Four Factors Hindering Transformation

The problem with good service design is that you don’t notice it.

It’s only when you experience truly bad design that you appreciate the good stuff.

That’s why so few organisations are design led. They focus on designing out the bad rather than designing in the good from the beginning.

Earlier this week I ordered a package – to be delivered from the Royal Mail.

It required a signature so I arranged it to arrive on Thursday when I planned to be working from home.

On Tuesday morning the Royal Mail sent me an SMS and email to say they were pleased to announce that the item would arrive earlier than expected.

They might well have been pleased at the early arrival, but I was 60 miles away and stuck in a meeting. There was no option to request a redelivery. No option to even cancel it. Just accept an inevitable failure. 

Any redelivery could only be attempted after they had first failed to deliver it.

Here was a company actually wasting the time of their employees and their customer – and seemingly proud of it.

In defence of Amazon and Uber

It’s easy to criticise the likes of Amazon and Uber for their ethics , but we forget at our peril the benefits these providers have bought us.

But they don’t pay taxes! As if no company ever evaded taxes before Amazon.

But they exploit workers! As if taxi drivers were never exploited before, or resisted the opportunity to exploit us customers.

We shouldn’t let these type of companies off the hook for their transgressions, but neither should we forget what life was like before their breakthroughs in customer experience.

Getting a delivery within 24 hours or not having to queue for a taxi now feels so normal that one starts to wonder why it took so long.

The incumbent companies they disrupted all had the same money, time and technology to change the way they did business, but they resisted the opportunity to shape themselves around what customers actually wanted.

Why digital transformation isn’t enough

Richard Godfrey makes a similar point about the failure of banks to reimagine their services. Setting up a new account in most cases still requires a bank visit, or an e-form or a phone call at the very least.  How can that still exist in a world where you can sign up for a Monzo or Revolut account in minutes by downloading an app and proving your identity and address with image capture software and facial recognition?

As Richard points out, most ‘transformations’ are nothing of the sort, but simply a digital overlay on top of how business has always been done. He wonders why the process of claiming housing benefit can’t be made so easy. Of course it can, people just don’t want to make it easy.

As someone who has worked to redesign services from the ground up, putting the customer in control, I’d say you can’t underestimate how difficult this culture change required is.

Many of our organisations – despite the rhetoric – have policies and procedures that are profoundly anti-customer. We have built checks, balances and verifications into our process because , deep down, we don’t actually trust the motivations of the public.

This is an uncomfortable truth – but goes some way to explain the difference in satisfaction levels between some of the public and private sector.

PNG_Public_sector_CX_Ex1

A new post from McKinsey finds that whilst many the public sector and governments are moving forward with customer experience initiatives, in general private-sector organisations are a lot better at providing services.

I don’t always agree with the private/public distinction but some of the stumbling blocks they identify are helpful. The common traits that prevent genuine transformation are:

  1. A monopolistic mind-set. When customers don’t have a choice, it dramatically removes a major incentive to innovate and improve service.
  2. The public sector have to be fair to everyone.  They can’t just ignore certain customer segments. This ‘fairness’ often solidifies over time into a principle of providing one-size-fits-all service. Or rather, one-size-fits-no-one.
  3. We often lack the capabilities needed to assess and address gaps in customer experience. Those with deep analytics skills, as well as human-centered design skills, are often in short supply.
  4. Data is typically incomplete or sequestered in silos. Organisations often lack a full, timely picture of the customer’s overall experience.

This ‘fair for everyone’, but exceptional for no-one, agenda presents a genuine design challenge. The capacity for innovation for huge, but the capability for it is virtually zero.

It’s hampered because innovation requires a tolerance for failure , and upsetting people.  It’s too easy to see the short-term political consequences of initiatives gone wrong and debate whether public money is going down the drain.

However we have a responsibility to take risks – we need to cultivate a culture of innovation, and sometimes that means spending money trying new things, and being ‘unfair’ to some people.

What if Uber and Amazon did health, housing and social care?

Three years ago I wrote a post speculating on that very question – it remains the second most popular piece on this blog.

I don’t stand by everything I said back then, but I do agree with the final point.

Any sector that has multiple players performing similar services is ripe for disruption.

There’s no question about whether the Uber , Amazon, Facebook and Alibaba of the public sector will emerge.

