Nurturing and Building Customer Advocacy

“Advocacy can propel a brand unlike any other paid or unpaid media because it unlocks the networking power of one-to-one relationships with a key of trust.” – Rick Wion

It is no secret that every business needs customers who will speak well of it and spread the positive word of mouth. However, this does not happen easily and hence it is essential to put strategies in place for nurturing and building customer advocacy. This begins with a deep and genuine understanding of the customer’s needs, expectations, and the experiences they have with your company. An integrated strategy around building customer advocacy helps a business to create a robust relationship, which evolves over time to a mutually beneficial one. Getting to customer advocacy is by no means easy – even if it is quintessential to success. Customers have the ability to make or break a brand by expressing their love or frustration with it via any or every channel at their disposal. This puts them in a position of power and control, increasing the intensity of the challenge to keep them happy and engaged.

However, we know that advocacy is ephemeral and extremely fragile. The main reason for customer advocacy is usually emotional – the experience they have repeatedly with a company / brand could have been enjoyable and their desire to let others know makes them say good things about it. This obviously is not a permanent state and hence a proper strategy for nurturing and building customer advocacy is essential. Companies that have understood the ‘laws of customer attraction’, put together programs with tangible offerings and benefits to reward their ‘customer advocates’ in order to thank and ensure that this behaviour from customers continues unceasingly.

Rewarding customers for advocacy must be handled carefully – doing it too often and too much could result in customers beginning to ‘expect’ rewards for endorsements. The advocacy is not as effective or convincing, possibly because it soon stems more from the rewards than a genuine desire and praise. This does not mean that customers are greedy or do not appreciate what a company may do for them – it simply means that the relationship could soon become stagnant and customers may soon stop providing endorsements in return for the ‘perks’. A company too, would only be able to provide these attractions to some customers given the costs and efforts involved and therefore limit itself on the number of customers willing to advocate the brand. It is possible that some of these customers leave the relationship, which in turn brings down even further, the number of brand advocates a company has.

The need for nurturing and building customer advocacy therefore cannot be overemphasized and every company needs a strategy to ensure that not only does it retain customers who advocate the brand, but also steadily increase the number. Depending on the efficiency of the company, the experiences a customer has with it could be either positive or frustrating. The ones with more positive experiences, would come back to buy more and would be more appreciative of the customer service they receive. Over time, a robust relationship with the company forms and these customers become engaged with and interested in the company. By monitoring these experiences, a company would be able to determine the level of engagement its customers feel with the brand. Metrics like the Voice of Customer and Net Promoter Score, for example, are great starting points to identify customers who may be engaged with the company.

This is the first stage in building customer advocacy, which should be followed by customers being so delighted with the company, they feel obliged to share information about it with their friends and associates. Such customers may feel that they receive a lot from the company and to compensate the ‘unequal’ feeling, would be enthusiastic about letting others know about their experiences. While some customers could do this without any extra effort, some may require a nudge or a slight push in the direction of becoming an advocate for the company. Ensure that every message, social media sites, and website have a call to action – it is a lot easier to share and forward when the effort is negligible. To raise enthusiasm, a company could send them the salient points of the customer advocacy program (loyalty program) with a free sample or things like a gift card. Dropping hints to them to let others know of the ‘perks’ they received is another great way of getting their attention and garnering interest in a prospective customer base. Remember to say thank you each time they share or take some positive action for your company.

We say building customer advocacy since it is a continuous process and one that requires consistent effort. As customers begin to see the advantages of doing business and promoting it, the enthusiasm to ‘help’ becomes more pronounced. Customers become more vocal and share positive insights about a company, with or without the incentives. They would use the online ‘community’ discussion forums a company may have started, to share reviews, post comments, and even provide invaluable insights. These customers seem extremely confident about and comfortable with your company, and as a result are happy to interact with it and support it via the different channels of communication, social media included.

It would be prudent to identify such customers, and ensure that they are responded to on priority and your company uses every method to keep ‘conversation’ with them open and constant. The customer service teams and teams responsible for online communications must be trained towards building relationships with these customers, towards the end of building customer advocacy. Ensure that these customers are shown appreciation and thankfulness – use visible platforms to do so – it makes them feel valued and important and reinforces the engagement and enthusiasm they experience about the company.

Building customer advocacy requires time, sincerity, and relentless effort. We know that customer expectations and needs continue to change and this makes it even more challenging for customers to arrest their attention for too long. Depending on the needs and motivations of customers, personalized advocacy programs are required such each different customer segment finds value in their relationship with the company and is enthused enough to act as a brand advocate. Ensure that the lines of communication remain open between these customers and the company and that their feedback and constructive criticism are used wisely. By allowing customers to express exactly how they feel and using their insights to improve, makes them more confident and trusting of a company. They would know that the company cares enough to listen to them and would let them know when the company implements improvements and changes based on their feedback.

The steps towards building customer advocacy include delighting the customer with the unexpected, displaying a genuine desire to serve them well, and showing genuine appreciation for their feedback and advocacy. These steps form the foundation and make it easier for any company to gain and keep customer advocates. These customers prove to be the most potent assets for any company and by nurturing and building customer advocacy, a company is effectively ensuring a safe and successful future for itself and all those connected with it.

Learn about a new approach to better customer service!

Interactive Guides for Superior Customer Service

Develop interactive decision trees for troubleshooting, cold calling scripts, medical appointments, or process automation. Enhance sales performance and customer retention across your call centers. Lower costs with customer self-service.

Interactive Decision Tree