E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business – Finally, A New KPI in the Making

If you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would notice how there is a certain topic that keeps coming back time and time again, as one of my main key focus areas I have always felt would help advance our overall efforts of pushing the boundaries of our various different social business transformation journeys: the overall client experience. And I am not talking about the traditional concept behind a customer. To me, everyone is a client in some form or shape: your very own colleagues, your managers, your executives, etc. are also even your clients. You keep serving them for whatever purpose through your specific cooperation and collaboration efforts. They are also the very same ones that keep you employed for many years to come, just like any other customer would do. Are you paying attention to them as well just as much?

While I was at IBM, working during those 17 years in multiple internal projects within 6 different business units, one comes to realise that even though you are working on the blue dollars (vs. the green dollars), there is always something you can do to focus on that client experience: delighting your clients. That is, help them achieve their goals and objectives, address and fix their potential business problems, and eventually help enable them to excel at what they are already rather good at. It’s an interesting, and a rather fascinating experience altogether, because, amongst several other things, it always manages to keep you sharp, in your toes, about the client value you can provide, even to your peers. To the point where, to me, it became my new KPI over the course of time in terms of how I would value and measure the success of my own work across organisation(s).

How delighted are your customers with your own work over the course of time is probably as good as it gets, whether internal or external, in terms of proving and demonstrating your value and overall contributions, so when the smart folks at CMSWire invited me to write an article around the whole topic behind “The Search for ROI in Social Business” I just couldn’t help writing about the need, for me (Perhaps for you, too), to create that new KPI that would help me successfully identify whether I am on the right track, or not, in providing value to the customers I interact with, specially, now even more so that I am an independent trusted advisor and have shifted focus from internal into external work. 

That invitation from CMSWire to write that article has also helped me frame something that has been in my mind for a long while, whenever I embark on the conversations of how do you measure the value of your own Social Business initiatives, and whether it’s time to go deeper, moving further beyond the overall low hanging fruit of just measuring the usage of social technologies. To me, we are witnessing the unique opportunity of not only going more in-depth into the overall value proposition of Social Business, but perhaps re-define a new KPI around the client experience which, more and more, gets defined itself by the overall employee experience.

In case folks may have missed that article over at CMSWire, I have now taken the liberty of also reproducing it here below, so you can all have a look and comment on whether there is a need to go deeper and reframe altogether new KPIs to help evaluate more effectively the overall customer value propositions around the Social Business Transformation journey or whether we should just stick around, with the easy part, i.e. with the low hanging fruit. Something tells me we shouldn’t, but I would let you be the judge of that sentiment while going through the article itself… 

How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business

“I remember when things were just getting started with Enterprise 2.0, then Social Business, how we were all trying to prove the business value of social technologies and even our very existence as 2.0 practitioners in the workplace. Do you remember how tough it was to justify yours to senior management? How things have changed since then ….

Fast forward to 2014, and while the conversation around measuring the business value of Social Business persists and is perhaps more relevant, the focus and intent of the questions have shifted. There is no longer a need to justify it, but rather an opportunity to evaluate the maturity of different initiatives as you progress on the Social Business journey. No one can deny the impact of social technologies at the workplace anymore — and that’s a good thing. We have *finally* moved on.

Beware the Low Hanging Fruit

The dialogue has evolved, although we may at times still have the impression we are running a circus, as Carrie Young brilliantly indicated in “Social ROI = Return On Insanity” This happens when we stop thinking outside of the box and the inertia kicks in that’s so pernicious in the business world: only measuring the low hanging fruit.

This is far too easy. Measuring the usage of social technologies at the workplace is far easier than the significant impact on the overall business outcomes. This is where the real challenge currently lies. I have advised clients all along that to measure the business value of your social business initiatives you should aim higher than the low hanging fruit for your critical business KPIs. The ones you have cared about throughout the years, perhaps decades. These provide the opportunity to truly change your business through the digital transformation.

There is also an opportunity to rethink how we approach these KPIs. In the Social Era it remains a challenge to measure emerging 21st century business models with a 20th century mentality. And that is where the circus begins…

There may be a better way. Let’s explore it.


