Most of the companies that treat customers socially have really loyal customers and the small mistakes from the company are accommodated easily. If the company and the customer are “family”, the customer is more likely to accept a small increase in pricing or in fees. However, in order to maintain this relationship, the customer service offered by the company must be very personal. For example, if a customer is late with a payment, he should receive a friendly call from a CS agent with a kind reminder for the due payment. That’s all. It is not advisable for the company to charge penalties, as that would bring market norms on the table and thus leave the social exchange behind.
The story with the employees is a bit more complicated. Everything related to employment used to be market driven a few years back, when it was a seven-to-three or eight-to-four mentality for the employees (that’s the generation of our parents). The 40 hours per week mindset implied that you would do what is asked of you for 40 hours and then receive a weekly or monthly paycheck, the financial reward. All job related issues were forgotten and ignored after 4 PM. For a while this worked very well for both sides.
Today, companies focus on creating a social exchange with their employees. This can be due to the fact that technology has replaced a lot of the repetitive activities and there is more emphasis on creativity and energy now. For most employees, there is an undefined line between work and leisure time, as they take home their laptops, mobile phones and some need to be available even when out of the office. This is where social norms become an advantage for the companies, as employees become passionate about their jobs, flexible with their schedules and concerned about the company’s success. Dan Ariely calls this working model a “24/7 work environment”, which is something many of us identify with, myself included. Third bell.
Social norms are one of the best ways to make workers loyal, as well as motivated, and thus to boost the company’s productivity. This may seem like an easy task but the truth is that it requires consistency across all the interactions with the employees. If your team works hard and overtime to meet an important deadline, often affecting their personal agendas, they should get something similar in return. It’s a two-way conversation if I may put it like this. The employees need to feel respected and listened to, need to feel part of the success, and more importantly, they need to feel appreciated and confident that the company will help them in case of need. After all, this is what “family” is for.
Companies have started to create the social exchange by offering their employees comprehensive medical coverage or shares in the firm case of a public company. Nowadays this is not enough anymore, so we need to think smarter. There are many other ways for a company to socially connect to its staff, and most of them are free or at least cheaper than cash bonuses. Do not get me wrong, no one is going to work for a handshake. But when money is off the table, it is amazing how much people are willing to offer in return for recognition, respect and feeling part of something bigger that themselves.
I will close here with a quote from this amazing book. “If corporations started thinking in terms of social norms, they would realize that these norms build loyalty and – more important – make people want to extend themselves to the degree that corporations need today: to be flexible, concerned, and willing to pitch in. That’s what a social relationship delivers.”
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