“I want to cancel my cable.” – Sarah*, cable TV customer
“Can I ask you why you want to cancel your service?” – Gerlinda, cable customer service representative
“I cannot afford it anymore, I am a single mum with a daughter and… I just sponsored a child.”
“That’s amazing! Can I ask what organisation you sponsored with?”
“Through World Vision!”
“Even better! My daughter works for World Vision. That is so wonderful! It’s good for your daughter, too! Is your daughter happy with the sponsored child? How did she react?”
“My daughter is so excited, especially since she saw the picture. She feels like she has a sister! She wants to learn the language they speak in Mozambique and she wants to send her toys. She can’t stop talking about her and she is praying for her now, too.”
“But know you are not just sponsoring a child but a whole community. If you have time, when your daughter comes back from school, watch “sponsor lady” on Youtube. It’s a video my daughter made about meeting her sponsored children. It’ll help your daughter understand child sponsorship and what kind of impact it has on community in Africa.”
“Oh, really! We are going to watch it when she comes home from school.”
“Well, let’s find a way to reward you and your daughter for doing something good. As a company, we appreciate customers like you. I’m going to find you a way to get a discount at the same rate as sponsoring a child.”
“Thank you so much, that is really nice of you! That can mean my daughter will have cable during the school holidays.”
“Thank you for staying with us. Enjoy your cable!”
This is true story that happened 2 weeks ago. I love this story. It has a special place in my heart because the customer service lady is my Mum!
I’ve been thinking more and more about how non-profits do–or don’t–do customer service. Perhaps a cable television call center can teach us a thing or two about a customer-centric customer service model — where retaining and rewarding customers is foundational.
Here’s 4 things more things this story can illustrate…
1. Outstanding customer service is personal and flexible. For my Mum and Sarah their interaction was emotional and rewarding. But it could have gone very differently.
In this story, the customer service representative dared to ask “why” and cared about the response of her customer. Then, she shared a personal experience and extended the conversation beyond the phone call to something Sarah could experience online. Linda connected with Sarah’s story in a way that spoke to her heart and she had the flexibility to reward Sarah’s charitable giving. In doing so, she aligned the cable company’s values with that of World Vision — and the value of giving to those in need. Sarah ended the call not only feeling better about the cable company, but about her charitable decision, too.
Ok, I’ll stop bragging about my mum! She’s pretty great though…
Key take-away: Is your customer service team encouraged to ask difficult questions and affirm donor decisions? Do they have the freedom to get personal or are they limited to a script? Do you have flexible options if donors can no longer afford to support you? Do your staff have the resources and knowledge to answer difficult questions and communicate your organisations identity and values?
2. Charity is not a luxury expense. Many people promote charitable giving to be as simple as “a cup of coffee a day.” But the reality for many people is that this is simply not the case. Often, giving or not giving to charity comes down to a choice between cable tv and helping others. It is no wonder that when there is an economic downturn charitable giving suffers.
During the global financial crisis, I worked on on a campaign with World Vision USA that involved staff dedicating time to call 30,000 donors to say “thank you during this difficult time”. It was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had.
I will never forget the conversations I had with donors that were financially struggling. And, unlike many other charitable organizations, World Vision USA experienced an increase in donations that year while most organizations struggled to make ends meet.
Key take-away: Are you regularly showing donors how their donation is making a difference? Do you thank your donors for the contribution they are making…without asking for more? Are you giving donors other options to contribute if they can no longer afford their current pledge?
3. Engagement with donors must go beyond asking for money. In the story, it’s important to remember that my Mum is engaging her customer officially as an employee of the cable company and personally as a donor of World Vision. In the age of the “Social Customer”, engaging and equipping donors is critical to your organization’s communication and marketing strategies. Your donors are talking. They will discuss why they give and why they are thinking of not giving– at work, at play and, most definitely, in to their 130 Facebook friends! That’s why creating excellent customer experiences are necessity in growing your company’s (social) reputation.
Social customers expect brands to engage with them and will favour those that do it well. Social customers will ask for advice to make purchasing decisions and give recommendations to their friends. If your strategy ignores donor retention and focuses solely on asking for more money, you’re ignoring their potential as advocates and you run the risk of slowly becoming irrelevant.
Key take-away: Are you engaging donors beyond asking for money and is it working? Are you connecting with donors when they don’t expect it? Are you giving them content that enables them to engage with their friends? Is the content something you would share with your friends?
4. Those with less give more. Numerous studies show that people with lower to middle incomes actually give a greater percentage of their income to charity than those in higher income brackets. Some even speculate that those with less are more compassionate to those with less because they share an understanding of need.
My favourite book on this topic is called “Who Really Cares” – a study specific to the U.S. context of charitable giving but there are many lessons in it that Aussies can learn from, too.
Conventional customer service is sometimes an afterthought in a non-profit organisation. However, if you hire great people and empower them to be personal and meet customers where they are, you can completely change your donors’ experience.
This is amplified even more in the world of social media! The social customer demands that we pay attention to customer service and integrate an excellent experience into all areas of our brand — engaging content, reports on impact, proactively searching for those talking about your cause…the list goes on.
We need to give current and potential donors an outstanding customer service experience to ensure we retain them. We can do this by meeting them where they are in whatever (financial) situation, speaking their language, affirming their choices, giving them communications they enjoy, saying “thank you” (more than once!) and surprising them with the unexpected. If we can give them this, they will reward us with their loyalty and advocacy.
In the meantime… I’ll keep taking lessons from my Mum.
*name changed and cable company withheld to protect the innocent