It’s not a full-duplex world

August 7, 2009
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200908061816.jpg I remember buying my first speaker phone. I had them in my office of course but I needed one for my home office so I bought a good consumer model and set it up. The first conference call I did was very frustrating; it seemed that every time I talked no one else could interrupt me and even worse, when someone else talked I couldn’t interrupt them. Was not like the office at all (commercial phones and a lot more expensive), and not conducive to useful conversation. The problem, the phone was half-duplex, so it only worked in 1 direction at a time. My office phone, full-duplex, real conversation enabled.

We’re in this time of transition as the social web starts to impact business in a significant way. We’ve learned a lot from our efforts to use the web and the new social enablers like Facebook, Twitter, 12Seconds.tv, Qik, YouTube, etc. I wonder though, if our business are ready for a full-duplex conversation? Business, for the most part, has been at best half-duplex for a long time. My favorite (or least favorite) is the customer service nightmare we call Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Talk about a bad name — interactive, right. Anyway, where are the


200908061816.jpg
I remember buying my first speaker phone. I had them in my office of
course but I needed one for my home office so I bought a good consumer
model and set it up. The first conference call I did was very
frustrating; it seemed that every time I talked no one else could
interrupt me and even worse, when someone else talked I couldn’t
interrupt them. Was not like the office at all (commercial phones and a
lot more expensive), and not conducive to useful conversation. The
problem, the phone was half-duplex, so it only worked in 1 direction at
a time. My office phone, full-duplex, real conversation enabled.

We’re in this time of transition as the social web starts to impact
business in a significant way. We’ve learned a lot from our efforts to
use the web and the new social enablers like Facebook, Twitter,
12Seconds.tv, Qik, YouTube, etc. I wonder though, if our business are
ready for a full-duplex conversation? Business, for the most part, has
been at best half-duplex for a long time. My favorite (or least
favorite) is the customer service nightmare we call Interactive Voice
Response (IVR). Talk about a bad name — interactive, right. Anyway,
where are the conversations? I’ve talked a lot about the culture change
that needs to happen to support the transformation to a social business
and I’m starting to think this might be one of the biggest changes.
Full-duplex conversations are very different than half-duplex talk.

Talking with customers happens across your company, but who is
listening? Are the two parts of a conversation assigned to different
departments? Does marketing always talk and customer service always
listen? Are our businesses designed to handle full-duplex conversations
in each customer facing function? Can marketing listen and talk to the
customer? One of the key advances that move into a social business is
the ability to hold conversations with customers at scale. This only
works though if you have an organization that is ready for two-way
communication. And this is not just a customer facing issue. The
problem fundamentally starts as an internal issue. In a traditional
hierarchical organization communication is designed to flow in a single
direction (which is not duplex at all), or possibly in a half-duplex
design but in a vertical path. It is not designed to flow horizontally
across different silo’s and definitely not full-duplex. The basic
culture shift that a social business must embrace starts with
full-duplex communication internally and in all directions. Once that
barrier is overcome then you can turn this to customers, partners,
suppliers, etc. It’s not easy, old habits are very hard to break. What
do you think, are businesses ready for this?