Have you reached into the hearts and minds of your customers? This is an essential component of becoming customer centric … especially if the products and services you offer are complex and supported by customer interfaces spread out among various units within your organization. (From Customer Advocacy, a whitepaper published by Customer Centricity, Inc)
With the shift in business thinking during this historic recession, the top priority for “forward-thinking” organizations is to deepen the business relationships they already have. Today’s customers are looking for vendors they can develop real partnerships with, built on the pillars of mutual trust, commitment and open honest dialogue.
So, what is customer advocacy? According to Wikipedia, it is defined as follows:
“Customer advocacy is a specialized form of customer service in which companies focus on what is best for the customer. It is a change in a company’s culture that is supported by customer-focused customer service and marketing techniques.”
Simply put, customer advocacy is unselfishly doing what is right for a client, even if that means referring them to a competitor to address a particular business issue. It is fulfilling the “trusted adviser” role in its purest form.
So who is a customer advocate (for purposes of this article I refer to them as a “CA”) and what do they do? Great Question…. Here are some thoughts:
- Facilitators — or as I like to refer to them they are “dot connectors.” CA’s are the guiding force or compass to connect the “dots” between what a customer characterizes as their need(s) and the best available solution(s) to address that/those need(s).
- Passionate about relationships — with their clients. They have an inner hunger to learn as much as they possibly can about them. CA’s understand how their clients prefer to do business and recognize their most important challenges.
- Big-Picture Thinkers — CA’s look at business issues from 30,000 feet. Strategic actions will always be driven by the goal of “doing the right thing” for the long term health of their business relationships.
- High Integrity — CA’s walk the talk… they don’t just “drink the koolaid” of advocacy but they live in it. When a commitment is made to a customer their top priority is always delivering on that promise, no matter what it takes.
- Transparent Communicators — In their interactions with people, there is no hidden agenda. CA’s are forthright in their communications, even when it means they must admit a mistake, or engage in a tough conversation.
Customer Advocates are really successful in initiating and cultivating strong business relationships. A company fortunate enough to build a complete team of employees with this mindset and style will thrive in the marketplace.
Looking ahead to the “new normal” for doing business, it is actions, not a marketing message that will propel an organization forward into significant growth. Does your organization have this depth of commitment to its customers? How are you personally fostering a business culture built upon customer advocacy? Please share your thoughts with us!