6 Ways to Move Your Customers from Fan to Advocate

A male business owner provides great customer service to a male customer in a brightly lit shoe and hat storefront.

Almost 95% of small business customers will change their buying behavior—whether it's spending more or recommending a business to others—after a positive customer service experience. The challenge for small businesses is to create those moments that inspire customers to tell their stories to others.

Here are six ways that you can take ordinary small business customer service experiences and kick them up a notch in a way that will surprise and delight a customer, thereby turning a "fan" into an "advocate."

1. Make Them a Fan: Solve Their Problem

Make them an advocate: Refer them to another business that has a solution you don’t offer.

Customers who get what they need from you are satisfied. But if you want to show clients that you really understand their pain point, you'll go that extra step and connect them with someone who provides something you don’t.

For example, maybe you're sold out of the very item they need to finish a complicated plumbing project. Locating the part at the store across town means you might miss the sale today, but virtually ensures they will become devoted for life: They'll know that you care beyond just making a short-term sale.

2. Make Them a Fan: Provide Impeccable On-time Delivery Service

Make them an advocate: Throw in something extra they didn't order.

Sure, everyone appreciates reliable service—and it's table stakes to keep them coming back to you for more. But it's the unanticipated perk that will pique their interest.

If you're an e-commerce merchant, maybe you wrap their item in fancy paper or throw in a few stickers or a complimentary item as a bonus gift. For a regular customer, you might give an occasional discount or cover their shipping.

3. Make Them a Fan: Shout-out Their Business on Social Media

Make them an advocate: Tout their business through a case study that you use to market you both.

In this era of likes and shares, help raise your clients' profile by forwarding their content to your own followers. But an even better way to cement your partnership is to suggest a joint case study that tells their business's story while also highlighting your work together.

Invite them to share their experience and then do the legwork of having a piece created that they can use in their own marketing outreach. You might even jointly send it to a trade publication in their industry to get additional traction.

4. Make Them a Fan: Take Them to Lunch or Otherwise Entertain Them

Make them an advocate: Host an event specifically designed to help them network with potential clients.

Spending time with customers is one of the best ways to solidify your partnership, as it gives you valuable insight into both their personal and professional lives. But why not take that relationship-building a step further and connect them with your contacts who might be a perfect fit?

For example, if you sell marketing services to a commercial real estate company, they might benefit from meeting your other clients, who might be looking for office space. Bringing together a wide variety of colleagues in different industries provides an easy but powerful way to contribute to everyone’s network.

5. Make Them a Fan: Send Them a Survey About Their Experience

Make them an advocate: Invite them to give input on a new product or service as "VIPs."

Who doesn't want to feel their opinion is valued? Inviting feedback from a select group of your best clients also gives you a window into what they most want from your company, which can help you serve them even better. But in the meantime, you've elevated their stature and confirmed their importance to your company.

6. Make Them a Fan: Thank Them Every Time They Leave Your Store, or in a Follow-up Email

Make them an advocate: Mail them a personalized note.

There are no more powerful words than "thank you." It doesn't matter how you express them, such as verbalizing it or sending an email, but one way that can increasingly make a difference is through a truly personal touch: the handwritten thank you note. Think about how few most people receive and the positive and lasting impression it will make.

We all like to feel special, and going the extra mile for your customers is the best way to turn an ordinary, pleasant interaction into one they'll remember and share.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, Member FDIC.