Identifying and Utilizing Customer Advocates

A savvy veterinary clinic administrator like yourself might be interested in exploring some ancillary uses of the satisfaction surveys you’re collecting. Or maybe you’re just now considering how you could utilize even more facets of gathering this data. In that vein, I want to take a moment to discuss how veterinary practices can use their customer reviews to identify potential customer advocates.


What is a customer advocate?


If you’re not already familiar with the term ‘customer advocate,’ you can certainly guess at what it entails. A heavily cited statistic from a 2012 study by the Wharton School of Business sums up a common dilemma: 83% of satisfied customers say they are willing to refer products or services, however only 29% ultimately do. (Cohn, 2015) Enter customer advocates. You hand-select satisfied customers, cultivate their loyalty, and harness their enthusiasm to your benefit.


Why do you need customer advocates?


Customer advocates are going to help you bring in referrals. Clients who find your practice through word-of-mouth recommendations are by far and away your most valuable patron acquisitions. “An analysis of almost 10,000 accounts over a 33-month period showed that those referred by other customers generate higher profit margins, are more loyal and show a higher customer lifetime value (CLV).” (Schmitt, Skiera, & Bulte, 2011) Through the power of social media and instant electronic communication, seekers of all kinds of products and services are accustomed to starting their search by reaching out via their preferred social media outlets. Your customer advocates are going to be all over those inquiries.


How do you develop customer advocates?

1. Read your client reviews.


If a survey-taker cared enough to write a flattering comment about their experience, reach back out to that client. Make a simple phone call or send a personal email to express how much their feedback was appreciated. Use the follow-up as an opportunity to ask them if they would be willing to refer you to their local community of friends and family, if given the opportunity. If the answer is yes, a customer advocate relationship has been created.

2. Court your advocates.


These individuals can be your brand ambassadors, if you play your cards right. An article in the Harvard Business Review quotes, “If you want to develop a customer as a reference, know everything you can about them. And then know everything you can about your important prospects too.” (Lee, 2013) Find out what your customer advocates want and cross reference that with what you’re willing to offer. Incentivizing their participation makes it much more likely. (Cohn, 2015) For Client A, incentive is a free night of dog boarding for every client they refer, but Client B wants 15% off their next purchase of diabetic cat food after each referral. The more individualized service you can afford your customer advocates, the more excited they will be to send those referrals your way. A service-oriented incentive should also be extended to the referred client; each referral is thus a win-win-win situation.

3. Get more than just referrals.


Some clients’ enthusiasm can barely be contained. When I was an assistant, we had a client who brought her 17 year-old pug into the clinic twice a day, everyday, for two weeks to have his ears cleaned and medicated. He was a handful, and it was a messy, two-person job, even for those of us experienced in administering the treatment. As you might imagine, by the time her dog’s ear infection cleared up, the client was practically family. When customers really love what you do, they may even offer to support you in creative ways like organizing fundraisers for patients in need, or offering affiliations with their own businesses. On a smaller scale, you can feature your customer advocate’s pet’s story on your website, or ask them to expand their review narrative so that you may feature it in your next newsletter. In addition to making insightful suggestions on how to exceed their expectations of your service, your customer advocates can also act as a sounding board for potential promotions or planned improvements.


There’s no cap on the potential benefits that customer advocate relationships can produce for all parties involved, and your customer surveys can simplify the task of finding those individuals.


Works Cited

Cohn, C. (2015, November 23). How To Make Customers The Best Advocates For Your Company. Retrieved October 10, 2016

Lee, B. (2013, May 22). How to Create True Customer Advocates. Retrieved October 10, 2016

Schmitt, Philipp; Skiera, Bernd; Van den Bulte, Christophe (2011), “Referral Programs and Customer Value,” Journal of Marketing, Vol. 75 (January), pp. 46 – 59.



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