Advocates DON’T have to be Customers…

There is a key differentiator when it comes to Advocacy over anything else.  The interesting part of Advocacy is that someone doesn’t have to be a customer or even done business with you to be your Advocate.  This makes advocacy the most leveraged form of word-of-mouth available to any business.

In the customer world, we all try to capture as many as possible and turn them into loyalists who will stick with us and continue to buy from us.  But what about others out there that can’t buy from you for a variety of reasons?  Does this mean they still can’t sing your praises?  Don’t think so…listen to this example.

Sarah wanted to send her parents on a trip for a long time and do it as a surprise.  So she did everything right to make this happen.  She booked the airline tickets, found a great hotel, took care of their ground transportation and even threw in a few tickets to some local events.  Then it happened.  One of them became ill to a point where they weren’t dying but they didn’t “feel comfortable” traveling at this time.  So now Sarah had to “unwind” everything and make it happen down the road.  For most situations this wouldn’t be a problem – make a few calls and they credit your account and you move on.

This is not the case with the travel companies.  Besides being so archaic that they actually think they can still control the customer, they also do it with disdain and guilt – making you think you are doing them a favor to travel with them.  Sarah experienced the same problem as others would in this same situation.  The airline, as we would expect, treated her like she had just robbed the local bank and was treated worse than if she had.  How dare you not only cancel your trip but now you have the gall to ask for a credit for a future date – don’t make me laugh – not going to happen.  She fought and fought and to no avail – use it or lose it and we don’t care what you think about us.

However, there was a bright spot in this story.  The hotel took a different approach.  It actually decided to treat her like a VIP customer even though she had never stayed there before.  They understood the situation and went the extra mile.  Not only did they credit all her money back for the hotel, but because her parents were going through an illness, they gave them a weekend in one of their hotels in the city in which they lived, just so they could have a mini-getaway.  Sarah was floored and unbelievably appreciative.  It made her parents day.

Sarah never bought a thing from the hotel and was never a customer.  But to this day, she is a HUGE Advocate and tells everyone she can about her experience.  Since she is very connected through social media, she has reached thousands with her story and message.  The hotel has made 10 times the money they gave her parents in free rooms through their act of generosity.  But they didn’t do it for that reason – they would have done it anyway.  On the other side, she also tells everyone about the airline…not the positive story of the hotel, but a story of pain and suffering.  Which one do you think won in this situation.  Advocacy doesn’t always need to start with a customer, but it ends with someone “proactively” telling everyone they can about you.

Have you had or heard of an experience where Advocacy was created when they weren’t a customer?  Share it…

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  1. […] on the other hand can occur whether the person is a customer or not (see earlier post, Customers Don’t have to be Advocates).  But when a Loyal Customer becomes and Advocate, you have rung the bell!  Now you have someone […]