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Innovate for nonprofit mission relevance and financial growth

Earning relevance with your constituents requires much more than the adoption of the latest technology or being on the social media flavor of the month. All of that can be for naught if the experience wasn’t enjoyable, didn’t meet the constituent’s needs or was too complex. All of your innovation should about the user experience and simple design. All of your innovation should be about understanding what constituents need and then solving them in a simple, enjoyable way. Technology and channels must be chosen with the fact that it will enable the constituent journey and engage them in your mission. If you don’t know that it will, perhaps a small test is in order. Channels should be chosen with an end in mind for the constituent. What difference does it make if you are on Pinterest but none of your constituents find that helpful?

With all the technology opportunities you have in front of you, where do you start? This is where your goals and strategies come into play. The key is to match technology investments with goals to improve the overall unified experience your constituents want and need. The tough work is to prioritize opportunities with investments that have a constituent experience return. That will help develop a culture for recognizing an emerging technology to adapt to the right platform before someone else uses it to disrupt you.

Technology can be very disruptive if someone else solves a constituent problem or obstacle before you do. If the technology they use makes it easier, more enjoyable for your constituent, loyalty will go out the window. They become relevant and you lose relevance. If it happens enough with enough constituents, your mission suffers tremendously. Is that happening now?

It is important to leverage investments in disruptive technology through the filter of your long-term strategy combined with a deep knowledge of your constituents needs.

If you are investing in every social and mobile platform, are you becoming a jack-of-all trades and a master of none?

Solving a real constituent problem, with the right emerging technology that is enjoyable and simple is in fact a game changer.

Is constituent experience an art or science?

Is constituent experience an art or science? It is part art and part science and a whole lot of social science. It is more social science than technology. In understanding how constituents connect with you mission, it helps to understand a little about psychology, sociology, and anthropology. It is all about experience. Understanding “why” an experience wasn’t enjoyable is important. Falling into the trap that it is all about “likes” on social media can be misleading. It doesn’t matter how many like you if the other experiences aren’t enjoyable, simple and meet what the constituent needs.

The digital experience is about people. It is about how they feel about all their interactions with us. They may have just attended an amazing event and had a lot of fun. They enjoyed it. When they went to your website afterward to find out how the event did, they could find what they wanted. Then, no one bothered to thank them. Then a few days after the event, they got an email asking them to give clearly indicating you don’t know them. What is their overall experience with you? Both digital and real world experiences add up to answer that question. Focusing on what people said to you on the way out the door of the event can give a false impression.

A totally branded constituent experience will come down to the role you play in listening, engaging, and meeting the needs (translate deliver value) before, during and after a transaction. That is precisely why the habit of direct mail applied to the connected constituent is so dangerous.

Being thoughtful and intentional about unifying the constituent experience ensures we are listening and connecting. The kind of content we create or curate needs to be engaging and consistent with our brand promise. Do we understand the psychology of why a constituent experience was inconsistent with a constituent expectation and hence unenjoyable?

Are you ready for a new generation of constituents?

Are you ready for a new generation of constituents? Nonprofit leaders, meet the Millennials. Millennials, met XYZ nonprofit. Oops, there is a gap here. Most nonprofit leaders aren’t a part of Generation Y (also known as Millennials). Generation Y is considered to be individuals born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They come after Generation X. Millennials represent an important emerging group of potential constituents as they are also sometimes referred to as “echo boomers”. This refers to their size relative to the large group of Baby Boomers. In the US, birth rates peaked in 1990. It is helpful to know that Millennials have distinctly different behaviors, values and attitudes from previous generations as a response to the technological and economic implications of the internet.

Society and technology is evolving faster than many nonprofits can adapt. We have to come to grips with the fact that constituent landscapes are not only changing, they are evolving beyond our grasp. You and your leadership team are not dealing with constituents you know and recognize. You are in fact talking to strangers.

This means that we all need to spend a lot of time understanding what is important to this evolving group of constituents. Why would they want to engage with our mission? How do they make decisions? Without that level of empathy, we can’t create meaningful experiences for this emerging and important constituent. This group is critical to your future volunteers, advocates and donors. This would be the time to start designing experiences based on their interest and behavior.

