Would Your Employees Promote Your Company?

Data Reveal Most Information Workers Don't Love Their Own Products

By Published on .

Josh Bernoff
Josh Bernoff

A recent Advertising Age article revealed that more and more companies are now putting actual staff front and center in their advertising. Could your company do this? Probably not, if your staff are like those in Forrester's recent surveys of knowledge workers.

In a report published today, Forrester Research examined the question of employees advocating for their companies. We surveyed 5,519 information workers across the U.S. and Europe, using a variation on the Net Promoter methodology that asks, on a 10-point scale, "How likely are you to recommend your company's products or services to a friend or family member?" As in Net Promoter, we count people as promoters if they rate this a 9 or 10, neutral if they rate it a 7 or 8, and detractors for 0 through 6. The results are surprisingly negative. For example:

  • 49% of information workers are detractors for their company, and only 27% were promoters. That's a net score (promoters minus detractors) of -23%. Surprisingly, this doesn't vary much with age, income, or size of company.
  • Directors, VPs, and executives are net promoters, but individual workers and managers/supervisors are net detractors.
  • Among U.S. workers, the best scores are in design, HR, and the ever-optimistic sales department. With a net score of -10%, marketers are actually more likely to be detractors than promoters for their own products. And customer service workers are among the most likely to be detractors. When your call center staff don't believe in your company, you're ripe for your own Maytag moment.
  • In case you're wondering if you should allow employees onto social networks (and trust me, you can't stop them), try this fact on: workers who use social media are among the most positive. 48% would strongly recommend a company's products and services and only 22% were detractors, for a net score of 26% -- among the highest of the groups we surveyed.
What should you do? Well, you could squeeze more work out of people, tell them exactly what to do and punish them when they don't do it, and block their access to technology. This might boost short-term profits and make you feel like you're in charge. In a recession, they probably won't quit. But they sure won't be spreading joy to your customers.

Or you could spread an internal reputation that customer problem-solvers will be encouraged and highlight the workers who do it. You could empower people. Then the ideas will be coming from your staff instead of just from you. And maybe they'll be happy. You could put them in your TV commercials, get them tweeting about your products, and generating customer advocates with their enthusiasm. That's hard to do, but it's worth it.

Josh Bernoff is Senior Vice President, Idea Development at Forrester Research and the co-author of "Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business," a management book that teaches you how to transform your business by empowering employees to solve customer problems. He blogs at blogs.forrester.com/groundswell.
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