What Makes a Great Customer Advocate and How to Know if You Need One

Learn how an internal customer advocate and program can help deepen customer loyalty and help grow brand awareness, customers, and revenue.

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When customers use word-of-mouth to spread positive news about your company and brand, whether it's on social media or in-person, you may see a massive boost to your traffic, leads, and conversions.

To make this happen, however, you must understand what motivates a customer to tell others about your brand, such as the specific product or service, the overall buying experience, the customer-centric service, you provide or some combination of these.

People can take so many different kinds of actions in sharing their customer experience (CX) that tracking it becomes challenging. However, it is important to establish a formal customer advocacy program so your marketing team can understand your customers' needs, which will help them bring in more new customers for you.

Here is a guide to why you need a customer advocate, what they do, and how they can benefit your business.

Overview: What is a customer advocate?

A customer advocate is a person (or team of people) within a company who focuses on the needs of customers and develops the strategies and tactics that can meet those needs. In turn, this empowers the company to sustain or grow its customer retention rate and add new customers. In contrast, companies that focus exclusively on their own needs and revenues would be the opposite of advocates.

As a program, customer advocacy (also known as service advocacy or user advocacy) is specialized customer service intended to define what's best for the customer. It may involve service and tech support as well as marketing and sales teams. As a corporate philosophy, customer advocacy is a mindset that empowers a company to build a strong customer-centric culture.

3 benefits of having a customer advocate in your company

Customer retention and attraction are definite advantages to your customer advocacy program. However, there are other benefits to having a customer advocate position on your team. If you’re looking to improve in any of the following areas, you probably need a customer advocate at your company.

1. Amplify business growth potential

A customer advocacy program can help you grow your business in many ways. Customer advocates can help you build on existing relationships and achieve long-term customer retention, producing multiple revenue opportunities.

Moreover, a customer advocate can create a plan to reward customers for their word-of-mouth testimonials and referrals, encouraging them to stick around and continue their efforts on your behalf.

2. Identify loyal customers

Without a strictly maintained database, it can be difficult to know who buys from you and how often. Having a customer advocate in place means more efficient tracking of your most engaged customers.

This in turn helps you pinpoint your most loyal customers so you can reward them and provide even more personalized contact. It will also help you understand how to build customer loyalty so you can leverage that with other prospects and shoppers who may not be as engaged.

3. Get feedback on improvements to your products or services

As a one-time customer advocate myself, some of my primary duties included connecting with the company’s most engaged customers and soliciting their advice and feedback about how to improve our products. We would give them "exclusive" advance access to new features. We wanted their honest opinions on whether the features worked well or whether something else better addressed their needs.

This type of connection is invaluable because it means you can continuously improve your products or services as your customer needs evolve.

5 responsibilities of customer advocates

Being an effective customer success advocate means paying attention to many facets of the customer relationship. Here are a few of the responsibilities involved with the position.

1. Ensure optimum service experience

Customer advocates must focus on addressing each customer's needs throughout the customer journey, from research to shopping to the purchase decision. It also means addressing the customer’s experience after the transaction is complete, such as using the product or service. All the other customer service standards support this primary customer advocate responsibility.

2. Provide insights for the team

To help everyone in the company deliver this optimum service experience, a customer advocate needs to share their understanding of the customer with all team members, including those who work in marketing, sales, IT, and customer support functions. This might involve developing a training program to facilitate the sharing of insights and recommendations for customer interaction and engagement.

3. Handle and resolve all customer issues

Beyond overseeing the positive aspects of customer relationships, a customer advocate must also contend with any issues that come up when customers feel dissatisfied. This requires staying on top of all customer inquiries and complaints that come in from any one of multiple channels, such as email, telephone calls, and social media.

Part of this responsibility is also determining what went wrong, taking corrective actions, arranging for conflict resolution when necessary, and finally debriefing all personnel involved with the situation to ensure it does not happen again.

4. Develop and implement new customer experience strategies

As a customer advocate works with individual customers, they will need to identify new strategies to improve the customer experience and then determine the most cost-effective and efficient way to implement those strategies. The interactions, customer feedback, and conflict resolution situations can illuminate where to improve CX overall.

Most advocacy programs are not formalized. If that’s the case, the customer advocate should create a formal plan that includes these CX strategies as well as messaging, channels, metrics, timeline, and responsible team members.

As part of this formal plan, a customer advocate must also be able to define how the customer advocacy goals align with the company's overall business goals with respect to referrals, reviews, leads, and other metrics.

5. Measure results and make changes to improve customer experience

Customer advocacy can be measured by metrics such as customer retention, customer satisfaction, and profitability. This may involve using customer service software and analytics tools to assess results and test potential changes to tactics.

One way to measure customer satisfaction is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is the percentage of customers who say they would recommend a product or service and the company that offers it to others. The results of this measurement also help assess revenue growth from these efforts.

Profitability and return on investment (ROI) can be determined by taking the overall program spend and comparing it to the revenue earned during the same period that was generated by the customer advocacy program and its tactics. The program spend includes the customer advocate as a resource, as well as any team members, customer incentives, technology, and multi-channel campaigns.

Advocating for clients

Effective customer advocates know how crucial it is to identify and address each customer's unique needs, provide empathy in customer service experiences, and continually look for ways to measure results and look for improvements through customer relationships. In doing so, your company can create more brand advocates from your customer base that work on your behalf to build awareness and generate more sales.

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The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.