Published: April 17, 2017 | Comments
What is customer advocacy? What role does it play? We’ve been hearing that question a lot lately, and though the term is not new it seems to be enjoying renewed attention.
If you do a search for customer advocacy, you’ll find many different definitions. But they all tend to fall into one of two general categories.
One is an internal perspective: focusing the organization on what’s best for customers, creating great customer experiences, advocating for them, and helping them resolve problems. This is the prevailing view in customer service and operations circles.
The other is an external perspective: defining customer advocacy in terms of customers who advocate for us, spreading the word about our products, services and brand. This perspective is common among those in marketing and sales.
So, which of the two is correct? Well, both! Both are essential and closely related—they are two sides of the same coin. You won’t have customers who promote your products and brand without identifying and meeting their needs, helping them solve problems, and focusing on what is best for them.
Customer Advocacy – Defined
So, we can define customer advocacy this way:
Customer advocacy consists of the actions we take to focus the organization on doing what is best for customers, which, in turn, rewards us with loyal customers who advocate for our products and brand.
Examples of Customer Advocacy
Customer advocacy can play out in small and big ways:
It can help guide individual interactions. The reservation agent mentions to the customer that, if they’d prefer, the earlier flight would save $200.
It can be the catalyst to more involved decisions, such as keeping a customer service department open on weekends to match customer preferences.
And it can be the driver of dramatic change. When the late Steve Jobs returned to Apple and turned the company around, he eliminated some products the company had invested heavily in, and focused on others that were aligned with customer needs.
He said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology — not the other way around.” That is customer advocacy at work.
Customer Advocacy and Related Terms
I sometimes get the question: how do customer experience, voice of the customer, and customer advocacy differ from each other? Don’t they really mean the same thing? The answer is no — but they work together:
Customer experience refers to all of the experiences customers have with your organization, including products, services, processes, policies, the expectations you set, and other factors. It’s the big picture, and is often called the end-to-end customer journey.
Voice of the customer (VOC) is the process of capturing input on what they experience, and seeking to understand their needs, wants and perceptions. It provides vital information you need to understand customers.
Customer advocacy is about taking action. It’s informed by voice of the customer and refers to the tangible actions you take to solve problems for customers and improve their experiences. Ideally, Customer advocacy extends across the entire customer journey, from the first touchpoint and setting expectations, to problem solving after the sale.
Putting Customer Advocacy to Work
My encouragement is to NOT view customer advocacy as a project of its own. But instead, see how it can become an inherent and essential part of product development, marketing, customer service, and other activities that you already have in motion.
Customer advocacy is the ingredient in the recipe that enables you to focus on what’s best for customers and earn their loyalty, and then to enjoy the benefits of them advocating for your brand.
Want to learn more? Attend this session on customer advocacy at Contact Center Expo & Conference.