Scholarly Insights: AMA’s digest of the latest findings from marketing’s top researchers
Recent research from the Journal of Marketing reveals a significant benefit tied to corporate social responsibility (CSR): improved job performance, especially in consumer-facing employees such as salespeople and customer service representatives. With a recent study by Cone Communications indicating 90% of U.S. consumers willing to switch brands for cause-related reasons, the strategy makes sense. While many companies highlight aspects of their CSRin order to attract ethically-conscious consumers, this study finds that shared advocacy for social causes between employees, their companies and customers positively impacts job performance.
Employees who value social responsibility in their personal lives are more likely to identify better with their company if the values are aligned, according to the article. Further, employees with these pre-existing values can better engage with customers who purposely choose brands for reasons related to social responsibility. Ultimately, uniting values held by both the customer and the company can significantly impact a purchase decision.
How can marketers and managers put these findings into action?
- Make corporate social responsibility known.Companies can promote their affiliation with a social cause through social media, events, and press releases.
- Establish and maintain a dialogue with audiences who care about your cause.Social media and events are great outlets to attract potential customers who share your company’s values. It is important to remember how the appropriate branding measures can create engagement that will lead to future purchases.
- Create opportunities for employees and customers to work together in your specific area of social good.Starbucks, HP, Cisco and Unilever have all experimented with volunteering opportunities that bring customers and employees together. Experiences like this can nurture healthy engagement through shared CSR activities.
- Understand employee and customer social values.“Managers need to foster identification with both organizational and customer-oriented targets by implementing CSR initiatives that are not only vetted by employees but by key customer segments as well,” write Daniel Korschun, C.B. Bhattacharya and Scott D. Swain.
- Measure and track how employees identify with both the customer and the company.Conducting market research to better understand the identity-based relationships employees hold with his or her company and customers is key to improvement.
“If job performance requires superior customer service…a manager should monitor employee-customer identification very closely. However, if job performance goals are more general and require more company-centric tasks such as work efficiency or cooperating with coworkers, then monitoring organizational identification should be more of a priority,” advise the writers.
- Consider the social values of currentand potentialemployees to determine best fits for outward-facing positions.The authors conclude that “…companies need to actively monitor and subsequently match, if possible, frontline employees with those customers who are most supportive of the company’s CSR activities.”
Daniel Korschun, C.B. Bhattacharya, and Scott D. Swain (2014) “Corporate Social Responsibility, Customer Orientation, and the Job Performance of Frontline Employees.” Journal of Marketing: May 2014, Vol. 78, No. 3, pp. 20-37.