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The great customer resignation

This weekend’s election shows that results don’t always meet expectations. Life has a way of delivering unexpected or disappointing outcomes. Think about giant Freddos that aren’t really that big after all, the miracle grapefruit diet that didn’t work or Bridgerton season 2 without the raunchy bits.

Edelman research shows that customers are expecting businesses to step up and take the lead on important societal issues. Many corporates have started to actively promote their credentials on environment, social and governance issues and some are taking meaningful action. Look at Coles’ Together to Zero ambitions and their goal to be 100% powered by renewable energy by June 2025. But what happens when the rhetoric is not matched by action? What does that mean for an organisation?

Staff and customers are demanding change. The great resignation after the height of the COVID pandemic showed that staff will no longer tolerate poor workplace practices or exploitative conditions. Customers are demanding to know the stance that brands are taking on social issues and looking for a social purpose positioning that they are proud to support. The next great crisis could be a credibility crisis if corporates don’t follow through on their promises.

Research by Gallup shows that if customers are disengaged and don’t believe that a corporate is delivering on its promises then it results in a 19% decline in business outcomes. Put simply, customers are walking. Like a toddler who’s been promised pizza for dinner and gets steamed broccoli instead, there’s a massive backlash.

We’ve talked about leveraging ESG to win partners. There is an opportunity for non-profits to actively support corporate partners to deliver on their ESG scores and social impact ambitions. When you’re opening up conversations with corporate prospects about how to solve their business issues, consider also the ones who are making public commitments about their social stance. How are they going? It’s one thing to put out some great content and messaging about social issues and another to deliver meaningful outcomes. That’s where your non-profit can help. Don’t assume that the ones who are talking about it the most have it all sorted. The risk for those corporates is even greater because they’ve raised customer expectations massively.

Consider also the risk of customer resignation for your own organisation. How are you delivering on the expectations of your donors and beneficiaries? Just because you may not need ESG scores for investors doesn’t mean that your key audiences aren’t giving you the same level of scrutiny as for corporates. You may have ambitious goals, but your own customers aren’t seeing much progress. How can you work more strategically with corporates to supercharge your mission and demonstrate that you’re worthy of their future support?

The great customer resignation is a big challenge and also a big opportunity. Your non-profit could be the solution to a corporate program that isn’t delivering on the scale or timeframe that customers want.  Corporates could try telling the customers they got it wrong and should be satisfied with the token things they’re doing (henceforth called The Frydenberg Method); or they could partner with your non-profit and start delivering on their promises.  Are you ready to help corporates embrace the opportunity?

Linda Garnett and Sharon Dann are Specialists in corporate partnerships consulting, coaching and training and foundation members of The Xfactor Collective.

Need help in your organisation? We run the sector’s first Specialist triage support service (our CONCIERGE) where we can help you find support from a range of services and solutions.

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