How Social Media is Changing Customer Service

Employee Policy and Social Media – A Change.

Social media is changing employee policy and customer service and not just because there are now new platforms for customer service. One of the more disruptive effects of social media has been the head-on collision at  intersections of business, consumers and employees. In today’s world, everyone is a publisher. And websites like are making it easier and easier for people to find out the inside scoop. There’s that head-on collision again!

Your customers are publishers.
Your  employees are publishers.

And here’s the kicker: neither of them need your permission to be a publisher today. While your social media policy is a requirement, it does absolutely nothing to address the fact that everyone is a publisher and free speech still trumps your policy. What employees say on their own time, when not representing your company, is generally considered protected.

Social media is impacting something else: its getting harder and harder to silo your business departments. More than ever before, marketing people are working with customer service and human relations. Why? Because in social media, your company is all those things to the audience. As a result, marketing people are starting to see, for the first time, one of the core reasons their jobs are so difficult: unhappy employees = unhappy customers.

You’re Spending Too Much Worrying About Yelp Reviews

While many businesses focus on the fact that their consumers are publishers through reviews and check-ins, I think some of this is missing the point. Companies who have great customer experiences generally have one thing in common: great employee experiences.

Happy employees=happy customers.

And if you doubt that equation, let me give you one that you won’t be able to doubt:

Unhappy employees=unhappy customers.

The intersection of how businesses treat employees and customers has never been more clear than it is today, and that’s because of social media. This isn’t is a new phenomenon, its just more obvious and has more reach.  One company, Zappos, well-known for its great customer service has a short set of internal rules for employees. This simply written employee policy is empowering. They have happy employees. Thinking about how your employee policy matches your customer policy. Ever consider that they maybe connected?

Award Winning Employee Policy = Award Winning Customer Satisfaction

They win awards like “Best Places to Work (Forbes, 2011, 2012) and “Most Democratic Workplace (WorldBlu, 2011). They also win awards like “Customer Choice” (American Express, 2011). Guess who else gets awards? Employees – nominated from their peers.  They hire based on these core values and what do they get? According to Glass Door, they have satisfied employees who are also ADVOCATES for the company and satisfied customers who can’t wait to shout it from Facebook and Twitter.

Last week a New York Times review of Guy Fieri’s New York Restaurant went viral.  The reviewer takes complete control of the situation in an “I’m not afraid that you’ll spit in my food” kind of way. But when I read about a restaurant that fails on so many counts, I really have to wonder, how did the apathy get this bad? And as importantly, why did so many people share this review? Well. First.  The review is a great piece of content; it’s a master piece of snark that most Yelpers can only aspire to. But I think its more than that. I think lots of people viscerally know this: apathy this virulent only happens when employees aren’t feeling empowered or valued.

Your employees are your number one potential advocates. If you can’t convince them to say nice things about you (and you PAY them), then how can customers possibly get passionate about you?

Social Media Values? What The….Does THAT Have to do with Customer Service?

What’s the social media connection you ask?

Maybe this is coming because today’s corporate environment has CEO’s who make 380 times what the average worker makes..and what’s more astonishing is that that’s a 10% increase since 2010. So while the rest of the United States was experiencing the biggest recession in a generation, CEO’s were doing just fine, thank you very much. Its always been accepted that CEO’s make much more than the janitor, but today that gap is even wider.  Is it any wonder then, that employees took to the publishing interwebs? Where employees have no voice internally, they find a voice online.  The funny thing is that these social values don’t really come with a price tag as much as they do a shift in the way we view business and employees. “Social values” doesn’t even imply higher pay.

Let’s look at some social values:

Transparency: It really boils down to this: make a mistake? Own it. Apologize for it. Make it right.
Accessibility: Communicate where the communication happens. Create opportunities for two-way communication. Embrace both good and bad feedback.
Collaboration: Sometimes the best idea comes from…someone else.
Egalitarian: Sometimes the “someone else” isn’t the boss. A good idea is just as likely to come from an intern and it is a CEO. Influence is often unrelated to title.

Social media has a set of cultural values that has perpetrated itself through the larger culture. And these values are now expected by consumers AND employees. There is friction when there is a disconnect.

As social media values continue to perpetrate throughout our society, Millennials are starting to look for work. They will shift the workplace. While Babyboomers and GenX’ers had to adapt to the fact that they were never really off the clock once Blackberrys started getting handed out like candy on Halloween. Employers loved this: employees were available after dinner and at the gym. Millennials have grown up knowing that work and life blend. They know that their tribe will mostly come from work and that they’ll be expected to answer emails at all hours. They seem OK with that fact, so long as they also get to Facebook, Tweet and Text during the work day. It seems like a fair exchange to them. They’ll also except influence more readily than they will leadership by hierarchy. They can be influenced, just not exclusively by title. See the social influence here?

Implement Social Values in Employee Policy

It’s easier to start small in implementing social values. How can you empower employees? How can you be more transparent? I mean genuinely so.

I remember in college, I worked at a major premier hotel. There were these employee suggestion boxes. I never once heard a single thing about those suggestions. Not once in 5 years. Imagine if all suggestions were shared with the entire company and the company got to vote on which suggestions were most important, and the company committed to implementing 1 or 2 a year. Empowerment. Transparency.

Imagine this: a complicated regulated company with union employees. Instead of fighting unions and policies about what employees say about the company, how about empowering them? Training every single one of them (who wants it) it on social media and how they can help in a crisis. What their role can be during a diaster like Sandy. Proactively providing them with relevant information that they can share via their social circles. (NOTE: Relevant does not equal commercial.) Information that gives the employees the insider information and makes them the “person in the know” in their social circles. Make your employee valuable outside of work, they become more valuable inside work. Empowering. Influential. Egalitarian.

Social values which permeate businesses from the inside out, create advocates. Advocates are one of the holy grails of social media.  Start by unleashing your workforce as advocates and watch it spread.

So here’s my advice: stop worrying about Yelp Reviews and start looking inside and consider how you can  implement some of these values internally. The Yelp Reviews will come when you’re business values match the expectations of your consumers.