Τρίτη, 4 Οκτωβρίου 2011

Interview with Yiorgos Violaris, Director of Customer Services, ALTEC Software S.A.


Needs: on the needs of our customers

We are dealing with small and mid-size enterprises. Blogging – at least in Greece – has been treated as a way to keep on discussions about contemporary matters that are of common interest. This mainly related with politics. Of course I see all good reasons why a consumer product or services is also subject of common interest, so again this may be subject of a blogging activity.

In ALTEC Software we have relatively recently established a blog for communicating with our installed base. Till today this was mainly done through press releases and emails. We are not familiar with blogging as a medium. We also feel that at a great extent what we post under our blog may rather look like press releases or marketing emails. So blogging is about to satisfy a need but we may have rather not necessarily been successful in the way we satisfy this need. Which brings me to the issue of our idea about blogs and blogging in general from a corporate perspective.

Opinions: our views regarding blogging and blogs

Blogs may help people shape their idea about a product or a service – so they my help us better achieve our commercial goals as a company. On the other hand, it is difficult to support a collective entity such as the commercial policy of a company counting more than 50.000 companies that form its installed base. However, it is difficult to define how the information given in an official blog may still look like being informal or unofficial – something that may have been passed to you during a discussion or a chat with some person working inside the company. (Otherwise any information may be close to a press release or a marketing brochure. And this is not what people want to read when they read a blog.)

If you ask me whether it is a matter of style or content my answer is it is about both: a blog should not have a strict style – people should feel encouraged to share their views and opinions in an informal fashion. Same way, the content there should be facilitated by the style aspect: one should not expect to download from a blog the technical specifications of a newly released product but rather a video presentation of the company’s CEO or some other official presenting the product in an event or even making a presentation for the blog followers only while a formal event may be some days or weeks distant to take place in the near future.

So like radio or TV, blogging is a medium with its own rules and characteristics – you may know them and have a good blog or you may not know them or tend to ignore them and end up with a failure.

Ambitions: what is possible to do – which potential may blogs have for our business

What I personally see as the main challenge is to create communities of blog followers that will commit themselves for following blog postings and also share their opinions and views with the owners of the blog. Now the obvious question is: why? Why should our customers spend time on our blog? Why should they additionally to the money they give to us also invest time in following our blogs and participating in what happens there.

I have a good answer and I also have a better one: the good answer is that blogs are part of our life so if you simply extrapolate lifestyles and people’s habits and patterns of work and information processing, we do need to address this aspect too.

However there is a better answer: blogs may help our customers co-create value with us by jointly shaping the profile and nature of our products and services. We tend to forget it but the economy does not build on costs and profits but on the value that is created amongst the participants of all transactions. I buy a car of company X or an ERP system from ALTEC Software because I see that I can get value for my business or myself out of it. If the value does not match with my expectations or the price I change my mind to another vendor. So, if people are given the necessary space to offer their views and perspectives from within a blog, and also from the corporate side blogs are not treated as unidirectional Web sites, then this process of value co-creation may take place and help both sides have access to prosperity and wealth.