What’s the most important part of any business? It’s the people… you, your team and of course your clients. But without your clients you don’t have a business. With this in mind, how can you increase your client engagement, loyalty and turn your clients into advocates?
It’s worth remembering; it’s far more cost effective to keep your clients happy than to get new clients. According to Amy Gallo of the Harvard Business Review, “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”
Therefore, it’s critical for all businesses to look at how to keep clients happy and engaged, with the goal of converting them into advocates. For me the best way ensure client advocacy is to be more human by being more engaged with your clients. Reach out to them, listen to them, hear what they want and understand what they value so you can serve them better. In a nutshell… be human.
A core part of the work I do, is interviewing my client’s customers/clients to find out what is working well and perhaps not so well. By being an impartial ‘listener’ clients get a chance to honestly feedback their feelings of their supplier as well as suggestions for improvements; which is so much more in depth than an online form can ever be.
Once I’ve spoken to a selection of clients, I then feedback and give recommendations, enabling the business to make improvements to their business and engage with their clients better. I have been compared to a marriage counsellor for businesses…. and have found out all sorts of golden nuggets from clients that have helped businesses to improve and grow their business off the back of client insight. Some of the intelligence that has come out of interviewing clients has enabled businesses to:
· Improve communications with their clients
· Identify new services/products that the clients are often asking for repeatedly
· Improve and reward teams
· Build better business processes
· Identify at risk clients and develop plans to improve relationships
· Upsell services
· Open up conversations between businesses and their clients
· Understand their positioning
· Focus their marketing and new business better
· Understand who their ideal client is
· Increase prices
· Create testimonials & case studies
Ultimately the interviews have improved client relationships, retention, loyalty, opened up new job opportunities and it’s built a huge amount of trust between client and suppliers, which of course leads to a better business with an increase in revenue; with a greater number of client advocates who are being serviced so much better.
Here are some of the things I recommend to my clients, and help them, do:
1. Develop communications with clients. Be intentional in all your communications. Look at how you are engaging with them — from digital, insights, events to human interaction. Is there any part of this engagement that could be improved? Understand who your current advocates or fans are: What makes them love you and your brand? What do you do for them that you could do for other clients?
2. Put a client advocacy process into place. Once you know where your touch points are — review them and make sure you have regular contact with your clients, beyond standard newsletters and social media interaction. Make sure you are reaching out to them at different stages of their lifecycle with something of value to ensure you are giving them what they need or want. Make sure you speak to all clients with intention — personalise your communications, depending on what stage they are at, such as new clients (why did they choose you?), advocates (why do they love you and how can you do more?) to the unengaged clients (what can be done to make the relationship more engaging and valuable to them), even those who have finished working with you (what could you do to work with them again). Think about what each type of person may want from you at that stage.
3. Ask for feedback from your clients. See what is working, not working, what they want and how you can improve. Start by reaching out to all your clients with an online form to get the maximum number of responses, then follow up with an interview with a selection who have given mixed results. Ideally have someone outside the organisation interview them, so the clients feel they can be open and honest in their feedback. Try to do this yearly and follow up with them to tell them what changes you may have made as a result of the feedback. Be accountable to your clients.
When I do this for my clients, I interview a selection of clients at different stages of the relationship with the business and those that have different levels of satisfaction (good and bad) — and find out the patterns that may emerge, as well as, pulling together ideas for development and improvement for the business. Obviously, the interviews yield a huge amount of amazing qualitative feedback, but I put a quantitative element to the feedback — it makes it easier to compare results in the future and see in a nutshell what the big issues are.
4. The bottom line — be more human… think about encouraging human engagement and interaction throughout the organisation.
5. My biggest tip…. When interviewing clients over the years, there are three things that are complained about most. These are a lack of Communication, Processes and Proactivity. So, I’d recommend every business focus on improving these three things and they will have the tools to make massive improvements on their business and client relationships.
I believe that if a business proactively looks at how they can turn their clients into advocates… they can only do better and improve overall!
Remember that you will have more success with and for your clients if it’s more about a partnership relationship as opposed to a transactional relationship. Everyone should want to succeed… together, whatever it takes.
If you have any good examples where you have successfully implemented a client advocacy programme, or if you would like to discuss or share ideas around this, I’d love to hear from you! And if you would like to hear more about client advocacy and the work I do, you can listen to this podcast: https://pod.co/the-agency-accelerator/client-interviews-with-remeny-armitage.
Please feel free to connect with me: https://www.linkedin.com/in/remeny/
It is the foundation of your business.
Without your customers, you don’t have a business. It is that simple.
So how is it that this area of all industries is so often an afterthought in a business model or an ‘oh sh%t’ moment with so many.
Customer Service teams in many places are treated as lowly staff. It is seen as an outsource opportunity or a cost to be optimised or cut if margin is getting tight.
I don’t know how many customer service team members tell me they are treated as the least important and quite often treated poorly.
These people are those that touch your customers, sometimes literally. It is seen as a role for those that have little experience or few qualifications.
Customer Service requires empathy, thinking on your feet, solving problems with almost no resources at your disposal, a calm demeanour, ability to take abuse without cracking, being able to read people (often over the phone) and much more. You need a tough skin with a soft centre. You need to care.
Giving your Customer service team limiting scripts, no power, treating them like cr@p and then expecting them to put a smile on their face and treat others well is a hard task.
