My first session on Tuesday: Transforming Your Company To Embrace Empowered Employees and Customers - by Josh Bernhoff and Ted Schadler (both of Forrester Research).
Much of the talk could probably be found in their book Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business.
They are into empowering individuals through technology. They showed a diagram of the "ladder of participation" - from passive web watchers to activist participants:
There are 4 technologies that empower consumers:
- Mobile devices
- Social technology
- Pervasive video
- Cloud computing services
The authors took us through a brief history of the web illustrating the change in business-to-personal relationships. Empowerment is the next part of the story.
Social computing is the new customer service. This is all where's it at for the future. In this new environment, the company can NOT lock you out! Instead, companies need to respond holistically to the era of the empowered customer. How to achieve it? It's very hard.
Existence of empowered customers make it took easy to spread negative images about your company through viral techniques such as Twitter, Youtube, etc.
Instead, a company should cultivate HEROs: Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives. These are the people who will like your product so much they will function as goodwill ambassadors, and spread recommendations, nice stories, and other good words about your product and company. Clearly, a customer transaction no longer concludes with the purchase of an item. Now, it's ideal if the customer develops an ongoing relationship to the product and company. (Raises the participation and stake of the company.)
How to get there? There are 4 steps to build customer influence:
- Identify the mass influencers
- Deliver excellent customer service
- Empowerment through mobile devices
- Amplify your fans
(This ties up with previous Web 2.0 talks which spoke about how word-of-mouth from fans is probably among the best advertising you can receive.) No. 1: Who are these consumer influencers? In the US alone, people create circa 500 billion impressions of things. According to Nielson, the number is just under two trillion!!! People really want to let others what they think of things. Peer influence is highly concentrated: only 6.3% of adults create 80% of the influence impressions. (Reminds me of email paradigm: 10% of participants make 90% of the content.)
No. 2. It is these groups on which you need to focus. Deliver a groundswell of customer service. Good example: Best Buy.
No. 3. Empowering people using their cellphones. Example: AutoTrader.co.uk. They allow you to take a pic of a car and the software will automatically identify it for you!
No. 4. Amplify your fan activity. Good example: Marty Collins. Also: Microsot had a video conference of what do you do with your pc. It was a big success and enabled Microsoft to aggregate fan activity.
But here's the challenge for companies: Only empowered workers can serve empowered customers. Increasingly, customers are assuming the duties once owned by IT specialists. Companies should regard the consumerization of IT as not a problem but an opportunity. To know what's happening "out there," to remain engaged with the world of the customers, you need to empower the employees.
IT staff is accustomed to having sole responsibility for software. But now we're seeing that employees are using applications not sanctioned by IT - why? To get the job done better. If the employer throws up barriers, the workers will still find ways to get around them. So employers need to approach things differently.
Companies need a new contract - a new way of letting works increase their work productivity by any means they can, any software they can. Some examples: A worker within Black & Decker created instructional videos using YouTube. Black & Decker then created their own YouTube channel to support these efforts. At IBM, Gina Poole made collaborations possible using their Intranet.
How does the employwer support the empowered employee? With a HERO contract. Employees can create, but must know the company's mission, and the boundaries must be carefully spelled out. Bosses need to think differently about technology: Works need mobile apps, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. Business manager need to recognize that technology is now part of the landscape that they can't ignore. IT has to stop being a barrier and let workers create and flourish in the work environment.
Not surprisingly, all these ideas were anticipated in The ClueTrain Manifesto some 15 years ago. Examples: Thesis #12: The networked market knows more than companies about their products.
There are 3 models for efficient groundswell among customers:
- Build a service team
- Integrate service and marketing
- Make service a core value
Also ClueTrain Thesis #42: People talk to each other directly inside the company. This results in 5 ways to maximize collaboration:
- Extend existing tools
- Create value
- Dedicate people to project
- [lost the rest, but it's in the book]
It was a very nice talk. Unlike previous talks I've seen, this one really tried to wrestle with the notion that employees must be up to the energy of the consumers. They must be "on call" to explore whatever software, sites that consumers are using which could add value to the product.
Closer to the library world, the only place I've really seen this work is at the Smithsonian, where they have their own social network. Of course, most community libraries probably don't have the staff or resources to create and maintain these networks. There's no reason to think they'll be static, or will stay on one platform or one site. So being an empowered employee will require a great deal of committment and work. It's not going to be a job "extra responsibility" but will soon be an essential responsibility of every job.
For me it was one of the best talks on Tuesday, well presented. It elaborated on themes presented in the earlier Web 2.0 Expos - namely that there is so much more one can do if one harnesses the energy of customers - letting them create, and giving them a space (e.g. a company social network) in which to create.