Saturday, 6 March 2010

Turning Your Customers Into Champions

One of the other inspiring sessions at the NHF Marketing and Communications Conference was from Lynda Thomas, Director of External Affairs, at Macmillan Cancer Support.

She talked about how Macmillan had approached re-branding their organisation a couple of years ago, recognising that it was becoming more competitive to raise money and that the public's relationship with charities was changing - people don't just want to donate, they want to engage.

They spent about 18 months working with external consultants carrying out market and internal research crucial thing she said was that it wasn't about a new logo, font or website - it had to come from a complete culture change within the charity.

Macmillan decided to relaunch with a new logo, a new ambition, and new values. It also decided to use social media to engage further with its customers. I think landlords can use social media in the same way and give a voice to their customers. When organisations start having a public conversation with their customers, there is always a risk but I think they are far outweighed by the benefits.

Macmillan, like all social housing providers, is non-profit organisation, but unlike social landlords, the people it supports (people living with cancer and their families) are very vocal and passionate about the brand. Social housing providers tend to find their customers are fairly quiet when they are happy with your service but when you make mistakes, it will end up in the press or they will tell other customers, both of which damage your reputation.

Social media gives a voice to those who are happy with your service as well and allows customers
to see the organisation is honest. Landlords genuinely value feedback and involvement - perhaps more than any other type of organisation - but customers need to see and hear about how that has improved services.

It's not an easy journey for landlords because it takes time, energy, money and confidence but I think it's a path worth following. It's worked for Macmillan: since they rebranded, more people get involved with them than any other charity.

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