It’s simply a matter of when.

The Number 1 Priority For Your CEO: Building Trust

Silence is now deeply dangerous—a tax on truth – Richard Edelman

Trust is the most valuable commodity in your organisation – although it’s probably not something you talk about often, much less attempt to measure.

For the past 16 years, Edelman has attempted to track the progress, or decline, of trust across 28 countries.

The latest results of their Trust Barometer shows we live in an era of misinformation – which has profound implications for our organisations and communities.

Globally, nearly seven in 10 respondents among the general population worry about fake news or false information, 59% say that it is getting harder to tell if a piece of news comes from a credible source.

Tellingly only 24% of the UK trust Twitter, Facebook and Instagram when looking for news and information.

The credibility of  “a person like yourself” is at an all-time low. The great hope we had for social media as a democratising force for good – unleashing waves of citizen journalists – appears to be over.

This all sounds bleak, but actually, there’s a new hope. 

In an era of trust stagnation, there’s a new opportunity for leaders emerging. People have a renewed faith in credible voices of authority.

A few years ago there was a big drive to get CEOs on social media. With hindsight that was naive – we bear witness every single day to the disastrous consequences of leaders and politicians equipped with Twitter accounts.

The real drive should be to ensure our CEOs and leaders emerge as trusted credible sources of information.

7 in 10 respondents say that building trust is the No. 1 priority for CEOs, ahead of high-quality products and services.

Nearly two-thirds of people say they want CEOs to take the lead on policy change instead of waiting for government, which now ranks significantly below business in trust in most markets.

Building trust as a priority over delivering services? That’s a sit up and take notice moment.

Making this shift means a radical overhaul of how we currently view communication. Most organisations are still deluding themselves into thinking that if they can just get their marketing and PR right they can control the brand message.

Tell a good story. Issue flattering reports and PR pieces. Show you are nice people. Only engage with those who are positive about your organisation.

Demonstrably, this isn’t working. We are haemorrhaging trust.

Over the past week, I’ve been involved in a quite a few debates with leaders and the people we serve. Some of the conversations – and the disconnections they highlight – demonstrate exactly the themes that Edelman are tracking on a global scale.

Feelings of powerlessness, of not being listened to, of organisations that were designed to improve social outcomes becoming distant and ever more corporate.

I’ve certainly reflected on my own communications and why people sometimes don’t trust my organisation. Why they sometimes don’t trust me.

  • Distrust will only be combatted through leaders being open and accountable and having public discourse with one another and with the people they collectively serve.
  • Concern about disinformation will only be combatted by providing real evidence of the kind of outcomes we are achieving. It’s time to kill it with the awards for ourselves.

The digital age has disrupted the accepted rules of trust. No longer is a relationship solely between citizen and institution. What was once a binary one to one relationship behind closed doors is now conducted in public in a much broader social context.

Silence is dangerous.

Social media hasn’t shifted the balance of power — but it’s certainly shining a light on where power is held and how it behaves.

What if Uber did health, housing and social care?

the-future-of-finance-16-638

If you’ve been to a conference in the past 12 months – you’ll almost certainly have seen the slide above, or a version of it.

Mentioning “disruptive innovation” adds a sprinkle of sophistication to otherwise ordinary presentations. It’s a sit up and take notice slide that says: ‘Better listen, or you could be history.”

However – it doesn’t always hit its intended target. A significant portion of the audience at a couple of events I’ve been to recently have looked at each other as if to say ‘that couldn’t happen to us’.

The reason for this seems to be the comfort blanket that can come with extended working in the public and social sectors.

The thinking can go like this.

  • We are different.
  • We deal with people who are highly complex with multiple needs and vulnerabilities.
  • No tech outfit could hope to understand the extent of the personalisation involved in our services.

It’s optimistic thinking – probably the same that was held by some taxi firms pre-Uber and hotels before Airbnb.

It’s going to take radical change a lot closer to home before many managers recognise how profoundly the rules of business have changed in the digital age.

Arguably though , it’s already happening. I’ve made a slide of my own that might be more relevant to the public sector.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 13.31.22

Far from fantasy – we are at the beginning of the end of one size fits all health, housing and social care monopolies.

