Building a customer advocacy program


Creating strong customer advocates is something that every customer success professional strives for with their customer base. But what makes a good customer become an advocate? Is it how much of your product they use? A positive survey feedback? Or them becoming a reference? Not only is it difficult to define a customer advocate but it also difficult to transform your good customers into great advocates.

In this episode our host Anika Zubair chats with Alex Farmer, VP of Customer Success at Cognite, an Oslo-based DataOps scale-up which helps digitize heavy-asset industries, enabling them to operate more sustainably, securely, and efficiently.

Alex Farmer is the founder and CEO of Customer Success Excellence and is currently VP of Customer Success at Cognite. Prior to this, Alex served as VP of European Sales and Customer Success at Incopro, a brand protection technology company, where he led the global customer success and EMEA sales teams. Earlier in his career, Alex built the customer success function at Fairsail, which became one of the fastest-growing tech companies in the UK and was acquired by Sage in March 2017 to form Sage People.

As customer success continues to grow and expand, the role of the CS is ever changing. This opens up more opportunities for people to become CS leaders in the space. With experience in several different Customer Success Manager roles, Alex’s advice to others who are aspiring to become a VP of Customer Success, like himself, is to own the space and claim it as your own.

“Running CS in a startup, there's all of this space that has not yet been taken, were not inheriting something that exists, were building stuff that needs to exist. So that gives folks who want to take that next step to become a CS leader a lot of opportunity to claim the space that is theirs.”

CS is still relatively new and Alex already challenges the fundamentals of its development and rightly so. Having worked as a CS leader in 3 different organizations he had to adjust and adapt to the new surroundings and teams. It isn’t quite as clear cut as implementing repeatable playbooks and taking one CS structure to another company. He has had to constantly unthink CS and work backwards from what the customer needs to find the right solution.

“It's really important for CS leaders to unthink the conventional wisdom, and really put themselves in the customer's shoes.”

When it comes to advocacy it’s important to start and focus on it from day one. It enables CSMs to have a better understanding of their customers and keep track of their progress. Using KPIs and targets are a great way to start and by tracking this data you can build your advocacy program. This works well for high touch customers but for low touch customers, adding it to your NPS or customer survey may be a good alternative.

“Focus on advocacy, whether or not it is a formal program. I have conversations with startups who are trying to figure out this whole customer success thing and my advice to them is to start really simple and create 5 fields in your CRM or in an excel document and make one of those 5 fields - are you willing to be an advocate?”

To differentiate between a good customer and an advocate is when you are able to ask a customer to take time to promote your brand. Advocacy is a much better indicator of loyalty as it's the willingness to help promote your brand with their time.

Listen to the full podcast with Alex Former to find out more tips on how to build an advocacy program.

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Building a customer advocacy program

Our host Anika Zubair chats with Alex Farmer, VP of Customer Success at Cognite on ways to build a customer advocacy program.

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