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In his new book, Steven advises companies to become conversation companies. A conversation company is a very consumer oriented company, relying on the power of people and using social media as a perfect partner. The Conversation Company invests in 4 C's to optimize its conversation potential: customer experience, conversation management, content, collaboration. This report gives an update to which extent companies are investing in these 4 dimensions.

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The 4C's of the Conversation Company


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    1. Katia Pallini

    2. About this research report InSites Consulting, together with sample and data collection partner SSI and the translation agency No Problem! conducted a quantitative online survey among 1,222 senior managers. The targeted markets included are Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Germany, the US and the UK. All respondents are senior or top managers from companies (+20fte) in different sectors, with different sizes and offers. Splits per sector, region… are shown if the results are relevant.

    3. What to expect from this research report Market circumstances are forcing companies to change their marketing, their behavior and their leadership style. In his book, The Conversation Company, Steven identifies four pillars that will guide companies through this change process. These pillars are rethinking customer experience, conversation management, content strategy and collaboration. This research project measures the current state of companies in their journey to become a conversation company.

    4. The Conversation Company Philosophy ‘The Conversation Company’ is a metaphor for the most consumer-centric organization one can imagine, using the power of the people as a positive lever and thankfully accepting social media as an ideal business partner. Company culture is the conversation guide for all employees and clients. To optimize its conversation potential, the Conversation Company invests in 4 C’s: Customer Experience, Conversation management, Content marketing & Consumer Collaboration.

    5. 4C IMPACT MODEL The 4C impact model shows how ‘identification with company culture’ and ‘social media integration’ influence the adoption level of the 4C pillars, which in turn have an impact on employee satisfaction and the likelihood of staff recommending their own company to others. Both are objective parameters of business performance. Identification with company culture Satisfaction & recommendation Social Media adoption

    6. 5 KEY CONCLUSIONS OF OUR RESEARCH

    7. 1 Lack of identification with the corporate values among top management blocks social media integration

    8. 2 High social media adoption Low social media integration 61% 29% 29% 27% 27% 17% 17% 15% 15% 39% 12% 12% 29% Doing nothing with social media First steps in social media Pilot phase in social media Integrating social media Social media is integrated Doing nothing with social media First steps in social media Pilot phase in social media Integrating social media Social media integrated 24%

    9. 3 24% Conversation management 39% Customer experience Still a long way to go before the world is full of conversation companies 16% Collaboration management 19% Content management Current adoption of the 4C components

    10. 4 A digital gap is created in the business world: Those who invest today, are the ones who will invest tomorrow

    11. 5 Companies that invest in all 4 C’s have a higher satisfaction & recommendation rate among their own employees

    12. Full Research Report

    13. 4C IMPACT MODEL Identification with company culture Satisfaction & recommendation Social Media adoption

    14. The Company Culture is your company’s Conversation Guide The most commonly used definition of company culture reads as follows: “Company culture is a series of shared values and convictions which help individuals understand the functioning of the company.” A transparent company culture makes it easy for the employees to understand exactly what the company expects of them. Culture gives people an insight into the type of behaviour the company considers appropriate. Research confirms that company culture often forms the basis for the successful implementation of a strategy. A strong company culture also has a positive impact on the performance and productivity of its employees. This culture is a kind of „mental programming‟ that sets an organisation apart from its competitors. Your culture is the personality of your organisation and the foundation your Conversation Company is built on. Your staff and customers make this culture tangible to others. This involves a method of reasoning that works from the inside out. A traditional company is first and foremost interested in keeping its shareholders happy. Making customers happy only comes second, with the staff coming a poor third. A Conversation Company turns this logic on its head. Happy staff are more than willing to keep the customers happy; happy customers mean higher profits and this makes the shareholders happy as well. Or, as CEO of Southwest Airlines puts it: “We take good care of our staff. Our staff take good care of our customers. And our customers take good care of our shareholders.” Your company culture is the conversation guide for employees and clients. Employees know how to behave and how to communicate with clients, whereas clients know what to expect.

