Should a Charity care about the Customer Experience?

Customers walking in a market

Should a Charity care about the Customer Experience?

Customer Experience (or CX) has the potential to transform the not-for-profit sector. Is a lack of expertise in this area putting the sector in jeopardy?
Martin Jervis - Guest Blogger

Customer Experience – CX in today’s jargon – has the potential to transform the not-for-profit sector in so many ways that a dozen blogs on the topic would barely scratch the surface. But this is a big deal: its fundamental, not cosmetic, it’s not for the fainthearted, and, perhaps most importantly, unlike in the US[1], relevant strategic and tactical expertise is scarce here. I believe we either learn very quickly about this fast-maturing domain, or else the future relevance of our sector is placed in jeopardy.

Richard Turner warned in a recent nfpSynergy[2] blog Delivering an outstanding donor experience is not a nice thing to do – it is now totally strategic, having also explained in 2015[3]The recession…. disguised the real reason why performance in direct marketing techniques was in decline. Sales and marketing outside of the sector has profoundly changed”.

Leading companies realise that the Customer now expects to manage their own experience. Almost all CEOs wish their business worked this way - 89% of Companies[4] believe the key to differentiation is not service, product, quality or price. It's CX.  But how many NfP leaders truly see their Customers that way – let alone have done something about it?

We can’t hide behind terminology. “Customers” are Donors, Beneficiaries, Supporters, Volunteers etc, and a Charity is a B2C brand; and (mostly American) Customer-obsessed B2C brands lead the way - think, Ben & Jerry’s, JetBlue, Mini Cooper or even Lady Gaga[5] – who ruthlessly focusses her CX Strategy on her hugely loyal “Monsters”.

A successful CX Strategy requires sources of (unstructured) data that leads to a way to understand how Customers feel about them and why they feel that way; which in turn requires finding ways of listening to and then interpreting the Voice of the Customer; and only then, finally, acting on that insight.

Some Customers are highly engaged and very loyal to Charities, almost in spite of the CX. But we know that cohort is in decline, so we need new and loyal Customers (perhaps on another day we can explore why loyalty is less about “delighting” and more about feeling “valued, appreciated, and confident”).  But these new Customers expect a radically different approach, and not just in the fundraising area which we know has been firmly on the backfoot. The Commission on the Donor Experience launches 28 projects at the July IOF Convention, which is splendid, but if Charities are to truly realise their potential, we must meet or exceed the spectrum of Customer expectations - expectations we set every day, implicitly or explicitly. A data driven CX Strategy rooted in properly understanding how your Customers feel, which can shine a light on how to make them more engaged, is the best way to make those 28 projects, and any other project that touches a Customer, succeed.

Mobile-first Customers, such as millennials who are now the largest segment, demand a CX which taps into them as people, while you tap into their time and treasure. And they are experts at sharing. Brands such as Amazon, Airbnb, and (the tarnished) Uber go further, leveraging CX insights as part of their strategy and ultimately their Income.

I have got some good news. If our Customers have a great experience of a Charity they will shout about it loudly from the cyber-rooftops. But also, bad news. If our Customers have a poor experience of a Charity they will shout about it even more loudly from the cyber-rooftops.

While most Charities will not want the hyper-focused Lady Gaga approach, having some sort of (unstructured) data driven CX Strategy is essential. Above all I believe we must not let the status quo prevail for long. This is a binary switch and NfP leaders must grasp the nettle now! Or else we are doomed, evermore, to be regarded as quaint, flag-waving, bucket-rattling, chicken-suit-wearing, well-intentioned, but almost pointless, vestiges of a bygone age for which there is some nostalgia, but from which the rest of the world has well and truly moved on.

If we are to persuade Customers to trust us to raise money, curate resources, or spend money and resources, then we need to begin a turbocharged game of catch up. Put the Customer Experience front and centre. Offer our Customers great experiences, resonating out from a CX Strategy. That will facilitate the transformation which Civil Society needs - now more than ever.

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[2] nfpSynergy Guest Blog June 14, 2017

[4] Gartner Group “89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience”

[5] Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics

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