The proliferation of social media platforms has shifted power to the consumer. To remain successful, company leaders must maintain a stronger focus on relationship-building and social consumer engagement. However, initiatives should not stop with the external customers. Today, effective workplace leadership strategies align a company’s internal customers, its employees, with its mission. Socially-minded leaders recognize that employees are an untapped pool of resources and, when cultivated properly, will become a company’s most valuable brand ambassadors. Early adopters of this sentiment recognize employees as a direct link to consumers, and as such, also focus resources on finding ways to develop employees and create an internal community culture. One such company seemingly ahead of the game is Southwest Airlines.
Southwest Airlines has 1.9M followers on its Facebook page. The company empowers employees to serve as its brand advocates. In a recent posting (February 15, 2012) a passenger, Kelly, wrote of a bad experience with Southwest over her luggage.
Kelly posted, “Quote of the day from SWA baggage clerk in Phoenix when my bag didn’t arrive — we already lost enough money on you, we aren’t delivering your bag.– Thanks Southwest for making me feel like a valued customer”.
Southwest employee, Whitney, was the first response to the post–a big plus for Southwest.
“Hi Kelly, I’m sorry to hear about your bag,” wrote Whitney. “And I especially regret the poor service you received. Please look for a direct message from me so I can assist.”
So where do most companies stand in comparison to Southwest today? It depends on how their leaders answer this question… “How are you involving your employees with your business strategies?”
Employees can make or break a business. They are the primary business partners; they are the soldiers hired to carry out the strategies. Companies, like Southwest, that follow an ‘employee empowerment’ leadership philosophy are reaping the rewards: better engaged employees, an internal alliance that directly impacts the external publics, and an army of brand advocates.