Do you have a conversational company?

Home Do you have a conversational company?

Companies have been fretting about how to steer the number of relevant conversations about their company. Everybody loves it when customers share positive experiences with their friends, right? During such discussions, however, we tend to forget that there’s a second source of great conversations: a company’s own employees.

Companies that manage to score well with both sources are the real conversational companies.

A combination of internal and external conversations

If you plot companies on the basis of these two conversational axes, you discover four types of companies. Companies nobody talks about are the ‘boring’ companies. A lot of B2B sector companies still occupy a spot in this corner – which is unfortunate, since these companies too could have great stories to tell. But nobody sees or hears them. Where the majority of conversations are generated by the employees, we have a ´proud´ company. This is where you will find companies that usually do not advertise a lot and are part of a niche sector. Advertising agencies are good examples of such companies.

When customers talk more about a company than the employees, there is a certain type of adoration. Apple is a good example. There are a lot of conversations about Apple on Twitter, but it is rather rare or even unheard-of for someone from the company to participate. When both sources are in balance, we have a ´conversational´ company. Typical examples are Zappos and Best Buy.

An important comment on this diagram: in both cases I am assuming the reactions to be mainly positive. If the underlying tone is predominantly negative, the adoration turns into bashing. In the rest of this article I am starting off from the positive situation.

Internal and external conversation sources are extremely complementary

The strength of getting conversations from both parties lies in the complementary character of the content. Conversations initiated by employees will usually contain a combination of formal and informal content. Formal content is mainly related to information on product launches, promotions, financial results … Informal content is more of a visit behind the company’s scenes. It contains stories that make the culture of the organisation visible. That way the company culture becomes part of the marketing mix, as it were.

Conversational company

Conversations generated from external stakeholders are usually different. Consumers talk most often about their experiences with a brand. You will get positive and negative stories about your company’s customer service and product quality.

Facilitate both groups into conversations

It is a nice exercise to plot your own company and other companies from your sector in this diagram. Once you know your own position, you can start thinking about the next step; and the goal of course is to become a conversational organisation.

The key word is ‘facilitating’. Make it easier for both internal and external people to talk about your services. Give enough content to the internal people for them to talk about. Don’t scare them off, encourage them. Make them proud of their company. People love being proud of their job. It gives them an important form of satisfaction. Just take a look at what happens when someone is interviewed for the company magazine: they show it to everyone! People love to let the people around them know what they do in everyday life. Help employees to share their stories with friends and they’ll love to do so!

Your customers will also be delighted to share their experiences. Asking them might result in a miracle. Helping them to spread their story makes it easier for them, which might lead them to do so more readily. You could visit your customers, for example, and record brief testimonials that you upload on-line. You could add a ‘What do you think of our service?’ section to your website. There are hundreds of ways to make it easier for people.

Why isn’t everyone doing it? Fear of the 5% losers.

Most companies are aware that they aren’t making their stakeholders’ conversations easier. The reason is fear. Fear of that small group who will say something negative. I think this reasoning is starting to become a problem. Obviously, a certain percentage of your employees and customers will be negative. For most companies we are talking about a mere 5%. The odd thing, however, is that the policy is often tailored to that 5%. Companies block Facebook because a small group of employees will spend the entire day on Facebook. The 95% of those who derive an advantage from it for the company aren’t allowed to act on their positive intentions. There is one main condition for becoming a conversational company: allow conversations, or – even better – encourage them.