Monday, June 1, 2015

Corporate Power: It Has Shifted to Your Customers AND Employees

“We challenge you to find a consumer mobile offer available in the UAE that is better than the offers
you can get with Etisalat,”read the company’s website. “We promise to match or beat any offer, guaranteeing you that with Etisalat, you will always get the best prices.”

The “big brother” here in the Middle East recently has been the marketing campaign by our local telecom Etisilat [In the U.S., think ATT or Verizon]. Their marketing campaign was called the #Etisilat Challenge, and it challenged consumers to find a better deal than their offerings.

However, what happened next was not what they expected.

The pendulum has swung

They were mocked, insulted, and challenged about their customer service and the engagement of their customers by just about everyone from radio stations to local media as well as the marketing community.

But to me, this is not just a marketing story; this is about a new day where the power has shifted to your customers.

My challenge to organizations is that this should be a wake-up call to those who need to pay more attention to customer service and engagement before engaging in dialogue with consumers in a genuine, relevant, and transparent manner.

This is a story and a lesson for all organization to learn about the new phenomenon calledemployer branding. Just because you create it and believe strongly about your brand, it carries no validity about its true authenticity unless it is validated by your most important segment — your customers.

Are you being true to your brand?

Venture into that conference room or offsite meeting to get that branding message correct and you enter at your own peril. The same can be said for the “Employee Value Proposition” which to me is the result of wordsmithing, which looks good on paper. They both could be a vision of where you are headed or hope to be some day.

But whatever it is, it HAS to be validated and your do not own that validation anymore. Maybe you did at one time, but not today

But ask yourself: Are you being true to that branding message or vision? I compare it to the five most misused words and phrases in corporate America. Remember the one about how “people are our greatest asset?” Who really believes that anymore?

You do not own your image

There used to be a time that organizations were in complete control of their message, when they controlled it and kept a tight hold on it. Then something happened and the pendulum swung in favor of your beloved customers. Now, they control the pen and they are the authors of your fate.

They will get the last laugh, and in cases such as the one above, they make you look completely clueless.

In the past, you were sucked into this belief that you could basically do no wrong, and even if you did, there was no one to check you. But today, there have been many instances of organizations going off the rails. From airlines to retail, there are countless instances of where organizations were caught misbehaving, and in a lot of cases, through the actions of their employees.

With Twitter, Facebook and Glassdoor, you are now exposed, probably for forever. There will never be a time when you will be the big boy on the block again. Any marketing missteps or employee miscommunications are out there for all to see. This is what I call the cleansing factor in our society.
Some may say that this is not totally fair, but it is the new normal. So, as you proceed with your corporate message, put it to the smell test. Do you believe it? Do your employees believe it? Most of all, do your customers believe it?

Customer engagement is no longer a series of one-off experiences. This communication must be ongoing. Organizations will need to be good listeners in this new age of digital.

In the case I quoted above, apparently the company was numb to the fact that their customer service was challenged. With a large brand, it almost requires a periscope to monitor all mentions. Were they listening and monitoring what was being said? If they were, they would have known that they were challenged on their customer service.

Organizations today must foster trust and build relationships, not only with their new customers but with prospective customers as well. The thing I find more informative online is the comments and insights from the people who take the time respond. It can’t be ignored.

Forget the product, engage the relationship

In the end, it is not always about selling a product but trying to facilitate an active, passionate community around your product. That space should be open and ongoing. Build the relationship and the product will take care of itself.

And, take care of the engagement and the product or services will follow.

If you noticed, I mentioned customers throughout this article. My reason for that is because your employees are your customers, too. If you listen and engage them at every opportunity, everything else pretty much falls into place.

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