One of the biggest topics to emerge from the Microsoft conference circuit this year is the concept of “working like a network” -- encouraging companies to rethink how they operate, collaborate and communicate by using enterprise social technologies to eliminate departmental silos. This allows companies to better adapt and respond to ever-shifting market conditions as well as improve knowledge sharing.
To get a good understanding of what that vision looks like, watch Yammer’s Moments video. It shows how people within a responsive organization used Yammer to collaborate and create a product that made a difference for its customers. The video ends in a new product design job for an administrative coordinator, happy customers who fulfilled their goals, and a warm feeling about the power of enterprise social. This isn’t just marketing hype either: McKinsey & Company recently conducted a survey of leading enterprise companies on the use of social networks, and nearly 90 percent reported a measurable business benefit gained from implementing social platforms.
Now let’s define the possible benefits you can realize through enterprise social:
- Save time, money and effort on change management processes
- Generate new products with higher likelihood of success upon launch
- Reduce operational, customer service and training costs
- Identify new leaders in the company and retain talent to stimulate future growth
Examples of how social can create these benefits for businesses can be seen within the worlds of change management and customer service.
Using Social to Improve Change Management Processes and Customer Service
Enterprise social has revolutionized the way businesses approach change management. Change management principles aim to establish a structured approach that ensures changes are successfully implemented. This traditionally requires an assessment of the situation, followed by observation, analysis -- garnering employee and customer feedback -- piloting and implementation.
Enterprise social has accelerated the traditional timeline for change management efforts. In today’s world, there is a limitless amount of information, feedback and criticism being presented through public social networks to companies -- meaning that companies must become far more agile and responsive to feedback than ever before. The good news for businesses is that leveraging social capabilities is not only the cause of these problems, but can also serve as a solution.
Analyzing How Social Affects Customer Service
One measurable benefit of social is customer satisfaction. It is now expected that enterprise businesses employ social media to share promotions and garner feedback from their respective customer bases. Companies tout their average first response times and customer satisfaction ratings with pride. This is one part of the overall equation. The reality is that these efforts often do not lead to widespread change because the communication is only between the customer and a social media customer service team. It is essentially the same idea as calling a customer service department, except using different technology.
To provide maximum benefits, you can integrate your internal and external social networks to not only provide value to your customers and reduce costs, but also facilitate knowledge transfer to solve issues more productively. A recent example of this comes from Nationwide Insurance. A call center agent received a call from a customer whose RV broke down and wanted to know if their policy covered the event. That agent did not know the answer, so he posted the customer’s question on his Yammer network, received an answer and was able to resolve the customer’s issue.
Real Life Examples of Social in Action
When an organization is looking to bring a new product to the market, it must do their due diligence to ensure its success. Success relies on multiple factors, including:
- Strong leadership and vision provided by product owners
- Conducting extensive market analysis and research to gauge interest, find a receptive audience, evaluate the competition and ensure market penetration
- Extensive development, quality assurance and prototyping to go to market with a functional product
- Effective advertising campaigns to spread awareness and generate excitement for launch
Social can be used to amplify all of the efforts to create products with a higher likelihood of success when first introduced to the market.
Create Real-Time Market Analysis to Gauge Interest and Ensure a Receptive Audience
Companies can also leverage social to bring their customer base into the product design process. Dell’s IdeaStorm website has generated more than 17,000 ideas for new products and has spurred adoption of 500 of them. The company also creates StormSessions to post its initial ideas for products. It then encourages its customers to propose refinements, design tips and requirements.
Think of these sessions as pseudo-hackathons with customers driving innovation forward. Dell says that these sessions create more detailed feedback than traditional focus groups, and helps to create links to an important group of customers.
Add the Water Cooler into Your Product Design and Marketing Efforts
Every company has the proverbial water cooler -- a place where its employees converge to talk about current events, where they are going after work or ideas that could “change and revolutionize the business.” Often these conversations are just hot air, but sometimes they could be ideas that can create positive change. One of the reasons why these conversations happen where they do is because employees may not feel comfortable or empowered enough to share their ideas with their bosses, product managers or executives.
Enterprise social is a way for organizations to encourage these ideas and crowdsource innovations from their workforce. Take Whole Foods for example, which provided incentives to its employees to use Yammer and rewarded them for innovations. When staff at one California location executed a new idea to open a tap room, they ended up generating a brand new revenue stream and outperforming an existing department. Word was spread, and now Whole Foods has tap rooms in more than 100 locations.
Companies can also create virtual water coolers to facilitate new marketing ideas. SuperValu has created a network that connects more than 11,000 employees, contains more than 1,000 Yammer groups and creates more than 1,000 messages per day. One Yammer group helped store managers solve a common issue: how to increase revenue in college towns.
The meetings led to the creation of two marketing promotions developed in less than six months to stimulate spend from returning college students in August. One promotion packaged 9,000 $99 mini-refrigerators with $99 worth of coupons in order to generate additional revenue in food sales. The second promotion created “beer pong” displays -- packaging Ping-Pong balls, red Solo cups and beer together. The CEO of SuperValu has praised the value that enterprise social has brought to the company, and has cited it as a leading factor in improving profit and facilitating growth.
Improve training on new products
When a new product is launched, it is essential for your workforce to be trained on how to sell it, make it and teach new and existing employees. Enterprise social can be utilized to expedite the training process, save money on printing educational materials and create a real-time feedback mechanism to drive the product roadmap.
When Red Robin introduced its new Tavern Double burger in 2012, it did just that: using Yammer to reduce its timelines and costs significantly. Days after launch, it trained its workforce, and was already testing out second-generation versions of its burger based on the feedback it received on Yammer.
Overall Lessons to Be Learned
Enterprise social is not just a trendy buzzword -- it’s a hard, fast enterprise reality that has helped to drive measurable benefits for many businesses across the world. It’s time for CTOs to step back and evaluate how they can improve their existing processes and profit margins, reduce costs and drive innovation by intelligently inserting social initiatives where it makes sense for their businesses.