The Power of @

Imagine for a minute that you’re on the road. You’re meeting with a customer who is in the final throes of contract negotiations. As the meeting winds down, you’re feeling great that the deal can get done soon, which means you’ll meet your quota for the quarter, and more importantly, get your bonus, which is long overdue. But just as you’re reviewing next steps, the customer mentions one more question they need to get clarity on before they can move forward.

Tough question. Who can help?

As you dutifully write down what the customer wants clarity on, you immediately start to wonder, “Who in the company could possibly answer this question?” It’s not about pricing, it’s not a feature request, and it certainly isn’t on your FAQ page. It’s a question that can probably be answered easily by someone in the depths of your organization, but finding that person is going to be difficult and time consuming.

What do you do?

In the old days, you’d start with a mass email. You’d put everyone on it and hope that someone could either answer it or point you to the right person. Thus, the email-pain-chain would begin. Someone else would include someone else, who didn’t read beyond the signature, who would ask a bunch of clarifying questions that had already been answered further down in the email, and then someone would spawn other discussions with different groups in other emails — and then, finally, add another someone, whose out-of office message would kick off another wave of email until you’d collectively sent 374 emails just to get one guy to send back the answer, “Yes, we can do that”.

@ to the rescue.

It doesn’t have to be that hard. One of my favorite features in Social Sites is called the @target. Not familiar with @targets and what they do? They simply notify a person or community in the system about the post in which they were targeted. It’s an easy feature to use; all you need to do is to type the @ sign when composing a post or a comment, and Social Sites will help you finish the name of the person or community you’re looking to target (and you can @target as many as you need to).

So in our example above, using @targeting in the story above might look like this:

As you’re leaving the meeting, you open Social Sites on your phone or iPad and post the customer’s question to the Product and the Support communities (It’s as easy as “@Product @Support”). The dialogue is immediate, efficient, and all in the same place. There are no email headers or signature files to interrupt the conversation, and no need to spawn other dialogues elsewhere. While there are potentially thousands of people who have access to this conversation, your @target makes sure the message gets in front of the right people, and additional notifications only go to the people who are participating. Within minutes, the answer is posted, and you hear the familiar notification ‘ding’ on your phone. You’ve got your answer — and you haven’t yet left the parking lot. Now you’re ready to close that deal!


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