Getting back to basics…

Published by Rachel Hunnybun on

Shoe_boxRecently I ordered two pairs of shoes from an online retailer. There was a problem on the order confirmation and so I had to call the company to sort the issue out. In that ten minute phone call I felt valued, welcomed as a new customer, found out some great things about the company which really appealed to me. The call left me feeling really great – I had a fantastic customer experience.

Two days later the ‘next day delivery’ shoes arrived, but there was only one pair and not the two that I had ordered. I logged into my account and the second pair of shoes were in some sort of ‘pending’ limbo on the order status. Apparently the system couldn’t cope. When the shoes finally arrived that great customer experience was a distant memory.

There is a point here, and it’s not about shoes!

Supporter Experience is about more than just wow moments…

Supporter Experience has finally got its long overdue time in the spotlight. But great supporter experience isn’t just about the wow moments. Creating wonderful experiences is a fantastic thing to do, but if we’re not getting the basics right – the things our supporters expect us to be able to do – wow moments are a waste of time. And there’s a scientific reason why.

Disappointed faceGetting the basics wrong is more damaging than getting the wow moment’s right…

Our brains place expectation on everything that we do, sometimes from past experience, but where we don’t have a past experience to refer to, we make a reasonable assumption. So in the case of the shoes, whilst I hadn’t purchased from the company before, from past online purchasing experience I had a reasonable expectation that both pairs of shoes I ordered would be delivered pretty much on time.

When those expectations are exceeded, the brain releases dopamine (a happy chemical), but when what we expect isn’t delivered, we feel disappointment. No dopamine and instead the brain disrupts the flow of serotonin (another happy chemical).

Research has shown that the emotions associated with bad service e.g. disappointment, anger and irritation can last significantly longer than emotions we would associate with great wow moments – feelings of surprise, being touched and gratitude.

So delivering what our supporters expect is absolutely crucial for a good experience.

How much of our sector attrition is simply down to inefficiency?

Technical DifficultyRecently in the UK we’ve seen Concern in the headlines for direct debit errors. A few weeks ago a friend received a letter from another large charity telling her that the donation she gave at Christmas hadn’t been processed due to a technical difficulty and they would be taking it now (in March – it took between December and March to write to her!). I’ve blogged in the past about charities taking weeks to respond to supporter contact. It frustrates me that after all the effort put into attracting new supporters, it’s the absolute basics that can let us down.

With new ways of giving and the fast paced consumer world constantly increasing expectation, the next generation of supporters are less forgiving, more impatient, demanding and expect a high quality of service. It represent a real challenge to the sector, but only in so much as our often ‘shoestring’ budgets for admin, IT and supporter care simply won’t cut it.

Webforms that don’t work, clunky processes, insufficient supporter care teams, errors on letters, delays in follow up, difficulty in getting in touch, inefficient social media etc etc are all things that frustrate, disappoint and contribute to a poor supporter experience.
Doing things in the cheapest way is not the same as doing things in the most cost effective way, so adequate investment in supporter care should be at the top of every single Supporter Experience strategy. Because if we continue our obsession with saving money on administration costs we could find it’s costing us far more than we think in the long term.

Research: Motivation and Emotion by Phillippe Verduyn & Saskia Lavrijsen via Psyblog

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Rachel Hunnybun

Rachel Hunnybun is a Fundraising Consultant at Blakely Inc. She has worked at a senior level in individual giving at a number of charities in the UK, is a commissioner on the Commission for Donor Experience and often can be found speaking at national and international fundraising conferences.


Simone Joyaux · May 17, 2016 at 16:03

Love this, Rachel! Imagine that WOW experiences have two components.
— Continuous quality improvement. Steady goes the shop. Efficiency and effectiveness. Never anxious to call that company or connect with that NGO. Because you know the connection will always be consistent and steady and and and …
So wow = the usual. Damn good.
— And then the glitzy wow. The unusual and special wow. And you laugh. The burst of awesome wowness that’s the extra dessert at the always yummy dinner.


    Rachel Hunnybun · May 17, 2016 at 20:09

    Thanks Simone, that’s exactly it, and consistency is a really under rated measurable but so so important. I’ll take a consistently good restaurant any day of the week over something that’s hit and miss! Two levels of wow, yes,I like that idea a lot!

Jason O'Dwyer · May 18, 2016 at 10:34

Thanks Rachel. As always an insightful piece on the what should be recognised as the bread and butter of most organisations.

    Rachel Hunnybun · May 18, 2016 at 14:55

    Thanks Jason! Hope all is good with you! :-)

      Jason O'Dwyer · May 19, 2016 at 14:33

      All good Rachel – hope you are too. I’ve just been waxing lyrical about you to my newest team member.

Scott Swedenburg · May 18, 2016 at 13:48

I agree with you in one sense. It’s how you describe WOW. I’m constantly working with our clients to help them create WOWs for their donors.

However, a WOW can be a heartfelt, personal thank you received within a few days of the gift. Because many nonprofits do such a poor job of caring for their donors, the little things are start to WOW experiences.

Thank you for making us think.

    Rachel Hunnybun · May 18, 2016 at 22:39

    Hi Scott, thanks for you comment – good point and one that links nicely with Simone’s. Perhaps it’s all about expectation and we should be setting a level of really high donor care as the ;norm’ and aiming for the WOW to be way beyond that?

zebraprintbabyshowerinvitations · October 9, 2016 at 12:06

Interesting, I assumed "she" was I guess steak is just a masculine food!

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