Some examples:

Mercy is a hospital with no beds, no waiting rooms and no patients.There are nurses but they work virtually, providing care across 33 hospitals. The strategy is quickly expanding beyond hospitals and into the home. By keeping tabs on patients at home, Mercy can help keep people with chronic conditions out of the hospital.

Buurtzorg is a care system without managers, even though it has 9000 employees. To kill bureaucracy and overheads there are no call centres. Nurses take the calls. In self-managing teams of ten they plan patient visits and decide how long they spend there, depending on their judgement of the need.

Honor is home care without direct employees. Like Uber , the care professionals here are self employed and use an app that helps them find and keep track of job offers. Applicants undergo background checks and in-person interviews to screen them, with only 5% allowed onto the platform so far.  More flexible than traditional care – it allows people to book packages in just one hour increments, and aims to foster long-lasting relationships between caregiver and the customer.

What these systems and technologies do is to enable existing infrastructure to be used more efficiently. They are harnessing the power of the connected citizen rather than the analogue organisation. As Alastair Parvin has written – we are no longer stuck with the choice between the public sector and the private sector. The citizen sector now needs to be recognised as a viable, industrial force.

Is it impossible to imagine a local authority as just a digital platform with its services all outsourced?

Paul Blantern, Chief Exec of Northamptonshire County Council is almost there. The Council employed 12,000 people when he took over. Today they employ 6,000 and his vision is to reduce that to just 150. He was asked in this programme “Is there anything you wouldn’t outsource?”. His response – “No – it’s all about the outcome to the end user.” Essentially the ‘Council’ could reduce to zero as long as people feel the services are still good. [UPDATE MARCH 2018: This approach was ultimately disastrous]

Is it impossible to imagine other organisations , housing associations for example, being managed entirely differently? Rather than multiple companies we may see a singular platform where users themselves directly procure the services they need from the cloud. The next generation of housing manager could be an algorithm rather than a person.

It’s not just housing. Any sector that has multiple players performing similar services is ripe for disruption.

There’s no question about whether the Uber , AirBnb, Facebook and Alibaba of the public sector will emerge.

It’s simply a matter of when.

 

[Credit to  Mike Clark and Shirley Ayres for inspiration on the slide! Thanks both]

 

Your Own Personal Social Media Policy: 10 Top Tips

“Companies often want this one single voice but when you have thousands of employees there’s no way you can have a single voice and be authentic,”  – Professor Joonas Rokka

One of the best links I saw last week was about how employees active on social media play a crucial role in corporate brand management. According to the article there is now evidence that social media empowers employees. It recommends companies need to spend more time nurturing people to harness this new and unexpected form of marketing.

But despite this research , which hints at the incredible possibilities of a highly engaged and massively social workplace, another survey tells us that 47% of senior managers believe social media is the biggest threat they face.

Yes – the single biggest tech threat to organisations isn’t an impending cyber attack.  It’s what people are saying on Facebook.

It’s increasingly obvious that there’s a huge fault line between organisations who are on the social business journey and those who want to try and hold back a digital tsunami.

How can we bridge it?

I think this article by Joe Ross contains a really good idea. Everyone take the time to create a personal social media policy. 

Let’s relieve employers of the responsibility for social media (It’s clearly keeping 47% awake at night!). Let’s devolve everything to the employee!

OK I exaggerate. But It made me realise that I do have a personal social media policy. Just mine has not been written down and is constantly developing based upon my learning.

Company social media policies are written at a point in time and can be restrictive – whereas writing one for yourself is hugely empowering.

  • A personal policy is you taking ownership and setting out your own rules and objectives.
  • It’s you saying I’m an adult and I’m capable of representing myself online both personally and professionally.
  • It’s about owning your digital identity in a way an employer simply can’t.

So here’s my personal social media policy:

1: Have a clear strategy for what you want to be known for

For me – it’s at the header of this blog: Customer Experience , Innovation , Social Business. I can still post pictures of funny cats , but that’s the top three subjects I share content on. What are yours?

2: Never say anything online you wouldn’t say to your boss’s face

Assume that anything you post could be published to the whole world and can never be removed. Even things you private message. It’s safer that way

3: Don’t be afraid to be provocative 

This might seem to contradict the previous tip but there’s a difference between being provocative and being stupid and offensive. If your employer doesn’t get that I’d really start looking for somewhere else to spend your days.

