06/14/2012 06:11 pm ET Updated Aug 14, 2012

The Conversation Company: Boost Your Business Through Culture, People and Social Media

I recently read Steven Van Belleghem's latest book The Conversation Company. I found the book quite useful in understanding and shaping social business. It is a guide for managers to change their heart, mind and actions in order to adapt their organizations to the modern consumers and employee.

The core belief of The Conversation Company is that conversations between people are the key driver of business growth. A smart mind twist is the idea of 'unused conversation potential.' It is indeed a paradox in the business world these days: everyone believes in the power of conversations, but we are not managing them. This leads to huge opportunities.

On average, 28 percent of your customers are very satisfied with the services provided, but don't share their positive experience. Forty percent of your employees are very proud and enthusiastic about their employer, but don't share this with their friends. These are examples of unused conversation potential. Many companies are still excellent at devising creative marketing tools, but by using the power of your staff and your customers in a positive way, you can create an additional conversation lever.

The tapping of this unused conversation potential is the reason why Steven advises his readers to transform their company into a Conversation Company. The philosophy of these modern companies is easy to define: the Conversation Company succeeds in ensuring that every interaction between the company and the customer ends with a positive, high-impact conversation. This sounds obvious -- and easy. But many organizations to this date make decisions which fail to optimize their conversation potential.

The Conversation Company is built upon an open, authentic and positive company culture. A culture in which the customer stands central is essential if you want to win the conversation game. This culture is carried and spread by people. Your employees are the tangible proof of your culture. They create the customer experiences which will help shape your brand perception. The great challenge for companies is to become 'human' again. By formulating values that both your customers and your employees can identify with, your company can create its own conversation guide. The values ensure that employees know how to behave and that the customers know what to expect. This leads to consistent conversations. Everything that the Conversation Company does or says must reflect its company culture and its company values. And culture says what the company stands for -- not what it sells. About 60 percent of the companies have clear values, but less than 20 percent succeeds in using these values as a conversations guide.

Based on extensive research, Steven defined four central pillars to optimize the conversation potential: customer experience, conversation, content and collaboration. The research shows that companies who invest in all these four pillars grow faster than their competitors. Further, their employees and clients are happier than companies who are not serious about these four dimensions. The biggest growth potential can be found in the collaboration dimension. Only 16 percent of the companies are currently integrating the voice of the customer in their decision-making flow. However, the collaboration pillar should be in the heart of the strategy to become a conversation company. Defining a great customer experience, conversation strategy and content plan, becomes a lot easier if you involve the customer. Further, the trust towards your company increases when you structurally collaborate with your target audience.

The book outlines each one of these four pillars and supports them with a large number of international case studies that help shape the framework presented in the book.