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November 22, 2010

How many of your employees love your products? (And why it matters.)

by Josh Bernoff

In a world where you need to depend on your staff to reach out to increasingly empowered customers, you won't get very far if your employees don't believe in what you're doing.

I mention this now because of two items I've noticed -- employees in commercials and the data we collected on employee advocacy.

First, as noted in an article in Advertising Age, more and now more companies are now putting actual staff front and center in their advertising. As they nicely put it:

"While employees have always been the front line of customer interactions for brands, particularly those in the service industry, a number of factors of late have brought them more to the fore, including a more transparent and socially engaged society, a still-fragile economy where everyday value trumps aspirational brand attributes, and an ongoing lack of trust in corporate America and CEO spokespeople."

Best Buy is a leader here. The company now bases its brand on helpful service, and the salespeople ("Blue Shirts") are at the center of that image, so it's natural to see them in ads. Twelpforce is an extension of the same idea. Southwest Airlines' commercials similarly reflect the brand image with genuine employee banter and questionable acting skills -- here's one hilarious example:

Could your company do this? Probably not, and there's where the data comes in.

In a report published today, we examined the question of employees advocating for their companies. Forrester surveyed 5,519 information workers across the US and Europe. We used a variation on the Net Promoter methodology, asking on a ten-point scale, "How likely are you to recommend your company's products or services to a friend or family member?" As in Net Promoter, we count people as promoters if they rate this a 9 or 10, neutral if they rate it a 7 or 8, and detractors for 0 through 6. The results amazed me. For example:

  • 49% of information workers are detractors, and only 27% were promoters. That's a net score (promoters minus detractors) of -23%. (Yes, that's a negative number.)
  • Canada had the best scores in our survey, France the worst. But even in Canada, there are more detractors than promoters.
  • Directors, VPs, and executives are net promoters, but individual workers and managers/supervisors are net detractors.
  • Among US workers, the best scores are in design, HR, and the ever-optimistic sales department. With a net score of -10%, marketers are actually more likely to be detractors than promoters for their own products. But customer service workers are among the most likely to be detractors. When your call center staff don't believe in your company, you're ripe for your own Maytag moment.
  • In case you're wondering if you should allow employees onto social networks (and trust me, you can't stop them), try this fact on: workers who use social media are among the most positive. 48% would strongly recommend a company's products and services and only 22% were detractors, for a net score of 26% -- among the highest of the groups we surveyed.

What should you do? Well, you could squeeze more work out of people, tell them exactly what to do and punish them when they don't do it, and block their access to technology. This might boost short-term profits and make you feel like you're in charge. In a recession, they probably won't quit. But they sure won't be spreading joy to your customers.

Or you could spread an internal reputation that customer problem-solvers will be encouraged and highlight the workers who do it. You could empower people. Then the ideas will be coming from you staff instead of just from you. And maybe they'll be sufficient happy you could put them in your TV commercials, get them tweeting about your products, and generating customer advocates with their enthusiasm. That's hard to do, but it's worth it.


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Thumbs up to your creativity, your way of writing, your narration, your intelligence and lastly your decision to write on this topic! Hats off man…keep it up.

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