If you're playing Buzz Word Bingo in the healthcare at the moment then you will know that "Engagement" is a hot word. Nothing new there you say, it's been a consistent buzz word for the last 10 years at least.
Well, there's something new on the horizon. It's a bit scary, you may not like it and it seems to be one way to practically engage some staff. More than that it moves from a passive engagement to an interactive process, which through its transparency leads to increased trust.
Let me explain using a very current example. It is 22nd March 2010 and British Airways is on day 3 of a strike, with another series of strike days looming. It's a mess really, for all involved. As with many crises it's interesting to learn from how companies and individuals manage them to best effect.
I've been following @British_Airways on Twitter. The updates are immediate and a complement to the less frequent and more formal announcements on their website. When I start seeing a string of complaints - or compliments - on Twitter I get a sense of what is going on. I have no idea how many people they have handling the Twitter stream (probably only 1 - if so they need a prize for multitasking while keeping their head about them..). More important than the pattern on Twitter is the manner in which cries of despair, shrieks of delight, moans and queries are being handled. All in public and all is transparent for us all to see. When it gets to personal details they request a DM (direct message). As long as the nice BA person at the end of the Twitter Stream keeps calm I will keep calm. And I'm starting to trust they really will get me to my next destination.
Some hints and tips for using Twitter to engage with staff and customers, especially in a crisis
1) Ensure your Twitter stream is managed by a human and not a computer. Endless feeds of your website will not engage me and will most likely reduce my trust in you.
2) The 3 R's of Regret, Reason and Remedy go down very well. A 140 character Regret is enough of an apology. A quick Reason helps me understand the issue and I then know you also understand what I mean. Then a masterful 140 character or less Remedy will make my day. I don't need 3 page letters within which we all lose the point.
3) Be open. Speaking up in front of the crowd means you need to stick with your tone of voice and content of your speeches. If I know most fo the talk is going on where I can hear it then I will be more trusting. An advantage of the Twitter feed is I can scroll back quite a few days ago to see how the conversation has been going.
4) Allow me to discover people like me. Although the official stuff is importnat, I also like to engage with people like myself. I need to be able to do this without you controlling the place, person and pace./ On Twitter I can see who else is having a problem like me and can contact them to see if they, for example, discovered any easy solution.