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Nov 17 2010   7:59PM GMT

Why empowering your employees could transform your business

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

How many of you out there can vividly remember the times that you wished some customer service person would just get off the script and do something, usually something very simple, to address your problem? That’s the simple question. Here’s the hard one: How many of you solution provider types out there trust your own technical teams and customer service service sorts enough to empower them with the ability to do the same on behalf of YOUR customers?

There is a compelling new book out from two analysts from Forrester Research that details exactly why every business should be thinking about this. That book is called “Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers and Transform You Business.”

Here’s the central thesis: Your customers — and that includes business to business customers — are more empowered than ever to know everything there is to know about your business. They can watch viral videos that praise or bash your brand, they can search for all manner of information about your products and services. They will expect quick answers and have little patience for bureaucracy. Your front-line employees are your most important interface for supporting — or negating — what someone thinks. The Forrester authors, Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, call these employees HEROes, which stands for Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives. It is the technology solution provider’s job, the book suggests, to help businesses use technology to further empower these HEROes.

Which technologies? The three big factors are social technologies, such as Twitter and customer communities, as well as mobile applications and video technologies such as YouTube.

I actually read this book on a plane a few weeks back. For me, it was a great discussion of how social media and new technology delivery methods, such as cloud services, are transforming businesses. There are 25 specific case studies in the book and all sorts of supporting research.

The authors offer this commentary to describe the role of IT departments and, therefore IT solution providers, in this transformation:

“The biggest adjustment has to do with managing risk. Risk needs to become a business cost to be assessed rather than an IT concern to avoid. To accomplish this risk-management shift, firms need to craft a new agreement between employees, business managers and IT, where all three groups agree to manage risk, focus on customers and work in concert rather than at cross-purposes. IT will need to go further than that, though, to build the new security architecture, identify key technology platforms that empower employees, implement innovation and social collaboration programs, and be a technology advisor to employees and managers.”

Are you ready to take that leap of faith? I see two ways this book could matter to IT solution providers.

  1. It will give them a new framework for how they handle customer interactions
  2. It provides new context for thinking about the relevance of the technologies and services they recommend to customers and prospects

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