Here is some information that may be helpful in looking at these strangers known as Gen Y:

  • Seventy-three percent have earned and used virtual currency.
  • Gen Y will form about 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 and are already actively shaping corporate culture and expectations. Only 11 percent define having a lot of money as a definition of success.
  • Sixty-six percent will look up a store if they see a friend check in.
  • Start-ups dominate the work force for Gen Y’ers. Only 7 percent work for a Fortune 500 company. They expect large organizations to hear their voice and recognize their contributions. They need an “intrapreneurial” culture.
  • They are three times as likely to follow a brand over family members in social networks.
  • Millennials watch TV with two or more electronic devices.
  • Millennials trust strangers over friends and family when it comes time for purchase decisions. They value user-generated experiences heavily.
  • Twenty-nine percent find love through Facebook while 33 percent are dumped via TXT or Wall posts. (I’m not making this up)
  • Gen Y’ers believe that other consumers care more about their opinions than companies do. That is why they share their opinions online.
  • Most people on Facebook have about 240 friends. Gen Y’ers maintain about 696 friends.

We need to bridge the gap from being strangers to becoming partners.

Population by Generation

Are you ready for the journey? Your passion for your mission and your constituents can turn you into a hero

You have a passion for your mission. You want to do the right thing for your constituents. You believe in a better constituent experience. You are on a journey. This is a world that brings about radical change for your nonprofit. Your journey will require that you master “change management”. “Change management” is your primary role as a visionary who truly believes your nonprofit can end up in a better place with more reach for your mission and with an improved bottom line to fund it.

You are a champion of transformation and innovation in your nonprofit. You will face a lot of challenges. It will require hard work, perseverance and support from many. You will discover many allies and a few enemies.

Part of your work is about discovery. Much of it is about communication and formulation of strategy. A focus on going from strategy to a few actionable next steps is critical. This is definitely hard work. If you are up to it, that is precisely why it is interesting. Not everyone can lead the way.

All the hard work will lead to the reward. Unparalleled growth is the promise of an enriched customer experience. (Yes, there is data to support this.)

Too often, the constituent’s experience of your brand is an afterthought. Your main focus is to become intentional about everything you can. To bring the issues front and center, you and others need to champion internal transformation. It doesn’t matter that you are unclear where to begin right now. Getting started will help you figure it out. You are going to need lots of helpers. And you probably need at least one mentor.

Acknowledging that the world is changing may be a wonderful place to start. We know consumer behavior is changing rapidly. It is impacting how constituents view your nonprofit. Documenting how it is impacting your nonprofit is another key focus area. It is already impacting your bottom line.

Another focus of the journey may be to break a few deadly habits. We all have habits. One nonprofit habit is seeing donors from the view of a single donation transaction. This is called direct response. This habit can cause you to miss the donor (they are a millionaire) who has recently made a series of small donation transactions. What experience did they just have with you? As a result that experience, are they on a journey with you to engagement with your mission? Moving from a transaction mindset to a relational and engagement mindset can remarkably impact the experience the donor has. This has huge rippling effects into loyalty and total giving.

And so … it is a journey. Constituent behavior is changing and changing fast. As a hero leading the journey internally, it is your role to help leaders see the impact to your bottom line and help everyone keep up.

Do you know you are a global nonprofit?

June 2, 2013 1 comment

You are a global nonprofit. Do you act like it?

Your audience is 2.4 billion potential constituents. You have international reach. Are you designing experiences with that audience in mind? The top 15 countries saw year to year growth of about 15% new users in 2012. Much of that is in emerging markets. The U.S has the highest penetration with 78% of the population connected. China added 264 million new users last year with only 42% penetration.

Key takeaway: You are a global nonprofit. Keep that in mind as you design the constituent experience.

Global Internet Users - 2012

Why should I invest in improving the Constituent experience at my nonprofit?

It is reasonable to ask, if my nonprofit invests in the constituent experience, will it work? If you are in the C-Suite, that is the question.

I only know of one nonprofit that uses something like the Forrester Customer Experience Index to measure things so I don’t have any benchmark data. I would love to learn there are more nonprofits using this measure and I would give anything to analyze the data. Here is what we know from the for profit world.

