Customer Advocacy (A Powerful Marketing Tool)

The Landy and Tvan, Outback Australia
The Landy and T-Van, Outback Australia

In a world fast evolving towards the grabs of consumers on social media the importance of customer advocacy takes on a new and important meaning.

The press of a few buttons on a tablet or a smart phone can see a company’s product, or service endorsed or questioned.

But what does customer advocacy mean and are there responsibilities attached to it?

I pondered this question recently when I had both a favourable and unfavourable experience that was both related.

What were my responsibilities and to whom was I responsible, and what of the responsibilities of others?

Let me set the scene.

Many of you know that Janet, TomO, and I are avid travellers of the Australian Outback, and to help make our journeys as comfortable as possible we travel with a camper that is home grown, made for Australian conditions and manufactured by Track Trailer – the uniquely styled T-Van.

"The Landy" crossing the Darling River into the Australian Outback
“The Landy” and T-Van crossing the Darling River into the Australian Outback

I won’t bore you with a lot of detail but not long after purchasing it the unit had a small component failure that was replaced under the manufacturer’s warranty, and it has worked well for some time, but failed again recently.

Today, the camper is out of warranty, but I was confident that given this was a component that had failed previously and replaced that the company would want to make sure it made good the item once again, after all if something fails more than once it might be pointing towards a quality control issue.

Well, the manufacturer, Track Trailer, played “hard-ball” and refused, pointing to the expiration of the warranty.

Naturally, it was disappointing, not so much because I would be out of the pocket the cost of replacing it, but because as a consumer I felt let down, after all this was the second failure. Had it been the first time I would have paid the price, acknowledging the warranty had expired and moved on.

But it wasn’t all a bad story, the company that sold the unit brand new, Alan Graham’s Caravans and RVs, and who have serviced it since new jumped to the rescue and agreed to replace the item free of charge to myself, and for which I am grateful.

Mind you, it wasn’t so much about the money, but about a company backing its own product, a product that is at the top-end of the price range and billed as perfect for the “Australian Outback”.

Red Sand dune - Welford NP
Red Sand dune – Welford NP (Outback Australia)

But coming back to my point on customer advocacy and responsibilities, not only had the manufacturer let me down in this instance, but I felt I had let down all the people whom I had recommended to take a look at this product.

If they have a similar customer service experience with the company it reflects on me and my judgement in recommending the company and its products to them.

We purchased our Track Trailer T-Van after receiving much feedback “in the field” from people travelling in one.  We placed a far greater store on this feedback from other travellers when making our original purchase than the glossy advertising the company did in magazines, in the print media.

Yes, we now live in a world fast transforming, one where social media has given the consumer the ability to quickly endorse and support, or to be critical of a company or its product and services.

Companies can embrace this, be thankful for responses in kind, and to see negative feedback as an opportunity to address consumer concerns. After all, there may well be a good reason for taking a particular viewpoint or stance – but it needs to be communicated effectively and with consideration.

Smart companies learned long ago that advertising budgets, no matter how large, can only promote a product or service so far, the greatest advertisement comes from customer advocacies and that can never be bought, it can only ever be earned.

Can you relate to this, I’m sure you can!

And remember, if all else fails, pack up “The Landy” and head west into the Australian Outback…

 Ps. I have donated the $250 cost of the unit being replaced for free by Alan Graham’s Caravans and RVs to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in recognition of the great work they do in servicing the medical needs of Australian’s living, working, and travelling in the Outback.

Take the time to click on the link to read more about this marvellous organisation!