For a some time, I have been watching, reading, discussing and doing my best to understand the very broad field of customer service, customer relationships and the supporting strategy, technology and processes which go along with each discipline. Along the way, Social CRM – a complex overlay on all of the above, has become everything from a hot topic to nothing more than part of buzzword bingo and back again. At the same time I have also been trying to keep tabs on Enterprise 2.0, Social Business and Collaboration (not Emergent). Going back and reading my own early thoughts here I can see that in some ways my own thinking has changed, but in many ways it has simply matured. I have been saying for a fairly long time that Social CRM and Entperprise 2.0 are closely linked. In September 2009 I said it here and here. I am not patting myself on the back here, more being self critical. I said this 2.5 years ago and frankly we have not come very far.
This line of thinking have caused the following questions to nag at me a bit:
- Does better agent (employee) engagement lead to better customer engagement?
- Does better employee satisfaction lead to better customer satisfaction?
- Does better user (employee) experience lead to better customer experience?
- Is the collaborative employee the mirror image of the social customer?
Taking a bit of a leap from where my own thinking was a couple years ago to now considering how many elements need to be, or are essentially mirror images between inside and outside the organization. I am not going to be able to tackle all the questions in a single post. As any good learner does, I asked a few friends for some help.
Does better employee satisfaction lead to better customer satisfaction? Mark Walton-Hayfield of CSC had this to say (BTW – congrats to Mark and all of CSC on the Paul G Watchlist Review!):
“In summary YES! However, you need to make sure that people are empowered and that businesses deliver on their promises to customers too.
People who are encouraged to make decisions by themselves at work and who have the authority to solve problems with the outcome of keeping customers happy are generally more satisfied with their job than employees who need to seek out a manager for approval. Business owners who empower their employees tend to have both a lower staff turnover and higher customer satisfaction levels too.
A core tenant of modern leadership thinking is that you need to make people (at all levels) understand why they are being asked to do something and the part that they play in the bigger picture. By leading people through great communications which encourage motivation and with empowerment designed into the operating model you are creating an environment within which people can be proud and satisfied in the work that they do. For those people who are customer facing (and even those who are not) this will most likely translate and spill over into better relationships with customers. These customers will perceive that the representatives of the company are going the extra mile (and they probably are) and so over time this will improve customer satisfaction.
However, this comes with a warning – ensure that you have delivered upon your original promises to your customers and that you are responding to them in an effective manner on those occasions when you are not”
Mark Walton-Hayfield | Social Business Strategist | CSC | MarkW_H
“Customers have always been social. For as long as trade and commerce has been around, customers have spoken to each other about good deals and warned each other of rip-off scams. But when we think of a social customer today we use the term to describe a customer who is a) connected to people and information via digital channels and social networks and b) someone who leverages that connectivity and information in their relationships with vendors and other consumers. For example, a customer who is connected to a network like Tripadvisor might use information from that social network to influence their choice of holiday as well to influence others in their network through their own contributions. The motivation of a social customer will vary greatly and may include simply getting a better deal, building up trust and respect from peers, or naming and shaming a poor product or service.
Employees have always been collaborative. Ok, perhaps not as collaborative as they could be (!), but we have always had to work with others to get the job done. The collaborative employee mirrors some of the traits above. Although the networks might be different, the collaborative employee is certainly connected to people (e.g. other employees, suppliers, customers…) and to information. In addition, the collaborative employee leverages that connectivity to help them work more effectively (e.g. breaking down internal silos), to build relationships or to build their profile within the enterprise.
However, the boundaries between the social customer and the collaborative employee are increasingly blurred and increasingly irrelevant. People play multiple roles in their daily lives (consumer, employee, supplier), information (and transparency) now flows much faster inside and outside an organisation and networks are increasingly interlinked. More and more it will be harder to separate the social customer from the collaborative employee.”
Laurence Buchanan | Principal, Digital Transformation | CapGemini | buchanla
Sharing the wealth a bit, I asked Prem Kumar of Cognizant the same question as Laurence, “Is the collaborative employee the mirror image of the social customer?”
“If you recollect the concepts in the book reorganizing for a resilient organization, orgs (organizations) need to have people with specializations, areas where they have high efficiencies, areas which could be highly routine and monotonous. There is not much need to take decisions, and even if any, they would happen with in a predefined scope, options. This is what brings the scalability, the industrial scale. Collaboration happens at a minimum in these organizations, especially between people who need to make decisions on non routine issues. These are the people who have been empowered to take decisions.
One of the reasons for this collaboration that Ranjay mentions in his book is innovation, to meet the demands of the evolving customer. I do not remember if he talks about customer support, but here is again an area where you need to take decisions as well as collaborate with various dungeons in the org. ‘Responsiveness’ is the key reason for collaboration I guess. That means responding, at speed.