    15. Lack of identification among top management blocks the evolution We looked for the reasons why some companies are refusing to invest in new media. Looking at the data, we found some typical results: the healthcare industry is lagging behind; media is a frontrunner; smaller companies are in the lead compared to bigger companies. But I have to admit, these differences are rather small. There is a bigger and more fundamental reason why some companies are lagging behind: their leaders. This survey was undertaken among top managers from companies in the US, the UK and Europe[p1]. It was quite shocking to see that about half of these top managers do not identify with the corporate identity and culture of the company they preside over. This parameter is crucial to being open to change and evolution. Leaders who have a less emotional bond with their company, invest less in social media. The transparency, openness and authenticity of the social web must scare them away. This shows that conversational leadership becomes a critical success factor for adapting companies to the transparent world we live in. Leaders can hate their job but need to love their company. The more extreme the ‘love’ (emotional bond) between the leader and the company, the higher a company scores in social media adoption/integration. ‘First who, then what’ I am a big fan of Jim Collins’ book ‘From good to great’. In his work he states that great companies first decide on the ‘Who?’ and then on the ‘What?’. Our research about social media integration and adoption has the same conclusion. If you are serious about social media, the two elements you need are a conversation leader and a corporate culture which acts as your conversation guide. After that, implementation of new projects will go a lot faster. This study also shows that some companies (with the wrong leader and wrong culture) will never be successful in this field. Probably these companies have even more serious problems to deal with first, don’t you think?

    16. It’s remarkable that half the senior and top-level managers do not or hardly identify with the culture of the company they work for. The two main reasons are the lack of visibility of company values throughout the organization and a limited focus on company culture in the recruitment process.

    17. Company culture is built on having strong values and living these values… The 5 most common values are… 26% customer centricity More than 1 in 4 companies has ‘professionalism’ as a value. France is an outlier regarding company values: values such as responsibility, trust and respect carry more weight. 27% professionalism 16% expertise 16% result driven 19% service-oriented

    18. But how are people living these values… Perfect fit between company & personal No fit between company & personal values values Only 1 in 2 feel their personal values fit closely with those of the company they work for. This percentage is significantly higher among top-level managers, managers with more than 20 years of experience, B2B companies and companies not listed on the stock market. Company values Personal values 49% 51%

    19. The better the value match the more satisfied people are and the more likely they are to recommend their company to others

    20. 37% of managers claim their company values are not clear to everyone in the company

    21. 54% of companies recruit employees based on matching values

    22. Company values… Agree To what extent do you agree with the following statements regarding company culture? 64% Our company values permeate everything we do 64% Openness, authenticity and happiness are somehow incorporated in our values 63% Our company values are clear to everyone in the company 61% If negative customer comments appear online, we do not remove them but instead we try to help the customer 60% Our internal and external values are the same 60% If a staff member says or writes something wrong, we help him adjust his behavior 54% New employees are only recruited if their values match ours 52% As an employee, you have access to social media at work 44% My company encourages online conversations with customers 41% Employees are allowed to talk about their work on social media

    23. 4C IMPACT MODEL Identification with company culture Satisfaction & recommendation Social Media adaption

    24. Social network adoption is high in companies. The most actively used platforms are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. However, integration of social media in business processes is low. Only 12% of businesses have fully integrated social media in their business. Yet our study shows that social media integration has a positive impact on satisfaction and recommendation.

    25. Social Media Adoption Which of the following social media platforms is your company active on? 61% Facebook 39% Twitter 29% LinkedIn 24% YouTube 17% A corporate blog 9% MySpace 5% Flickr 5% Foursquare 4% Netlog 3% Badoo

    26. Most actively used platforms: 61% 39% 29% 24%

    27. Social Media Adoption Which of the following social media platforms is your company active on? B2B 500+ B2C <500 60% 62% 65% 56% 39% 38% 41% 37% 22% 41% 33% 25% 24% 24% 26% 21%

    28. Social Media Adoption Which of the following social media platforms is your company active on? Products & Services Products Services 60% 51% 70% 39% 32% 45% 32% 24% 33% 25% 16% 30%

    29. Social Media Adoption Which of the following social media platforms is your company active on? 80% 61% 51% 56% 59% 53% 45% 44% 35% 25% 39% 45% 48% 30% 8% 8% 35% 42% 31% 23% 19% 25% 20% 22%

    30. Social Media Adoption Which of the following social media platforms is your company active on? Travel & Leisure Healthcare Media Finance FMCG & Retail Tech & Telco 63% 43% 55% 78% 67% 62% 42% 39% 37% 66% 52% 50% 28% 29% 26% 29% 38% 24% 27% 30% 24% 46% 36% 35%

    31. Social Media Integration More than 1 in 2 companies are still in the early stages of integrating social media. 12% have fully integrated social media in their business processes. 29% 27% 17% 15% 12% Doing nothing with social media with social media First steps in social media First steps in social media Pilot phase in social media Pilot phase in social media Integrating social media Integrating social media Social media is integrated Social media integrated Doing nothing

    32. Social Media Adoption To what extent has your company integrated social media? B2B 500+ B2C <500 Doing nothing with social 29% 30% 27% 32% media 27% 26% 30% 24% First small steps Setting up/ running pilot 18% 15% 17% 17% projects 15% 17% 15% 16% Integrating social media Social media are fully 12% 11% 11% 12% integrated

