A great MUST-READ book on empowerment & new technologies

June 28, 2011 § 2 Comments


Image by enriqueburgosgarcia via Flickr

Today, after finishing this great book: “Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business” by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler I’ve decided to write a complete post on this great book.

Why so much enthusiasm?

The truth is that most of my reading is either business-related (marketing) or thriller and only once I’ve been so addicted to reading a business-related book (it was “Blue Ocean Strategy“).

What did I find useful?

Here I will quote some of the best ideas I have found in this book (some of them I have tweeted them through @tavovalencia):

  • After the authors place you in a really difficult situation where Maytag learned the hard way to empower its employees, they recommend: “To succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve customer problems… The ideas don’t come from management; management’s new job is to support and empower employees
    • This is an important lesson that a lot of senior executives should write in their little black book.
  • The authors present a very easy tool to evaluate “six types of projects” based on answering easy questions and assigning points according to the answers:
  1. No brainers: Projects that should be under way.
  2. Quixotic quagmire: The avoidable, to hard to get, to expensive for a test projects
  3. 4 other categories in between

Those categories will let you (as a HERO <Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operative>) Understand the value of your ideas and place them into your managers view. It gives you a checklist of what you should take into account before you go to your boss with a clever idea and get shut down because you didn’t do your homework. For manager’s its an easy way to catalog your collaborators ideas and understand the level of supervision that the project will require.

  • Something I really like about this book is that the authors speak directly to both senior and junior audiences. For instance when talking about HEROes and how to become one: “First, focus on customers. The closer you get to making customers more empowered and happier, the easier it will be to justify your project. Helping people who touch customers is also a good idea. But when you’re calculating the impact of your project, it’s customer value that will keep you going” 
  • The authors know what they’re talking about. They even are bold to give advise to managers that don’t have a clue about new software and IT platforms. I piece of example: “As it turns out, blogging gets all the publicity, but discussion forums and ratings and reviews account for over 60 percent of the post about products and services” Then they enter in a clear territory by defining and exemplifying Mass Mavens and Mass Connectors.
  • The book provides a lot of current (or very short time ago) on how other companies have executed these ideas: “Ford decided to manufacture some customers. Starting in 2009, they recruited a hundred people and gave them new Fiestas to drive around in… [By] November 2009, the fiesta movement’s YouTube videos racked 7 million views. Seven hundred thousand saw the pictures posted on Flickr. Four million saw their tweets…“.
  • Here I find for the first time someone who very clearly defines the customer service objectives: “…groundswell customer service… It’s a discipline in which your staff connect with customers wherever they’re making noise – on Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, Etc – and help them, thereby turning them into broadcasters of positive messages” we can no longer stand by Customer Service that only “reacts” to very angry consumers by phone or mail. A well-connected consumer can harm your brand. Keep in mind that “when Customer Service is seen as a cost, the main objective is to deal with people quickly. But once you see it as a way to create marketing resonance [to convert them into word-of-mouth allies] the focus shifts. All customer service should have the goal of improving the experience for customers, with the objective of getting them to spread positive word of mouth [Underlined by me]”
  • Does it really have to happen a “United Breaks Guitars” event for management to wake up? once it happens (and if you’re not prepare it will happen, Do we have to put in place an emergency team to save your reputation?. The authors think that you should be more proactive and so some research first: “Often, these initiatives come into being because a company has its own “UBG” or Comcast sleeping technician moment. Resist the urge to build your service strategy when the blood is boiling. If you’ve got no groundswell presence yet, leave it to your PR department to clean up the mess. Then after things have cooled off, start using listening tools and evaluating the share of peer influence of your customers, and use those insights to design a strategy
  • Once you have a clear strategy don’t forget about service metrics: “Unlike traditional service staff, don’t measure your groundswell CS efforts solely on the number of people served. Instead, look at long-term measures like shift in buzz sentiment, leads generated on twitter and blogs, traffic to marketing pages and positive customer stories.
  • Now a digital strategy sometimes (more often than you’d think) requires a mobile strategy as well. The authors recommend the POST Method <People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology> and try to avoid starting from Technology (as most IT managers will). Now remember that whether mobile apps or standard ones “Apps should increase sales, cut costs, increase loyalty or otherwise benefit your business
  • Recommendations to having success with your word of mouth marketing strategies: “Fan bases take time to build… You’ll be out of sync with short-term-focused marketing efforts like advertising.  […] think of a fan base cultivation as building an asset over time, in the same way you think about brand building  [it should never end] – The trick is that fan marketing is to unlock the power of individuals to influence their friends, colleagues, and followers with an efficient mass program” And they also provide 5-steps for a Fan Marketing plan:
    • Outside Perspective: [Do research and see through your customer’s eyes]
    • Respond: Create Identities in the places your customers go and reach out to them.
    • Enable: [Allow them to talk about you]
    • Amplify
    • Change: [Your company will change – EMBRACE IT]
  • Now, back to empowering your staff. This book is full of examples that might give you an idea of how to execute an innovation idea forum from within: “Chubb used a software package called Idea Central from Imaginatik, specially designed to present and capture ideas. If you’ve ever seen idea-generation sites like mystarbucksidea or news-ranking sites like Digg, the concept is similar> anyone can create an idea, and others can rate it or comment on it” [nothing is anonymous]. You can also use Yammer, which is basically a Twitter for enterprises or a Blogsphere <BBVA  internal communication community>.
  • They encourage managers to think of IT as business enablers instead of security blockers, so if you’re able to change the mind-set of your IT community to be risk assessors and manage tools that enable HEROes, you can find short-time solutions to customer problems. <Twelpforce>.
  • Remember if you are going to support this type of program “you have to learn to tolerate some failures to make innovation happen. The body language of that senior managers project, especially during difficult economic times, has a lot of influence on HEROes willingness to innovate. So does the way you support collaboration and innovation systems within your company
  • IT managers should also read this book as it gives you a business approach that will ultimately lead to a new <more successful> career by collaborating with your business – Very clear examples.

My recommendation: READ THE BOOK!!

PS: This post will not be translated to Spanish.


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