On Tuesday Andrew Jenkins started a discussion on this blog about organizations showing their humanity.
Another way of looking at the humanity of a business is by analyzing its culture: is there a culture of kindness and mutual respect? If there is not, I can guarantee you that there are a tremendous amount of missed opportunities.
It’s Not Marketing Fluff
Social Media, with all of its positives, has also brought us a severe degree of group think.
Danny Brown talked about the social marketing community being unwilling to call out its own when they are misguided, or blatantly misleading. These practices have brought many outside of our profession to view us as snake oil salespeople, not to be trusted.
It’s easy to read about Humanity in Business and think: “Dear God, more touchy- feely -gobble-de-goop from the Marketers among us.”
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The lack of kindness in business costs money.
Apart from making it a pleasure for the people within your organization to come to work, kindness makes a business more efficient. When a culture of caring is created, your employees elevate their level of customer service.
Don’t think that Zappos’ extraordinary success isn’t founded on their premier customers service and willingness to make the customer experience incredible every time.
Norstroms, famous for stellar customers service, is also regularly ranked as one of the top companies to work for in the US. Both are also incredibly profitable businesses; there’s a reason.
Creativity: Apart from raising the level of customer service, a culture of kindness boosts company morale. When employees feel that their employer and co-workers care about them, their productivity soars, and so does their creativity. If you have ever worked in a culture that encourages brainstorming, you will know that the first rule is that no idea is a bad one. People must be willing to take risks in their thinking without fear of repercussion or ridicule. Creative company cultures produce product innovation and break down barriers.
Collaboration: In our work, creating social business strategies that are relevant company wide, one of the greatest challenges we face are the internal, territorial silos that exist within organizations. The data that we provide through our work cannot be utilized in silos; it must be digested and understood by different departments, but using the information we glean and understanding how it can benefit a company in product development, customer service, marketing etc., requires team work and a broad company perspective. A culture that promotes kindness, mutual respect and humanity by its very nature spurs people to listen to opposing ideas with more openness, and makes common ground a lot easier to reach.
Unity of Messaging: An additional detriment of silos and compartmentalized teams is reflected in company messaging, both externally and internally. When mutual respect is the foundation of your team, communication ramps up and the entire company becomes more transparent. Part of being a team is understanding goals and how to get there, meaning that the message put out by all departments is uniform when you are all headed in the same direction on the same path.
Relationship Building: The old adage that ‘the least expensive customer you can attract is the one you already have’ is truer today that it ever was. Maintaining customers is largely based on customer relations; when you build a solid relationship by repeated acts of kindness and superb customer service, you build loyalty and a reservoir of good will that you may need in the future when mistakes may be made. This relationship building is true of customers, vendors and partners; a constant cycle of having to build new relationships is both exhausting and more expensive than maintaining those you already have.
The Social Media Megaphone
Everything I’ve written about in this post has been true as long as business has existed, and there are countless examples of success built on the principles of humanity in business. Today, with the megaphone of social media blaring stories at lightning speed across the web, it is truer still. Nothing goes viral as quickly as cute cats and customer nightmares.
But there is more to worry about than a United Breaks Guitars scenario, there is the private social conversation that goes on that you cannot hear.
In this age of easy connectivity, the people you deal with meet each other by chance, happenstance or with intent, and in social forums of many forms. People talk, or these days, type, and your reputation can be bolstered or tarnished without you even knowing the connections are taking place.
Changing Your Organizational Humanity
If you work in or lead an organization that does not reflect the values I’ve described, but want to transform it, I can tell you that a) its entirely possible, and b) it will take a lot of hard work, time, strategy and patience.
Organizations cannot change overnight, and the process of selling your internal customer can be very difficult. If they don’t believe in the authenticity of your message, all is lost, so you must start there and the directives must come from the very top of the organization.
It is almost impossible to do this without bringing in outside experts, and selecting the right outside experts is one of the most important decisions you will make.
It is almost inevitable that organizations that lack humanity make these significant changes. I am not fear mongering or threatening; there are plenty of successful companies that are simply hard-nosed, profit driven environments that will not buy into a word I’ve written.
It is simply my prophesy that those type of organizations will become more and more rare as the business world changes around them.