The main business goal of most companies is no longer to just profit per se (although still a major driver), but essentially “to delight their customers,” as Steve Denning would say. Each of us can remember very well when the last time was that we had a delightful experience as a customer, and more importantly, when we didn’t. I bet our first reaction was: “Wow! What a delightful client experience. I wish I could repeat it again!”

And that’s essentially what we want for our customers — to improve their overall client experience. But in order to do that we need to aim at improving the employee experience as well, and that’s when problems arise. Very few people would deny that the client experience is defined by the employee experience. Happy employees = happy customers. It’s good for the business.

Unfortunately, employees are not very happy. Recent reports from Gallup claim that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. Yes, let me pause there — only 13 percent.

That essentially means that your business is being run by only a slightly over 10 percent of your employee workforce. If that’s not a worrying sign, I don’t know what is. How can we possibly define the client experience as delightful if employees aren’t there in the first place? Want to find a new business KPI that matches today’s No. 1 business problem? Look no further: employee engagement (commitment, involvement, compromise — whichever moniker du jour you favour).

I strongly believe (and always have) that Social Business can reignite a disengaged workforce, while also helping reengage vendors and clients. The apathy is permeating beyond your employees to your customers and business partners. We need to do better. We need to do MUCH better.

It’s a challenge to strike a renewed sense of purpose, meaning and more effective way of getting work done when employees lack a strong sense of belonging, of feeling appreciated, trusted, respected and valued. When you enable your employees to think and act differently through emerging social technologies — giving them autonomy, flexibility, responsibility and, above all, ownership of the work they do — you start to realize you’ve entered a different league when measuring the business value of Social Business.

Measuring the usage of social tools is helpful for clarity and awareness, but don’t stop there. Go deeper. Work with your knowledge workforce to co-create new KPIs based on their employee experiences. Chances are high they know better than you whether they are doing the right job with clients based on their interactions with them — out in the open, working more publicly and transparently, working out loud. Success will be their new reality when they reengage to delight their clients.

Showing the Way to the 21st Century

One of the many worthwhile examples that demonstrates how this can be done is TELUS, a national telecommunications company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dan Pontefract, Chief Envisioner at TELUS, confirmed its employee engagement rates increased from 53 percent to 83 percent and that it correlated this to an improvement in business outcomes — a.k.a. revenue. I know what you’re thinking — wow! From 53 percent to 83 percent through applying and embracing social technologies and a new kind of leadership, Open Leadership.

That’s just one example of many of how we can aim higher to strike a balanced, measurable set of outcomes to prove the ROI of Social Business. We need to stop paying for the circus and get down to action. The *real* action.

So, who wants to jump the shark and move into the 21st century to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise? This is your new ROI: start by improving the client experience through the employee experience.

The rest is just a distraction and one that should be avoided. At all costs.”


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus

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  1. Hi Luis
    Thank you for such an interesting and informative blog – including your CMSWire article! A great read!
    I have to agree wholeheartedly that we need to avoid “ measuring the low hanging fruit” and that “Measuring the usage of social technologies at the workplace is far easier than the significant impact on the overall business outcomes”

    Leaving internal cultural transformation aside for one moment, how do you prove that an engaged enlightened work force = greater revenues in real terms?

    You give TELUS as an example with its proven successes – but what about other influencing factors that could affect revenue increases during the same period of the measurement? E.g
    – improved sales training and techniques
    – improved HR initiatives to promote talent where it is needed
    – cost cutting
    – disposals/acquisitions
    I could go on…
    What was the criteria used to measure the increase in revenue over a given period and how was it correlated to employee engagement? And what kind and what level of engagement was measured?
    Let us take “collaboration” as an example. Can one demonstrate that this particular focus of social technologies increases revenue? Everyone who uses social technologies knows the great impact internally and how it has transformed the work place but given that not all the work force are ever engaged and those that are, are not always engaged as “active contributors” in the collaborative process – how can we correlate real figures of collaboration with real increase in revenue? How do you measure behaviours rather than the tools that enable it?
    Everyone wants the employee experience improved (no question) and through it the customer experience (no question)– but have we yet proved that it increases revenue over a sustained period of time and what measurement criteria have we used to prove it? Where is the high hanging fruit located?

