Creating customer advocates – why it starts with service
Personal recommendation is one of the most powerful sales tools in the world. People naturally listen to the experiences of their friends and family and take them on board when making similar purchases. And the rise of the internet and the potentially limitless choice it brings has made recommendation even more important. How do you choose between hundreds of similar products, when you are being constantly bombarded with more and more marketing messages? Reading reviews and finding recommendations both helps focus a consumer’s search without having to wade through thousands of websites.
Businesses have always realised that recommendation (or customer advocacy) is vital – from word of mouth marketing in the physical world, to Likes and Follows on social media. With more and more of the customer journey taking place before they contact you or visit your site, getting advocacy right is central to winning new business.
What is customer advocacy?
Essentially customer advocacy means getting consumers to act as your cheerleaders, recommending you to their friends, writing reviews and becoming a fan on social media. Research proves the power of advocacy:
- 92% of customers trust recommendations from people they know
- Over 90% of Facebook users say being a fan of a brand has had a positive impact on their recommendations to friends
- Advocates tell twice as many people about their purchases, compared to non-advocates
- A word of mouth recommendation is the primary factor between 20-50% of all purchasing decisions
How do you create advocates?
It is an obvious point, but people will only recommend brands if their overall experience with them have been positive. If the service they’ve received is bad, they are still likely to share their thoughts but in negative language that is likely to impact the brand in the eyes of potential customers. So how do you create advocates? It all starts with the service they receive - on an ongoing basis. Four areas to focus on are:
1. Add value
Go beyond basic competence during an interaction – solving the customer’s problem should be a given. But demonstrate empathy and show that you understand their frustration, whatever channel they use to approach you.
2. Be an advisor
Companies need to build long term relationships with customers and demonstrate that they want to help them. So this could be not just solving a current issue, but suggesting steps they can take to avoid it happening again in the future.
3. Learn from your customers
Use every engagement with the customer to learn about them and their needs. Surveys and feedback forms can help, but also analyse the digital communications they have with you. What are the most popular questions? What products are being talked about most on your Facebook page? Use this information to monitor and improve service levels, as well as adapting products to best fit with customer needs.
4. Put the systems and training in place
Building customer advocacy needs to have sufficient resources dedicated to it, if it is to succeed in the long term. Make it a priority from the top down and ensure that all frontline agents are able to provide the combination of empathy and understanding required when dealing with customers. Support them with easy access to the knowledge they need so that they can quickly answer queries, enabling them to focus on the delivery of the answer and building a rapport, instead of hunting around for information while the customer waits.
Customer advocacy has never been more important to growing revenues. Nurturing supporters of your brand is essential – and it all begins with delivering the right service, whatever channel they are using.