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Steve Farnsworth is the Chief Digital Strategist at Jolt Digital Marketing where he consults mid to large organizations on communication strategies to create product preference and build customer communities that foster brand loyalty. With over 13 years as a senior executive, Steve writes, blogs, and speaks about how smart companies can effectively integrate social media, PR 2.0, and content marketing into their marketing mix. As a director with the Silicon Valley Brand Forum and an adviser to other professional organizations, Steve has moderated panels, spoken at or facilitated industry events at Intel, Yahoo!, HP, Sun Microsystems, Cisco, Adobe, Electronic Arts, Hewlett-Packard, and Stanford. In 2012, he Steve is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 31 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Customer Engagement Starts First With Employee Engagement

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Engaging the customer has firmly become part of buzzword soup. Sadly, when that happens little is actually done to achieve the thing it originally meant. However, in this case you can avoid that from happening. If you look at the companies that are most closely engaged with their customers, you will see that they are deeply engaged with their employees, notes Sandy Carter from IBM.

When you have an employee that is deeply connected to the brand, and is excited by the brand, then they live the brand and customers see it first hand. It starts with finding the right employee, and that should be done socially. LinkedIn is clearly a key player in that, but using all of a company’s social assets to find the best that workforce 2.0 has to offer is essential to connecting with engaged candidates.

Get Them When They’re Green

Sandy notes that if you look at the best companies with strong internal brand ambassadors, like The Ritz or IBM, they really go out of their way to engage new employees in the training process quickly.

However, today’s employees don’t want to be trained by someone in authority, but by a peer. They don’t want to hear a lecture, they want to use interactive learning as a way to creatively engage in the whole process. Social and collaboration tools really allow them to connect with their peers, create communities, and crowdsource to find the best answer to problems and challenges together.

Give Them Social Tools And A Voice

The next piece is to to help them go outside by giving them training and access to social tools, and the guidance to create their own path. To become subject matter experts, have a point of view, get into conversations with customers, and get deep into those relationships.

Make Learn A Game And Life Long

The last step is performance management. The best companies make continuous learning part of their DNA. Sandy says she sees a strong trend of incorporating gamification into the learning process. By rewarding virtual badges, or having leaderboards, helps foster healthy competition among co-workers, and builds communities. Employee engagement, she says, leads to a smarter workforce, which leads to the strongest customer engagement for the most competitive companies going.

Published at DZone with permission of Steve Farnsworth, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)