Now cut to the era of the social customer as he is right now. What he asks is public knowledge, so add the PR angle if there was not enough pressure on being responsive already. No wonder you need to be even more connected, at speed. Collaboration has been clamoring for attention for a few decades now, but now it has become inimitable, unignorable.
Collaboration is no longer a motivating factor to do better, it is now a hygiene factor; you stay healthy if you do it, else you fall sick. It is not doing pilates, it is eating good healthy food. Which means, it’s not about putting extra efforts, it’s about changing our habits, or mind frame for the better.”
Prem Kumar | Strategist | Cognizant | Prem_k
I really like that last point by Prem, collaboration is now a hygiene factor, it is a requirement to doing business. This is actually one difference, where the characteristics are not mirrored. Customers do not need to be social in order to be customers. But, social customers do require the internal organizations to be collaborative. All that is left to tackle are the remaining two simple questions.
Links provided from Mark W-H
Recently, friend Paul Greenberg penned a short post (ok, a not short, 2-part series very worth reading) where he talked about the end of one era transitioning to the beginning of a new one. The points are sound. But, I would like to explore a different viewpoint, or maybe just add my own perspective. I believe that when we look back in a few years, we will see that the transition is going to take a bit longer than we imagined it would (In other words, it is not “the End” but it is “Ending” slowly). I am not going to nit-pick on words, this, is not about that. I might even suggest to Paul that he consider updating a Wikipedia entry (more on that in a minute). I will say that a more meaningful mutual benefit can be achieved if each side is willing to give more, as the value exchange equation is always a bit one-sided.
What is really being described here is a maturity model; on BOTH sides of the equation, this is new. If Social CRM is about a companies programmatic response, then engagement on the customer’s terms defines the format of the response. Therefore, Social CRM is different for every type of business. In order for it to work, both sides need to mature and be willing to invest emotionally and intellectually. Since the customer will mature at his or her own pace, we <company> are often left to guess where they are along the maturation curve. It is also important that a distinction be made between engagement and involvement. For the sake of this discussion (ie, no primary research references) I will draw the distinction along a continuum, where involvement occurs first and then by the addition of an emotional element engagement happens. Engagement is a deeper level of involvement, by being ongoing (As Paul notes) or emotional, possibly even intent driven.
A Bit of Research
Looking at Wikipedia as a starting point, as I remembered friend Prem Kumar referencing Employee Engagement in a post a while back. The Employee engagement Wikipedia entry is rather nice, while the Customer version is utter crap.
First the Customer side:
“Customer engagement (CE) refers to the engagement of customers with one another, with a company or a brand. The initiative for engagement can be either consumer- or company-led and the medium of engagement can be on or offline.”
Feel free to look for yourself. It misses the mark totally. Friend Graham Hill had some thoughts on the topic as well – Graham challenges the Inside-out marketing team only approach, and I agree. That said, what if the customer is able to define (control, augment) the rules of engagement, then maybe something has changed in the past 5 years, no? Conclusion; the maturation of the Social part of CRM part of the equation is to carefully manage actual engagement. Actual engagement is an actual bi-directional conversational flow/dynamic, input and involvement.
What if we tried to adapt the Employee engagement model for the customer? There would need to be some very obvious changes, but it is a much better place to start – and if after you take a look at this and then take another look at Paul’s post, you can see he is onto something. Take a look at the below and think about whether it is possible to alter some of the words, replace a few and begin to change the poor Customer Engagement definition above.
“Employee Engagement is the extent to which employee commitment, both emotional and intellectual, exists relative to accomplishing the work, mission, and vision of the organization. Engagement can be seen as a heightened level of ownership where each employee wants to do whatever they can for the benefit of their internal and external customers, and for the success of the organization as a whole.”
Employee Engagement impacts Customer Experience
There are lots of people writing about engagement, a term that is becoming as nebulous as social itself; but at least there is some history to work with here. Respected analyst/researcher Bruce Temkin has published a report regarding Employee Engagement as well. Bruce has spent many years thinking about Customer Experience. In the report, he draws a strong link between Employee Engagement and Customer Experience:
“The analysis uncovers a strong connection between employee engagement and customer experience as well as between employee engagement and productivity.”
Great, but…Where is the link between Employee Engagement and Customer Engagement? Does strong Customer Engagement lead to a more positive Customer Experience? I am not going to speak for Bruce, but I am going to hazard a guess that the link is not there because Customer Engagement is nebulous at best and as I have stated very poorly defined with competing agendas. Employees have, in theory, a specific mission: do a job and help the company grow, right? According to Gallup, 86% of engaged employees say they very often feel happy at work, compared to 11% of the disengaged. There is also a direct link to the bottom line according to research.
In the end, being Social is about being human. Social Media and Networking are really just new channels that we are all trying to figure out how to use a bit better. ie. How can we be as human as possible using electronic means. The technology is new, we are just trying to figure it out. As we become better at the usage of the channel, then we can move from demands to requests, from hyperconnectivity to right connectivity and from being social to being engaging. Engagement in this context is not like the picture above, because it can end at any time, quite easily. While technology is only a part, it is still an important part.
