How to Create a Culture of Customer Advocacy

Delivering an exceptional customer experience is a must in today’s hyper-competitive world. The opportunity to deliver a great experience begins at the time a potential customer discovers your brand and continues throughout the entire customer journey. 

Making this a reality requires buy-in from the entire organization. To get everyone onboard, you have to create a culture of customer advocacy. 

What is customer advocacy? 

Customer advocacy is a form of customer service where teams focus on doing what’s best for the customer, versus doing what’s best for the company. It is essentially a shift in thinking from company-centric, to customer-centric.

Creating a culture of customer advocacy is two-fold. You must advocate for the customer by going to bat for them, sharing customer insights with the team, and showing them that you really care. By advocating for customers, you can then turn your customers into advocates themselves. In other words, delivering exceptional customer experiences can result in your customers speaking highly of your brand, and becoming an advocate of your product or service.

7 tips for advocating on behalf of customers

There are many ways you can put customer advocacy into practice. Let’s take a look at some examples of how to create a culture of customer advocacy.

1. Listen to your customers

Customer advocacy starts with listening to your customers. You have to understand your customer’s problems, as well as their definition of success. Document their success metrics and objectives and share them with your team. Practice proactive listening, ask the right questions, and stay on top of trends as you work with your customers.

2. Share feedback regularly

Enable customer-facing teams to consistently share customer feedback with the entire organization. Create a “feedback” channel in Slack, pipe survey results into company-wide email notifications, and adopt a feedback capturing tool such as productboard.

3. Pay attention to metrics

While it’s critical to listen to your customers, it’s equally important to pay close attention to quantitative data. Build dashboards to display key usage metrics, and use data to identify at-risk customers so you can engage them before they turn into detractors and churn. 

4. Build relationships

Building meaningful relationships with customers helps your organization truly understand who your customers are, how they work, and how they think about the problem you’re solving. Use these types of insights to improve the product, craft marketing messages, and improve how your team works. Getting to know your customers allows you to make the necessary changes to create more exceptional experiences with more customers. 

5. Lead by example

Everyone from the top down needs to understand and practice customer advocacy. In a truly customer-centric culture, there are no boundaries for where customer advocacy starts or stops. Every decision made by the organization should be faced with this question: “How does this impact our customers?”. Make customer-centricity part of your company values so that everyone, including new hires, understands it’s a part of your company’s DNA.

6. Hire the right people

A company’s culture is a direct reflection of the people they hire. Hire customer-centric people. Hire good communicators. Hire people who have empathy, and provide opportunities for individuals to improve their customer service skills. Fire people who don’t fit this profile, as anyone who goes against the grain of a customer-focused culture will only slow the rest of the organization down. 

7. Bring the entire organization closer to customers

Unite your organization with a set of standards related to the customer experience. Create a set of customer support values, like company values, expect zoomed-in on the customer experience. Consider having new hires sit with the support team for a day, or a week, and invite customers to speak at internal meetings and events.

By going above and beyond, and exceeding expectations, you’ll start to create more and more customer advocates who speak highly of your product or service and refer other people to your brand.

Creating a culture of customer advocacy is the foundation of turning your customers into advocates. 

9 tips for turning customers into advocates

“Advocacy can propel a brand unlike any other paid or unpaid media because it unlocks the networking power of one-to-one relationships with a key of trust.”

Rick Wion

By building a culture of customer advocacy, you’ll be well on your way to creating advocates out of your customers. Advocates are like a sales team for your company. They generate warm leads for your brand and help decrease the time to close. 

According to Ballista Marketing Group, there are 5 stages of customer advocacy:

  1. The engaged customer
  2. The enthusiast
  3. The early-stage advocate
  4. The transitioning advocate
  5. The full-blown advocate

Your ultimate goal should be to create “full-blown advocates”: the most powerful type of advocate. Here are some tips for turning customers into advocates.

1. Create an impeccable purchase experience

Your sales and purchase experience is an early indicator of what it feels like to work with your brand. If your customers are jumping through hoops early on, it can be a jarring experience. Start off on the right foot, and button up your purchase experience. Give them an experience worth talking about.

2. Make your return & cancellation process painless

Just like your purchase experience should be smooth, your return and cancellation experience should be too. Lay out clear guidelines in your policies and make them easily discoverable so your customers know what to expect. Remove friction whenever possible and make these processes self-service. Your customers will recognize and appreciate this.

3. Find the right customers

You’re going to have a hard time creating advocates if you’re selling to the wrong customers. Selling to the wrong customer can hurt both your business and the customer. In fact, selling to the wrong customer can be expensive (it likely takes more time to convince them to buy). Find your ideal customer profile and focus on selling to them. Sales will improve and you’ll retain more customers, therefore creating more opportunities to create advocates out of your customers.

4. Manage and maintain realistic expectations

Always aim to exceed expectations. Not meeting your customer’s expectations results in a poor customer experience. This holds true for all customers, but especially customers you have a good relationship with already. Damaging that reputation can be costly. 

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

Warren Buffett

5. Empower employees

Empower your team with the right tools and data to solve problems quickly and deliver value to customers. Give your employees permission and autonomy to make decisions that impact the customer experience and train them to use their best judgement.

6. Reward customers

Give customers a sneak peek of things you’re building, or deliver surprise features. This will make them feel valued and potentially get them more excited about your product or service. You can also surprise them with a discount or free month of service for the holidays.

7. Set up a referral program

Referral programs make it easy to be a customer advocate because customers are often rewarded for their efforts to refer new customers to your product or service. Additionally, customers who are referred to your brand are more likely to become advocates themselves because they’re already being introduced to your company from a positive recommendation by someone they trust. 

8. Do things that don’t scale

Every company wants to be set up to scale. But sometimes you have to do things that don’t scale in order to truly advocate on behalf of your customers and show them you care. Write customers hand-written thank you notes, visit their office, or send them a holiday gift. Talk to as many customers as you can on a 1:1 basis so that you can continue to build deep relationships with them.

9. Provide customers an opportunity to grow

Give your customers opportunities to challenge themselves. This might mean inviting them to speak at a conference, or to co-author a piece of content. Giving them an opportunity to grow will help strengthen your relationship and show them that you really value their partnership.

Customer advocacy is a full team sport

A culture of customer advocacy starts with listening to customers, and hiring the right people. Putting standards in place to support a customer-centric environment will keep your organization in check. By continuously advocating on behalf of customers, you’ll set yourself up to create advocates out of them and ultimately drive more business your way. Keep your eye on the customer and your company will be on the path to creating a culture of customer advocacy.

Want to learn more about creating great customer experiences? Check out How to Improve Customer Experience in 6 Steps.