Closing the Brand Advocacy Gap

I had the pleasure of hearing Nichole Kelly, author of How to Measure Social Media, speak on Social Media ROI at the Y’all Connect Conference in Birmingham, Alabama yesterday and forwarded an article to her on Twitter about integrating a Word of Mouth Index (WoMI) with the Net Promoter Score, which she had discussed.

Net Promoter is simply asking your customers or prospects how likely, on a scale of one to ten, they are to recommend you. This information can then be used to identify “promoters,” “passives,” and “detractors.” Nichole has a great article  about using Net Promoter to find your advocates. Mack Collier, author of Think Like a Rock Star, who has also written about the Net Promoter Score and how fans create cash, chimed in on our Twitter conversation. He disagrees with the scale, which marks anyone scoring less than six, a detractor. He’s probably writing an article about that right now, but I wanted to talk more about the gap in brand advocacy. In other words, why do some brands with high customer satisfaction scores have low advocacy mentions? Also, could someone who scored as a “passive” actually be a “passive promoter,” as Mack suggests? Can brand advocates rise out of passivity?

I’m more likely to be an advocate if you, as a brand, make it very easy for me. Case in point: my hotel stay at the conference was quite nice. In fact, there was one employee in valet parking (yes, I splurged because I knew I’d be out after dark and it was supposed to rain) who really impressed me. Janae (sp?) was great. She greeted me with a smile when I first arrived and told me it was no problem to check in and freshen up before heading out to the conference social. My car would not be towed, as the sign suggested, but would be waiting on me right where I left it. Also, she told me that it was no problem to have my car brought to me first thing the next morning to load my luggage after I checked out, and then have it parked again until after the conference. The next day, after the conference, Janae was there when I walked out to get my car. Of course she remembered me and of course, she was just as sweet and helpful. I liked Janae. I remembered Janae after I got home. So I decided to visit the hotel’s website and shoot an email to the manager. (Shelly Kramer will be glad that I chose email!)

Well…I guess that most general managers of hotels don’t post their email addresses because they’re afraid they might get a lot of complaints? I don’t know the reason, but I couldn’t find it. I saw a button that said, “review” and thought, “Okay; I’ll post a review.” I clicked on the button and went to a page with a form. No problem. Well, at least not until I needed my reservation number. That was in an email from….when? A couple of days ago, at least. I didn’t have the time or the energy (after the conference) to search for it. Click. I was gone.

My story doesn’t end there, though. I went back to the hotel’s site, found the phone number and called. I asked for the general manager. The person who answered the phone wanted to know WHY I wanted to talk to the general manager. Only after I assured her that this was a positive call, did she give me his name and put me through to his assistant. When the assistant answered, she told me that he was off the property all week. Okay. I told her why I was calling and she said, “If you would, please do this.” I thought to myself that if she continued by telling me to go to their website and click on the review button I would hang up, but she didn’t. She gave me his email address and encouraged me to send an email so that he could recognize Janae appropriately.

What do I call this? Good old-fashioned brand advocacy. You can’t really call it social advocacy. Could I have looked up my reservation number, filled out and submitted the form in the same amount of time it took to get through to the general manager’s assistant? Probably. But I was on a mission for sweet little Janae. If you had asked me how likely I was to recommend the hotel after my stay, I may not have answered with a 9 or a 10. Why? I wasn’t “recommending” the hotel. I was “commending” the outstanding service provided by one of their employees. I didn’t want to write a review; I just wanted to compliment an employee. Does that make me a passive promoter or a brand advocate?

