What Advocates can Learn from Customer Service Pros

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Imagine this situation: you've connected with your favorite brand online, you like their Facebook posts and favorite their tweets, and then something goes wrong. You have a bad experience, and you want them to acknowledge it. Sound familiar? Each day, thousands of U.S. consumers take to the internet to air their grievances. Although most brands have a customer service mindset built in, in this era of interconnection, it behooves advocacy organizations to do the same.

Of course, advocates consume messages and actions instead of products or services, but the same customer service ideals should apply. Don't believe me? According to one study, 53% of one-time donors said they only donated to an organization once because of poor communication. The benefits extend beyond donations, if you expect to grow your community; you need to embrace compassionate communication.

These tips can help change your one-time donors into lifetime advocates:

  1. Check frequently and respond quickly: A negative tweet can blow up quickly. For example, an unhappy British Airways customer paid to promote their tweet and targeted it to the airline's followers. The tweet read, "Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous." It took British Airways eight hours to react, long after their 406,000 followers saw the message. You need to show that you listen. Advocacy campaigns draw negative attention from opponents all the time, so make sure you monitor social media closely. It only takes 5 minutes to tweet an apology, explanation or email contact.
  2. Add personality: When Bank of America seemed to be using a Twitter bot to respond instead of a real person, many were angry. Your response to questions and negative commentary should have the same authenticity as your regular Twitter content. It needs a personal touch.
  3. Be kind and courteous: Happy customers equal repeat customers - and the same holds true for advocates. The likelihood they stay engaged with your cause increases when they like you. Make sure you use the same courteous voice when responding to negative commentary. Nothing looks less constructive than speaking to your opponents differently than your supporters.
  4. Recognizing when you need more than Twitter: Sometimes trying to solve a problem through social media can get out of hand. As you find yourself writing your fifth reply to one person, it may be time to offer a phone number and end the Twitter chat.
  5. Draft a policy: Finally, a policy for handling negative commentary will empower your employees to respond in a positive, constructive manner. Create a strategy for which comments merit a response and those you leave alone. This policy can adapt as your campaign grows!

The next time you get a dissenting opinion on your Facebook post, or become a target for angry tweets, take a step back and remember to take a tip from customer service experts: listen, identify the problem, provide information, show you care, and finally, end the conversation. These easy principles can help you cultivate a community of advocates who won't fight you, but will fight for you.