Is it Enough to Love Thy Customer?

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Customer of the Week © by Steve Ganz

Twitter, Facebook, Path, Instagram – they may all individually fail some day.

But the concepts of a social life, play, work – World- these are not. We turn on the TV and watch and laugh at how out of touch Dundler Mifflin and Veridian Dynamics are.

But are we laughing at ourselves?

Is that why it’s funny, because we see our lives unfold and laugh to keep from crying?

Apparently, yes.

What makes a show like The Office a hit comedy may be a specific element of truth: most of us hate our jobs, or at least the corporate environment.

How is this relevant to being able to leverage social media for business? And where does loving the customer come in?

We’ll come back to that in a moment. First let’s take a deeper look at this notion that we’re a nation of job-hating automatons.

In recent years, “find a new job” has become one of the top New Year’s Resolutions. The Deloitte Shift Index [pdf] points out that 77% of Americans lack passion in what we’re doing for a living.

These figures are quite damning, but they aren’t without a glimmer of hope. I refer you specifically to more research by Deloitte – slide 92 of their presentation of the 2010 Shift Index  mentions having workers who are passionate about what they do as a solution to turnover due to job dissatisfaction.

Because staying competitive in the newly globalized labor market requires all of us to constantly renew and update our professional skills and capabilities. The effort required to increase our rate of professional development is difficult to muster unless we are passionately engaged with our professional activities.

(If that quote sounds familiar, it’s because it was also quoted in a blog post on LinkedIn.) It goes on to say:

We continue to focus on passionate employees—we believe this passionate segment will be best able to increase their rate of learning to keep pace with the rapid technological evolution driving today’s Big Shift.

(There’s also a shorter PDF excerpt of this study that focuses just on worker passion.)

So again, how is this relevant to being able to leverage social media for business?

Companies need to embrace social media from within, obviously, as we’ve agreed before. It can’t be this band-aid we slap on to a model that already isn’t working. And what does that mean?

Well, have you ever thought about the irony that some of the companies who most see social media as a band-aid marketing tool than a new way to communicate, are often internally miserable to work at? Almost like the kind of place that doesn’t get social media is that way because its internal culture constrasts sharply with the etiquette of the connected consumer?

How can an organization that its own employees hate then be trusted to communicate enthusiastically with the public?

To answer the question in the title: it’s enough to love they customer if you love ALL your customers.

(And for the record, when I say “love”, I don’t mean in the sense of Curtis Mayfield. I mean “love” figuratively – as in, “gratefully appreciate and behave accordingly”. But that would suck in a title.)

All your customers meaning: both your internal customers and your external customers must have their needs met by your company for you to be successful in social business.

We’ve seen the result of companies wanting to control the message without actually believing in it. How many examples can you name in the last year that had some kind of social media snafu?

And of them, how many would you say truly understood social media to begin with? Of those remaining, I’d be willing to bet that none of them have a good track record at maintaining positive relationships within their companies. As you’ve seen if you’ve read Humanize or Welcome to The Fifth Estate, if failure at social media was a disease, socially unfit work environments would be a leading symptom.

While not conclusive, recent informal studies have shown that being good to your internal customers has at least a correlation to being going at social media. (Just because you’re sniffling, it doesn’t automatically mean you have a cold. But it’s worth checking on, since most people who have colds will have a runny nose.)

Here’s where a devil’s advocate might say “So what if your company isn’t good at social media, as long as it’s still profitable?”

To which I say there’s reason to believe that in this century, the two are, at minimum, linked. If one doesn’t follow the other at some point, there’s at least a correleation.

Gentlemint, Pinterest, StumbleUpon – these things weren’t born in a vacuum. Social media couldn’t thrive if it didn’t fulfill an existing desire, particularly one that wasn’t being fully met.

Instead of looking at the micro, to be truly successful we must examine, dare I say, master the macro. Social media is a fantastic pill, and it reversed our previous condition, and it’s getting closer and closer to being a cure.

But what was our ailment?

Answer that, and you have the next trend to prepare your entity for in years to come.

Which we’ll be touching on a bit in coming days, as we continue our series on this subject.

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