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Judgment Day: Social Media and Your Front Lines
Today’s post is from our friend and frequent guest contributor Matt Ridings, Founder of MSR Consulting. He’s a thought leader on integrating social media into the realm of business design and relationship marketing. He blogs over at Techguerilla, and you can find him on Twitter at @techguerilla.
Take a look at your front lines for a moment. Those initial contact points within your organization that create a first impression. An impression that will either give you an advantage, or that you must struggle to overcome.
A lot of attention is placed on customer service when this topic comes up, and rightfully so as it represents the highest volume of direct contact with your customers. But you must remember that all of your personnel once had their own ‘first contact’ with your company.
Actions Speak Loudly
When they applied for a job how were they treated by Human Resources? Did HR seem genuinely happy to be talking to them and helping them through the process? Thankful that someone would be interested enough in your company to want to work there? Or were they made to feel like a checkbox among a litany of procedures? Like they were lucky to be even considered for a job?
How you treat these future employees directly establishes the overall tone of the organization, and demonstrates the value you place on your business relationships. This is their first impression, and how they are being ‘trained’ in the ways of your organization. Why should you expect them to treat your customers any differently than you have treated them? Culture is something you demonstrate through your actions, not something you build procedures around. A fake smile can be seen quite clearly over a telephone or a tweet.
Enter social media. An environment in which the pace, and its public nature, put your people and their communication skills on display like nothing that has ever come before it. An environment that requires people to use quick judgment, something that you don’t currently give them very much opportunity to use. You put those few people whose judgment you trust at the top of escalation ladders, and rely on process to bubble the problem children (your customers) up to them eventually. Yet that type of escalation process does not, and cannot, exist in social media.
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More and more you will be dependent upon trusting your front lines to exercise sound judgment. As a result, you’ll need a different kind of approach to inducting these people into your organization, because judgment is difficult to simply teach or train. It’s typically built upon experience, and experiential skills do not come cheaply or quickly. But there are ways to create experiences that can help hone and shape judgment and critical thinking skills. Scenario building exercises are one approach that can come in handy when dealing with cultural shifts within an organization.
Start by making a list of scenarios. Have your employees, particularly those on the front lines, contribute their own. Scenarios are simply “what if” statements:
What if our Facebook page is hijacked by an outside party?
What if a customer or employee is continually acting in a harassing manner?
Your employees will build and retain these micro case studies through both the process of devising the questions and the discussion of the appropriate solutions and responses. Let them contribute the ideas for how best to resolve the question. Let them debate amongst themselves the pros and cons of each and provide a helpful nudge in the right direction where necessary. Sound judgment requires an understanding of *why* an answer is the right answer, not simply knowing the answer itself. In the process of these exercises you may find that you end up with not only more valuable employees, but also ones that feel more valued.
And remember, the people on whose judgment you now have to depend started with a first impression of your company – through HR, reception, or elsewhere. That is the foundation upon which you have to build, and one that will form the basis for your employees’ investment in the work that you do. You can spend your energy shoring up a weak foundation, or building upon a strong one. That choice is yours.
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This post was written by David Moceri