Yammer, social media unite global staff

With the C-suite’s blessing, Concur Technologies relies on microblogs and other social media, along with audio/video tools, to reach its far-flung staff in real time.

Concur Technologies has employees in the United States and overseas who need up-to-the-minute information in order to serve their clients.

Getting that vital data to people in the field was a growing challenge for the Redmond, Wash.-based company, which has operations in Europe and a new office in Sydney, Australia.

“Employees are being spread all over the globe so we needed an initiative to reach them,” says Cherie Sykes Plaisted, director of corporate learning and employee communications.

Concur accomplished that by revamping its portal into a multimedia machine—complete with audio, video, podcasts and microblogs.

She says the company’s mission is to “raise the level of [employee] interaction … with the very explicit purpose of driving our business forward.”

Concur offers Web-based and mobile applications to help companies effectively manage their travel costs and expense reports. “Our goal is to make sure [workers] get the information they need to service their customers,” Plaisted says.

Comfort level

The first step was to update Concur’s Web portal. Employees now receive information and report customer feedback through multimedia and social networking, communication tools they use every day.

“We wanted the information to be succinct and available to all,” Plaisted says.

The company posts video and audio from executives and key staffers, offering insight, guidance and help for people in the field.

Social networking provides the kind of instant communication necessary for nimble adjustments in how clients are approached, or tips on what is working with other members of the Concur team.

Employees also microblog with Yammer, a provider of private social networks for individual companies. Adopted by firms such as Groupon and eBay, Yammer has been a hit with Concur staff in the field and the office.

Plaisted says 85 percent of Concur employees use Yammer, which can also create separate groups within a company, sending information specific to HR, sales, marketing, or other departments directly to the people who need it.

Get the brass on board

Executives at many companies view social networking, message boards, and blogs only as some of the myriad methods workers use to waste time. Some believe that if employees aren’t focusing on the customer every second of the day, the company suffers.

Concur’s leadership team understood the new concept right from the start, according to Plaisted.

“It’s OK [for Concur employees] to be on the portal, listening to messages,” she says. “[Employees are] not ‘wasting time’ – they’re better employees and they’re in better alignment with the company.”

Another aspect of the new approach that makes the Concur brass happy is that the improved staff communication has come at little cost. Each Yammer account is only $5 a month per user. The audio and visual content was already in place.

“Social media is very [inexpensive],” Plaisted says. “We’re using just what we have in-house and we’re making it work.

“Overall, it’s been a very, very positive experience,” she says.

15 percent improvement

The new strategy appears to be working.

Although the company hasn’t reached its aggressive improvement goal yet, Plaisted says Concur has seen a marked improvement in employee communication. According to Net Promoter, which gauges how companies treat their customers, Concur is on the right track.

“We saw a 15 percent improvement in terms of activity,” Plaisted says. “[Concur staff] are very engaged and really that’s what we wanted to do—engage” both the employees and the customers.

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