Bullish on Books Blog

Turn Your Employees Into ‘HEROes’

Jeb Goldman checking out Black Friday deals
Photo: Jim Goldman | CNBC

Wanna know what keeps marketing officers up all night?

Mommy bloggers.

And Daddy bloggers and teen bloggers - actually anyone with access to a social networking site.

With one angry post on a web site - years and years of meticulous research and all that time with all those focus groups are shot to .... well, you know where.

Armed with an account on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site out there - an unhappy customer can savage a company's good name and reputation. One bad experience with the service call center can become the focus of an emergency Board of Directors meeting.

Social networking has turned customer service into the new marketing.

"You’re at the mercy of your own customers these days. It used to be that companies defined their brands. Now, increasingly, their own customers define their brands," writes Josh Bernoff co-author of "Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business" who has written a Guest Author Blog for CNBC.

Empowered is full of examples from dozens of case studies and data from Forrester Research to arm the reader with new business tools and information the authors say is necessary to move any organization ahead of the competition.

And key to getting ahead and staying ahead is making sure you have some HEROes on your staff. Yep, HEROes, the Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives that are already within your organization willing and able to unleash their super powers to save your company.

To find out who those HEROes are - and how you can help them help YOU ... read on. Bernoff's Guest Author Blog explains why you need empowered employees to engage today's customers with unlimited power that can grow or destroy your company.


Guest Author Blog

Why The Business World Needs Empowered Employees by: Josh Bernoff, coauthor of "Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business"

You’re at the mercy of your own customers these days.

It used to be that companies defined their brands. Now, increasingly, their own customers define their brands.

Maytag spent years advertising its dependability. But when mommy blogger Heather Armstrong (known on the web as “dooce”) bought a Maytag to prepare for the laundry tsunami associated with her new baby, it failed. So did the Maytag repairman. Three times. Reaching the service department at Maytag’s parent company, Whirlpool , on the phone, she was thwarted once again. The result was a tweet that said “DO NOT EVER BUY A MAYTAG. I repeat: OUR MAYTAG EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN A NIGHTMARE.”

A million people saw that.

Nine million people have seen Dave Carroll’s entertaining music video United Breaks Guitars,” about his frustration with trying to get a refund for a guitar damaged by United Airlines baggage handlers.

People have unlimited power these days. Empowered by social networks, smart mobile devices, and video that’s easy to create and share, they know what price your competitor is charging, whether people hate your restaurant, and whether the car you’re selling has a poor service record. And they know it instantly.

When the world operates at this speed, companies managed in a top-down way can’t cope.

The only way to manage is to empower your own staff to solve customer problems. Only empowered employees can operate at the speed of empowered customers.

In our new book Empowered, we call these innovative employees HEROes – highly empowered and resourceful operatives. Embracing them is key – but it’s also very different from the way most companies manage these days.

For example, electronics retailer Best Buyimplemented Twelpforce, a shared Twitter system that lets 2,500 front-line sales staff, outbound Geek Squad service people, and others respond to tweets for help.

When Josh Korin, a recruiter in Chicago, complained on Twitter about Best Buy’s inability to replace his failed iPhone, Coral Biegler, a customer service person, stepped in and solved the problem. Coral could do this because John Bernier, a marketing staffer, had rolled out the Twelpforce service that Coral used. John Bernier succeeded because Ben Hedrington, a technical guy in the company’s Web group, built a system for sharing Twitter accounts in a week of evenings. The whole company runs this way. At Best Buy, employees are empowered to build technology solutions. (And Josh Korin is now tweeting about how great the company’s service is.)

At Microsoft , community expert Marty Collins found that people actually liked their PCs. The “I’m a PC” videos they submitted showed that they didn’t behave like the caricature in the Apple commercials – they got work done with Windows. With her help, this “I’m a PC” theme became a key part of the successful launch of Windows 7, expanding from a Web-only effort into a set of TV commercials.

Another target for watering down is the amount of money the reform bill would require firms to pay upfront as part of a bailout fund for too-big-to-fail firms that might need financial help.

At the huge insurance company Chubb , an innovation contest generated a clever idea from Frank Goudsmit, an underwriter with 21 years of experience. He sat in the perfect position to see the challenges faced by the company’s life-sciences clients, and his idea for how to speed up the way the company supported those clients got picked from over 600 other ideas, funded, and implemented.

These companies have cracked the code.

Their culture encourages people to innovate with technology. They encourage new ways to reach out to customers and turn them into online promoters. Their sharing and innovation systems make it possible for HEROes to work together and get funded. Their IT departments encourage this activity, rather than trying to shut it down. They operate at the speed of their own empowered customers.

There are HEROes in every company. The question is – are you embracing and supporting their ideas, or blocking their path? As the Internet continues to empower customers, your company needs HEROes. Find them, help them, and reap the benefits of their creativity.

Click here to read an excerpt from "Empowered"

About the authors:Josh Bernoff is the coauthor of Empowered: Unleash your Employees, Energize your Customers, and Transform your Business, a book about how to manage companies in the age of empowered customers. His previous book, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, was a BusinessWeek bestseller and won the American Marketing Association Foundation’s award for the best marketing book of the year in 2009.

Email me at bullishonbooks@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter