To correct the imbalance within the division of labor and increase corporate presence on digital platforms, consider adopting a workflow process built around modern social technology.

I was having lunch in London and talking with a colleague about the real challenge faced by most businesses when adopting social technology, which is the division of labor that exists in most organizations. Ironically, we were in the same place - England - that originated this practice as the Industrial Revolution began. And it was the same place - thank Sir Berners Lee - that has now given rise to the most significant force regarding that division of labor: hyper-connectivity and the social web.

Nearly three-quarters of marketing professionals and executives will claim that his or her firm has a social media policy. However, only 20 percent believe they have the employees with the right skills to pull it off. They'll agree that social channels like Facebook and Twitter in the U.S. and Western Europe have become a preferred channel for customer care - 6 percent of consumers consider call centers a last resort. Yet, the majority of posts directly to brands go unanswered.

Even more striking, the approach to using these digital channels is quite traditional. A specific team owns it - usually marketing for outbound publishing, and customer care for inquiries and replies - with relatively little interaction between the two. There is also little to no involvement from other departments.

This division of labor mirrors the same kind of thinking that defined the organizational structures put in place at the start of the industrial revolution. It's no wonder that organizations typically tap only 40 percent of their actual potential when it comes to resolving issues. Or when asked, more than 70 percent of employees say they feel underutilized.

Given (Read more...) mismatch, it's no surprise that many of the champions actively pushing for adoption of social technology and processes feel overwhelmed. Social is put in a box, handed to one or two departments, and funded at a few percent of what is spent on advertising and phone banks. I don't see success coming given that approach.

The reality is that what is required is a holistic review of the fundamental business structure. How do employees across departments work together? How do complex customer inquiries get passed to the deep, internal subject matter experts who can respond with a solution instead of, "So, (caller name) what you're saying is (repeat whatever the caller just said)."

What's required are workflow processes built on contemporary social technology -ironically, the kind we all use at home, at work, and on our smartphones. Contemporary social workflows should involve:

  • Capturing and sharing events
  • Comments
  • Indications of relative favorability
  • Presentation
  • Discussion of options

Additionally - and perhaps most importantly - social workflows should result in a realization of an eventual solution based on collective input from diverse sources.

Here's how the social web works: as consumers, we naturally post questions and observations, seek options, ratings, reviews, and we use that information to make decisions. This isn't rocket science - it's the same way young people "shop socially," and they do it all day long. Yet, when we walk into the office, we expect our own customers to listen to us and accept what we say as the only answer. 

Think instead about how various disciplines within your organization could work together to create amazing customer experiences using social technology. Human Resources and Legal could craft hiring and response policies that enabled your subject matter experts to participate. Customer Care could then incorporate those experts into its workflows, and marketing could learn from the interactions involving those experts. Marketing could then understand what the brand really stands for, as determined by customers. That would change things. Of course, it would also require a different approach to organizational structure in which collaboration and collective thinking was rewarded. 


Imagine workflows that included customers directly, engaging with the organization at various levels depending on the nature of the inquiry. Basic customer care can be delivered through peer forums and support agents that also rely on and curate those support forums themselves. Conversations expressing purchase intent could be shared with pre-sales engineers who would then nurture the conversation into an eventual sales lead. Ideas and feature requests could find their way onto the desks of product managers and designers, after being vetted in peer forums and ad hoc research communities. That would accelerate innovation, reduce support costs, enhance loyalty through earlier detection of likely churn, and create a more engaged workforce.

Start now by re-examining your fundamental business objectives. Ask yourself the question, Who in the organization could work with our customers to make these happen? Then connect them.

Article image via Shutterstock. 

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