4: Don’t talk about yourself all the time

Social media is partly about ego. Having a blog is about ego. But don’t let your ego get too big. Always share others content more than you share your own. Ideally at a ratio of 80:20. Look at most corporate feeds. They usually only ever talk about themselves.

5: Don’t argue with idiots

I’ve done it. I’ve tried to engage trolls. You almost always come off worse. It’s great to see a spat break out online. But just like playground fights – it’s far more entertaining for the crowd than the participants. And when you’re online the bruises last longer.

6: Be clear on how you follow back

Personal choice. But if you follow everyone you might be accused of trying to game your follower count. If you follow just a few you might appear arrogant and self-obsessed. My personal rule?  If you look like the sort of person I’d talk to in a pub – I’ll follow back.

7: Don’t be a robot

It’s fine to automate posts. But just don’t over do it. I did once – posting pretty much 24 hours a day. A few of my friends pointed out that it looked robotic. I listened. I learnt.

8: Share the love – share your sources 

This can be difficult ,especially on Twitter with the punishing character limit, but attributing your sources is the pinnacle of social media etiquette. It’s also the fastest legitimate way to build a tribe. People love a sharer. Sharers get followed.

9: Be clear on mixing personal and private

There’s no correct rule here other than your own. But whether you post 100% work related content or share every Foursquare check-in – you can still add personality to your posts. Write tweets that only you could write.

10: Wash your mouth out

Don’t swear – unless you are funny with it. Like Charlie Brooker – who once said that a social media policy should really be written in four words: Don’t be a dick

Over to you…..

I’d love to hear some of your personal social media rules in the comments box!

How Social Is Your CEO?

Last week I ran a workshop for a number of Chief Executives. Whilst preparing my slidedeck (which is featured above) I spoke to a friend who is the Managing Director of a medium sized business.

They have a very basic website. No media links.

When I asked why he doesn’t use social media , he answered simply:

Paul , I don’t have the time you have. My customers don’t use it. There is no reason for me to waste any time on it. I’ve asked my staff on many occasions what the business case is and all they say is – everyone else is doing it, we should too….

You know what? If I was him I would be exactly the same. If people can’t articulate a compelling reason for social why would a very busy person waste their time on it?

If your CEO isn’t using social, or doesn’t see that embedding it in your organisation is important, maybe you need to have a different conversation? Perhaps you need to make it more relevant to them as senior leaders.

These are my tips for why it makes business sense to be a Social CEO:

1: Forget social media – it’s about being a social business

If your conversation with your CEO starts with why you need a Facebook account you have probably lost them already. The real leadership benefit of using social tools is that used well they can reinforce the purpose and values of your organisation. If you are just pushing product and you don’t need to engage customers then maybe social isn’t for you.  But if you are about more than business then it can amplify your social and ethical goals.

2:  It will make you more visible, people will like you more

A CEO loves to be visible. (If they don’t I suggest you have another , more serious, problem). Internal enterprise networks , such as  Yammer , boost executive visibility. They can also democratise the organisation and destroy hierarchy. That’s a good thing by the way.

3: You are missing out on recruiting the best people

A Gen Y colleague told me the other day that they “couldn’t work for a leader who wasn’t visible on social”. It’s an increasing trend for talented people seeking work to check out the social profile of the company – but also that of the recruiting managers.  I do not believe any CEO would knowingly miss out on adding the very best talent to their organisation. If a competitor is recruiting and they are social and you are not – it’s pretty much a certainty that the better talent is going their way.

4: Customers will trust your organisation more

Leadership visibility promotes an open and transparent culture to customers and stakeholders. In the same way that an internal social presence removes hierarchy – showing your visibility to customers gives you a human face. You are no longer the person on a big salary behind the closed door in an office a long way away. You are in reach.

5:  You are missing out on vital market intelligence

A CEO who doesn’t promote a digital presence runs the risk of marginalising their organisation. New relationships and business propositions form minute by minute today. They cross sectors and they can even cross continents. Those annual conferences you go to are becoming an irrelevance. The social digital organisation is more connected, aware and adaptive.

This is the advice I would give a CEO about going social – but I’m sure there are other benefits. Please add any thoughts in the comments box they are hugely appreciated.

Does Social Housing Need To Find A Richard Branson?

