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The connected employee

March 5, 2014

There is constant chatter about our connected world: connected cars, connected homes and connected employees (technologically), even while on vacation! Despite all this, where connectivity really matters, many organizations are still lacking with disengaged employees and severely low customer intimacy levels. Gallup uncovered that "63 percent of workers are 'actively disengaged'" and research from Yesmail and Glenster tells the story of "80 percent of consumer-facing companies who don't understand their customers beyond basic demographics and purchase history." True customer and employee connections require a much more in-depth understanding, far beyond simple demographics and purchase history.

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For me a truly connected employee is one who knows and understands the customer and the company, including its strategy, products and services. Much of the disconnect between employees and customers stems from the inability to access and quickly weave customer data from various interaction points, channels and systems into accurate customer insight. Businesses do employees a disservice by placing them in front of an overly informed customer with half (or even less) of their weaponry. Employees struggle to respond to customer demands, find answers, decide on the next question for up-sell and provide up-to-date information to customers. Without customer data as ammo in the employee's arsenal, companies can lose the battle for customer loyalty. According to McKinsey "employees spend an average of 19 percent of their time searching for information, "effectively limiting the time they have to develop real connections with customers. Channels, data, data sources and customer demands, however, are only increasing. The pressing questions then are:

  • How can organizations keep pace with customers while equipping and empowering employees?  
  • What can businesses do to reduce the time employees spend on multi-application data hunts?

Businesses must rethink how they share and leverage customer knowledge gained at the frontline and through the different channels with the entire organization. Clear definitions of relevance and context are also important as customer service, sales and support all need a 360 view of the customer, but from different perspectives. Staying abreast of customers requires staying ahead of them as customer needs change seemingly daily. Organizations need to devise strategies to shift from reactive customer communication and interaction to provide proactive personalized engagement. Identifying the right message, at the right time, to the right individual are critical too, as we have all witnessed that proactive engagement with the wrong message spells f-a-i-l. The "2012 BRITE/NYAMA Marketing in Transition Study" indicates that "51 percent marketers say that a lack of sharing customer data within their own organization is a barrier to effectively measuring their marketing ROI." I am certain that the problem of lack of customer data extends beyond the walls of the marketing department.

Given the multitude of applications employees have to navigate, and the amount of customer data being generated, it's easy to understand why employees settle for not knowing. Customers however are still avidly devouring data before even contacting the company. Companies then must minimize the number of applications and pregnant pauses as employees flounder from application to application to respond to customers who demand instant answers. They need big data applications to help employees maneuver swiftly through customer data. Recently I read of the State of Minnesota "connecting millions of citizens to State government with intelligent data discovery tools." This is an excellent example of how organizations should approach the problem of the multi-application data hunt. Eileen Quam, application development team lead at MN.IT Services highlights this well when she said: “the flexibility and customizability of IBM InfoSphere Data Explorer are two of the biggest advantages. We have more confidence in our search offering, because we’re able to give our internal clients a lot of control over how search works. We can satisfy even very demanding clients." This is what businesses want and what employees need.

How would you define a connected employee? What role does data play in creating connected employees in your organization?