To understand the big benefits that come with customer advocacy and customer advocates, it’s important to first understand how they’re defined:
- Customer advocacy: Finding ways to put customer needs first.
- Customer advocates: People who share how great you are without being asked.
What does that have to do with you? Simply replace the word “customer” with “citizen” and you’ll quickly see how advocates and advocacy can create a powerful, positive feedback loop that allows you to better serve your community, while advocates let others know you want to be approached with ideas for improvement.
Not sure how to get started? We have some suggestions and branded thank-you gifts that will help you build that helpful loop in the coming year.
Talk to your employees
When your office makes its first moves toward customer advocacy, there’s a possibility that citizens may not immediately come forward.
By speaking to your front-line employees who interact with citizens every day, you can discover patterns and implement fixes quickly.
Reach out to staff to find volunteers who are willing to:
- Send top priority issues to a designated email address for immediate consideration.
- Meet with a small team on a monthly basis to discuss possible patterns in feedback.
- Be a go-to person for co-workers to bring potential issues to.
Find ways to collect feedback
While it might sound a little too simple, the first step in performing citizen advocacy is to know what your citizens need. To start gathering that data, make it easy for people to provide feedback.
- Send a short survey to citizens who have shared their email address.
- Add a page to your site that allows people to make suggestions or relay concerns.
- Host a monthly in-person, online or hybrid meeting to discuss topics that affect your citizens.
- Offer a short phone survey to people who call your office.
Once you’ve got all this great feedback, you need to do something with it—and let people know where their concerns stand. Share the ongoing list of concerns and what’s being done about them by:
- Sending out a monthly newsletter via email or regular mail.
- Keeping a running list of projects and their status on your web site.
If a project takes off due to a comment or suggestion, send the contributors a picture frame—complete with a photo of the finished project—as a unique branded thank-you gift.
Monitor social media
Social media offers numerous opportunities to discover citizen concerns—and to answer those concerns when appropriate. In addition to checking your social media accounts on a regular basis, be sure to search for common keywords and hashtags to discover who is talking about you.
If they’re saying something positive, say thanks. If something needs to be addressed, ask them to provide you more details in a private message so you can follow up and potentially fix their concern.
Speed up your response time
To ensure you’re responding in a timely manner:
- Assign someone to check your feedback inbox, social media and other forums for activity multiple times per day.
- Consider configuring auto-responders or chatbots when people are out of the office so citizens will know when to expect a more complete response.
Advocacy leads to advocates
Every time you perform customer advocacy for your citizens, it boosts their engagement—and the chances they’ll become customer advocates for your agency. And as your engagement grows, your community can’t help but become a better place.