The Secret to Designing Surveys with Active Listening In Mind

Active listening: the practice of dedicating one's full attention to concentrating on, understanding, and remembering what another person has said. It is one thing to listen to, and then acknowledge what someone has told you, yet a wholly different experience to honestly hear what someone has said, understand their point of view, and remember their words with the original intent with which they were shared; this is what separates listeners from active listeners.

Many have dedicated great time and effort to perfecting the craft but how do you transform the skill into an actionable, measurable strategy that genuinely improves customer relationships and experience?

In an article by WayPoint Group, Dennis Dube, VP of Revenue Operations for Advance Local discussed his team's active listening strategy for strengthening customer relationships with Steve Bernstein, CEO and creator of TopBox. For their strategy, Dennis and his team identified key stages of the customer journey during which clients might need additional support from the company. They initiated a series of near-real-time surveys at these key stages to listen to their customers and learn about their experiences, collecting their feedback to efficiently assess the situation and provide the right type of support to prevent customer satisfaction from dwindling.

Though a thoughtful and useful strategy in and of itself, the real ingenuity in their approach is in how they design their process for feedback collection and analysis to wholeheartedly embody the practice of active listening.

Surveys would be great listening tools...if the the modern human was naturally inclined to dedicate precious hours of the day to rating the "ease-of-use of miscellaneous product feature x", and if it was possible to gleam comprehensive insights from a sub-set of survey respondents. In reality, leveraging surveys to improve customer experience and strengthen customer relationships can often be a challenge for two reasons: (1) Inspiring survey participation from customers is difficult in large part because the act of participating in the average survey can feel like sending a series of Likert scale responses out into the void with blind hope the universe will regurgitate something meaningful back, and (2) Yielding accurate results from a survey is not always possible when only a limited amount of survey respondents have participated.

Dennis was keenly aware of these challenges when designing his survey strategy and shared his thoughts on how to overcome them. "My big belief is that there's three primary drivers for why someone will or won't fill out a survey: fatigue, connection, and intention," said Dennis. Fatigue arises when surveys are too long and broad. Connection is determined by the pre-existing relationship the surveyor has with the survey respondent. Intention is all about the company's intention to not only understand the collected data but plan to enact change around the lessons learned. "When a customer knows there is purpose and intention in the survey, they feel that their response is time well spent."

With purpose, intent, personal connection and commitment to action, anyone can transform passive survey data collection into individual moments of active listening and meaningful engagement with their customers. How do you design surveys to actively listen to your customers?

Professional Development Made Easy with Online Training from Referential

You heard right folks - our online training has officially launched!

The curriculum for Referential's customer advocacy training was collaboratively created by a group of customer advocacy professionals with experience across a broad range of industries and an assortment of different types of advocacy programs. Our training teaches students how to think and act like an experienced customer advocacy practitioner and how to manage advocacy programs that empower both companies and customers to succeed.

In addition to our in-person training sessions, you can now register for a self-paced online learning experience. The topics covered in the online course and in-person class are identical but the overall learning experience varies across the different delivery formats.

The online training is provided through 10-30 minute video lessons to enable students to complete the course at their own convenience. Every lesson is followed by a comprehension quiz that reinforces the lesson's key takeaways and helps students prepare for ICCAP certification. Lessons also are accompanied by discussion boards where students and course facilitators engage in dialogue, ask questions of one another, and share tips and strategies from their own experience. In addition to video lessons and comprehension quizzes, the online training includes bonus lessons in which a cohort of customer advocacy experts share their advice and best practices for thriving in the discipline.

The in-person training is provided over the course of 1-3 days and is facilitated by an experienced, customer advocacy expert. In-person training is offered at Referential's San Jose headquarters and can be delivered any where around the world by request. We've traveled as close as Redwood City and as far as Rome to support and educate practitioners in the industry. In-person training participants have access to the course facilitator throughout the duration of the class and can ask questions or seek advice directly from the expert. They also have the benefit of being able to connect with and learn from other professionals attending the class.

Currently, our Level 1 training - Introduction to the Fundamentals of Customer Advocacy - is available online. This introductory course is a deep-dive into the principles that shape and define every customer advocacy program. The course provides students an opportunity to learn and apply the basic tools and strategies of advocate recruitment and reference request fulfillment. Topics covered include leveraging reference management systems to track and assess program performance, establishing processes for cross-functional collaboration to identify and recruit advocates, and refining communication strategies for a range of different customer audiences.  

