How to Empower Employees for Social Business

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Now it’s one thing to suggest employees get involved with social business and social customer relationship management. The specific actions and steps to put design into practice ultimately drive business success.

How does your company deliver the kind of exemplary service that sets your brand apart from the pack? First of all, be clear and succinct as to why your business even exists. Don’t let people wonder. Whether you’re a manager or an executive officer, a small business or Fortune 500, that remains one of the most important goals of customer interaction.

If you have yet to focus on this, take a cue from Roy Spence’s “It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For” and do this. Now. Clarity of purpose is the touchstone to end all touchstones.

Jeanne Bliss’s opens her fantastic new book “I Love You More Than My Dog,” with a simple and cogent thought: “Show your customers you deserve their business by deciding how you will run yours.” Adding further chutzpah  is Colleen Barrett’s foreword. Barrett, having risen through the ranks at Southwest Airlines, now serves as president emeritus. As most of their loyal customers know, Southwest is a company that knows a thing or two about what we are discussing here today.

However, simply having the purpose is not quite enough. You have to deliver on it as well. Management and business process design deliver some key insights here.

Purpose is a rallying cry that will bring your employees together. This way, every employee knows their place and their individual purpose. Your business will thank you.

When a firm decides to organize around employees and customers to deliver exceptional experiences, the results can be nothing but favorable. Bliss put it this way: “Beloved companies are clear about their purpose in supporting customers’ lives. They use this clarity when they make decisions to make sure that they align to this purpose.”

This, in turn, creates the kinds favorable conversations about your company or brand appear all over the web. The company Intuit knows this, and proceeds accordingly. 81 percent of their sales are driven via word of mouth. That’s an astounding number. Think of the money Intuit saves on advertising. That alone is enough to warrant interest.

Companies that enjoy these benefits obviously have a well thought out management policy. Ted Shelton, CEO of The Conversation Group, published a whitepaper on “open management,” a management model with the objective of transforming policies, philosophies, and the organizational model to support and encourage creativity and collaboration from every employee.

The combination of what Bliss, Shelton, and people like David Armano are talking about is a competitive advantage across the full spectrum of your business. Shelton takes it to the practical level, citing Google as an example.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt noted in an interview for Management Lab, that “smart people want to work with smart people and they want to be informed.” The challenge is, of course, the anything goes mentality of the web is in distinct opposition to the old ways of doing things. How do you get past this?

Take a look at how successful companies win in the marketplace. Consider Best Buy and Circuit City. Prior to Circuit City’s 2008 bankruptcy, these were the two leading retailers of consumer electronics. Divergent fates indeed. One thing Circuit City did that ended up being a mistake was to save money by firing expensive employees. Best Buy took the exact opposite approach.

Best Buy had several reward systems in place to let employees, expensive and otherwise, know they were doing a good job. Beginning with “Blue Shirt Nation,” Best Buy has integrated a suite of social and knowledge management technologies. Blue Shirt Nation itself is now an engine for innovation within Best Buy.

This can be felt across the board. Generally, their employees act competently and can answer questions accordingly. People, after all, want to feel good about where they work and what they do.

What technologies can be used internally to reach these objectives? The Conversation Group’s whitepaper lists them all, but here are some that have potential internal use:

  • Innovation and community platforms, like Jive social business software and group collaboration software.
  • Ideation tools, like, Lithium‘s Ideas, or
  • Internal blogs, Twitter, and Yammer, enabling communications with customers.
  • Listening and social CRM platforms to collate data and insights from the social Web.

Taking these steps are sure to increase revenue across all facets of your business. The benefits don’t stop at the sale register, either: The cost of employee turnover is a concern for any business, especially so for grocers and retailers. Again from Bliss’s book: “Wegmans’ annual employee turnover is 6%, against the grocery store average of 19%.” That is a direct, measurable competitive advantage.

Getting it done

Here are three steps to help you get the ball rolling with this stuff.

  1. Define your purpose, and communicate it internally. Start by developing a knowledge community, connecting the people who need information with the people who have information. These people could even be outside of your organization.
  2. Invite your customers in. Consider the ideation platforms, external-facing blogs, and contained communities like those offered by Communispace or Passenger. As Sam Walton said, in the halcyon days before Web 2.0, “If you have questions, go to the store. Your customers have the answers.”
  3. Find and engage the influencers that drive conversations. Using tools like Techrigy‘s SM2, Radian6 + Salesforce, or BuzzStream go beyond trends, identify the sources of the conversations and develop an actual relationship with your customers. Measure everything and try to tie everything together.

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  1. This is great info that everyone should read!

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