The new book, Empowered, by Forrester’s Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, provides a path for companies to response to the newly empowered customers who operate in the Web 2.0 world and to take advantage of the opportunities this transformation offers. The sub title is: “unleash your employees, energize your customers, and transform your business.” That is the proper sequence although your employees need to first listen to their customers as an initial step.
The book introduces the term HEROs or highly empowered, resourceful employees. It is divided into two main sections: a description of what HEROs do and how management and technology can work in concert to create a HERO powered business.
These empowered employees can provide innovation in both how customers are engaged and how increased engagement can occur within the enterprise. A great example of the latter occurs within Black and Decker. Instead of producing the usual dry, boredom through PowerPoint, sales training for the many products that Black & Decker offers, the head of sales training decided to empower the sales staff to create their own training. He gave many of them Flip cameras and some free video editing software, Windows Moviemaker.
Armed with these simple and inexpensive tools, the sales force started producing a stream of videos on the many Black and Decker products and the right way to position these products against the many competitors that Black and Decker faces. The sales training group serves as the central clearing house, does quality reviews, organizes, and provides the servers to host these videos. I have always found that the degree of relevance and engagement for both software and training is in direct proportion to the involvement of the audience. With the new tools, Black and Decker took it a step further and the audience responded.
The authors introduce the strategy of IDEA: “identify empowered customers, deliver groundswell customer service, empower them further with mobile information, and amplify their word of mouth.” The HEROs can support this process and examples are given.
They also take Gladwell’s Mavens and Connectors concept and apply these terms to the Web. Mavens are authorities and connectors are distributors of content. Sometimes the same person is both. There are a lot of interesting stats offered. Mavens account for 80% of posts on products and services. The most likely products to get online opinions are restaurants and books and the least likely are flowers and home décor. Mavens and Connectors tends to be a bit younger on the average the most Web users. But the most important concept is that with the rise of peer influence, customers matter even more after the sale.
Zappos shoes is a well known example. They do not spend money on advertising but instead invest the money in excellent customer service and then use the IDEA process noted earlier for viral marketing by their fans. Zappos has become a well-known twitter success story by following these principles.
A key part of the IDEA process is to increase a company’s mobile presence and gain more control by offering useful apps and information to customers. I think the same thing applies to employees. Twenty two percent of online users make use of mobile devices and this segment is growing rapidly. In some places it may exceed laptop Web use. Mobile devices and social software like Twitter lend themselves well to the quick responses and comments about products. A company needs to be part of this conversation whether it is between customers or between employees.
With any new powerful channel there are also risks and the authors spend a lot of time on this topics with suggestions for mitigation and policy concepts. This is a place where management and IT need to combine. The goal is not to stop social media but assess, and manage the related risks. The biggest risk may be to not use it, as others will. They suggest creating a cross-functional advisory council to set strategy.
There is much more and this is a comprehensive guide on how to survive and prosper in the new “markets as conversations.”