The wonderful people over at Classy have put together a top 3 must do’s for any good cause and we thought we would share. Whether you’re a good cause of one, 20, or 100, customer service permeates your entire organization. The way your cause responds when supporters reach out with questions, concerns, or complaints can greatly impact donations & relations. While you should have some predefined engagement strategies, you or you & your awesome staff must also be able to think on their feet and deal with unexpected situations with grace. You don’t have to have an answer to every question, but you should do everything in your power to have a positive interaction with every supporter, every time.
At the end of the day, it comes down to creating a professional, reliable space where your supporter network can go for support.
Here are three best practices you can adapt to show donors you value their input, along with some insights from our own customer support team. These will go a long way toward refining and fostering a positive relationship with your supporters.
1. Be Approachable
Build trust and reliability by showing supporters that your staff is accessible. If it’s difficult for supporters to contact your organization, they will most likely give up and be unimpressed with your lack of attention.
Make sure supporters know they can get in touch with your organization. There are three main ways they should be able to reach you:
• Email: Don’t make your supporters feel like their emails are being sent into a black hole. They should be confident that their messages will be read and promptly responded to. As a best practice, respond to emails within 24 hours. Even if you can’t immediately answer the person’s question or concern, at least reply to their message and let them know you’re looking into the issue.
• Phone: The contact page on your website should offer a phone number supporters can call. Hopefully, this line connects to a team member involved with communicating with supporters (like our Paula). In any case, your cause should always answer phone calls professionally.
• Social Media: Social channels foster conversation, so make sure you join in. “Liking,” sharing, and replying to supporters’ comments are easy ways to engage supporters and show them you’re listening. Also, promptly answer any questions directed your way.
Twitter is a great place to both initiate and jump into conversations with supporters. Show them some public recognition by retweeting their comments.
The first step of successful supporter communication is being available with a timely response. However, it’s the content of conversations that will leave supporters delighted. Encourage staff to personalize their conversations in simple ways, like referring to a challenger by their name and mentioning how long they’ve been a supporter of your cause. These subtle, but thoughtful cues will make a supporter feel valued and appreciated. The personalized touch is especially important when engaging with supporters online as they can’t hear the emotion in your voice.
2. Be Patient
There’s a chance you’ll encounter a disgruntled supporter or two along the way. These are the moments when your causes customer service skills are most critical. Sound annoyed or frustrated on the phone, and you risk losing a donor.
This is why patience is a pillar of great customer service. Even if you don’t have the answer to a problem, remain calm and simply let them talk. People often relax when they feel the person on the other end is willing to listen. Being attentive to your supporter will not only help you mitigate the situation, but it can also help you identify what exactly the donor wants. Keep in mind that every conversation is a learning opportunity. Other supporters might have this same concern but simply haven’t reached out to you.
3. Be Responsive
In a similar vein, making someone feel heard requires a caring response. Not only should the supporter feel like you listened to their problem, but they should feel confident that you want to solve it too.
Explain what you can (or cannot) do to remedy the situation, and keep their expectations realistic. If you don’t know the answer to a supporter’s question, don’t guess. Supporters will only be more upset if they find out you gave them false information. Instead, let them know that you will look into the issue and contact them soon.
Follow up the conversation by sending more information on the issue that concerns the donor. Correct any mistakes, and discuss the issue with your staff leadership to hammer out any preventative procedures, if needed.
If your supporters know that the person they speak to is truly listening, empathizing, and working to resolve their issue, they will leave the conversation feeling satisfied.
Similarly, your cause can strive to instill that same type of confidence in your supporters. Remind team members that even though they are on the front lines working to accomplish your causes’ mission, it’s the supporters who make it possible for your organization to see another day. And the donors deserve their care and attention.
For-profit companies aren’t the only ones that should provide great customer service. By prioritizing intentional communication, a willingness to listen, and prompt follow-up, nonprofits can demonstrate how much they value their supporters. This commitment to customer service can go a long way in boosting donor happiness and loyalty.
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