Friday, 11 September 2009

Employee Impact on Corporate Reputations and Web 2.0

I spent a very pleasant day on Wednesday with the HR team of Standard Life, one of Europe's major insurance and asset management companies as part of their 'Big Conversation' on the future of HR in the organization. It's great to see companies like this engaging in a serious way with outsiders who can bring something to their conversation to help them reflect on what they do and, hopefully, do things differently. The aim of the day was to help them enhance their own reputations and that of the company, and this was certainly what my co-presenter, Bill McEwen from the Gallup Organization, did.

One of the benefits that good consultants can bring to the table is often large data sets, which Bill certainly had at his fingertips. His theme was the relationship between employee brand advocacy and a range of customer satisfaction/ enagagement scores, which he demonstrated through close correlations. It was also interesting to see his data on the low levels of brand advocacy among government and financial services employees. However, perhaps the most powerful messages he put across were contained in two little stories. One was of the multiplicative effects of employee advocacy and engagement, e.g. great hotel buildings with disengaged employees equal zero customer satisfaction, according to Ritz Carlton's CEO. The other was the story of Dave Carroll, which appeared in Forbes magazine. To quote Bill:

'Dave Carroll was sitting in a window seat on a United plane at O'Hare airport in Chicago when he looked out and saw baggage handlers hurling guitar cases (Dave and his colleagues' guitars) through the air. He pointed it out to flight attendants; they responded with indifference. When he arrived in Nebraska, he found that his instrument had been smashed. After months of complaining to the airline and getting no response, he wrote and performed a song, "United Breaks Guitars," and posted it on YouTube. It was viewed more than 3 million times in its first 10 days'.

Bill's point was that it was the United flight attendant indifference and the indifference of the follow up staff that has caused probably United a great deal in terms of loss of reputation - a great deal more than the investment in effort to promote better customer service among flight attendants and/ or the $3-400 it would have cost United to replace the broken guitars and prevented the posting.

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