• Offering a port in the storm provides an opportunity to strengthen the company-customer relationship
  • Customer advocacy practitioners should not be afraid to provide a measure of kindness and humor
  • Authentic engagement nurtures customer relationships, yielding long-term benefits across the board

As our B2B customers have pivoted to best serve their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, those with customer advocacy programs have paid a lot of attention to customer advocates. How could customer advocates share much-needed information and inspiration? How could companies support the advocates in their own roles? Here was an opportunity to demonstrate the two-way street of strategic customer advocacy, with both the company and the customer benefitting from the deepening of the relationship.

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In a decidedly not fun time for most of us, few customer advocacy practitioners anticipated the popularity of fun: Quizzes. Cat posts. Food polls. A light touch in heavy times.

Appreciating the Connection

Advocate managers often provide an occasional activity that lightens the advocate community experience and creates easy ways for new advocates to get used to engaging. These might include items such as “Leave a comment with what you had for breakfast,” amusing polls, and pet photos. Several of our SiriusDecisions customers noted that, while the material content such as guidance and connections with like-minded peers was popular, there was an uptick in customer advocates’ interaction with the personal activities or “challenges” such as sharing something non-work related about their day or taking a quick poll.

Clients with purpose-built customer advocacy platforms had visibility into the activities that resonated with their customer advocates during the pandemic. Wherever advocates had a choice of ways to engage, from sharing useful content with their own networks to offering tips for using the offering most effectively, the customer advocate practitioners had real-time customer insights on what was “hot.” Furthermore, the advocates’ activity was not confined to standard business hours. Customer advocates were engaging on the weekend and consuming activities more quickly than expected — on Friday night, for example, rather than waiting until Monday.

In a Relationship

The popularity of this lighthearted engagement isn’t hard to understand. Professionals in health insurance, HR, and others stretched to the limit by the demands of the pandemic welcomed a mental break. Remote working changed work schedules, with weekends used for catch-up time when homeschooling consumed the weekdays. As professional and personal lives merged and stress increased, many sought a comfort connection.

What should B2B organizations learn from the popularity of lighthearted engagement mixed in with critical resources, guidance, and networking opportunities to help customers manage their business?

  • Never has it been more important to be customer obsessed. That means focusing on what customer advocates need personally and professionally. Step away from the white papers for a moment. Can you offer your customers a safe space to commiserate? A break or a laugh? Reassurance that they aren’t alone?
  • Customer advocate practitioners have an opportunity to validate their activities and scale their programs. If you have visibility into the volume and level of engagement, watch what’s occurring now and going forward. Are levels of overall engagement rising, not just with polls and pets, but with overall advocacy activities? You are nurturing. Today’s engagement is tomorrow’s case study or testimonial.
  • Customer advocate practitioners can lead their organization in bringing humanity to the relationship. Whether that manifests in advocate platform activity, shapes the CEO message to customers or gives account teams permission to be more empathetic during business reviews, the B2B organizations that are authentic with their customer relationships and focused on customer needs will benefit in reputation, retention, and growth.