A defining career moment - Support act (No.19!) to Sir Richard Branson...
A defining career moment – Support act (No.19 on the bill!) to Sir Richard Branson…

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 11.20.44 It’s May 2008 , and Helena Moore and I have just left the stage at the European Customer Management World Conference. We had just presented to an audience that included John Lewis , Microsoft and some young startup outfit called Facebook. People who we would now recognise as experts in marketing their product and selling their vision.

For most attending it was their first experience of Social Housing.  Our slot was about creating a service culture in a sector not known for sexiness or imagination. We used images of Shameless and Jeremy Kyle. We knew what our audience were thinking and we wanted to debunk the myths and talk about things we were proud of – the extraordinary achievements of our customers and colleagues. These are some of the comments we received:

  • “Loved it! We expected this to be the most boring slot of the day!”
  • “I really thought it would all be about people on benefits and anti-social behaviour – instead it was inspirational”
  • “I thought of council housing and the public sector as old fashioned –  not very commercial “
  • “We were dreading your slot. But I get what you are trying to do – it’s all about helping people be better – right?”

And , for your amusement , two priceless (100% genuine) comments about Helena and I :

  • “It’s good that you two didn’t wear suits – you stood out by being a bit scruffy…”
  • “We love that you guys at Bromford don’t seem to plan anything and are a bit , you know , rough”

Two years to the day after this presentation the Coalition was formed, Gordon Brown packed his bags, and the Labour Party left Government. I don’t believe the incidents were related –  my point is this – we need to forget the talk about a Government demonising social housing. We had an image problem under the last Government and we have an image problem under this one.

We have never been popular. Never been sexy. And in a world where we are all marketeers – it’s time we stopped blaming other people and started dealing with it.

whats_your_story The stories behind Bedroom Tax and Welfare Reform have tipped in the last few weeks. They have gone mainstream. Primetime TV and Tabloid coverage. Clearly we are doing something right.

About 9 months ago I did an experiment about the stories we produce within the sector. It revealed that only 8% of online content was about the people living in our homes and our communities. The rest was about us. And – as I’m sure you know – it’s not about us. 

My latest check has revealed a huge improvement. 25% of social housing output now concerns the lives of residents.  We have embraced social tools to share compelling video with a strong social narrative. We’ve done well at highlighting an issue that matters and pushing it into the public consciousness. But there is still room for improvement.

In the last two weeks a huge 40% of stories generated were about how landlords themselves are going to struggle as a result of reforms. Actual customers were briefly mentioned in passing.

The remaining 35% of output was largely introspective examinations about ( the lack of ) housing finance and development opportunity. If looked at from outside the sector could this be viewed as navel-gazing? A sector that is incapable of innovation and is now feeling sorry for itself?

Back in 2008 Sir Richard Branson headlined the conference. Quiet, unassuming and a little bit nervous – he opened his slot with four minutes of video showing every success and every failure he had been involved in. And then he talked about how he had fought off Government interference and bureaucracy , breaking into new markets by proving the unique value of what his brand could offer customers. The way he told the story of Virgin adding value to the world was electrifying.

You left the room thinking that without them the planet would be a very grey place indeed.

I wonder how Virgin, John Lewis , Facebook and Microsoft would cope with being unpopular , undervalued and underfunded?

I wonder how they would tell their story?

Maybe we should ask them.

NB: ( Statistics used come from 2 weeks monitoring of Google alerts using the search terms – Housing Association , Social Housing , Welfare Reform , Bedroom Tax)

5 (More) Social Media Mistakes To Avoid

Mistakes

Earlier this week I shared the post ‘Five Social Media Mistakes To Avoid’ by Heather-Anne Maclean. The following mistakes were chosen as her Top 5:

1.  Failing to use a photo or avatar for your profile

2.  Not completing your bio

3.  Having too many networks

4.  Not writing professionally

5.  Failing to be human.

I pretty much agree with all of them – especially 1,2 and 5.  Immediately after I shared it Heather-Anne thanked me and asked what I would add to her list. I liked that –  it showed great social media manners –  a willingness to reach out and engage further with your audience. We don’t always have time to leave a comment on a blog so it’s good to prompt people into thinking further about your post.

So here I am adding to her list. Here are my 5 (More) Social Media Mistakes To Avoid:

1: True Twit and Protected Tweets

As annoying as spam is , it’s nowhere near as annoying as TrueTwit and private accounts.  In case you don’t know, this is where you are asked to go through an account verification before you are allowed to follow someone. I just don’t get it. If you don’t want to be followed why are you using Twitter?