Here’s “the rest of the story” and what drove me to write this article. Heather Taylor, VP of Social Content at Social@Oglivy was the guest on today’s #Brandchat on Twitter. We discussed brand advocacy and Social@Oglivy’s 2013 Global Brand Advocacy Report. In the report, some of the studied hotels reported guest satisfaction scores of 80% or more, while they found less than one advocacy mention per 100 stays. This indicates a huge social advocacy gap. I think that this is due, in part, because the brands are not enabling that advocacy. The hotel I stayed at had a Facebook page, but I would have preferred a Twitter account that I could have followed and mentioned in a tweet about Janae. That would have been easier for me. Or, if the form for the review had a place to give a quick “shout-out” to an employee, that would have worked. I might have been willing to look up that reservation number if I saw a quick, easy way to give feedback.

Brands need advocacy programs that make it easy for customers (and prospects) to engage. When that fails? Some of us use good old-fashioned methods – like making a phone call. Others? Click.


*I have to state for the record that the hotel sent me an email with a link to the review form and the net promoter question was there. That’s good. I didn’t fill out the form. That’s not.

**I also have to state that I have not yet emailed the general manager. 

, , ,

5 Responses to Closing the Brand Advocacy Gap

  1. Nichole Kelly July 26, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    Great post! Thanks for continuing the discussion.

    I think it is equally important to discuss what the question actually asks vs. how we as marketers try to spin their response into actions we think are equal, i.e. social advocacy. In the NPS question, I think it is a good question that can be used to drive reviews for example. If someone is likely to recommend our company, then they could be more likely to place a positive review. Does that mean they will advocate for us in social channels? Does it mean I have a long-term affinity and love for a brand? That remains to be tested through additional communications and opportunities to do just that. I think the question is a precursor that can allow a brand to then test their assumptions and find that small group who is very likely to recommend AND tell their friends on social networks.

    In your scenario you had a great experience with one employee, but the rest of the experience didn’t stand out. Therefore, it didn’t make an impression on your likelihood to recommend. However, if every employee at the hotel treated you in the same fashion and with the same interest in making your stay pleasurable it may have had a very different impact on the likelihood to recommend.

    If we want to measure social advocacy, perhaps we should ask the question, “how likely are you to tell your friends?” A slightly different spin that measures something more in line with social advocacy.

    I personally like using Net Promoter as an input that can drive more relevant follow ups to handle negative experiences immediately, while building a group of potential brand advocates. It’s equally amazing to see how one bad experience can quickly turn someone who is a 9 into a 2. The change in NPS is where the really actionable insights really occur.

    I will say, I have two unique hotel experiences. I stayed at the TownePlace Suites in Mesa, AZ where I had to host a very large webinar from my room. When I started to get set up that morning and test all of my connections I realized that the LAN line in the room wasn’t working. Long story short. There was no LAN line connection. I had called the front desk for help who sent up someone to check out the situation. When he realized there was no way he could fix this situation and I was in a panic, he found an employee’s office with a land line where I could host the webinar. He even came back and checked on me. I sent his manager an email saying how amazing the service was. Not only would I recommend them, but I will stay there every time I go back. I’ll also never schedule a webinar over another trip! LOL.

    At the Ya’ll conference, I felt like the stay at the Sheraton was decent, but nothing really exceptional. Then when I was getting ready to leave I went to grab breakfast in the Atrium cafe. They have a buffet, but I wanted to order the meeting. I have an aversion to mass batches of eggs that always seem to be undercooked. 🙂 After sitting there for 10 minutes and having no waiter come to my table to offer coffee and see what I wanted, I actually walked out of the cafe, past the manager who had seated me, the hostess, and sat my $5 credit offered by the hotel for not having maid service on the desk next to the hostess stand and left. I saw puzzled looks, but no one ever asked if I was satisfied with my service. I left and went to the airport and ate while I was there.

    As a result, I am very unlikely to recommend the hotel and definitely wasn’t satisfied with the restaurant. But I wouldn’t have told anyone if you hadn’t posted your story at the same hotel. LOL.

    Fun stuff, great discussion, lots more learning on how NPS can be used to measure the advocacy of our social followings.

    Rock on!

