Customer Advocacy - What It's Not
last issue, we covered what Customer Advocacy is: A cross-functional
role empowered to marshal organizational resources to resolve troublesome
customer issues and identify root cause while balancing the financial
realities and strategic goals of the company. In this issue, we will help
to further clarify the role by adding details about what Customer Advocacy
A Customer Doormat
Customer Advocacy is not a doormat for the customer to walk all over to
get an automatic 'yes'. Instead, Customer Advocates must use their best
judgment and knowledge about situations to determine the extent to which
resources will be engaged. Further, as the centerpiece in situational
communication, the Customer Advocate must tell it like it is. For
instance, if the resolution time is unknown, then explain such while
creating room (time) for the organization to respond. Customer Advocacy is
not about agreeing with a customer's demands; it is about managing the
customer's expectations against the reality of the situation.
The "Sky is Falling" Alert
Customer Advocacy is not a role that justifies running around the
organization yelling "the sky is falling." Rather, it is a role where
practical results of procedures are studied and lessons learned are used
through a roll-up reporting process to drive continuous improvement. As a
reminder, situations which land in the Customer Advocate's lap have gone
through normal channels, but failed the customer. Therefore, prompt and
direct attention to the matter is required while not exasperating the
Customer Advocacy is not a translator, "middle-man" or interpreter for the
rest of the organization. Rather, Customer Advocates are facilitators who
engage the appropriate subject matter experts into a resolution team,
which will often require direct engagement with the customer. Simply put,
once Customer Advocacy is involved, the time to read from manuals, scripts
or leverage cursory knowledge has passed; it is time for the experts to be
front and center. An important note: requiring non-customer facing
personnel to work directly with customers requires teamwork, practice and
live management - topics we will cover in subsequent editions of this
Band Aid Role
Customer Advocacy is not just a band aid…IF accompanied with management
attention and a framework for continuous improvement. Without these key
items, the Customer Advocacy role may become a disruptor (constantly
addressing the same issues) and will not return the benefits of increased
In the next several articles, we will address key aspects of an effective
and responsive Customer Advocate function, inclusive of people
(structure), process and technology.
In the meantime, if you would like to receive an in-depth overview of this
topic and/or conduct a strategy discussion regarding your Customer
Advocacy initiative (or concept), feel free to give us a call.
View previous articles in this series.
Bending the Rules
Airlines (SWA) continues to amaze me with its customer focus and
flexibility, which is why it is my top pick for a model customer centric
firm and the focus of this newsletter series. In the
previous edition, I discussed how SWA reached out to me as an
individual. This article will share 2 examples of SWA "bending the rules"
for me, without the normal prodding or negotiations that are typically
required to get a firm to deviate from standard operating procedure.
How many of you have wrestled with an airline to redeem your frequent
flyer points? Black-out dates/times, seat availability, etc. Well, let me
share with you the extent of the "wrestling" that is required with SWA.
I had been doing a lot of traveling and upon arriving home from a trip
that represented project closure for a client, I decided it was time for a
quick weekend get-away. The business trip just completed provided the
final Rapid Rewards points that I needed to qualify for the 2nd free
roundtrip ticket needed for my travel plans. At that time (2 years ago),
the normal practice was for SWA to mail (via USPS) the award coupon within
several days, letting me know that the roundtrip ticket was available for
use. (This process has since been enhanced, in that they provide email
notification). Well, it was a Wednesday, and I wanted to get away on
When I called SWA and explained the situation, namely that I had just
completed a trip that provided the final Rapid Rewards points which
qualified me to receive a roundtrip ticket anywhere/anytime in the U.S.,
and that I'd like to redeem that award for a trip in 2 days, the initial
response was, "I'm sorry sir but we normally take a few business days to
process completed itineraries and subsequently award roundtrip tickets."
Without me asking, she said, "Hold one minute and let me see what I can
do." In less than one minute, she was back on the line indicating that she
"would be happy to overnight the coupon to me if I promised to send a
check for the expedited shipment of the coupon." Of course, I was more
than willing to oblige.
Another example, while not quite as impressive, but caused me to grin just
the same...My favorite snack is peanuts, which also happens to be the
primary food item provided on SWA flights. During the flight attendants'
routine distribution of peanuts, I received my two packs - hardly enough
to curb my craving. When the flight attendant was passing my seat on his
way back to the front of the plane, I asked, "Could I have some more
peanuts?" The response was a silent one. He simply placed the entire
basket of peanuts on my lap, smiled, and walked off. You can bet I had my
fill, and happily shared my bounty with those around me. Several minutes
later, he returned to retrieve the basket and what was left of the peanut
Remember, being customer centric doesn't require that you "give away the
farm." The above examples are "little things" that reinforce, for me, that
if SWA goes to a destination that I need to get to, they are my ONLY
Also recall, we are NOT talking about a firm that has yet to demonstrate
profitability. As shared in the previous edition, SWA has consistently
demonstrated positive results that are enviable of firms in ANY industry!
In the next edition, I'll share more examples that demonstrate Southwest
being a customer centric firm.
View previous articles in this series.
+ Customer Advocacy - What It's Not
+ Southwest Airlines: Bending the Rules
+ Recommended Reading
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CCI's website to download Positive Power Influence, presented
by Craig Bailey at the Project Management Institute's (PMI) Mass Bay
Chapter Career Development Day on May 14, 2005.
recommended reading comes from our own CCI President Craig Bailey. His
Unlocking The Value of Your Customer Satisfaction Surveys, reprinted
in CRM Today, discusses ways to fully leverage customer survey
results to improve customer and employee satisfaction and loyalty, and
ultimately increase revenue and profit.
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