The old transactional style of business is slowly going out of fashion. Or rather, businesses appear to be reverting to an even older mode of customer interaction – one rooted in mutual respect and communal well-being. Whereas the last half century saw businesses increasingly treat consumers as items on a spreadsheet, there has been a recent trend toward “customer advocacy.”
In plain terms, customer advocacy involves doing the right thing for consumers – even if it seems counterintuitive from a bottom-line perspective. Businesses achieve customer advocacy by prioritizing the following: choice, resources (sometimes called transparency) and support.
Below, let’s unpack these three priorities, exploring what it means to advocate for your customers. Where applicable, let’s also use real-world examples of customer-advocating companies.
Choice over Strategy
“The paradox of choice” has long been leveraged to push an aggressive sales strategy. Basically, the thinking goes something like this: by limiting a consumer’s choice, you eliminate the “consideration stage” of a buyer’s journey, encouraging a quicker sale. Consumers won’t be distracted or stultified by all those options – they’ll just buy.
This mode of thinking runs counter to consumer advocacy, which seeks to ensure that customers get what they want. But choice can still be a powerful attractor. Take Nobul, for example – a real estate digital marketplace founded by tech maverick Regan McGee. The company allows real estate consumers to view all of their options for agents, based on personal criteria. It’s currently disrupting an industry once infamous for its choice-limiting practices.
Democratizing Access to Resources
Advocating for consumers means empowering them. By giving customers the information and resources they need to make good decisions, you empower them to be self-reliant customers. It’s a commercial spin on the old proverb: “Buy a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for life.”
Several companies have seen broad success by implementing a consumer empowerment strategy. The aforementioned Nobul provides real estate consumers with market condition indicators, free valuation tools, etc. Or take the construction tool giant DeWalt, which provides access to buyer’s guides and a “shop safe” resource for aftermarket products, as well as openly encouraging design collaboration with its customers.
Naturally, support forms a critical backbone of any consumer advocacy effort. As much as you empower consumers to understand and own their choices, they will have issues, queries and needs. And that’s where an end-to-end support strategy comes in handy.
End-to-end support involves aiding consumers throughout their journey, from the awareness and consideration phases all the way through to the after-purchase phases. It’s a principle cribbed from the tech world, where “end-to-end” describes a holistic solution. Survey Sparrow reports that after Alliant Energy adopted a consumer advocacy strategy involving end-to-end support, the company “decreased 50% of regulatory complaints over the years and increased their Net Promoter Score by 88%.”
By highlighting these three straightforward strategies, companies can advocate for their customers. In turn, customers will reward companies with loyalty and ambassadorship. Getting back to traditional practices of mutual respect is a win-win.
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