    • admom2 July 27, 2013 at 1:39 am #

      Thank you for your comments, Nichole. I agree that your question, “how likely are your to tell your friends?” is a more accurate measure of social advocacy. Marketers? Spin? 😉 Also, that group of “potential brand advocates” requires a dedicated strategy and speaks to the need to continuously measure. Perhaps your desire to advocate for TownePlace Suites was heightened by the urgency of the situation? Certainly, parking a car does not measure par with conducting a webinar – ha. Glad that worked out for you! Finally, good thing for Sheraton that you’re just commenting on my little ‘ol blog…you should check out Erika’s rant about United. LOL. The funny thing is that you wouldn’t have told anyone if you hadn’t seen my story. I wouldn’t have even written the story if I hadn’t seen the Social@Ogilvy report that showed a gap in advocacy with hotels. That’s “social karma,” I guess! 😉 Thanks, again! Fun stuff, for sure.

  2. Mack Collier July 27, 2013 at 12:47 am #

    I think your story with Janae just underscores the fact that it’s so much easier to support a brand if we have a connection with the people behind that brand. It sounds like you weren’t advocating for the Sheraton especially, but really for one employee that gave you good service.

    But what struck me about this story was that the brand wasn’t making it easy for you to connect with them. Your devotion to seeing that Janae’s service was recognized gave you the incentive to keep pushing when the brand’s standard feedback channels failed you.

    The sad thing is that the brand itself failed one employee’s exceptional service. The brand couldn’t deliver an experience that was consistent with what Janae provided you. If say the front desk clerk had gone out of his way to satisfy you as Janae did, then suddenly I would bet you would have gone from advocating just for Janae, to advocating for the entire hotel. Then if the next time you stayed at a Sheraton in another city and you again get excellent service, then you likely start to advocate for the brand itself.

    If you email the general manager, I would be interested to hear if someone follows up with you. Brands need to connect with ‘handraisers’ like you, that go out of their way to connect with the brand and share feedback. Hopefully Sheraton will, and thanks for a thought-provoking post!

    • admom2 July 27, 2013 at 1:51 am #

      Thank you for commenting, Mack. Yes, you are correct; it was more about that one person. Exactly my point; they didn’t make it easy for me to connect and I think that may be part of the reason there are gaps in brand advocacy. Brands don’t make it easy on the prospect or customer by letting them connect the way they want to. If a brand ranks high in customer satisfaction but low in brand advocacy, then why are the “handraisers” not speaking up? Maybe it’s a function of the customer satisfaction metrics? I don’t know. I did email the general manager today; apparently, he’s out of town. I told him why I emailed (didn’t want to fill out the form, etc.) so it will be interesting to see what kind of response I get. Thank you, again…I’ll be looking for your post on NPS. 🙂

  3. Wade Kwon August 1, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    Nona, thank you for an insightful post and for sharing Nichole and Mack’s thoughts from Y’all Connect. I appreciate you supporting the conference, but also for going out of your way to recognize individual effort (despite quite a few hurdles).

    I will usually write a note and mail it, thus saving myself the headache of dealing with voicemail and email and gatekeepers. I like the personal touch, and I feel it will stand out among piles of junk mail and spam. But I, like you, will do whatever is needed to make sure a boss knows about an employee’s heroic efforts.

    Speaking in general about hotels (not specifically the Sheraton) and brands, I am typically disappointed in both customer service and in communication channels. As a business owner, I want to know as soon as possible if a problem exists so I can fix it. You can tell me privately by email, phone, letter or DM, or you can tweet me or leave a comment on my site.

    Conversely, if someone did a great job, I want to know as soon as possible so I can pass along both the customer’s praise and add my own.

    I believe in responding to every query in a timely fashion (24-48 hours), but not necessarily in instant response (not every tweet and email will be answered on the spot, but it will be answered).

    I can advocate for many brands, because I can usually find a sliver of good in a mountain of mediocre. But that doesn’t mean brands must make it so darn difficult to be lovable.

    Thanks again for your post and comments.

Leave a Reply