Beyond NPS – getting true benefit from your customer advocacy program

Customer-centricity is the new black. Whether you’re a financial services organisation who is recovering from the backlash of the royal commission, or an antiquated B2B business looking for a contemporary twist; everyone is looking to elevate the customer within their organisational strategy. The voice of customer has gained renewed cachet – however, too many organisations have bought into the fad of NPS and are overly concerned with measuring and communicating it to the market, as opposed to acting on the operational insights that a customer advocacy program provides.

We are not against NPS – it works as a well-tested, peer comparable, peak measure at the business or segment level. Measurement, elevation and action off the back of customer feedback is a big step in the right direction. However, to set up an advocacy program for real impact, it needs to move beyond a single metric, to insights based on a set of operational lead and lag indicators of customer sentiment. The change must be anchored on the customer journey and used to shift frontline mindsets and behaviours in a programmatic and disciplined way.

We typically see organisations face three pitfalls when implementing an advocacy program:

  1. Measuring the wrong metrics; or measuring the right ones at the wrong time or to insufficient detail
  2. Focussing on numbers rather than the insights that can be derived from the metrics
  3. Lack of clear accountability for following up on feedback and acting on insights

So, what do you need to keep front of mind when developing and implementing a customer advocacy program?

1. Ensure leadership focus and reinforce the strategic importance of advocacy 

Customer advocacy must be placed at the core of the organisational strategy and owned by the most senior leaders. Top-down messaging that focusses on the outcomes of the program and continually reinforces its strategic importance, is crucial to ensure employees at all levels give it the right energy and resources.
2. Identify the ‘Moments that Matter’ most to customers 

For most organisations, it is difficult to measure and act on feedback across all touchpoints. By identifying and prioritising those moments across the journey that customers truly care about, resources can then be directed towards improving the interactions that have the most impact on customer experience.
3. Determine the right metrics and methods of collection

Depending on the purpose of the advocacy program and the level with which it is operating, different metrics may be applicable. Each of the ‘Moments that Matter’ may require a unique set of lead and lag measures. These typically include operational data points such as open rates, response times and resolution rates as well as NPS or CSAT. Whereas verbatim capture often provides the best insight on the root cause of any change in sentiment.
4. Establish a dedicated internal team, empowered with decision rights 

A centralised advocacy team is a great way for organisations to maintain momentum behind the program. This group must be kept independent from the commercial business and should focus on insight-driven change. Responsible for closing the feedback loop, maintaining CRM data integrity and driving continual improvement of the program, they will manage the end-to-end process. It is also crucial that this team is given full decision rights around operational action plans, capital expenditure, business KPIs and targets in order to drive real change.
5. Integrate the program (and subsequent change) into BAU  

Embedding the customer advocacy program into BAU, including front-line (inner-loop) and enterprise-wide (outer-loop) operating rhythms, will be critical to success. Organisations must review existing ways of working to ensure they can dedicate sufficient energy to the program, and then identify additional forums needed to deliver both the team-level and cross-functional changes required. The establishment of an outer-loop system will also allow for escalation of investment and management decisions requiring more extensive action.
6. Drive frontline buy-in and ownership  

Too many organisations assume that the frontline sales, marketing and service teams understand why advocacy matters, which is rarely the case. Significant change leadership, embedding and reinforcement is often required to ensure employees are behind the initiatives and own the process as well as outcomes. Using advocacy messaging that addresses both rational and emotional motivators for each audience will support the change. This can be achieved through a targeted mix of traditional benefit modelling, success stories and case studies which is then underpinned by routine and formalised senior executive endorsement.
7. Integrate into core customer platforms

When it comes to the heavy lifting around execution – survey dispatch, completion, data analysis and reporting; technology platforms (such as MartizCX, Qualtrics, Medalia) can prove invaluable. However, to gain full benefit from these systems and the customer feedback sitting within them, organisations must ensure that feedback is integrated with core systems such as the CRM, marketing automation and service management.

Key takeaway

Many organisations have realised the need to implement customer advocacy programs. The best versions go beyond a simple, high-level metric. To get true operational benefit, organisations must ensure advocacy initiatives are aligned to strategy and the desired customer experience. Best practice programs integrate the right measures, feedback loops and accountability for actions into core systems and frontline processes, with ownership and buy-in at all levels of the organisation.

Co-authored by Chris Mellish and Jemma Dickman.

To understand more about Blackdot’s perspective on uplifting customer-experience and advocacy, get in touch now.