The Reputation Equation

sex-and-the-city-post-it-noteNobody likes a break up. Popular culture has shown us over the years that there’s a right way and a wrong way to break up, e.g., never with a Post-it note.

This week the Internet served up two very different kinds of break ups, both involving employees. One, the cautionary tale that is the Comcast call, proves digital media can part your corporate kimono in ways you haven’t anticipated at a scale you haven’t imagined. The second, a farewell blog post from a former employee to Coca-Cola, is just plain classy.

Both demonstrate how Employees + Social Media = Reputation.

The Comcast call

Slide2The call is a rough go (if you haven’t listened, you can access it via NPR here). I’m guessing that Comcast hadn’t anticipated a customer recording and posting such a call. But when it happened (and the big bus of public opinion came barreling down), Comcast quickly issued an apology stating its embarrassment over the employee’s behavior adding that the behavior is “inconsistent” with training. Hm. I’ve broken up with too many service providers over the years to accept that this was simply an ambitious, caffeinated maverick. It’s easier for me to believe that the rep behaved this way because he was either trained or culturally influenced (or both) to behave this way. Tellingly, when the caller asserts that it’s none of the rep’s business why he wants to cancel his service, the rep responds that it is his business, that his business is “to know why customers are leaving.” Bingo – the training and the cultural norms of a culture that likely penalizes representatives for losing customers vs. rewarding them for keeping them.

I know this sounds like two ways to say the same thing, but it’s really not; it’s about energy and approach. One approach trains to the negative, the other to the positive; one drives conflict, the other, agreement. When an organization trains to the negative, employees become less focused on the customer and more focused on themselves. And once this happens…well, we’ve heard what happens – the employee will hang on for dear life trying to get his own needs met at the expense of the customer and the company’s reputation.

Customer facing employees are the frontlines of reputation and yet are too often very far down on the internal communications food chain. Training isn’t one and done, it’s an ongoing dialogue about values, goals, contributions and rewards. (Interestingly, the Comcast corporate values do not include an explicit customer-focused principle.) Separately, John Herrman writing on The Awl provides some interesting insights and empathy for the rep.

An emplSlide1oyee love letter

Poignant, poetic and not a little astonishing is this farewell note from a former Coca-Cola employee to Coke that expresses gratitude for their time together and captures highlights of what he learned on the job. All employers should strive to deliver such post-worthy employee experiences. Perhaps Coke would have preferred this employee’s tenure be longer than four years, but it clearly set the conditions for him to learn, grow, and stay, and if not stay, then fly.

More and more employees are curating their careers, purposefully choosing opportunities that add up to a unique whole. Employers that accept this evolution with grace and a spirit of generosity, and invest in their culture and opportunity, will earn employees like this one.

There is no more credible spokesperson for an organization than the employee. A note like this does more for a company’s reputation (and talent attraction efforts) than packaged content ever will.



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