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Can Chatbots Improve Donor Experiences? [Podcast]

Our CEO Alice was recently interviewed on the Smart Communications Podcast, hosted by Big Duck, on what nonprofits can learn from the consumer marketing space. Listen to Alice talk everything from customer experience to chatbots to emerging payment methods [19 minutes].

Here's a short excerpt from the transcript:

Sarah Durham: So what is happening in the consumer marketing space [that is relevant to nonprofits]? How is it different as a consumer today than it used to be?

Alice Hendricks: I think the biggest thing that's happening is that brands are starting to realize that the customer has to be the center of all of their advertising, and their marketing and their outreach, and what that means in terms of how they staff their call centers, what they're using on their apps, their smartphone apps, their websites, their brand and store experience. All of that is very consciously putting the customer as the center and tracking all the information they possibly can on every interaction that customer has with their brand across all channels. Not just digital channels, but all channels. And that is becoming the expectation that customers have about how they want to interact with the brand.

When I call American Airlines to change my flight, they know what phone number I'm calling from, and the recorder voice says, "Hi Alice, we know you're flying from Miami to DC." I have that expectation of service now from almost every brand I interact with, and I get annoyed when it doesn't happen. The same thing is true for nonprofits. It's not as I change to a different person when I become a donor, it's that I want that nonprofit to know who I am, that I've shared things on Facebook, that I've taken certain actions, that I might be a mid-level donor. So if all of that is tracked in a database and then whenever I'm communicated with, it's relevant and timely and personalized to what my interests are and what relationship I've had with that organization, I become a much more effective donor and supporter.

Sarah Durham: One of the related aspects of this that I've been reading about and thinking about a lot is that in the for-profit world, the traditional way of marketing and advertising used to be you created a product or maybe a service and then you advertised it, you marketed it, but you didn't necessarily use that marketing or advertising to go back and refine the product. And I think what you're talking about in customer experience is using all that data on the individuals and how they interact with our products to make the customer experience better. That in many ways means moving the money that was spent on marketing into metrics and data analytics. And a lot of companies I think are actually reducing their advertising or marketing budgets in the for-profit world as they start to get into this much more personalized space.

One example, I was just reading about is Starbucks where if you use your Starbucks app and every day you show up, and you order your half-caff skim foam latte at eight o'clock, the data shows you're going to show up tomorrow and order that too, and they're going to have your drink ready, and they're going to greet you by your name as you walk in the door. That kind of highly personalized experience you're talking about hinges so heavily on the metrics and insights engine in the business informing the product engine of the business, but where are nonprofits with this. Is anybody thinking this way yet?

Alice Hendricks: Nonprofits don't really think of themselves as having a product center. In fact that is a trend in how nonprofits are organizing their staffing, is to have a product management department where they're looking at all of their software that they work with and how they're aggregating all of that data into some data engine so that they can run those analytics. It's true. Businesses are diverting a lot of marketing and ad spend into data analytics as well. And then there's entirely new roles in the corporate space. There's the CXO, the customer experience officer and nonprofits are not there yet, because their departments are still rather divided. You have the communications department not really talking to the development department, not talking to program, when all the information in one place is really how those strategies need to get built out.

Sarah Durham: I agree. I actually wrote a blog about the chief experience officer in the nonprofit sector and I'll link to that in the show notes with this podcast, but that is the opportunity I think for a communications person, is to recast themselves as the chief experience officer and merge those technology and data analytics insights into the customer experience. So there's an opportunity in the nonprofit sector for people to start thinking more about the donor experience or journey, the client experience, maybe the policymakers experience and to start shaping communications in a more experience-centric way. What kinds of tools or technologies do you think help a nonprofit to do that?

Alice Hendricks: I mean the obvious answer is to look toward what is being sold and bought in the corporate space. What is SoulCycle using for their email marketing? What is Home Depot using? What is L.L.Bean and Land's End using? These brands are tracking all of that information and sending you targeted, timely, relevant, personalized messages across whatever channels you consume in a really refined way. It's not really about the technology though. Though I like to think of technology as the car that you're driving. It's where you're driving to that matters. So that strategic approach in the beginning of looking at how are you going to be marketing and fundraising? What does that mean? Thinking in terms of your supporters and not just putting them in groups, but as individuals and what do those individuals need?

Want to continue? You'll find the full transcript and audio on the Smart Communications Podcast.

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