If you pay for passion, do you just get a transaction?

I think I’ve hit upon a silver bullet. I know exactly how to hire and keep the right people to achieve excellence but I need to take you on a journey before I can reveal it. This is the first of four posts on motivation.

Motivating staff is difficult – this perspective was the second common denominator at ECEW. An uncomfortable partner of the first denominator – striving for excellence. Let me illustrate that with a few examples from the attending speakers.

Metrobank: breaking down the old rules doesn’t free up everyone

The first new high street bank in more than 100 years, Metrobank says of itself: ‘finally a bank you can love’. Chairman Anthony Thomson explained how Metrobank’s differentiator is its customer experience with generosity playing a major part in their service approach. He gave an example of a branch launch where waiting customers were given a voucher for a local coffee shop. Thomson noticed, later that day, that customers didn’t have coffees. The vouchers had run out but the staff had taken no action. It apparently took quite some coaching before the staff came up with a suitably generous solution – customers were urged to purchase drinks and then present their receipts to Metrobank to be reimbursed. Metrobank rewards its staff for good service. Nonetheless Thomson had to keep prompting staff to use their initiative in addressing customer service. He observed that finding staff who want to serve is a challenge and that empowering staff to do things differently is ‘difficult’.

BestBuy: simple rules and supportive infrastructure motivate staff to get involved

Best Buy, on the other hand, was a great example of how to empower staff. Gina Debogovich, Senior Manager, Communities, described how the company’s employees are all encouraged to champion the Best Buy brand online as their ethos is to ‘meet customers where they’re at’. Internally they have made partnerships with PR, Legal, Ethics, HR and marketing to ensure their social media strategy is fully integrated. For staff the internal support framework is robust. There is a comprehensive training programme in customer relations and in social media. The Best Buy social media policy is simple and accessible and comes down to three points: be smart, be respectful, be human. How empowered and motivated are her employees? Debogovich’s measure was her staff retention rate – practically her entire original team still work with her.

The social customer: they’re more engaged than your staff and there’s lots more of them

Michael Wu, Principal Scientist of Analytics at Lithium Technologies talked about the evolution of the ‘social customer’. Connected, collaborative and communicative, they are empowered and have high expectations of your organisation. But no organisation could ever hope to hire enough staff to handle all the conversations on the social web. Wu’s premise was that the only way an organisation can scale for social is through social – taking advantage of the communities that form online by crowdsourcing:

  • Community driven service and support – GiffGaff is a great example of this
  • Community driven commerce – Barnes and Noble can demonstrate that even non-members buy more after visiting their book club
  • Customer collaboration – making the most of the communal discovery dynamic and the potential for effective market research.

At the end of Wu’s presentation I still had the same question in my head – what’s in it for them? Is there really a tappable body of consumers ready to take over your service and support? It’s already happening says BT. One member of the BTCare Community ForumImjolly – gives up to 39 hours of his time per week providing help and assistance, unbidden and unpaid.

Can you get the right engagement if you have to pay for it?

That is some motivation. Those people are being driven by an altruistic/egotistic desire to help. Their kick back is respect and authority. Imjolly is badged in the Forum as a Distinguished Guru. Abraham Maslow records a need for esteem in his famous hierarchy.  I wondered about the interplay of social and market norms here. According to Dan Ariely, social norms are a symptom of our need for community. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do to help out a neighbour or family member. But introduce the hard-edged world of market norms to that relationship and the dynamic changes. To quote Ariely: “when you are in the domain of market norms, you get what you pay for”.

Ariely argues that social norms inspire acts that go the extra mile, while market norms inspire a cost/benefit analysis. We regularly ask our employees to give ‘110%’ though.

So how can you consistently harness that pitch of dedication from workers?


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