    You must know Luis that I’m merely “thinking out loud” in my attempt to answer these questions – and get down to the “real action” –
    I stand in admiration of you and Dan Pontefract and what you both contribute to the debate.

    Thank you for a wonderful and thought provoking blog.

    1. Hey Marie-Louise,

      Perhaps I can chime in here with a few additional thoughts to your fabulous comment.

      First off, in time, I’d like to scientifically prove the direct/causal relationship that collaboration brings to revenue/profit and Customer Satisfaction increases … but at this point, sadly, I can’t.

      I believe there is causal prove, but I’ve yet to actually prove it, be it at TELUS or anywhere else.

      The research that I’ve been through, however, does suggest there is a causal relationship, hence, I’m relatively confident in my logic that a more engaged, collaborative and flourishing organization (eg. TELUS) can in fact improve revenues, profitability and customer satisfaction.

      There is no single bullet either, though.

      From the TELUS recognition, performance, community and high performer/high potential programs, to Learning 2.0 (formal, informal, social) and collaboration strategies, to our use of Fair Process, to myriad other ‘human capital’ practices, when put together, once can see a remarkable difference.

      The final rallying cry is what we call ‘Customers First’. It’s an enterprise-wide initiative that everyone gets behind — so all 40,000+ team members are trying to improve the customer experience (and interactions) in any way we can.

      This is done as ONE organization.

      In 2007, our employee engagement sat at 53% and revenues were $9.1b. In 2013, engagement rose to 83% and revenues to $11.4b. Our customer satisfaction rose from the high 50’s to the low 70’s.

      We’re not done yet … but we’re on our way.

      1. Hi Marie-Louise and Dan, my goodness! This is just a wonderful exchange and what a privilege having you both commenting on the blog post. Thanks ever so much! Marie-Louise, I asked Dan to take a look into your comment and add further up his thoughts around what’s happening at TELUS and I am certain he’s on to something perhaps not with enough scientific proof just yet, but definitely with the right focus and causal equation of identifying the key item to the heart of the matter is the customer value. It’s essentially around how through that journey to become a successfully Socially Integrated Enterprise we have got the opportunity to improve the overall customer experience and if we start thinking that even our fellow colleagues are our clients the whole exercise just makes perfect sense in terms of increasing those satisfaction rates, as Dan mentioned above, as well and get us right back on track.

        For a good while now I have been saying how employee engagement is directly affecting the overall customer experience to the point where not only employees are disengaged, but customers, too! That’s one of the main reasons as to why I think Social Business can help re-ignite that dialogue / conversation and help everyone understand we are on the same boat, as mentioned above: delighting our clients.

        Thanks a lot both Marie-Louise and Dan for dropping by and for the wonderful commentary! It’s greatly appreciated.

  2. Luis, Dan – thanks so much for responding – I’m truly appreciative !
    They may not be the answers I wanted but they are the best answers I could have hoped for – and yes, we may well be on our way but, I’m not quite done yet …with this conversation ☺!
    Yes, I’d like science and I’d like the high hanging fruit – but it’s clearly still out of reach…

    Dan a couple more questions/clarifications – you say

    “our employee engagement sat at 53% and revenues were $9.1b. In 2013, engagement rose to 83% and revenues to $11.4b. Our customer satisfaction rose from the high 50′s to the low 70′s.”

    When you said “employee engagement” am I right in understanding that what you were referring to was a combination of engagement tools (social technologies) and engagement “programmes” – even if the latter were run from/through the social technology at Telus?
    e.g Fair process, Learning 2.0 and the Customer First initiative?
    How was “employee engagement” defined before it was measured in the case of Telus?And how was it measured with specific reference to the social technologies (rather than the programmes?)

    I think you are right – for the moment (and from the perspective I was asking) it is a “causal relationship” and in reality the science rests with a matrix of enablers that has helped Telus (as an example) achieve such fantastic results – “no single bullet” as you so correctly described it.

    But there is one remaining point you made that stood out– it was “done as ONE organisation” – and that surely was achieved through a socially integrated enterprise?

    Luis – thank you so much for enabling this conversation right here through your fantastic blog – and Dan thank you so much for joining it and expanding the conversation with your valuable insights.

    Grateful as always

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