This Is No Euphemism – An Advocate Is An Advocate
By Martin R. Baird
      A euphemism is a less direct word or phrase used in place of one considered less  palatable. It’s also a substitute word that’s intended to make someone feel better. Some would say euphemisms are just a way of sugar coating things.

       There will be no euphemisms in this column.  I want it to be crystal clear that when I use the terms "advocacy," "guest advocate" and "employee advocate," I’m not word–smithing.  I’m not playing semantics.  I’m not saying "guest satisfaction" or "employee satisfaction" in a new or different way that’s more acceptable to you.  Why? Because satisfaction – whether for a guest or an employee – is fickle.  It's determined by the whim of the moment.  Advocacy, however, is rock solid because it measures a person’s willingness to risk their reputation. Of their own free will, advocates spread highly positive word about businesses they patronize. Satisfied customers and employees won’t stick their necks out that far.

      I share this because I have had a number of business executives and managers very mistakenly tell me that they are doing advocate research. But when I see the survey, the first question is, "How satisfied are you with your most recent experience at XYZ Store?" That’s as far from advocate research as you can get. And I have learned that the research process is pathetic.

      Here’s an example. I recently stayed at a very nice Las Vegas hotel and when I woke up my last morning, there was my complimentary USA Today, a copy of my bill and a survey. I had to laugh because the survey asked if I was satisfied with everything from my overall visit to the quality of the shower head. My first thought was OK, they don't even know how to measure what really matters. I filled out the survey and left it in my room. Later, when I went to the front desk to check out, I asked for a copy of it. I was shocked when I was told the surveys weren’t kept at the front desk. After checking with several people, the clerk said the housekeeping department had them. I understand housekeeping collects and delivers the surveys, but don't you think if they really want to know what guests think that the hotel would have them at the front desk, the place most guests visit when they check out? The clerk wasn’t even familiar with the surveys. If the front desk doesn’t get them, who does and what do they do with them?

      Do you think guests leave these surveys in the room so housekeeping can gather them along with all the junk? I’m sure the housekeepers very carefully sort through the mountain of linens, towels and trash to find these documents. Surely they realize the validity of the data will be compromised if they find only half the completed surveys.

      Here is the difference between satisfaction and advocacy, based on my own experience with this hotel. The button for the elevator on my floor did not work for three days. As I checked out at the gold counter for preferred guests, I mentioned the elevator problem and the clerk asked if I would like to have more "points." Wow, that will certainly encourage me to risk my reputation and spread the good word to friends and relatives about this amazing hotel.. I'll tell the most important people in my life that they should visit because they offered me points for a malfunctioning elevator. Based on the survey I filled out, the hotel probably thought I was satisfied. I probably was, although the points episode made me less so. You know, the whim of the moment. But I am not an advocate by any stretch of the imagination. Why would I put my good name in jeopardy by encouraging people to go to a hotel that thinks points solve service problems?

      I’m sure that property collects hundreds of surveys in which people indicate they are satisfied. But the general manager and senior team sit around a big table wondering why business is off. They wonder if something is wrong with room service or the food in the restaurant. The reality is if they asked the right questions – questions about advocacy – they would have an amazing tool that would help them predict future growth. They wouldn’t have to guess about future success anymore.

      Advocacy is no euphemism. People think I’m being cute when I use that word. For example, they think I’m telling them they need to exceed customers’ expectations because that creates advocates. They point out that many businesses have been doing that for years. This is not what I’m saying because I don’t know what it takes to move a particular company’s customers from a negative feeling to neutral and, ultimately, to a position of advocacy. Only they know what turns their clients on. Or they should anyway. What I do know is that measuring advocacy – not satisfaction – and creating more and more customer advocates is the key to their success. And don’t forget employees. Every business should strive to have employee advocates, too.

      I was a speaker at a conference last fall. During my presentation, I wanted to know how many people in the audience were conducting customer satisfaction surveys and asked for a show of hands. Probably 60 percent of the attendees responded. I told them I could show them detailed research in a white paper that supports the concept and importance of customer and employee advocacy. I guess there is always hope because managers and CEOs from around the world – Peru, Australia, Europe, Canada and the U.S. – wanted to know more.

      Advocacy in the business world is not a word game. It doesn’t sugar coat anything. Advocacy gets right to the point with no apologies offered. Measuring customer and employee advocacy is a valuable management tool that cuts through the unimportant clutter and sets companies on the path to predictable future growth

      Martin R. Baird is chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a consulting company that helps businesses measure and manage the quality of customer service and improvements to their internal operations to enhance business performance and increase revenues. He is a highly regarded speaker in the areas of marketing and client retention and development. Robinson & Associates may be reached at 208-991-2037 or at lbaird@raresults.com.