I wrote a piece a couple weeks ago where I referenced Laurence Buchanan’s piece “Measuring the ROI of Social CRM“, now, I am taking a look at it from a slightly different perspective, the value to the employee. How very ‘Inside-out’ of me, I know, but hang in for a moment, there is something here. My favorite quote from his post still stands, and sets the stage:
“The real question in my mind is not whether ROI is measurable or valid (it is), it’s whether ROI is the only metric worth evaluating? I would suggest that ROI as an isolated metric is not enough. In fact nothing like enough.”
Absolutely, ROI is NOT enough. There are lots of ways to look at return, how about employee empowerment? I have suggested myself, on the shoulders of many others that happy customers start with happy employees. Is it then a big leap to suggest that passionate employees might lead to passionate customers? If you are willing to make that leap, as I believe you should, then there is real value to the business!
Reap the rewards of a innovative and passionate organization!
Innovation can seldom, if ever, be measured in the time frame of one quarter. It is like watching your child grow, there in front of you every day, then suddenly, ‘wow, you grew’! If you encourage individual, or small team initiative, what your teams can and will do, if empowered to do it will surprise you. If you sponsor and enable, people within your organization to get closer to the customer through Social means, the payback (Return) will happen.
As an organization, you need to be flexible with regards to the return, flexible in what and when. I realize that some might take issue with the flexibility on return, but you might also be flexible on the cost part too – since people are the main cost, there are worthwhile, non-monetary rewards.
What are you doing to reward employees who take initiative?
I previously used the Twelpforce initiative by Best Buy to make my point. Are there others? There must be, what are yours. How do you reward the employees? For businesses of all sizes, employees with passion are a great asset. Allowing these impassioned employees to get close to and help customers get their jobs done builds stronger relationships, and dare I say leads towards loyalty. I had the chance to chat with the smart folks over at SpigIt a few weeks ago, and they have some great ideas on how to reward initiative from a ideation (sharing ideas) perspective, I bet many of the same concepts would work here.
I highlighted this sentiment with a post on ZDNet this past week, with the following ideas:
Innovation, the Kissing Cousin of Initiative
One path to solving this is to make, foster and push people to shine. Innovation is directly related to initiative, and you have everything right there in front of you. If you encourage and empower individuals, or small teams, the results can and will surprise you. Taking it a step further, to sponsor people within your organization, specifically to get closer to the customer through Social means, the value to each side of the equation will amaze you. The return on initiative will pay dividends well into the future, for both you, the employee and the customer.
How to get it done:
Tackling the hard problems Ask people within the organization to focus on their role in the customer experience, they have one, it might be obvious, or a stretch to figure it out. How can they improve that experience? What do they find frustrating? By taking initiative, focusing on, or even directly helping customers, employees will elevate their visibility, and gain personal satisfaction as well.
Taking a chance Do not make it taboo to take risks, calculated risks of course. Do not punish for initiative, or even failure. A Social Business needs passionate employees, ones who do not always wait for their boss. Yes, they must be willing to be accountable for their actions, and have sound business logic behind their ideas.
Voice of the Customer The hope is that as many people as possible are talking to customers as frequently as possible. Within an organization, you are always knowledgeable about your products and services. Add this knowledge along with something you learned about your customer and tell someone, become an advocate for the customer!
Create a Company of Entrepreneurs The best employees are self-starters. Giving them the freedom to do what it takes to get the job done. Using their best judgment in all situations enables them to express their individual creativity. By encouraging and supporting a culture of freedom and trust, employees will naturally assume a feeling of ownership – ownership in delivering a remarkable customer experience.
All initiatives need to be supported by a business case. It is possible to measure return by more than dollars, but cost has only one measure – or does it? As an organization, you need to be flexible with regards to the return, flexible in what and when. If employees are allowed to put a little bit of passion into their own work, the payback is going to be very powerful. They will become the new shiny object.
In a response to the post, Maria Ogneva, of Attensity360 suggested that “companies are starting to realize how important voice of customer is. However, most still fail to realize that voice of employee is just as important.” She also pointed out that barriers are a problem: “Putting red tape in employees’ way, making them feel stifled and unappreciated will definitely not result in any kind of passion or excitement.” What are you doing to make sure that your employees feel empowered?
- There is a Big Difference Between Can’t and Won’t
- Stop Thinking in Two Dimensions
- No Beginning, No Middle and No End
- Rethinking the Customer Journey
- The Simplest Thing I Ever Had to Write
- Context Integration, the Future of System to System Interactions
- The Evolution of Customer Community
- The Fine Line Between Personalization and Creepy
- Experience Innovation
- Maybe We are Using the Wrong Words to Describe Collaboration
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