THINK’s Michelle Chambers and Beccy Murrell reveal the secrets to superior supporter stewardship
In challenging economic times, the retention of loyal supporters is vital. At THINK, we’ve found more and more of our clients want to focus on this key area. Delivering a better service than your competitors not only has a positive impact on supporter retention; it can also assist with supporter acquisition, because motivated and engaged supporters spread a positive message. Here are 10 golden rules for excellent supporter stewardship:
1. All ears
Listen to your supporters. Hear, act on and learn from what they say. Be proactive about asking them for their feedback, and empower your team to share these comments – both the good and the bad. The more you learn about the supporter experience you are providing, the more you can do to enhance it.
2. A choice of channels
Give your supporters a choice of communication channels. Mail, telephone, web call back, web/live chat, social media, email and face to face – all are viable communication channels that will appeal to different supporters on different occasions. Finding the best route, therefore, means offering choice according to your supporters’ needs and your organisational aims. At THINK, we challenge organisations to take a single supporter view, regardless of their entry point, and create supporter journeys that can accommodate a multi-channel service.
3. At your service
Encourage your supporters to self-serve. With the rapid growth of BlackBerrys, iPhones and other android and smartphone devices, we now have a generation of supporters that are communicating effectively all the time. With this, however, comes the increasing expectation for organisations to be available 24/7.
4. Great expectations
State your service levels – and then exceed them. It’s all about expectations. Deliver what you say you will – and then some – and you’ll delight your supporters, rather than disappoint them. Consider undertaking some mystery shopping to check whether what should happen in theory does happen in practice. Does your legacy pack really arrive within three days? Does every complaint receive a holding communication within 24 hours? THINK has developed a successful Stewardship Tracker programme that enables charities to monitor and benchmark their supporter services.
5. Technically speaking
Use knowledge and technology to deliver a more effective and personal service. Routing calls and email communications to specialist supporter-service teams means that issues can be resolved more quickly, resulting in happier, more engaged supporters. Technology allows supporters to be identified by their telephone numbers, which means that their details are already on screen when the operator answers the call, making it a more effective and personal process. The use of screen-pop ups can assist operators in prioritising calls, as well as identifying cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
6. Be proactive
Approach your supporters before they need to come to you. Adopting a proactive approach to service can help an organisation to reach out to its supporters – through SMS or online channels, for example – before they need to get in touch. Alerting a supporter to the fact that their direct debit is about to expire, for instance, could encourage them to update their details immediately. This positive experience serves to strengthen loyalty and shows that organisations can be more proactive.
7. Invest in staff
Supporter-facing staff need to be motivated and empowered to deliver an exceptional service. Invest in the right training and career development, and establish performance-related reward and recognition schemes. This will help to ensure that supporter-service employees are committed to a service culture and values such as personal accountability, ownership and responsibility.
8. In-source or outsource?
Carefully consider when and what to outsource. Recently, THINK has observed that in-sourcing is making a comeback. Of course, it’s imperative to properly cost out the various options – but remember that service is worth investing in. And, if you are outsourcing, don’t forget to build in sufficient resource for sourced supplier management.
9. Consistency counts
Be consistent in your approach, your communications and your brand in order to deliver an even supporter experience. It’s important that the values of customer service are consistently applied to all supporters, regardless of their type, although the level of customer service they receive may differ in accordance with their lifetime value.
10. Be personal
Finally, remember that the best supporter service is based on relationships, not transactions. Supporters
are people and appreciate being treated as such.
Michelle Chambers and Beccy Murrell, THINK Consulting Solutions
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 25, January 2013