal stakeholders to deliver a PDF case study. Obviously we need to educate if there are better ways to deliver references but whilst it remains a KPI the format will continue.
Patrick: We’ve moved away from creating PDF case studies as standard. The question to ask is ‘what do you want to use the PDF for? Is it the right medium and who wants it? Defining these will help make your format decision.
Always a popular question – a mainstay of the reference world…
Q. How do you currently recruit reference customers and what are your most common hurdles when recruiting?
Yolanda: We take a proactive approach and start working our customers as soon as the win is announced. Obviously it takes time for these customers to be ready for full references but starting the engagement early enables us to build the relationship.
Patrick: For us it’s a process of osmosis and a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
Nadia: We run an internal reference recruitment programme called Fame. In the last year it has driven up our reference score from 4% to 25%.
With the Q&A now in full swing the question level became somewhat more complex…
Q. Automation through technology will continue to develop within reference programmes – can you see a time when self-service and packaged content becomes the de-facto standard?
Peter: I think this is a prime opportunity to implement Prato’s law. I suspect that a high volume of requests could be fulfilled through an automated tool and would certainly add value to any reference programme. It won’t however replace what we are reference professionals do but will certainly free up time for us to work on adding further business value.
Patrick: I believe there is real value in meeting and talking to people – especially sales. So for me automation would be very dependent on the level of the request and the specifics of the customer.
A collective deep breath was taken as this question rolled on to the screen…
Q. What does your programme offer participants? Would you feel valued if you participated in your programme?
Nadia: From an internal perspective certainly. Our programme and recruitment is driven around competitiveness, recognition and rewards. It is specifically designed to tap into the sales psyche.
Yolanda: Our customers want the exposure that a brand like Avaya can provide and often we have requests directly to the programme because of that. However we could do more to improve our value proposition.
Peter: A rather simple answer to the question – not much and not really. For our customers to benefit from our reference programme it’s all about the personal relationships we create there’s not much added value over and above that.
Patrick: Incentivising is out of the question. Irrespective of the anti bribery laws it devalues the reference. As for other value added activities unfortunately they all cost money, which is currently tightly controlled in the economic environment.
The whole panel was in agreement on the last question feeling that without doubt this would make the biggest impact on their respective programmes…
Q. If you had a budget injection into your reference programmes, in which one of the following areas would you spend the money and why?
- Reference recruitment
- Material creation
- Social media
- Programme incentives
All panel members agreed that Reference recruitment was the way forward.
Wow, what a session. With topics covered including reference recruitment, automation and programme value – our panel gave us an insight into their programmes. Coupled with lots of laughter there couldn’t have been a better way to end a long but very fruitful day. A huge thank you to Yolanda, Nadia, Patrick and Peter.