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Throughout my career, one of the things that I’ve always been passionate about is taking learnings from the commercial sector’s obsession with customer experience and applying relevant adaptations to the charity sector. Whilst the commercial sector is very different in lots of ways, their approach to customer experience has always interested me, and it seems over the last few years they have ‘upped the ante’ on this increasingly important matter.

They know that Customer 2.0 is upon us!

Customer 2.0 is all about the experience. Figures are telling us that as soon as 2020, customer experience will count for 50% of the purchasing decision, leaving pricing trailing at 16% of the decision and product as 34%.

But what about Supporter 2.0?

Supporter 2.0 IS Customer 2.0 – and we know, because we are all consumers and our expectations are rapidly rising. We’re living in a world of online reviews, targeted marketing, multiple product choice, chatbots, social media and increasingly short delivery times.

And with rising expectation, there becomes the risk of a bigger and bigger gap between what our supporters want and expect, and what they actually experience.

Charities often struggle to keep up with these expectations, which results in a supporter experience gap, and whilst our supporters will repeatedly claim they don’t want us to spend money on anything other than our beneficiaries, they are also the very people who will walk out of the door because they are not getting what they need from their experience of supporting us.

We are getting better at considering the supporter experience, more charities than ever before have supporter journeys that are thought out and effectively delivered. We’re producing welcome packs, thankathons, hand written thank you notes and supporter surveys to deliver what we think our supporters want and need.

So, what is that doing to donor retention?

Not much it would seem. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project‘s Quarterly Fundraising Report, U.S. figures show donor retention is down by 4.5% despite increased focus on supporter experience and, at a conference I attended recently, I listened to research from John Grain suggesting that even the ‘best in class’ donor journeys in the UK only push the needle marginally.

So, what are we doing wrong?

It’s a good question, and one that I’m going to be exploring at IFC this year in two different sessions. In our masterclass bootcamp, myself, Craig Linton and Jason Novelli will be exploring supporter experience to look past the ‘same old’ cookie cutter approaches, and look at how to think a bit differently to improve your supporter experience strategy and touchpoints.

Jason and I are also going to be running a workshop where we will dive deeper into some of the fundamental basic mistakes related to supporter experience and how we can use a commercial model based on some of the less glamourous aspects of supporter experience to really deliver in an effective way.

It’s all about People, Process and Data

The supporter experience model we’ll be exploring at IFC is based on commercial know-how and is built on the understanding that supporter experience can be hugely affected by three key things;

  1. Interactions with people
  2. Effectiveness of systems and process
  3. Accuracy and depth of data and information

People, Process and Data are the main causes of supporter frustration, and so we will delve into the good, the bad and the ugly of what this means on the day-to-day experience of a supporter. We will work through some of the biggest pain points and focus on identifying some real action points based on;

  1. Where to look?
  2. What questions to ask?
  3. Who to involve?

The good news is that some things will be quick and very simple to fix. The not-so-good news is that ultimately, it all comes down to culture. And this isn’t a quick fix and can be a much more complex issue! But it’s the key to brilliant supporter experience.

The most successful businesses are the ones that put the customer central to everything, they are the ones who listen, act and celebrate their customers. The ones that put the customers’ needs above everything, and the ones that know the value of delivering a great experience – sometimes sacrificing short term profit for long term loyalty.

At IFC 2019, we’ll be discussing how fundraisers can start to change their culture around the supporter experience, and how to demonstrate that supporter experience and retention should be as important as acquisition and income. Because if you can change your charity’s culture to be able to deliver a truly memorable donor experience, that’s what holds the key to increased loyalty and lifetime value.

Hope to see you there!