    33. Social Media Adoption To what extent has your company integrated social media? Doing nothing with social 26% 31% 46% 19% 32% 23% media 24% 27% 20% 28% 30% 33% First small steps Setting up/ running pilot 23% 18% 15% 19% 15% 13% projects 17% 14% 10% 20% 15% 17% Integrating social media Social media are fully 11% 10% 10% 13% 10% 15% integrated

    34. Social Media Adoption To what extent has your company integrated social media? Travel & Leisure Healthcare Media Finance FMCG & Retail Tech & Telco Doing nothing with social 30% 38% 26% 27% 24% 30% media 19% 26% 24% 20% 22% 33% First small steps Setting up/ running pilot 19% 12% 22% 13% 22% 16% projects 20% 13% 15% 23% 19% 13% Integrating social media Social media are fully 12% 11% 13% 16% 14% 9% integrated

    35. Companies that have fully integrated social media in their structure use an average of 3 different social media channels.

    36. 52% have access to social media at work 41% are allowed to discuss their work on social media 44% are encouraged to communicate online with customers and consumers

    37. Companies where social media is fully integrated have more satisfied employees who are more likely to recommend their company to others.

    38. 4C IMPACT MODEL Identification with company culture Satisfaction & recommendation Social Media Adoption

    39. Why these Four Components? These four new disciplines have been chosen after careful consideration. A survey of 400 marketers has shown that companies grow faster than their sector rivals when they use these four components in unison. These four pillars help build a conversation lever for both your employees and your customers. Moreover, the entire process is in line with your company culture and company values. The first pillar, customer experience, is the most important conversation starter. If your employees and your customers feel well-treated, they will mention this to each other. Managing customer experience means investing in word-of-mouth. You are developing a focus for staff and consumer satisfaction. As a result, service is no longer be seen as a cost but as an investment in conversations. Managing the conversations is the second pillar. This involves observing, facilitating and participating in conversations. Your participation in conversations in social media will help humanise your company and make it seem less distant. Asking and answering questions boosts the interaction between the company and the market. In addition to the reactive answering of questions, the Conversation Company also adopts an active strategy with regard to content. Your content proves you are an expert in your field. Your company moves away from campaign-based thinking and towards the planning of impactful, conversation-generating content. The final pillar is the pillar of structural collaboration between your company and the market. The customer wants to help you and you welcome that help. The Conversation Company builds various communities of customers, who help determine the future of the organisation.

    40. The 4C components Current adoption levels… 24% Conversation management Today, customer experience is the most adopted pillar. Compared to the other countries, US-based companies score significantly higher on customer experience and conversation management adoption. Overall, countries providing both products and services score better on each of the pillars than companies providing either products or services. 39% Customer experience 16% Collaboration management 19% Content management

    41. US-based companies with less than 500 employees in the media or technology sector are the top performers across all 4 Cs <500 Media Tech & Telco

    42. <500 Only services Especially Belgium-based companies with less than 500 employees providing only services need better 4C leverage

    43. Customer experience is the main driver of satisfaction and recommendation. Offering strong products and a decent customer service will boost business through positive conversations. However, only 54% of companies today manage those customer expectations by delivering slightly more than promised. Moreover, just 2 out of 3 are open to conversations with customers in every phase of the purchase process.

    44. 54%manage customer expectations by delivering slightly more than promised

    45. 60%always opt for solutions that benefit the customer in the event of a problem

    46. 43% offer the same services both online and offline

    47. Customer Experience… Agree To what extent do you agree with the following statements regarding customer experience? 70% The staff are trained to deliver adequate customer service 63% My company tries to be open to conversations with customers in every phase of the purchase process 60% In the event of problems, my company always opts for a solution which benefits the customer 59% Our customers can choose their own preferred channel of communication to address their questions 59% Every employee knows how to react to both satisfied & dissatisfied customers 57% My company innovates sufficiently in terms of customer service 56% More than 80% of the comments (online and offline) about my company are positive 55% My company manages every touch point with customers as a conversation starter 54% My company manages expectations. We deliver slightly more than what we promise 43% My company offers the same services both online and offline

    48. Conversations should be managed in three stages: observing, facilitating and participating. Only 40% monitor customer conversations whereas 36% also participate in these online conversations. Remarkably, less than 1 in 2 companies manage their conversations themselves. Also, just 38% share the outcome of these interactions with the entire organisation. In other words, much of the conversations potential remains unused.

    49. 40%monitor customer conversations both online and offline, 36%participate in online conversations

    50. 48% of companies manage their own conversations