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In corporations with a franchisee network, social tools can be used to effect change in front-line behaviors, even when these front-line employees do not work directly for the organization.
Natasha Nelson is vice president of business intelligence at Cara Operations, a Canadian restaurant chain with five brands and 700 franchisees. When Nelson joined Cara, the CEO asked her to engage the company’s associates to improve service delivery on the front lines.
The problem was that the associates worked for the franchisees, not corporate. Many associates were young, worked part-time, and for some, this was their first job. There was a high degree of turnover. Yet this group was an important factor in determining the quality of the customer experience. How could Cara engage this group in a way that was simple and easy, and use that engagement to improve front-line service?
Nelson researched the problem and found little assistance. An article from one of the leading technology research firms advised against using Facebook to engage with employees. She explored using a portal technology platform, but could not find a way to drive associates to use it since they were not typical information workers. Eventually, Nelson’s IT department partnered with HR and marketing to develop a strategy built upon a Facebook application:
The associates all have it on their mobile devices, and go onto Facebook anyway every day. That’s how they communicate, that’s how they stay in touch. So we decided to use a platform that they already are on and that they know and love.
We launched this very, very slowly, starting at 12 locations of one of our more upscale brands, Milestones. We launched an application on Facebook, called the Staff Room, where we encouraged the associates to share stories about restaurant service and tips about managing their jobs. We are trying to encourage a hospitality gene, qualities that everyone should aspire to, like love serving people.
From this pilot we decided to make the Staff Room into a peer-to-peer recognition platform, because the center point of our strategy is guest experience. We’ll celebrate associate stories connected with the hospitality gene. More importantly, we’ll let staff recognize one another. Because their friends and family are also on their Facebook page, they’ll be recognized by them too.
We believe that this will be very powerful. People will share stories of how they’ve improved the guest experience; and their peers, friends and family will recognize them.
[Excerpted from part 6 of the 2012 Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project, conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review with Deloitte.]