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I have for some time been thinking and writing that the goal of companies must shift from Customer Loyalty (happy customers reliably come back for more) to Customer Advocacy (happy customers tell their peers about how good your company is).
Loyalty and Advocacy sometimes come together, but they are not the same.
We are loyal to companies that are exceptionally good at satisfying a vector of satisfaction (value, flexibility, convenience, etc) we are sensitive to.
Airlines have been very successful implementing loyalty programs. Elite travelers get reward travel and can skip some of the terrible customer experiences airlines offer to their “regular” customers. It works. Most Elite travellers I know do unthinkable things to fly with their “preferred” airline.
Now, search any of the airlines in Twitter and most of what you see are complaints from customers when things go wrong. Don’t expect to see customers taking the time to say “my flight on American today was wonderful, the service was so nice. I really recommend it”.
So, how to earn Customer Advocacy?
Of course a great product and a prestigious brand help. But it is not enough. Is it Customer Service (as suggested by the title of this post) the key to earning Customer Advocacy?
When I posted “Great Products earns Customer Loyalty, Great Customer Service earns Customer Advocacy” yesterday during a Customer Service Twitter chat (Tuesdays, 6PM Pacific at #custserv) there was good reaction.
One of the comments I got back was “It’s the whole of the corporate community that earns advocacy.” (@MissusP @c7Group)
That is certainly true, the Social Customer looks at a positive and seamless engagement before putting their reputation behind a peer recommendation. Prestige of the brand and coolness of the products, value and purchasing experience, responsiveness when things go wrong, transparency and the respect for the customer voice, those are all factors.
If in the past the focus on customer engagement was on pre-transaction (branding, advertisement, sales), that has now to extend throughout the post-transaction experience.
So, it is not only about Customer Service. But that is where the revolution needs to start. Companies need to see Customer Service as their point of engagement with the Social Marketing Funnel. Customer Service has to get the same status within organizations as R&D, Marketing and Sales and stop being seen exclusively as a cost center.
If not the only key area, Customer Service is the glue that brings together the seamless customer experience that promotes Customer Advocacy.