Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

I’m More Than Just A Number

In a previous post, I wrote about the necessity of making business and the workplace personal again for both improving productivity, as well as spurring growth and innovation. Following the comments and conversations brought on by that piece, I got to thinking about another important relationship dynamic in business – that between companies and their customers, especially in light of the impact social media is currently having on the business world.

These days, there’s a general consensus that businesses need to play a more active role in social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. However, being active on social media sites means you have to be authentic and transparent if you really want to reap the benefits of participating in these online communities. Of course, that doesn’t mean I want to hear about how Toyota welds the various car parts to the chassis or what’s the thread count for the linen the Sheraton Hotel chain uses in its bedding since that’s of little relevance or interest to me as a consumer.

So what does it mean then when we say we want companies to be authentic and transparent? Well, it means simply treating us as more than just a number.

It means your goal is not simply looking at how many people you can get to follow you on Twitter or Facebook. It means you’re not simply going to broadcast press releases or news of your latest sale that we could learn about on your website or in newspaper fliers. It means you’re interested in the person behind those numbers found in your followers/friends count – who they are, what they’re interests are, and what they enjoy/dislike about your product or service.

It also means that we don’t want to have “Toyota” or “Sheraton” following us on Twitter or sending us a friend request on Facebook. We can’t interact with a company name because it’s faceless, inhuman; something that exists on paper or as a sign on some brick-and-mortar building. Instead, I want to see Frank from Toyota, the manager of the plant floor engaging with me in response to questions I had about some of the child safety features being offered in certain types of cars. I want Michelle, the manager at the Sheraton hotel I recently stayed at telling me how happy she is to hear I enjoyed my stay, and asking what they can do to make my next stay even better. In other words, I want to see companies that understand that they should be talking to me as a person, and not simply broadcasting at me because I fit into their target audience.

Unfortunately, many companies are wary of having their employees using social media sites on their behalf, of out fear that they won’t be able to represent the idealized image of the company or worse, end up saying the wrong thing. But it’s these kinds of imperfections which allow us to make genuine connections; that we feel like we’re actually conversing with a real person and not some persona or fabrication. Indeed, the fact that companies would open themselves up to making mistakes – along with the ability to be honest in admitting such – would show us that the company is saying ‘Yes, we don’t always get it right, but we’re working on it’.

In both cases, these relationships simply cannot be treated as mere numbers in a spreadsheet; either of how well employees measure up to a certain metric or how much of a return on investment there is interacting with a customer. Granted, these measurements are valuable tools, to help give us insights into how effective our efforts are in creating the results we want. But what we need to realize is that this is merely one part of the equation in assessing how successful our company really is.

Does this mean we have to change the way we do business? Personally, I prefer to think of it as just doing business better.

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  1. On January 12th, 2010 at 4:07 PM Ari Herzog said:

    You don’t want to know the thread count of hotel linen? Wouldn’t you rather spend 1/3 of your day on soft, comfortable sheets and not hard, sandpaper ones?

    Your thoughts are spot-on with something I recently wrote where you can read comments galore, including from most of the companies I reference.

  2. On January 12th, 2010 at 4:35 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    LOL! Actually, Ari I’m more interested in knowing the pillow fill power as I’d rather rest my head on a nicely-padded pillow than one of those flat ones you have to stack up like pancakes. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Ari – glad to see we’re in agreement (outside of whether thread count or pillow fill power is more important 🙂 ). I’ll definitely check out your post on this very issue.

  3. On January 13th, 2010 at 9:20 AM John Haydon said:

    Tanveer – another “home run” post! Paradoxically, it seems that social media (ones and zeros) is demanding that we be more human.

  4. On January 13th, 2010 at 9:41 AM John Haydon said:

    There's a company called "Awareness Networks" that creates private social networking sites or forums for businesses – precisely so that customers can share with each other – and companies can learn from those interactions.

  5. On January 13th, 2010 at 12:00 PM John Haydon said:

    Yup – it's all about the plan.

  6. On January 13th, 2010 at 12:15 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks John; I appreciate that. 🙂

    I think one key reason why social media has the potential to make business more human is because everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinion to a large audience, and not simply their local, inner core of friends and family. For businesses, this means they have to let go of that old model of simply broadcasting information about their products/services and instead, listening to what their customers/users are saying about it.

    In fact, hearing about how your customers are using your products/services can be a very valuable tool in developing new features/tools based on this feedback you’re getting, for free no less.

    Thanks again, John, for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed this latest piece. 🙂

  7. On January 13th, 2010 at 2:06 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks John for pointing that out. I’m sure there are many tools/resources out there for companies to benefit from. The only question will be how many will choose to take advantage of them, if not implementing them well.

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