Jumping on the b(r)andwagon
Social media and other technologies are ensuring that employees are more empowered than ever to share whatever they think of the organisation they work for – but rather than fearing what might come out if their staff were to speak up, business leaders can let this work in their favour.
Samantha Crous, country manager for the CRF Institute in South Africa, said companies are becoming aware of the power of employees as brand ambassadors and those that are leveraging this to strengthen their brand are ahead of the curve.
She said: “Employees are the citizens of a business, and in this way, they can participate in their own form of ‘citizen journalism’. They are empowered to share information about their company in whatever ways they see fit. And while this may seem a little scary – as marketing managers don’t have much control – it is also an incredibly powerful source of credible branding.”
Based on her experiences at the helm of Top Employers (formerly Best Employers) in South Africa, Crous said there is often an overlap between a company’s brand prominence, and the happiness of its employees. Top Employers internationally recognises the HR policies of leading employers in 45 countries across the globe.
“Even the smaller companies in the index are well known, relative to their size,” she said. “This is not a coincidence. Companies that know what they are doing from a marketing perspective know that they need to market to their own people first and foremost.
“Repeatedly we see a significant overlap between brand prominence and good treatment of employees on the list of Top Employers each year,” she added. “Some of the best companies to work for in South Africa are also the best-known – hence the giants on the list like Sasol, Old Mutual, African Rainbow Minerals, Coca-Cola, Clicks and others.”
Further examples of recognisable names among the current class of Top Employers include Kimberly Clark, Estee Lauder, the Liberty Group, British American Tobacco, Procter & Gamble, Telkom, Unilever and Volkswagen.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, is a strong believer in branding through investing in the happiness of employees. Virgin is known for its solid HR policies, and Branson said this was a conscious business decision. “Some people might see Virgin’s 50,000 employees as a cost to be managed, but I see 50,000 potential passionate brand ambassadors,” he said.
Rob Frappier, community manager for Reputation.com, Inc., said: “The best way to turn your employees into loyal brand ambassadors is to treat them with dignity. A happy employee will speak favourably of your company both online and offline. Conversely, treating employees poorly could mean angry rants on anonymous review websites, which offers information on salaries, interview questions and other generally confidential details.”
The correlation between being a Top Employer and brand prominence is an easy one to make. These companies are providing working conditions that form the foundation of satisfaction of staff. “That’s not to say that working for these brands is easy,” said Crous.
Some Top Employer cultures are tough, boot-camp tough, 18-hour days tough and although flexitime is available there is simply too much work to be done to actually use the benefit. But if those organisations have hired the right people, with the right fit to culture then satisfaction is easier to achieve, and the good news will naturally spread word-of-mouth, by employees.
“All an employer need do is give the green light to the tools required to have the conversations – social media, use of smart phones, and above all, access to the internet
“Incentivise go a distance too, to encouraging employees to be active on your social media pages and encourage a culture of sharing positive working experiences at staff meetings,” said Crous.
Building communication goals into KPIs so that salary investment is also being directed towards positive internal marketing is another winning strategy according to Crous.
She said: “Above all, keep an open door policy, so that if your staff do have issues, they come to you first – this reinforces the positive relationship you have with your staff, and decreases the risk of negative representation to the outside world.”
Communication consultant Amber Avines agrees that the last point may be the most important. ““Break down the barriers,” she says. “Employees are people. They work their hardest and care the most when the people in power remember that. Create a culture shift in your company to ensure upper management is accessible, visible, and approachable – and you will reap the rewards in how your employees represent you.”
The 2013 Top Employer List can be viewed at http://www.topemployers.co.za/BESTEmployers/BestEmployers20122013.aspx
To read more about Top Employers visit http://www.topemployers.co.za/
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.