Tweeting to keep staff in touch
Written by: by Samantha Crous, CRF Institute Regional Director: Africa and Benelux
Social media is becoming more and more pervasive and has already been entrenched as a tool for external marketing, however what about internal communication? New research shows it might be groundbreaking there as well.
Harnessing social media for business purposes has been firmly embraced by the savviest companies, and recent research shows that lately, the country’s best employers are relying on it heavily for internal communications as well.
“Data from the CRF Institute shows that amongst certified Top Employers in South Africa, there has been 171 percent increase from 2011 to 2012 in using social media to communicate with staff,” said Samantha Crous, CRF Institute Regional Director: Africa & Benelux.
“Of course, there is always the risk that social media will hinder communication, as the informality of the medium can encourage fast and loose language use or an unprofessional tone. But for some, using social media is the only way to keep internal communication alive – language gap or no language gap.”
The CRF Institute is the organisation behind the international Top Employers projects, which certifies the country’s top employees annually. In these projects, the company independently researches and audits the HR policies and employee offerings of leading companies in over 45 countries across the globe
Technology company Avanade, a certified Top Employer, said it has had no problem with communication breakdowns or unprofessionalism – but rather, that social media has contributed positively to the company culture.
HR manager Carmen Short said staff members have been self-regulating, using their discretion to create clear, readable and professional posts. She said: “We have had no concerning tweets.”
Avanade has launched its own social media platform for internal use. “We use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for external communication, and Microsoft Lync and SharePoint for internal communication within the company,” said Short.
“Social media is one of those platforms where communication, innovation and best practices are shared daily.”
The UK-based community Vets Now, meanwhile, uses a social media platform to communicate with staff because their employees work in isolation, with only animals for company. Without the platform, there’s no communication at all.
“It is no coincidence that GIBS and UCT GSB are running social media executive programmes,” said entrepreneur Mike Stopforth. “There is a need for education in this new arena. When technology leaps forward, find a way to harness and leverage it; don't avoid the trend - you will regret it later.”
Writer Joel Don echoes that the technical generation gap is closing, and that companies who do not keep up will have cause for regret. “The trend is going against the laggards,” he said. “Research from the Pew Research Centre continues to showcase increasing numbers of Baby Boomer generation members gravitating to social networks.”
Benefits and risks
Communication specialist Amanda Laird points out that internally, social media use has far more benefits than risks.
She said: “You make your employees feel heard, you can promote new products and services, reach staff faster, build relationships, increase internal brand awareness and position your organisation as a group of thought leaders.”
Crous added: “Social media is essential, to brainstorm, to educate and to share knowledge. It’s a tool for creating a positive working environment. Moreover, staff can be incentivised to use social media externally as well – competitions for who posts the most Tweets, who has the most followers, et cetera – which, as a reward system, compounds staff’s positive feelings about the company.”
She believes that it’s a good idea to use a dedicated internal platform for internal communications, so as to “keep internal issues internal”.
However, she adds that excessive monitoring of content can do more harm than good. “Seeking to control the conversation can be prohibitive to making social media work for the organisation in building authentic lines of communication,” she said. “Knowing where to draw the line between a healthy communication policy and monitoring, and control is critical.”
Crous adds that content should be read regularly, partly for monitoring purposes and partly so that employees feel that they are being heard. Real names should be used, to facilitate honesty and accountability, and workshops should be held with communication guidelines.
“In addition, encourage the use of plain English – not SMS-speak or jargon – and set clear rules, but not so many that people lose track. And focus on positive content.”
Most importantly, said Crous, the company culture should be taken care of at ground level, so that underlying issues are prevented before they arise. “If you have sound HR policies in place and your staff is happy, it’s likely that social media comments will be positive as well,” she said. “A strong organisational culture goes a long way.”
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.