How to ensure your Customer Advocacy Program delivers ongoing value

The importance of customer advocacy programs in delivering a great experience is well understood by organisations today. However, despite the willingness to invest in these programs, many struggle to realise the intended value.

Through our enterprise engagements, we often see organisations fall into one of two traps. The first being that they try to tackle the task all at once and get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge. Alternatively, they set up the basic processes and enabling tools, declare victory and then don’t follow through with the remainder of the implementation. Both scenarios lead to a loss of momentum and conviction, leaving the organisation in a state of limbo with some progress and investment made but limited outcomes to show for it.

In a previous post, we shared a simple best-practice framework outlining how to get maximum benefit from your customer advocacy program – here, we will explore three ways you can embed the program into BAU and ensure it continues to prove value into the long-term:

1. Driving cultural change through elevation of advocacy as a strategic priority

Companies often implement customer advocacy programs to remediate deep-rooted cultural challenges around customer-centricity. This can be seen in the Financial Services industry after being dragged through a scathing Royal Commission, or the Telecommunications sector after shifting their focus from the product to the customer.

To effectively leverage these programs for driving cultural change, advocacy must be elevated as a strategic priority across the organisation. It needs to be emphasised in both commercial and operational strategies, and crystallised with defined objectives and target outcomes. A top-down drive across the organisation is essential to fully operationalise these initiatives.

Organisations who get this right will:
  • Build a shared understanding of the program and vision, creating motivation and excitement around customer-centricity
  • Ensure all teams are aware of their respective roles and are motivated to work together to unlock value and achieve desired outcomes

2. Ensure buy-in to customer experience outcomes by aligning and embedding operational metrics

When it comes to implementing advocacy programs, organisations tend to overtly focus on measuring, analysing, and reporting on customer feedback and sentiment, and see this as a ‘silver bullet’ to improving experiences. We often see this in businesses who have received a top-down diktat to “implement advocacy” and may be using the blunt instrument of scorecards and dashboards to drive compliance.

However, understanding feedback and insights is only one part of the story. When presented alone, they are often treated as ‘nice-to-know’ facts by stakeholders and do not effectively translate into actions and impactful change. Typically, teams do not have clarity on what or how they can contribute within the system to drive customer-centricity.

Defining and embedding performance and operational metrics specific to the program will ensure employees rally behind these customer initiatives and collaborate to achieve desired outcomes. These must then be cascaded across the organisation into the scorecards of business lines, teams, and individuals. Every employee must understand how to move the needle on these metrics, and be appropriately enabled to do so. To bring this to life, performance should be regularly evaluated and used as basis for targeted and systematic course correction.

Organisations who get this right will:
  • Observe an organisation wide focus on driving customer-centricity
  • Define ways in which everyone can contribute to the desired customer experience
  • Incentivise employees to drive immediate outcomes from the program

3. Drive systemic change by acting on strategic themes from customer insights

Some organisations benefit from bottom-up customer centric change driven by frontline staff responding to operational insight.  While this is a great first step, there is often no structured process for driving strategic cross-functional change off the back of insights generated from the customer advocacy program.

By establishing a mechanism which tackles systemic and cross-functional challenges (commonly referred to as the outer-loop), you’ll be able to effectively drive insight-driven action. This process must have representation at the right levels across the organisation, the appropriate decision rights on capital investment and program execution and access to critical capabilities either internally or from service providers.

Organisations who get this right will:
  • Get a step change in customer experience, employee experience and commercial outcomes
  • Establish a robust continuous improvement mechanism that systematically unlocks and captures customer value
  • Drive lasting change that is embedded across multiple parts of the organisation

Key takeaways

Organisations who derive value from their customer advocacy program employ one of the above three methods effectively. However, the real magic happens when all three components are done together. By implementing all aspects of a best practice advocacy program, organisations can get a cultural reset, implement continuous improvement within each frontline team and drive strategic change centred on the customer.

Worded by Jemma Dickman and Ming Lee.

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