This question drove Watermark Consulting to evaluate the macro impact of customer experience excellence. They’ve accomplished this over the years by studying the total returns for two model stock portfolios comprised of the Top 10 (“Leaders”) and Bottom 10 (“Laggards”) publicly traded companies in Forrester Research’s annual Customer Experience Index ranking. The results are stunning.

For the 6-year period from 2007 to 2012, the Customer Experience Leaders in their study outperformed the broader market, generating a total return that was three times higher on average than the S&P 500 Index. Furthermore, while the Customer Experience Leaders handily beat the S&P 500, the Laggards trailed it by a wide margin.

Keep in mind, this analysis reflects more than half a decade of performance results.  It spans an entire economic cycle, from the pre-recession market peak in 2007 to the post-recession recovery that continues today. The Customer Experience Leaders in this study are clearly enjoying the many benefits that happy, loyal customers deliver:  better retention, greater wallet share, lower acquisition costs and more cost-efficient service.

And the Laggards?  They are being crushed under the weight of high customer turnover, escalating acquisition costs and an uncompetitive cost structure that is inflated by each customer complaint and avoidable inquiry.

 

Do you want to be a leader or a laggard?

Constituent Experience 101: There is a reality called silos. How should we deal with it in the best interest of our constituents?

June 2, 2013 1 comment

We all see it all the time. It is time to put together the annual budget. Or, it is time to update our plans. Each department puts its own plan together and then defends it before the group. At a certain level that makes sense. The question any department leader needs to ask is will this approach serve our constituents best? Is it at odds with the overall constituent experience we are trying to build? To get an enterprise wide constituent investment plan, we may need to do a few things differently. If you have a Chief Constituent Officer, it is their role to make it happen.

The premise here is that constituents are being lost in the hand offs between departments. The constituent walks away thinking do they truly understand my needs? Are they there when I need them? Are they really my partner? If I am a donor and an advocate, how come it doesn’t feel like you know that and treat me differently?

The first thing the Chief Constituent Officer needs to do is make sure they are aligned with the CFO, CIO, CDO and CMO. Investing in a constituent experience plan will take the support of the CFO from the beginning. The CFO will probably welcome an approach that brings together resources for a common goal and eliminates duplicate spending.

If you are the Chief Constituent Officer, you also need to align with the CIO. In this day and age, as a digital nonprofit, nothing happens without the IT department. If you get a jump on aligning with the IT department and their PMO, you will save yourself a lot of time and rework. You will also gain an ally in gaining financial support when the senior team reviews your plans.

Who owns the constituent data in your nonprofit? In some nonprofits that isn’t clear but the CMO will probably be a big stakeholder, along with the Chief Development Officer. If is critical that they both have a seat at the table as you put your plans together. Do they own with your constituent targets, data and plans for improving the experience with you?

One unique role you play as the Chief Constituent Officer is the ability to aggregate intelligence to identify the most important investments. You are the only one who can breathe life into the annual constituent plan. It will take time to bring together the right people to agree on the most pressing constituent challenges and opportunities. Once identified, you can work with senior management to gain agreement to work on solving the issues. Here are a couple of things to look for:

  1. Building relationships with priority constituents. Some of these will be obvious like high level donors but others may not.
  2. Fixing issues that impede the overall constituent experience.  As the Chief Constituent Officer, you are probably the only one that knows what these are.
  3. Points of differentiation and the big bets your nonprofit should make.

Now you are ready to pull an investment budget together. The emphasis here is on investment. It is critical to be able to identify the return these investments will bring to your mission. Now that you have a more integrated view of constituent priorities, you can make your case better. Since you are taking an enterprise wide view, all of the items for investment may actually live in other department budgets. This will drive greater levels of collaboration with your colleagues. As Chief Constituent Officer, you will be providing a great service that is really lacking to your nonprofit. The budgeting process is always where the rubber hits the road. It will help you gain traction and will help you identify roadblocks. It will also help everyone set a few critical priorities since it is highly likely there is a whole lot of extra money sitting around the table.

This type of action on your part as Chief Constituent Officer will help solidify your role as constituent zealot. It will also help everyone see the importance of the overall constituent experience.

What if your nonprofit doesn’t have a Chief Constituent Officer? This is the opportunity for some department (and its leader) to seize the day. It could be the CMO or the CDO. No matter what, someone needs to seize the role.

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