In the experience economy, inspiring authentic customer advocacy and improving loyalty is a top priority and long term trend as organisations strive to keep a competitive edge.  When businesses get this right, the reward is high-value customer groups that become extensions of your brand.  They share positive experiences, recommend you to others and influence what people buy.  Research by BZZAgent found that advocates are 50% more likely to influence a purchasing decision than a regular customer.  Delighted customers that have an affinity with your brand will help create new customers, new advocates even.

Customer advocacy has to be earned.  It’s a two-way street and the internal conversation for organisations should focus on what’s best for the people who buy from you or use your products and services.  And all customers are not created equal.  The emphasis should be on customers who are – or have the potential to be – ‘fans’ of your brand.  World class organisations embed customer focus into their DNA – into their culture, strategy, structure, processes and technology.  Crucially, they focus on behaviour and ensure their people have the right skills and the training to support their CX strategy.  It’s a continuous process of improvement and needs to be regularly revisited.

With this in mind, we’ve put together five essential action points to help you assess your current customer proposition to inspire more of your customers to become advocates.  We understand that real world challenges need real world solutions and have included a couple of best practice examples of how other businesses do things.

#1 Don’t rest on your laurels

Delivering an experience that makes you stand out from your competitors is one of the most effective ways to inspire word of mouth advocacy and social sharing.  Think beyond your sector too.  Consumers shine a light on any business that provides an exceptional experience.  They won’t really tolerate poor experiences elsewhere.  Don’t rest on your laurels.  Establish a point of difference that will create a hard-to-break bond with your target customers.  And don’t just rely on improving levels of customer satisfaction.  While customer satisfaction levels are an important KPI, this doesn’t mean that ‘satisfied’ customers will stick with you.  In competitive industries only ‘very satisfied’ customers are likely to become super fans.

#2 Create value by design

Plan, plan and plan again.  Businesses that organise around a branded experience are more effective in boosting customer advocacy and loyalty.  By creating a shared vision of what you want your organisation to be known for, you can help your employees deliver customer experience excellence. You can’t score 10 out of 10 for everything.  It’s impossible. So prioritise investment, resources and effort to improve the customer experience where it counts.  And don’t forget, customers will interact with you whenever and however they choose.  This means thinking about the customers’ end-to-end journey and the channels that matter most.  Customers operate horizontally and most organisations are structured vertically.  Figure out ways to serve customers and respond to their needs that are faster, easier and more valuable by overcoming the constraints of your organisational structure.

Conversations should be company-wide and as an organisation you need to clear about:

  • Shared customer experience objectives and goals
  • How your business organises around your customers
  • Where accountability sits and how responsibility will be shared
  • Customers’ needs – both functionally and emotionally
  • How to create a dramatically different experience that they value
  • What you want to measure

Know your customers

Many organisations have masses of customer information which isn’t brought together in way that provides meaningful insight.  Brands need a 360-degree view of what their customers are saying, need and want.  Identify priority touch points and analyse interactions and feedback on the channels where your customers are.  This will give you a holistic view of what they experience – how your brand is perceived, what resonates, what works well and what needs fixing or improving.  It will give you deeper insight on what matters to your most valuable customers.  Understanding, and anticipating, customers’ needs – both emotionally and functionally – will help you develop your advocacy programme.

Listening is not hearing

Listening to comments across multiple channels, especially social media where emotions are at their rawest, will give you invaluable insight.  The hearing bit is acting on it.  Plug social data back into your business for teams to assess and action alongside all the other data you collect for a more rounded view of your customers.

Empower your employees

When developing CX strategies, many companies underestimate the importance, and difficulty, of inspiring employees to behave in new and different ways.  The quality of the interaction between customer and employee is the point at which they either walk away disappointed or delighted.  Best-in-class companies recognise the importance of investing in the people who are the gatekeepers of your customer promise, whether they are on the frontline or providing back office support.

Here are seven questions to think about:

  • Are you equipping your people to deliver your customer experience?
  • Do your processes and technology support your customer experience?
  • Does your team understand what customers expect?
  • Do your systems provide a 360-degree view of the customer?
  • Are you focusing on the employee experience to drive commitment, enthusiasm and pride?
  • Have you aligned your performance management process with the customer experience?
  • Are you training your people to connect emotionally in a way that is consistent with your organisation’s customer promise?

Developing a people promise

Creating a people promise that mirrors your customer promise is key here.

In action – O2

O2 is a great example of a business that developed and aligned a people promise with its customer promise.  The strategy helps to ensure that the business consistently delivers amazing customer experiences and results.  It enables differentiation through its highly motivated and engaged people who deliver its customer plan.  This includes providing unique experiences that add value to customers’ lives and businesses, and brilliant end-to-end delivery.  The focus is on simplicity, convenience, trust and consistency.  (Read more about how cp2experience worked in wider partnership with O2 here).

#3 Create emotional connections

Creating powerful emotional connections with customers will help businesses differentiate on value and therefore boost advocacy and retention.  An IBM /  Ogilvy BrandZ survey found that companies that successfully created both functional and emotional bonding had higher retention ratios (84% vs 30%) and cross-sell ratios (82% vs 16%) compared with those that did not.  The potential