More than ever, businesses are being asked to play a central role in tackling complex societal challenges. To make a meaningful impact, employee and customer engagement are the key.
Expanding community involvement among employees and customers provides both a substantive and meaningful impact for the public good and can improve business success. While not the primary catalyst, these efforts also provide for reinforced employee retention and increased product appeal to current and even potential customers.
The Benefit of Cultivating Social Goodwill
Social goodwill can benefit all involved and even in ways you may not at first suspect. For example, putting a spotlight on employee volunteerism can build stronger loyalty, empowerment, and a solid foundation for ongoing partnerships, especially in these troubling times. But for many employees it is hard to get started and given the circumstances we face today practicing social distancing and/or stuck at home, those choices seem all but impossible.
How can your organization enable employees to be part of the social solution?
Given current economic factors, the common practice of donating financially can seem an insurmountable obstacle for both the employee and the organization alike. However, there are many alternative approaches out there your organization can replicate.
Here are a few examples around my personal interests. You can think of them as a starting off point when researching what you or your colleagues may feel comfortable with in this endeavor.
1. Donate Your Technology
Technology is a part of our daily lives, but while we are working much of our personal technology is sitting idle. The BOINC Project was funded by the National Science Foundation in 2002 and is located at UC, Berkeley. The website for BOINC outlines the platform as software that provides for, “high-throughput computing on a large scale (thousands or millions of computers). It can be used for volunteer computing (using consumer devices) or grid computing (using organizational resources). It supports virtualized, parallel, and GPU-based applications.” Your organizational team would be joining more than 800,000 volunteer computers process 28 Petaflops of data per day. To put that in perspective, it is the equivalent of 28,000 terabytes or 28 million gigabytes of data. The platform runs in the background when you are not using your computer. You can select from many projects, but right now the Rosetta@home study is working to model the atomic-scale structure of the coronavirus protein. This donation of your “compute time” quickens the pace of calculations and removes the extreme expense of using supercomputers to do the work. You could capture unused value by donating much-needed calculation power to help others more quickly.
2. Donate Your Physical Activity
Right now, we’re in the midst of global pandemic. While everyone is rightfully focused on the treatment for COVID-19, it leaves many organizations that rely on the charity of others with limited options. However, there are still ways that your company and its employees can help. For example, a simple walk in your neighborhood can translate into financial assistance for many pet-related organizations. One such organization, Wooftrax, creates fundraising opportunities for animal shelters and rescues while encouraging dogs and their humans to exercise together regularly, through the Walk for a Dog mobile application. Their website states that “the mobile app tracks your walk and the more walks you complete the more is donated through advertising and sponsorships to the charity of your choice.” Now you can take technology further and use it for charitable purposes while exercising you and your pet(s). You can even set it up so that employees within your organization work together toward a specific charity and goal.
3. Donate Your Health
This one will require a little more sacrifice – blood donations. Obviously, a lot of caveats with this one, but if you are healthy, it could be invaluable to the community. That’s because the medical need has skyrocketed in recent weeks as fewer people travel to blood banks and the stock of blood is being depleted or expiring. Many blood donation centers allow you to easily make an appointment for a time that works for you and it only takes about an hour (think of it as your lunch break!). Most stay at home or shelter in place orders have exceptions for essential activities, and donating blood is one of those exceptions. Simply Google “blood donation near me” to start the process. Not all employees or organizations can be a direct line of help to the medical industry given our specific skillsets, but we can join together and provide them with the necessary materials they need to expertly and compassionately treat patients.
4. Donate Your Time
The most precious commodity we have is time, and most employees spend the largest portion of their day working. Now more than ever, organizations should ensure employees have time to decompress and take a break from the stress of the unknown. Organizations can encourage and support those employee hobbies that focus on tackling societal needs. One example I am familiar with is gardening. Gardening involves manual labor and time, but it is very inexpensive. The results are also beneficial, providing food to eat, improved air quality, or simply a beauty to experience. With more of us out walking the neighborhoods and practicing social distancing, seeing beautiful flowers, green trees, and grass walkways in each yard can be very calming and provide a sense of hope for everyone. Even if gardening isn’t for you or your team, consider small non-contact activities that can remind all of us that we are in this together.
Social Goodwill and Its Impact on the CX
Now that I have provided these examples you may be asking, “what does volunteering have to do with customer service?”
When a person volunteers, their attitude of service tends to begin to permeate every aspect of their life. People begin to naturally look for ways to be of service to others. That has a positive effect on all relationships, be it with customers, colleagues at work, neighbors, etc. Said another way, volunteering builds customer service skills and enhances an organization’s customer service experience.
Some may argue that if the focus of charity is on business benefits, it distorts the charitable nature of organizational philanthropy. However, the community involvement examples I have explored here are not philanthropy in its true form and represent alternatives to traditional forms of “giving”. Many studies have shown, not to mention the circumstances of today, that the vast majority of people accept the need for business-smart social involvement and greatly appreciate the efforts made by all involved.
By openly encouraging employees to make these types of activity-based donations an organization can bolster its customers’ experiences and mature them to a new level of loyalty and satisfaction. These activities also help build brand reputation, amplify public relations, strengthen current customer loyalty, and hopefully improve sales when the worst of these events have passed. But let us not forget, the most important reason to volunteer, is because it’s quite simply the right thing to do.