2: Passing off others content as your own

Have your ever posted an update and then seen THE EXACT SAME post from one of your followers or friends? And it’s not just coincidental. It’s your words, your links – minus your name. It’s really bad practice. Please try and credit your source with a HT  or a Via. It’s just the decent thing to do. You will be appreciated for it.

3: Trying to sell to me by Twitter DM.

Here is a tip. If I want to like your Facebook page or subscribe to your blog I will do it in my own time. Get to know me before you try to sell to me. Private messaging is a great way to ask for help , suggest a phone call or meet-up – NOT to sell people stuff. Especially when you haven’t even tried to engage with me. New Rule: Anyone who sends me an auto DM with sell stuff gets unfollowed. If we all do that – they will stop.

4: Broadcasting not engaging.

Regular blog readers will know how much I love broadcasters. Those accounts who only ever talk about themselves or their products and services. They rarely acknowledge others and never highlight the great things that others are sharing. They are the social media version of the person at the party who tells you about their great car, wonderful house, exotic holidays and high achieving kids. Avoid.

Try to share more of other peoples work than you do of your own. It’s nice. People will like you.

5: Being present without having presence.

We’ve all seen the corporate account with 3 posts per week. And the account that was last posted from 163 days ago. They are accounts where someone has clearly being told that they need to be using social media. You don’t. Being present without showing you love being there is actually worse than not being there at all. If you have dormant or under fed accounts – do the humane thing – put them out of their misery.

These are my 5 additions. Do you agree or disagree? And I’d love to hear if anyone has any more….

The Connected Homeless

homeless2“It’s amazing how nice their Smartphones are. Some would actually go without food rather than lose their Smartphone.”

This quote is from a manager of a homelessness hostel.  Someone who has observed up close that, for the Connected Generation , staying in touch with their networks isn’t a luxury- it’s a necessity.

This isn’t something particularly new. Many reports have established that homeless people are making use of online networks to find shelter, food , and to keep in touch with relatives. And there are examples of the homeless starting online support groups as a very practical means of staying in touch with each other.

This week I helped out on a project to develop a digital hub and social network for the homeless. Mobile and social technology give us unprecedented opportunities to reach out to the most marginalised in society.

The research has identified that under 25 year old homeless are “highly proficient” in the use of social networks to maintain contact with relatives and friends. Additionally smartphone ownership amongst the single homeless is becoming pervasive “regardless of circumstance”.

But it also identifies that existing service provision often isn’t equipped to engage online.

 “Why can’t I be on Facebook? I have as much right to that as anyone else. Just because I am homeless does not mean that I don’t care about this stuff, you know? My family is on Facebook. My friends are on Facebook. People who care about me are on Facebook.”

Some of us will find the concept of homeless people spending time on social networks and possessing smartphones as puzzling.  Have they got their priorities right?

It’s because we can’t truly imagine the trauma of becoming homeless and the things we would hold onto when we have lost pretty much everything else.  For many people – the phone is no longer a phone. It’s a small computer containing address details of friends and family, photographs of loved ones , and diary notes describing important memories. It’s a very personal item.

Additionally many of us have a false perception of the cost of smartphones.  We often still think of it as expensive technology.  But you could be paying as little as £10 per month for a decent phone and data plan. That’s less than the price of a Costa Coffee each week. If you were homeless , which would you choose?

Many public service organisations don’t realise that they are missing out on huge opportunities to engage with groups that would have previously been classified “hard to reach”.  That’s not just the homeless , but ex-offenders, young people not in education or employment , people with multiple health needs. The list could go on.

But whilst it’s revealed that many of the homeless have access to the latest digital resources , the organisations and professionals they have to deal with sometimes do not. There is still a lack of access to Social Media.  As one person I spoke to commented, “How can I tailor services to the homeless on Facebook when Facebook is still seen as a time waster by my manager?”

Then there are repeated stories of internet access to “sensitive” sites being blocked. One IT Manager was quoted as saying the company firewall is “doing it’s job well ” by preventing access to a site on HIV prevention.

But even more common is the story of front line practitioners without the tools to do the job. Using basic phones that can’t text properly never mind access the web.

