Welcome to the ever-changing world
Let’s be frank: in the past few years, our way of communicating has changed drastically. Technological developments and social media have resulted in a faster and more open interaction.
These changes are also reflected in the way companies and customers interact. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and other similar channels, customer complaints are dealt with more swiftly than ever before. And employees too have garnered more visibility and attention.
Your company can benefit greatly from this communication shift. We therefore recommend you deal with it wisely. After all, your customer may be king, but it is your employee who’s the superhero.
A more relevant and transparent communication
Let’s take a closer look at this shift. In reality, we can distinguish two major changes.
First of all, we are moving from a broadcasting model to a networking model – in other words, from push to pull. Rather than sending a single message to one million people through a radio broadcast, TV ad or website, you now come up with a targeted message for various sub audiences. If these sub target audiences are impressed with your message and consider it relevant, they share it with their own networks, which, in turn, do the same with their networks through retweets, shares, blog posts etc. That is the principle of brand ambassadors – offering the people who are the closest to your brand relevant content, that they consider interesting enough to share with their own loyal audience.
Where to find these brand ambassadors, you ask? Well, not only outside the company. Needless to say, your own employees are the ones who have the closest links to your brand, your story, your values and your company. When communicating with them, you should leave behind generalised key messages, but rather tailor your messages to each and every individual, team, department or group of people it is relevant to using various tools (internet, yammer, mobile apps, file sharing, e-mails, consultations etc.).
Secondly, there has been a shift from a closed communication system – we could call it one- or two-way traffic – to a so-called ‘communication roundabout’. Transparent communication is, now more than ever before, expected, and for every message you send out, you can expect a public reaction. Customers are feeling more and more empowered and will contact you themselves with questions, comments and feedback, be it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. These tweets, updates and photos are also visible to other users. The logical consequence? People keep talking and join forces.
This openness and accessibility of systems is visible internally too, with employees having a greater say in the corporate operations and joining forces more than ever before. After all, the key principles of a good HR policy are trust, responsibility, openness and commitment.
It is easy to establish a link between internal and external changes: the better organised a company’s networking and transparent communication, the more relevant and transparent its communication with customers and vice-versa.
This relevance and transparency are not meant for you to show off, although they do have a positive impact on your business and your company in general. But more about that later.
From change to collaboration
Let’s first focus on the shift in internal processes. Your internal changes can be easily mapped out based on the importance of social media in your company. In a segregated system each employee tends to focus exclusively on his own business, while a colleague takes charge of social media from his own desk.
A more interesting approach is to bring together a group of colleagues from the different departments and teams, and ask them to add social media management to their responsibilities, in line with their abilities and expertise. Simply put, create a core social media team.
If social media has been integrated in your entire company and included in your business targets and media mix, your company can be labelled a ‘social business’. In this case, social media is an equally familiar communication tool as your website, intranet, e-mail, CRM database and even a chat in the canteen.
Collaboration equals improvement
More transparent communication systems and processes may be the result of external changes, but they also have intrinsic advantages.
The positive impact on your business and operations is visible in four fields: marketing, customer relations, sales and product development.
Marketing: proactively and carefully follow the conversations of both customers and competitors to collect feedback on your target groups, your campaigns, the market and trends. This results in more targeted and efficient communication and assessments.
Customer relations: a well-oiled internal customer care department – with speed, traceability and CRM at its core – ensures a smooth knowledge transfer and helps you quickly detect, follow up and answer questions and complaints. It also enables you to reward your ambassadors and loyal customers.
Sales: the exchange of knowhow between the sales, marketing and customer care departments, among others, results in a lead generation much faster, as well as better customer relations and higher conversion rates. The better you know your customer or prospect, the more relevant the services you can offer them.
Product development: gather feedback through collaboration and crowd sourcing, both in internal and external communities, which can potentially lead to new insights and prompt innovations.
The improvements for your staff are manifold:
Transparent internal processes and the possibility to quickly exchange knowhow allow you to implement projects faster and more efficiently. You will promptly identify who the experts are within the organisation, allowing you to assign the right projects to the right people.
There is no better way for colleagues to get to know one another than through collaboration, which will ultimately have a positive impact on the atmosphere at work and will push your staff to become enthusiastic brand ambassadors.
The exchange of knowhow among colleagues, through platforms or face to face, also ensures constant coaching or peer-to-peer learning, with the company acting as facilitator. This is the perfect way to encourage your staff to nurture their talents and competences, and to learn and grow internally.
By encouraging staff to join forces frequently and on more projects, feedback is exchanged more easily at all levels and in all directions (‘communication roundabout’, remember?). Shorter feedback loops allow you to intervene more swiftly in case of problems. If a crisis arises, you will already know which staff members to bring together to tackle it quickly and efficiently.
Consequently, employees feel more involved and have a greater impact on corporate decisions. This allows for negative feedback to be passed on to the right people much quicker, rather than be spread outside the company walls.
Join forces and succeed! A few tips …
First of all, you need three key elements to success: you must listen (monitor and explore), think (develop a strategy together) and implement (once again, together).
Moreover, you need:
Leadership: collaboration can be launched by your staff, but ultimately you need to permanently support their efforts to nurture this collaboration and reap the fruits. That calls for a clear vision and leadership.
There can be no transparency without trust. No trust without responsibility. And it goes both ways.
Change takes time. You can’t build an internal community in one day or one month. Start focusing on your group of internal ambassadors and ask them for help in further developing your core team.
Get started by focusing on brief, easily manageable pilot projects. Ensure constant follow-up, so that you can quickly map out your successes and continue to build on them. Mistakes will be made, there is no way around it, so give yourself and your staff the time and the opportunity to assume responsibility and learn from the mistakes made.
Last but not least, cherish your superheroes. That will get you far, further and beyond.