Nonprofit Customer Service Do's and Don'ts
You've heard the saying, "the customer is always right," and you probably already know that it's the mantra of good customer service—even if the customer is blatantly wrong. You never want your customer to feel as though you're calling them out while you try to solve an issue or handle a complaint. And while it may seem like basic knowledge to some, not everyone knows and understands the do's and don’ts of customer service.
Far too often, the fundamentals are overlooked, causing poor customer service—even when it comes to nonprofits. Much like a business, nonprofits also have customers, only they're recipients, donors and volunteers. Good customer service in a nonprofit helps gain and keep donors and volunteers—the same way it helps a business gain and keep their customers. It's a simple way to achieve success, and it's one worth paying close attention to.
Let's take a look at the basic do's and dont's of excellent customer service in a nonprofit.
Do Respect Your Customer
First and foremost, always respect your customer—recipients, donors, volunteers, staff and everyone else involved. This rule goes for any personal or business relationship. Treat your customers with the same respect you would a friend or co-worker.
Your job is to make them feel important and valued, so give them your undivided attention and keep a friendly attitude. Your patients today may be your donors tomorrow.
Do Appreciate Your Volunteers
A nonprofit's volunteers are everything. They're what make your services possible, and they're also loyal supporters of your cause. If your volunteers have a good experience, they're more likely to donate more. Show them respect, give them proper training and resources, offer friendship and notify them of other opportunities.
Ultimately, you should build a relationship with your volunteers. Remember, they donate their time and money for free, so treat them as such. At Back on My Feet DC, a nonprofit that combats homelessness, staff members emphasize a positive and supportive community by giving hugs to members, donors, volunteers and anyone else they meet. Focus your nonprofit this same way.
Do Thank Your Donors
Whether a donor leaves your nonprofit $1 million in their will or drops off a box of used books at your thrift store, you want them to feel appreciated and thanked for their help. Donors typically want to know how their donation made a difference, so be ready to provide personalized follow-up if they reach out to you. Don't wait for weeks to get back to a donor—the sooner, the better.
Do Offer Online Giving
Younger and higher-income Millennial donors prefer online giving to offline donations. They feel more comfortable and are more likely to make higher contributions, especially if they can link their donation to their social media page to share and attract comments.
With online giving, lots of donors set up reoccurring payments, which makes a commitment easier for most. Many of these same donors also like to make online donations through their mobile devices, so make sure online giving is possible for mobile users as well.
Don't Ignore Feedback
Feedback is important and should be treated seriously. Listen to your customers, because they want your nonprofit to perform better and raise more money for the cause at hand. Be open to their suggestions, and make it known that you do care about their input. Not all feedback will be constructive criticism. You're bound to also receive positive feedback in the form of emails, letters, cards and phone calls.
Micah Solomon, customer service consultant and trainer, recommends that you prominently post positive letters and feedback you receive and also read them aloud at employee meetings. This strategy will help to keep everyone on track so that they remember their mission and why they do what they do.
Don't Make Things Complicated
Never underestimate your customers. Make sure they have easy access to support when they need it, including availability via phone, email, live chat and social media, if possible. Don't make it impossible for them to contact you, or they'll find another nonprofit to give their time and money to.
Try to develop a knowledge base for your customers to go to for answers to simple questions. This setup will save you lots of time and make it easy for your customers to get a quicker response. vote.org has increased their voter turnout with such resources that maximize efficiency. In turn, they're able to spend more time following up on emails to potential funders.
Don't Run From Complaints
Complaints present a free opportunity to get better. They direct you to areas where you're struggling, which you may not recognize by yourself. So don't discourage complaints—embrace them. You can even solicit feedback from your staff and donors to get them directly engaged.
Good customer service is at the heart of any good organization. A basic understanding of the do's and don’ts will make all the difference when you're trying to provide a positive experience for your recipients, donors and volunteers.
Kayla Matthews writes about AI, the cloud and retail technology. You can also find her work on The Week, WIRED, Digital Trends, MarketingDive and Contently, or check out her personal tech blog.