John Popham has written about this in his blog – correctly asserting that organisations who don’t equip staff are “sending people out to do their jobs with both hands tied behind their back.”

There is a huge irony here – the “hard to engage” are no longer the customers and service users.  It’s us. The service providers.

In 2012 – a Smartphone ceased to be a luxury. It’s not a gadget – it’s a completely new interface for staff and service users to engage , collaborate and design better services.

If the homeless get that , why don’t we?

The Rules of Attraction

I was asked a question the other day:

“No-one is engaging with our Facebook discussion. Will you have a look at it and tell us what you think?” I turned the question back on them. “If it was you. And you were the customer. Would you have joined in?”

After a few seconds deliberation – the response. “Err , no – I wouldn’t.”

“Well”, I said. “There is your answer.”

I’m no expert in Social Media. But I’ve worked in customer engagement for over 10 years, and there’s one thing I absolutely know to be true. If you wouldn’t find it interesting yourself – why on earth would your customers?

Social Media is a relatively new tool. But just because it’s easy and cheap does not mean customers are more likely to engage with us.

There are three rules I was introduced to in my early (offline) days of working in customer engagement. They apply just as much today, in the online world.

1 – What’s in it for your audience? Why is engaging with you a good use of their time?

2 – Be entertaining. And if you can’t be entertaining – be extremely interesting.

3 – Go where the customer is. Don’t expect them to come to you.

A lot of customer engagement via Social Media fails to follow these basic rules. Organisations too often talk about themselves and what’s important to them rather than remain focused on the customer.

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean:

What’s in it for the customer? – @monmouthshirecc is a superb corporate Twitter feed that isn’t corporate. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it promote anything about the actual organisation. And that’s probably why it has over 4,500 followers. Would you honestly follow your companies own Twitter feed if you didn’t work for them? If your answer is no – It will be no for your customers too.

Be Entertaining – Organisations are not interesting by default. The best corporate engagement is all about personality. For the Social Housing sector we have to accept we are not Lady Gaga or Kim Kardashian. We are more Ed Miliband. So we need to have ultra interesting content. Or just be amusing. This video by @optimacommunity is a great example. It’s short , simple and funny. And it has a very deliberate call to action. It made me want to find out more.

Go where the customer is – There are thousands of local information websites across the UK. And there are countless local Facebook pages formed around communities of interest. Why not go to them and tap into existing networks rather than trying to create a new one? It’s harder work than lazily posting to your own page for sure , but it’s far more effective.

So the next time you wonder why no-one is engaging – ask yourself a simple question.

Would you?

Social Media: A Trust Thing

I’m lucky. I’m part of an organisation where everyone has access to social media.

Anyone can set up a Facebook or Twitter account. Anyone can blog. Without restriction.

No Policy.

One Rule – “If you wouldn’t say it out loud in the cafe area – don’t put it on social media.”

So it’s shocking to read that 50% of the IT Directors in Europe think banning the use of Social Media in the workplace is a good idea.  At least according to this survey.

And , according to another survey , by 2015 , 60% of companies will be attempting to monitor employees use of Social Media.

What are we to make of this? And what does it say about the modern employer?

Let’s face it – Social Media can no longer be regarded as something new and dangerous. Pretty much every news bulletin will refer to a comment on Twitter.

So why do some employers still , in 2012 , think it’s something to be frightened of. Let’s ask the audience:

Ignorance, Short-Sightedness. Social Media as a benchmark of a companies transparency.

This actually isn’t about Social Media. It’s not about IT.

It’s about Leadership and Culture.  

And it’s about Trust and Empowerment.

  • Why would an employer think that the people they employ would prefer to sit all day on Facebook rather than do their jobs? Unless of course the jobs are so rubbish , and the leadership so poor , that this is the preferable option
  • Why would an employer think people would use 140 characters to destroy the reputation of their organisation? And if you have people like that – you could , rather than banning things , choose to do something about them
  • Why would an employer think anyone , anywhere , would want someone to monitor what they are saying?  Like a suspicious spouse checking through your text messages

If you are working to introduce more social media openness in your business – good for you.

But if you are in a relationship where either party does not trust the other – you would surely reconsider your position?

60% of employers will monitor social media usage.  50% will ban it altogether.

Want to have a relationship based on trust?

Leave them.

Find someone else.

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