Customer advocacy means building a culture where, ideally, everyone in every role is advocating for customers. So here’s the definition I use for customer advocacy. And you’ll see, there are two parts to it:
Customer advocacy consists of 1) the actions you take to focus the organization on doing what’s best for customers, 2) which in turn rewards you with loyal customers who advocate for your products and brand.
Customer advocacy can play out in many different ways. For example, a cabinet designer takes the time to understand how the customer will use the kitchen before making recommendations. The utility’s billing department redesigns invoices to show usage trends and provides tips on how to save. The marketing team asks customer service agents to review messages for clarity before sending them out to customers.
Sometimes entire organizations refocus on customer advocacy. When Charles Schwab returned to the financial firm bearing his name, he simplified services and refocused on customers and their needs. Schwab, the company, roared back, and Schwab, the person, was nicknamed “The Great Emancipator.”
Think of customer advocacy as an ingredient that complements all of the activities already happening across the organization. Everybody makes decisions with the customer in mind.
Think of customer advocacy as an ingredient that complements all of the activities already happening across the organization.
As an outsider going into organizations, I can easily see the degree to which customer advocacy is at work. I look for how well the customer is represented in plans, metrics, performance standards, budgeting decisions—really, everything.
Here’s a power tip: create a way to represent the customer in your decisions. A large cable company started by putting an empty chair in every planning meeting to represent the customer symbolically. Those involved say it immediately made a difference. The supervisor of a small team puts a picture of an actual customer in a window on a shared screen with her employee during coaching conversations. And I know of an IT department that’s exemplary in involving customers in testing apps and websites for ease and clarity before they’re officially launched.
Think of what it means to do what’s best for customers in your role. My encouragement is to be intentional. Give it thought. It might make sense to brainstorm this with a larger team. This is an inspiring and essential part of building a solid support system for customer experience.