In my post on the United Airlines customer care fiasco I promised a follow-up piece on just the opposite. A great example and resulting rules on building loyalty, retention and commitment.

On the very day United was dragging Dr. Dao down the aisle, Rachel Hunnybunn, Director of Client Relationships for our sister company DonorVoice in the UK and Europe, posted 4 simple steps toward retention, loyalty and better donor experience over at 101Fundraising.

Rachel reports on her ‘love/hate’ relationship with Audi, the car company. More importantly she relays how Audi’s customer care efforts have transformed her once-painful experience of visiting the garage (akin to a visit to the dentist: painful and expensive) into interactions “bordering on the pleasant”.

She then translates her experience with Audi into rules we can all benefit from.

Rule #1: Understanding Preference. After each service visit Rachel found a tin of hard candy (“boiled sweets”). Apparently, she’s not a fan of boiled sweets so she politely asked them to stop.

They listened to her preference because the next time she collected her car, in place of the candy was a coat hanger. Apparently, the folks at the garage noticed a jacket in the back seat of her car and figured the hanger would be more useful. And this gives rise to rule #2.

Rule #2: Seek Feedback. In the days following her discovery of the coat hanger Rachel received a text, two phone calls and three email survey requests: “presumably to see if I liked my coat hanger”.

“On the third email I responded because it seemed they really REALLY wanted to know … getting my feedback means they can start to measure my customer experience.”

Ever the fundraiser, Rachel notes, “Every interaction has the potential to either increase or decrease satisfaction, so by starting to collect feedback we can have an immediate impact on improving donor experience. In fundraising terms this could be anything from measuring the experience of donating online through to a supporter care call, a conversation on the street or by email.”

In short, without feedback some fundraisers could be getting it all wrong and never know about it. This is especially important when it comes to new donors. As Rachel notes, “It’s far easier to cancel a direct debit donation than buy a new car!”

Rule #3: Act on Feedback. Audi then took the next — rare — step. “They asked if my last experience had improved the way I felt about them — and it genuinely has — but I’m not ready to take that conversation any further. Not at this time.”

The essential point Rachel makes is that although lots of companies ask for feedback, all too often it’s just lip service. Not in the case of Audi.

And not in the case of fundraisers who take feedback seriously. And we all need to be taking it seriously. As Rachel notes:

“This is where the big win is. I know only too well that it can be a real sticking point for fundraising teams with tight budgets and heavy workloads, but the bottom line is that whatever it takes to act on feedback, it’s most likely less costly than replacing lost donors because of bad experiences that are never addressed.”  [Emphasis added]

Rule #4. Know Why I’m Still A Customer (Donor). Despite their stellar performance, Rachel feels Audi is still missing something crucial: they don’t know why she bought and continues to own an Audi.

Sure, they know — from transactional data — that she’s a ‘loyal’ customer because she makes her payments every month or loves the customer experience they delivered. Wrong.

Rachel’s ‘why’ reason is probably different than her neighbor who also drives an Audi. “I chose my car because my dad drove an Audi, as does my older brother. Buying my first Audi made me feel a massive sense of achievement on a far more personal level than simply buying a car.”

And therein lies a big part of the problem with donor retention, commitment and the way we do or don’t succeed at levels we should.

Most nonprofits have an organizational idea why donors give or join. Too often these ideas are based on hunch and transactional data. Neither truly gives us the information we need to answer the “why did he/she give” that is the essential question. Demographics seldom are useful, because demographic look-alikes seldom have the same ‘why’ reasons for giving.

“Simple Isn’t Easy…”  Of course treating donors the way Rachel experienced with Audi is simple. But, as Rachel notes, “that doesn’t make it easy.” Not when budgets are stretched and staff are already overwhelmed.

BUT … if we’re committed to improving retention and donor value we must find a way, change our mindsets and priorities.

“4 Simple Steps…”  Fully mindful that “simple isn’t easy”, here are Rachel’s recommended steps toward greater retention, loyalty and better donor experience:

  1. “Find out what your donors like and don’t like and what they want/expect from you. Avoid donor communications that make them wade through boiled sweets in the search of a coat hanger!
  1. “Seek feedback to measure donor experience, solve problems, and fix internal and external issues. First interaction feedback should be as immediate and as process critical as collecting bank details.
  1. “Fix any bad experiences and act on feedback. Dedicating time to phone calls, personal cards or just simply saying “Sorry!” by email if someone has had a negative experience can increase early-stage retention significantly.
  1. “Understand WHY each of your donors are giving to you. What level of connection do they have with your cause? Segment on identity and motivation to deliver a far more meaningful journey.”

What steps are you taking? What steps would you like The Agitator to explore further?




This article was posted in: Breaking Out of the Status Quo, Donor Centricity - Case Studies, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, DonorTrends / DonorVoice, Nonprofit management.
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