How's Your Customer Service?
Good customer service is not always something we talk about in the nonprofit sector. As a sector, we often veil the concept in euphemisms, like “donor-centric fundraising” or “quality case-management.” Industry slang aside, the concepts of good customer service are the foundation of any good organization. Good customer service triggers a positive feeling when donors think about your organization. This sends your nonprofit’s brand on a positive trajectory.
At Back on My Feet DC, we want to revolutionize the way society approaches homelessness. We do this by combatting homelessness through the power of running, community support, and essential employment and housing resources. In order to achieve our organizations goals, we must be able to provide an environment that promotes positivity, community and support—this is our version of a great customer experience.
We give a lot of hugs to members, volunteers, donors and anyone we meet. When you think of Back on My Feet DC, we want you think of a warm hug and a positive, supportive community. This is the moment when customer service evolves to customer experience. The best part about building brand loyalty this way is that it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Building a positive customer experience can be as simple as a hug or a handwritten note. Making people feel cared-for creates a human connection. This benefits both your brand and your bottom line. The customer experience is not about being perfect—it is just about being true to yourself.
Once your organization builds that positive customer experience, as a nonprofit leader, you need to back it up. In the nonprofit sector, the current buzz is all about impact. Nonprofits can build trust and legitimacy by transparently sharing the results of their programs. After organizations translate their outputs to outcomes, they need to take it a step further to show the impact on the community.
The impact is the “so what” of your organization. Communicating impact backs up the emotion that nonprofits build their brands on. When your organization builds trust and delivers results, your customers will come back. This rings true for all of your constituencies, including donors, partners and direct-service recipients.
As more of the donation and service processes move online, nonprofits run the risk of abandoning their customers to fend for themselves if they don’t implement technology that fosters a positive customer experience. Technology is the key to helping nonprofits do more with less and build out infrastructure. Help your customers help you. Adding a “donate” button alone does not alleviate the responsibility of continuing to build your brand and communicate impact.
Using the right tools can exponentially increase your nonprofit’s impact without compromising the end user-experience. For example, at Back on My Feet DC, we utilize a mobile-based auction platform that has increased our annual gala night revenue by 30 percent. Technology can also help your organization track and communicate its impact.
The true backbone of good customer experience is great customer service toward your own employees and volunteers. The same rules are true for internal constituencies as for external ones. When employees and volunteers are emotionally connected to an organization, it shows. The same rules for transparency and supportive infrastructure hold true as well. An engaged, informed and supported core of employees and volunteers is the front line of a good external customer experience. Effective internal communication and collaboration reduces the fear of failure and empowers employees to do great things. A supportive workplace culture can eliminate the “not my job” syndrome of siloed organizations.
This is not “Fight Club,” where the first rule is you don’t talk about Fight Club. The first rule of being a transparent organization is making sure your employees and volunteers want to talk about your organization. Transparent communication and information-sharing can transform the way organizations operate. As nonprofits evolve their approaches to providing responsive customer experiences, our communities and impact will grow.
Kelly Andreae is executive director for Back on My Feet DC and an expert in strategic development for small nonprofit organizations. Her diverse experience in small organizations led her to specialize in building integrated corporate partnerships, strategic and data-driven program management, and wearing many different hats.
She also has extensive marketing experience with a focus on communications, branding, and direct mail in a small shop environment. Kelly is skilled at building communities and brand identities for social movements. In 2013, Kelly and her team were recognized as finalists for the Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management for their work in building a Culture of Philanthropy.