Engaging is not delivering

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Summary : tomorrow’s enterprises will be conversational and will need engagement from employees and customers. But engagement useless if not turned into concrete actions, if customers are note made actionable as parts of new social processes. Building engagement and conversations logics out of processes allowing to make the most of what is nothing more than an intention will lead to nothing except flashes in the pan.

Engagement has become a very trendy word. Either employees or customers should be engaged. But why ? Without engagement, what makes people feeling more concerned by enterprise or brand-focused collective challenges and dynamics, beyond their own assignments and objectives, it’s hard to find the fuel sustaining value co-creation systems that are the founding of tomorrow’s organizations.

So, everything is done to engage and the social tools universe plays its part in the movement. In fact, the social world is pretty much ahead because he’s one of the reason why engagement came back on the front scene these last years. On the employees’ side, I’ve already shared what I thought about it : no one should think that the use of any social platform by employees will replace a voluntaristic HR policy. It can be a part of it but nothing more.

So, let’s talk about the customer. Today’s tools make some things much more easier than they were in the pas. It’s easy to track signals and conversations about the enterprise, become proactive, join and response. That’s true that there’s no conversation without engagement, but customers can be engaged even if the enterprise chose not to invest this field : exemplarity in behaviors and product quality make it possible…social only being a substitute.

A second myth is also around. The one according to which, once the message has ben tracked, the sentiment analyzed and the conversation engaged…the job is done. I can’t count how many offers rely on this assumption : listen to your communities, engage…and it’s done. That’s a fallacy for at least two reasons. The first is that it’s not about communities but individual cases (even if gathered in community spaces…the nature of the container does not change the nature of the content) but since I’ve already dealt with this issue in previous posts there’s no time to waste on that. The second reason relates to the belief everything can be solved this way.

First, engaging the customer in a conversation does not mean engaging the customer with the brand. Facing a lamentable level of quality, conversation can make things less painful but some situations can’t be saved. And there’s no reason to blame the community manager : “if your product sucks, social media can’t change anything about it. Second, even when engaged, what is rather about a state of mind, internauts are useless for the enterprise. I used the word internaut in purpose because :

– “community member ” seldom is the reality

–  customer ? nothing tells the people involved in the conversations are customers. Most of times they are not.

– prospect ? any internaut is a potential prospect but they can help the enterprise without becoming customers (crowdsourcing, social marketing).

The internaut has to be activated within a process of any kind (marketing, r&d, services, sales…) to make engagement drive value. Having conversation without solving a problem is useless. Having conversations without trying to guess for what purposes the internaut can be actioned is useless. Having conversations that don’t help to “score” the internaut and don’t come with social processes related to innovation, customer service, marketing et… is useless because it does not turn the social potential into tangible business value.

Some may retort that value is not all, that image and reputation matter, that it’s all about soft things. Ok. But give me only one reason to improve one’s image or reputation if not leverage it for more “concrete” purposes.

In the logic of moving from CRM to Social CRM, there’s a point that’s often overlooked : the concept of customer management that disappeared behind conversations while the latter come to complete it, not to replace it. Moreover, to do things well, it would be better to forget the concept of customer and talk about Social Stakeholder Management because in such “value chain 2.0” approaches it’s possible to contribute to value creation without being a customer. In fact, it sounds reasonable to say that at least 50% that may jump in the wagon are not customers. What does not prevent them from being stakeholders.

So it’s essential to go back to basics and put conversations and engagement in the wider perspective of new value creation models, of value chain. If not the risk of endless chatting without value is real.

PS : I advise you to read  this post by Marc Fidelman on social CRM with similar conclusions.