Why Advocacy is a 'Need to Have' Customer Service Skill

Why Advocacy is a 'Need to Have' Customer Service Skill

Matt Dixon, co-author of our book The Effortless Experience, is leading some fascinating research in his new position at Tethr, which is a company dedicated to surfacing customer insights through their powerful AI engine.  Based on a partnership with the Effortless Experience team, the Tethr engine was trained a couple of years ago to listen for customer effort while it processes customer service calls.

In other words, we taught the AI to listen for customer effort in the same way that we’d listen for effort when we are physically listening to customer calls with our clients. 

Across the last two years, the processing has been refined, and Tethr is now seeing some very interesting results that reinforce the power of driving an Effortless Experience.  Matt is writing a blog series that dives into these results, and I’d encourage you to check them out.  His latest article focused on the topic of Advocacy, which is a skill very core to our Effortless Experience™ Skills Framework here at Challenger.  Here are a few of our key takeaways after reading the article:

Advocacy is Greater Than “Ownership”

Many companies equate Advocacy with simply assuming responsibility, or ownership, for a customer’s problem.  However, Advocacy can take many different forms.  It means the rep is taking accountability for issue resolution, yes, but it also is about how the rep is being a champion for the customer, being transparent about the path to resolution, acting as a consultant for the customer, showing empathy where appropriate, and demonstrating value.  I was excited to see these themes really shine in the utterances that the team at Tethr has uncovered.

Advocacy is a Sales Skill Too

Matt and I partnered on a few different research studies back in our CEB days that examined how service organizations can drive better cross- and up-sell results.  In our final study, we learned a few important, but maybe not completely surprising, things:

  1. Rep skills are more important that rep willingness or rep personality style. It’s not enough to have someone who wants to sell.  You need to give your reps the right skills for them to be successful.
  2. Issue resolution is nearly a prerequisite to effective cross- or up-sell conversations. However, when an rep has cleared that hurdle and is ready to make the offer, one of the most effective things they can do is value positioning (help the customer see the benefit in their own context).

Interestingly, a key component of Advocacy is also about showing value, and that’s a nuance we teach in our low-effort rep skills program.  With all of these findings in mind, it was no surprise to see that one of Tethr’s clients observed a 22% increase in sales when the rep had demonstrated advocacy. 

We’ve been telling clients for years that the low-effort skills help establish a level of trust with the customer that will increase their receptivity to sales offers.  One of our Effortless Experience Capabilities Builder clients in the energy/utilities industry, for example, experienced a 135% increase in upsells after completing the program.

You Can’t Script Advocacy

As Matt wrote, “Concepts like advocacy … are never really complete as categories because human language is complex and we are constantly finding new, quirky ways in which an agent can present them on a call.”   In other words—don’t try to script it.  We couldn’t agree more. 

In our approach to teaching your reps how to deliver low-effort customer service, we emphasize the key components of a skill without dishing out a specific script or call flow that mandates a single right way to, in this case, be an Advocate for the customer.  Service interactions are as dynamic as the customers we are helping, so why would we expect them to be anything other than dynamic conversations? 

Finding better paths to Advocacy

There are so many implications for customer service leaders here.  It’s not good enough to ditch the script.  You need to re-imagine the way you are teaching your reps to communicate with customers, and it’s worth a good hard look at your QA scorecard as well (a topic for another time!).  At the end of the day, we should be enabling reps to choose any number of paths that lead to the right outcome; there’s not a single right way to be an Advocate.