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Q&A with Josh Bernoff - Getting Empowered

Lithium Alumni (Retired)

PaulGillihamProfilePaul Gilliham is Lithium's Director of Customer Marketing,  responsible for customer engagement marketing, social media and Lithium's own community, the Lithosphere.


He is a regular blogger for Lithium and in the Lithosphere you'll see him as PaulGi. You can follow him on Twitter at @lithosphere or @bladefrog




Ahead of our webcast on Sept 29th (at 11am pst) with Josh Bernoff (@jbernoff), co-author of 'Empowered' with Ted Schadler, I got the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the book and what he uncovered while researching and writing it.


To ask Josh your own questions, please join our webcast “How to Achieve Success with the ‘Empowered' Social Customer" featuring Josh, Barry Paperno from FICO and our own Katy Keim, Lithium CMO.


Register now



Was there a defining moment that lead to the writing of ‘Empowered’?


The pressure to write about managing in the age of the empowered customer built over time, as I talked to more and more companies about social technologies and saw their challenges.


But it crystallized when I realized that Ted Schadler, who became my coauthor, was researching the same phenomenon from a different angle – the empowerment of employee problem-solvers. Together we saw that the empowered employees were the solution to the challenge of empowered customers, and that is when the book’s main idea was born.


What do you see as the biggest difference in business attitudes to social engagement in the time since writing Groundswell?


When Groundswell came out, we dealt with a lot of skepticism about social empowered.jpgchannels. The rise of popularity of everything from Twitter and Facebook to mobile devices mean that most executives now know they have to do something. But the challenge in managing a company that’s reaching out in social channels – that’s the big problem now.


You talk about HEROes in your book – Highly Empowered, Resourceful Operatives. What are some of the key characteristics of a HERO?


A HERO is an employee in any role who builds a technology solution to solve a customer problem.


But HERO is not just an acronym. These people feel empowered because they see clearly what customers need from their knowledge of and interactions in the social world. They act resourcefully because easily accessible technology looks like a set of tools that can help. But together, those two characteristics just enable somebody to get to the starting line.


Then they have to prove their case, convince their boss, and fend off or co-opt people in legal, PR, regulatory affairs, or IT to actually take their idea to completion.


What are three key pieces of advice you’d give to an enterprise looking to develop strategies for the social customer?


First, recognize that customers have so much power now, that you have to recognize them as a channel – yes, customers and how they talk are now a marketing channel. Second, be clear that customer service is now marketing – the service you deliver will be reflected in the word of mouth people create. And third, find your fans and treat them like gold – they’re you’re best asset.


How can companies plan long-term customer engagement when so many metrics used to measure success are short term focused?


This is a general problem in business, always has been. We’d recommend tracking word-of-mouth and sentiment, the size of your customer community, and other measures of the long-term health of your customer fan base. These things vary month by month but are subject to long term strategies, much moreso than something like an ad campaign. You don’t run customer service on a short-term basis, you’re always checking the health and efficiency of that department.


Brands are a long-term asset, too. So fan sentiment can be another one of these long-term indicators to track.


What was the biggest surprise you encountered in researching Empowered?


Here it is in a nutshell. Workers in companies are incredibly creative in coming up with solutions, using really inexpensive and easy-to-use technologies. Companies generally respond with mistrust and attempts to shut down “unauthorized” use of technology, which implies a fundamental lack of trust. So the thing that surprised me, is how managers punish, rather than reward, innovation. This must change for a business to move at the speed of empowered customers.





A little about Josh:


Josh is Senior Vice President, Idea Development – Forrester Research, Inc and is responsible for identifying, developing, and promoting some of the company's most influential and forward-looking ideas.


He is the co-author of the BusinessWeek best-selling book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (Harvard Business Press, 2008), a comprehensive analysis of corporate strategy for dealing with social technologies.  Groundswell has won critical acclaim: Abbey Klassen of Advertising Age picked it as "the best book ever written on marketing and media," and Amazon's editors put it in the top 10 business books of the year.

In 2008, the Society for New Communications Research picked Josh and his Groundswell coauthor Charlene Li as "visionaries of the year."

Josh's book, Empowered is available to purchase now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

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