My morning ritual typically starts with me laying in bed and reading my “newspapers”, which is to say that I sit with either my iPhone, Ipad2, or laptop and read through my various RSS feeds, Facebook updates, LinkedIn updates and Twitter feed. Sometimes I post a comment, sometimes I post a link to an article on my Facebook page, sometimes I tweet something on Twitter (which is what the picture above is, in case you didn’t know), sometimes I email interesting articles or comments I run across to Jason (he’ll tell you I do this A LOT!), friends or family members, and sometimes I get a thought that inspires me to write a blog article.
And that’s what happened today. As I read all of the various tweets and updates from people and businesses trying so hard to make their content relevant, trying so hard to convince you that they have the fool-proof way to make you and your business money quickly, trying so hard to convince you ever-so-subtly (or not-so-subtly) to buy from them, to follow them on Twitter, to “like” their Facebook page, to start blogging, etc., I was reminded of something.
While many of these things have real, long term value to your business, they also can take your focus off of those things that are right in front of you that can, and will, fundamentally transform your business. So while it’s critical that you continue (or get going on) your social media efforts, it’s also just as critical that you:
1. TALK TO/LISTEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES
I read an article recently that said some larger companies have taken this “revolutionary” approach to dealing with the recession. And what they discovered is that their employees had great ideas that would help save money, improve processes, engage customers, improve the company culture, and on and on.
I couldn’t help but think “Really, this is revolutionary? Actually talking to, and listening to, the people that you hired, that you pay, that represent your brand on a daily basis to the community and to your customers?” What seems like such common sense is most definitely not common practice.
It reminded me of a quote from a former college professor of mine:
“In organizations, people want a VOICE more than a VOTE.”
I have always believed that deeply throughout my career, even when my inner voice was stifled by organizational cultures that didn’t understand the value of opinions and ideas from their employees. (Thankfully Jason TOTALLY gets this.)
Now, more than at any point in the history of business, I believe the voice of the employee must not only be heard, but encouraged. If you don’t believe me, then read this: One in two US employees looking to leave or checked out on the job.
2. TALK TO/LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
If you do #1 effectively, then #2 will happen naturally. I promise. By empowering and trusting your employees to have real, open and honest conversations with your customers, you will find out more about what they need, want and expect from you. The days of not trusting your employees to do this are coming to a rapid end. Why? Employees want to take pride in their job, their company, and in the service they provide to your customers. Did you hear me? They WANT to. (and if you have employees that don’t, then they need to find a job where they do.) So it is your responsibility to make sure they feel empowered to do it. Give them your “blessing” and then get out of the way!
How often do you ask your customers what they need? How often do you go back to your current customer base and ask them how you can help (and be willing to do something outside of the scope of the normal products or services you provide)? When was the last time you invited a group of your customers (and not just your ‘best’ customers) to an event where you thanked them for their business, asked for their opinions, and didn’t try to sell to them? When was the last time you engaged your customers in a meaningful way? Do you have a culture that encourages your employees to do everything they can to make sure that every interaction with your customers leaves them feeling good inside? Southwest Airlines does. Zappos does. USAA does. Why can’t you?
3. REPEAT STEPS 1 AND 2
Once you’ve started talking to, and listening to, your employees and customers, KEEP DOING IT. Make it a part of your organizational culture, a part of the way you do business every day, a part of the living, breathing organism that is your business.
What do you think? Am I living in some fantasy world where employees have a voice? What have you seen that works in your own business or other businesses? What ideas do you have? TELL US! We want to know…because, after all, YOU are our customers…and WE are listening.