Don’t Treat ‘em Mean

I don’t know which ‘genius’ first coined the phrase ‘treat ‘em mean to keep ‘em keen’ but it has never worked for me – dating or otherwise. In fact, I’m officially high maintenance and absolutely expect people to treat me right.

I recently booked a holiday to celebrate a birthday with a zero on the end – in other words ‘a big deal’. Combining dates and locations was tricky – in to one airport, out of another, three hotels, car hire and theme park tickets. While I could have done it myself, I thought the services of a well-known high street travel specialist would reduce the stress and ensure everything lined up from start to finish. And it worked.

While that shouldn’t be a surprise, I find increasingly that things rarely go to plan these days and the problem is often made worse when you can’t speak to a real person. On-line booking sites have no doubt revolutionised the travel industry. They are great – until something goes wrong. There were problems with my holiday plans but being able to meet and speak to a real person who took responsibility for sorting things out directly rather than transferring me to yet another virtual colleague (as is often the case) saved the day.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, two reasons really. Firstly, the customer experience was great and whether booking a holiday or supporting a charity, trust and loyalty is built when things work. Being responsive and doing what you say you are going to do when you promise should be fundraising basics, but it never ceases to amaze me when phones are not answered, messages are not passed on, donations are not thanked. Surely, getting these simple things right is a recipe for happy supporters and repeat ‘business’?  Clearly, things do go wrong from time to time but to me good supporter service comes down to how a problem is dealt with. I am not saying the customer (or donor) is always right, but putting yourself in their shoes is a useful starting point!

Secondly, it’s all about relationship. My holiday planner took time to listen to what I wanted out of my holiday. Not only the simple things like destinations and dates but how far I wanted to drive from the airport on my first day, how did I feel about hotels called ‘family friendly’, which of three options did I want for dropping the car off? As a result, I got what I wanted not what he wanted to sell.  And the charity parallel? How often do we try to get a donor to support a project because it’s your priority rather than offering them something that matches their motivations?

Fundraising is all about relationships. Understand what people want and provide them what they need is the secret and they will stay loyal. The holiday company I used will become my provider of choice and I rave about them to others. When I gave a good review, they even telephoned to thank me. Plenty of charities could learn….