But so many, every day, do a sterling job. They do it because they care. They try their best because when they are dealing with someone angry or in pain, their humanity drives them to try and help.
Are you taking advantage of that in your people? Are you lucky that your customer service is as good as it is or have you intentionally empowered your team and treat them well, pay them fairly? See them not as 2nd class citizens but fundamental to your business.
How have you costed your Customer Service team in your budgets? As a marketing spend and fundamental team or with the smallest amount you feel you can get away with? Have you costed your product to include the customer service you need to deliver?
You can often find ways to include Customer Service as a delivery entity that makes you money, not a cost. Have you tried?
These people are as close to your customer and have the chance of finding opportunities for you. They can be the voice of your customer to improve your products and services. How often do you include them in your product management cycles?
As I say, they are fundamental.
Happy customer = increased revenue
Satisfied customers at least gives your business a reason to exist
Without customers you have no business, with bad or non-existent customer service you have no customers.
You do the maths…
I have been working remotely for over 16 years. My mother had a successful career from home for most of my childhood. I hope the things my mother taught me and that I continue to do may be useful to you:
Build a clear set of routines that shape your day
Have a clear start and end to your day, get up, get dressed. If possible, have a distinct place to do your work (preferably not the bed or a sofa).
Plan your ideal* week
Your schedule should be based around your most important commitments and fit your energy patterns. If you don’t know what good looks like, you won’t be able to achieve it. What does your ideal week look like? Include regular breaks, that includes a longer one around the middle of the day (lunchbreak??) and a decent walk outside. You can use this template to draw it out.
Chunk your time
Break down your tasks into achievable chunks. The human brain can only really focus for max 40-50 minutes in one go.
Where you had co-worker distraction to remind you to take a break, now you could use your children's boredom levels, they have a natural focus rhythm.
When my daughter was younger, I would start her on an activity and at around the 40 mins mark she would come in and ask to do something different. That was the time we would sit and have a break. I would set her up again and the next hour carried on that way. This only works obviously with children you can leave to their own devices. It does sometimes work if you are sitting with them as they see your focus and can often get on as you are role modelling the behaviour, they act accordingly.
Or give yourself reminders (the pomodoro technique may be your friend).
Humans are not machines; your brain and body can do deep focussed work for ~4 hours (probably less) and we all know that work fits the time you give it (Parkinsons Law).
Leave the rest of the day to recharge, be with your children or have scheduled social time.
Do your 'one thing'
Productivity is not being busy, it is about doing the right things with the right effort. Plan your day to ensure you do the most important thing that will progress you forward, first. Perhaps, releasing the pressure may mean you get to do your second thing too.
In these unprecedented times, focussing on our family as well as holding down a job, we need to give ourselves a break and feel proud that we achieve one thing a day!.
*Ideal is a dynamic concept that shifts as life changes.
To go about creating your own structure, you can go through it step by step on this webinar - https://youtu.be/cyFQxBvIJcU
You may enjoy our Being Brilliant and human newsletter, where we curate and share human, practical and realistic approaches to life and work for those who are following their own path and are juggling multiple projects or streams of focus.
Activating people to work better together and flourish. Working on interesting projects with people I like to work with, strengthening how you motivate yourself and collaborate with others.
A smiley welcome from the owner? A personal connection? Knowledge of you or your family outside work? Genuine warmth and care? Or perhaps it’s free Italian ice cream?
Okay, so not every business can offer the ice cream…. But my local Italian restaurant- Barracuda based in Amersham can… and the 2 brothers who own it Esatteo and Marco offer all of the above. I was there yesterday for lunch with my family and we are all fans… not only is the food great, it’s all locally sourced and freshly made on site by one of the brothers… There is nothing like being greeted in a friendly way by the owner of a business who genuinely cares…. And the ice cream…. Well of course my boys love that, helped that they have an enormous tub of sweets they offer all their young customers.
Why am I telling you about yesterday’s lunch that my family and I loved? Well I’m currently reading Fanocracy by the brilliant and inspiring father / daughter team: David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott and it got me thinking about why we love going to Barracuda. It’s because they have all the ingredients that David and Reiko talk about that make businesses a success…. They have thought about what will make their restaurant more than a simple restaurant, they have thought about what will make their customers love them, come back, recommend them and be fans… just by being human and reaching out to their customers in a way that everyone wants to be treated.
In Fanocracy David and Reiko talk about the fact the secret to success is to think beyond the product a business is selling and think about the customer experience first…. The way the customer is made to feel, their emotions and what they want, will help make your customers into fans…. They can explain it best: “Fanocracy means turning fans into customers and customers into fans. Fanocracy means an organization that puts the needs and wishes of fans ahead of every other priority. Applying the strategies in Fanocracy will make your company more likely to dominate your category and win business.” You can read the first chapter of the book here: https://www.fanocracy.com/.
Of course, I’m always talking about the importance of client care and how by listening to your customers, acknowledging them as people and understanding their needs you can garner loyalty, trust, repeat business, recommendations and hopefully they will become your advocate or better yet – your fan…. Who doesn’t want fans?!
I must admit, I’m only half way through Fanocracy, but after my lovely Sunday lunch followed by the beautiful Italian ice cream and the welcoming smiles from Esatteo and Marco – I couldn’t wait to write this piece and let you know about Fanocracy – read it, embrace it and become a fan! Oh, and if you are anywhere near Amersham – go to Barracuda! You won’t regret it!
Turning your clients into advocates.