When it comes to customer engagement, there’s no better resource than your brand advocates. Naturally, your products or services have to meet standards of excellence – including your contact center operations – but with so many buying options, advocacy carries more weight than ever.
Many companies focus on customer advocacy, or they hire strategic social advocates to promote their products. While the latter has some value, customers have gotten wise to paid social posts from celebrities, reducing their impact – though there is still brand awareness value in those impressions. As a result, trust in customer advocacy, including online reviews, has also eroded to some degree, as customers aren’t sure who to believe. Because of this, customers often opt for the safest way to avoid making mistakes – relying on opinions from those they do trust, which is where any businesses should start building a base of advocates.
A great place to start – and one that is largely untapped advocacy resource in most companies – is the employee base. After all, regardless of their roles within an organization, every employee is intimately connected to and engaged with the brand and its story. In fact, a recent survey shows that second only to “knowledgeable friends, family, and colleagues,” employees are the most credible source of information about a company. Employees rank about all media sources and well about corporate leadership.
There many theories on employee advocacy programs, including those that suggest strict control over language and messaging to ensure only the right content is being delivered. Common sense, though, dictates that employees are more likely to be better advocates when allowed to communicate in their own voices – whether on a corporate website, personal blog, social media, or directly with customers for those that have customer-facing roles, like contact center agents and field workers. Employees have a vested interested in driving positive outcomes and they are knowledgeable about their brand. As a result, are highly likely to provide appropriate advice, as long as they have been afforded a positive working environment.
Is there a fear an employee may give advice to a customer that drives them to a competitive firm? Of course. But, there are instances where your brand may not be able to deliver what the customer expects, in which case, suggesting an alternative vendor may result in lost business in the short term, but by providing the right advice, your employee has built trust, which often results on customers coming back when they have additional needs.
If your product quality is superior, the long-term effect of honest customer engagements is much more significant than one sale. While you may not have won that particular engagement, you’re built credibility that will be met in kind. Remember, the most trusted source of information is friends and family. By creating an environment of trust, you have extended your brand advocacy to that customer’s sphere of influence. On the other hand, by misleading them into making a purchasing decision that isn’t right for them, you’re damaging trust and sacrificing future opportunities for immediate gain.
Customers want to know they are being heard. Giving them honest information that meets their needs and expectations goes a long way towards building loyalty, and using your best experts – your employees – is your path to building a base of strong customer advocates and brand loyalists. Building an army of brand advocates requires more than quality product. Of course, that’s a prerequisite, but encouraging your employees to talk about your brand at every opportunity and across all available channels is an easy starting point that requires no additional investment other than ensuring you are honest with them about expectations. If you create a culture of advocacy, your employees will, in turn, drive brand awareness and recruit additional advocates as an inherent part of the process.
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