Thanksgiving is a time of year that resonates with fundraisers. Development professionals walk within the realm of gratitude on a daily basis, which for me is one of the most enjoyable parts of our profession. In addition to securing philanthropic gifts that benefit our organizations and causes, we have the privilege of stewarding these contributions in a way that inspires donor trust while progressively building deeper relationships with our donors.
My husband is a management consultant and frequently travels by car and plane. Two days ago, after seeing a significant overcharge on a recent car rental, he conveyed the problem to the 1-800 customer service employee and was told that “someone would call him back shortly.” No call has come and consequently, this particular car rental company (a national one) is about to lose a long time customer. Ironically, it is the week of Thanksgiving. So I am wondering. What might happen if businesses and other professionals borrowed from the fundraiser’s toolbox in an effort to strengthen relationships with their constituents? Retained customers? Happier patients? More client referrals?
Communicate While it is true that it may not be possible to have one-on-one communication with every customer, technology and social media have made it easier to systematically communicate with the masses. Take the time to get to know social media platforms and their respective functions. Make it personal. What is appropriate for Facebook is different from what is appropriate for Twitter or LinkedIn. Hootsuite (https://hootsuite.com) is an excellent resource. Hire a freelancer. Reach out to a university career services office should you be lucky enough to have one close by.
Get Them Involved Brainstorm ways to further involve your clients in a way that builds affinity for your organization. Host casual focus groups with your clients and listen to what they want and then deliver. Let them know that their opinions matter. Choose a local nonprofit that does not conflict with your organizational mission and invite clients to partner at a fundraising event. The more local the focus, the greater likelihood for involvement.
Make Monthly Calls Calendar time to make phone calls to customers. Make it short, warm and professional. The primary goal is to express appreciation for their business. Period.
Appreciation Event An appreciation event does not have to break the bank. Think old-fashioned family picnic. A facility tour. A customer only appreciation tent at a public event. If your client base is not localized, get creative with a virtual appreciation event that offers a value-add for participating customers. If you do something like this, however, keep the intention pure. This should be about what you can do for your customers and not the other way around.
Profile Clients Feature profiles of extremely satisfied clients on your company website remembering to obtain a signed release first. Ask clients what differentiates your organization from others? Again, reach out to a freelancer if you do not have someone in-house to do the job well. Include profiles on your social media channels.
Be Thoughtful Sure, this is common sense but apparently common sense is not so common these days. Send the signed birthday card. Mail anniversary loyalty cards. Make customer service calls in a timely manner. Relate to those people who are keeping you in business.
Resolve Complaints Within 24 Hours Make impeccable customer service part of every employee’s performance plan. Train employees. Send them to workshops. Make the investment. It will pay off. A month ago I purchased a foosball table for my son’s playroom. Several days later I called the company to let them know that a) assembly instructions were laughable b) they failed to include two of the levelers and c) the experience had been so poor that I planned on writing a negative review on Amazon. I was grateful for the subsequent stellar customer service. I now have $100 more in my pocket, the two levelers arrived within two days and we will not need to buy foosballs for at least a year.
No negative review. Happy customer. Impeccable.