Janis Dietz (Professor of Business Administration, The University of La Verne, California, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 13 September 2011




Dietz, J. (2011), "Empowered", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 6, pp. 460-461. https://doi.org/10.1108/07363761111165985



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Although the title of this book is Empowered, it is really about the growth, care and nurturing of HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives). That care and growth must be done through empowerment: “To succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve customer problems” (p. 7). Given the advanced technology available for customers to broadcast their experiences, it is imperative that companies create and manage ways to improve their business in response to customer empowerment (read: Twitter, Facebook, etc).

There are three parts to Empowered, each containing one or more chapters (as numbered below).

Part one: HEROes

1 “Why your business needs HEROes”. Companies used to have better information than their customers – they are now out of luck. The four technologies that put power in the hands of customers and employees include smart mobile devices, pervasive video, cloud computing and social technology. This chapter explains how those technologies can help and hurt your business. Employee HEROes can create and manage many services and applications that help empower customers with information and avenues of communication. “Corporations from Ford to Coca‐Cola use Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs – both their own and their fans' – to spread the word about their products” (p. 16).

Part two: what HEROes do

2 “Employee HEROes and their projects”. The authors waste little time in explaining that HEROes “face challenges from all over the organization: senior management, the legal department, and IT people” (p. 25). The book offers a tool called the EVE Score, which stands for Effort‐Value Evaluation (p. 26). It helps the HERO and their manager think through the project. I used this tool myself to justify a customer project and it would have been worth the price of the book! It starts the process of helping HEROes connect and further empower already empowered customers.

3 “Peer influence analysis”. “With social networks, consumers create 256 billion impressions on one another by talking about products and services each year” (p. 39). Whether it is a bad experience with your Maytag delivery or a United baggage handler breaking your guitar, everyone knows about it. The book gives enough of these examples to scare anyone into providing better customer response.

4 “Delivering groundswell customer service”. Now that the authors have proven the power of mass connectedness, they show the reader how to create “groundswell customer service – that could not only satisfy customers, but also get them talking” (p. 58). This requires the following: a) Listen. b) Staff and organize to address service issues. c) Concentrate on the experience. d) Plan to evolve. When you read how admired companies such as Intuit and Zappos empower their employee HEROes this way, it is not hard to understand why they are admired. Some of these employees are even trained to “tweet” (p. 71).

5 “Empowering customers with mobile applications”. “Who empowers your customers? It had better be you!” (p. 77). Not only that, but “they are damned impatient” (p. 78). The authors' “analysis of successful mobile applications shows that the best empower customers with immediacy, simplicity, and context” (p. 80).

6 “Amplifying your fans”. Companies cultivate customers over time, just like long‐term brand building. This chapter builds on the impatience and short memories of most consumers. The mind‐set that “embraces empowered customers” (p. 98) creates systems for collecting, analyzing, and responding to customer perspectives.

Part three: the HERO‐powered business

7 “Do‐it yourself technology fuels the HERO Compact”. “In a HERO‐powered business, empowered employees are a continuous force for innovation in service of customers” (p. 115). The authors explain the importance of Managers, HEROes, and IT team members all being on the same page.

8 “Is your company ready for HEROes?” This is one of the most important chapters in the book because it confirms management principles of supporting and empowering employees to serve customers. “If you want to build a HERO‐powered business – if you want customer‐focused innovations to arise, get supported, and become part of what makes your company succeed – then your job is to create a culture and a set of resources that pull as many of your best thinkers as possible into the HERO employees quadrant” (p. 135).

9 “Leading and managing HEROes”. A HERO‐powered business has to be able to support innovations, test them, and encourage HEROes to work across organizational boundaries.

10 “Helping HEROes innovate”. The authors identify three elements to help HEROes innovate: • speed; • feedback from across the organization; and • software that supports innovation. One of the examples in this chapter is Yammer, basically an in‐house Twitter at Deloitte Australia (p. 160).

11 “Helping HEROes collaborate”. Given the inertia that prevents many innovative ideas from progressing, “Both IT and management need to work to reduce the effort that workers must put in before they can use the system” (p. 169). Listening, integration with existing tools, and viral adoption increase the likelihood that an innovation will work.

12 “Keeping HEROes safe”. There are risks when technology is available at all points in your organization – employees can post unflattering videos (see Domino's Pizza, p. 177) or inadvertently leak sensitive information. By suggesting that employees put their name on everything they do, own up to mistakes, and remember that they are employees, companies can help HEROes accomplish innovation activities without harm. Even though this book is all about nurturing and supporting HEROes, sometimes you must say no to them. These instances tend to revolve around privacy issues, customer contractual issues, and legal issues.

13 “Supporting HEROes with technology innovation”. “The key lesson here is that when a HERO wants to move, IT must be ready to move quickly to help” (p. 195). This happens with cross‐functional councils, solutions that revolve around HERO needs, and building cloud services to support HERO projects.

14 “Becoming HERO‐powered”. If your company is getting closer to the HERO‐powered ideal, you will know it because ideas from HEROes are visible and recognized, relationships cross departmental boundaries, employees speak to customers, and there is a supportive relationship between IT and lines of business.

What do you do if your company is not there yet? The authors suggest that you build on small successes, identify how these technologies work, identify solutions to customer problems, reach out to people, and build a plan. The Effort‐Value Evaluation chart on page 26 is an enormously helpful tool for this.

This is a worthwhile book for anyone in business to read, not just for marketing or innovation, but also for strategy. These authors cover the way the entire organization needs to support those employees who have the potential to be “highly empowered and resourceful operatives” (p. 10). There are many cases studies covering companies such as IBM, Best Buy, Intuit, Kodak and others that have implemented programs to support HEROes.

I enjoyed this book and plan to use many of the ideas. Their suggestion to change with the future may include the fact that the 62 percent of the influence impressions within social networks that come from Facebook (p. 44) may very well come from something else in the next five years, just as Facebook overtook MySpace. Perhaps they are telling the reader to keep track of those changes and not assume that the examples in this book will be the ones that succeed in the future.

Empowered does not deal much with manipulative customers, though the companies represented in the book must analyze the validity of customer requests. Some of the examples, such as the Twelpforce Twitter support staff at Best Buy, will have some people wondering where Twelpforce was when they had their own experience – in other words, initiatives, no matter how well‐intentioned, require consistent effort to reach the entire company, and there is no evidence in the book that this is the case. But these are minor issues because this book documents very well why some companies work at keeping customers and what those who want to emulate them need to do to attract and keep HEROes happy.

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