Online courses for Level 2 and Level 3 are coming soon! You can learn more about the contents of each course and how to register for a training on our website:

Professional Development Resources for Customer Advocacy Marketers - Thoughts from Referential's Lillian Kann


Customer Advocacy is an exciting but often challenging component of the sales and marketing strategy. Nearly everyone understands the value of customer advocates, but often the difficulty lies in establishing core programs and then managing them effectively. With social media and the wealth of online information, customers are researching products and talking to advocates before engaging in a sales cycle, but how do advocacy practitioners stay ahead of this curve to ensure customer stories are positioned successfully? Hearing how other advocacy practitioners are staying current in the new world of advocacy marketing can be helpful; learning what’s working and what’s not from other professionals in the industry.

Since advocacy programs vary across a broad spectrum of maturity – some programs have extended teams of practitioners using all the latest tools, while other programs have one person wearing multiple hats – as an industry, we’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge about how to align marketing, sales, support and product teams to develop strategic customer stories and we’ve cultivated countless best practices for engaging customer champions and mitigating customer burnout. With larger teams there is greater opportunity for brainstorming and collaboration, but I believe all practitioners can gain value from connecting with their advocacy peers more frequently, and across company-silos. We have the potential to be one another’s best resources for tips on how to build and maintain buy in from leadership teams, tricks on how to ensure robust advocate pipelines with strong user adoption, tactics to streamline customer asset approval, and strategies to engage and build stronger customer communities.

While nothing can replace experience and strong customer-centric values, I see it becoming more and more beneficial for advocacy professionals to interact with advocacy-focused communities and exchange ideas with peers. Over the past ten years, the pool of advocacy resources has grown immensely with the emergence of advocacy publications, online professional groups on LinkedIn, professional certifications like those from the Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals, vendor conferences like AdvoCamp and the Summit on Customer Engagement that focus on customer marketing and advocacy topics, and in some regions, live meetups with advocacy peers.

The Boston area is fortunate to have a New England-based group of customer advocacy professionals - CAMP Boston - that coordinates regular live meetups where we discuss our experience in our respective roles, ongoing projects, marketing tools and technologies, as well as helpful tips that are invaluable no matter where you are in your program journey. There also is a Bay Area-based group - BACMAC - you may be interested in checking out if you're located in Northern California. BACMAC hosts a series of in-person and online meetings throughout the year.

As customer advocacy professionals, it is our passion that motivates us – and over the past ten years I’ve seen this passion help evolve the reference manager role into the customer advocacy profession. Sharing program success and best practices and collaborating with peers will help to continue the evolution of our industry, and the professional development of those within it. Check out the many resources that are available today!

Meet the Referential Team: Paula Kozak

After many years in different marketing roles at various high-tech companies, Paula found her “home" in her first reference management position while working at Sun Microsystems. This happened during a corporate reorganization when the Director asked her if she wanted to lead the new references team. To which she replied, “Sure!… What’s a reference?”

Paula headshot.jpg

Ten years later, she is often quoted as saying, “If there’s a better job in marketing, someone needs to tell me since I don’t know what that is – and I’ve done most of them!”

Paula finds customer advocacy so valuable and compelling, regardless of company, because references touch each leg of the marketing three-legged stool: lead generation, brand promotion and sales enablement.

What gets Paula up in the morning is the notion of being able to contribute every day to the company’s success. Today, as a Customer Advocacy Consultant with Referential, Inc., she is eager to continue to learn more about advocacy programs; collaborating with teammates across a wide array of advocacy programs, she is able to bring new thinking to her specific clients.

Mom to Christy and Katrina, wife to Anne with 4 grandkids and counting, Paula can be found hiking to the top of a mountain most weekends. Since she lives in New Hampshire, some people might call them ‘hills’ but with the kind of views she sees at the top, the debate over terminology doesn’t matter much to her: Paula’s goal is to climb the highest peak in each of the New England states!

A Summer of Long-Distance Teamwork


At Referential, the only thing stronger than our customer advocacy consulting might be our adaptability to our ever-evolving workforce. Since the start of the summer, we've welcomed four new members to the team, expanding our presence across the east and west coasts of the U.S.. These new additions diversify the various time zones our team occupies, ensuring that we can connect with our clients' customers no matter where they reside in the world.

With about half our team local at our San Jose, California-headquarters and the other half remote, not a day goes by in the Referential office without a lively video chat or phone call between colleagues. Our phone system makes it easy to connect with anyone on the team via extension numbers and Skype is one of the first applications to launch on every employee's computer each morning to ensure no one is ever more than a quick message away. Our bi-monthly team meetings bring the whole office together over video call, where the faces of our multinational Referential comrades adorn the projector screen in our board room while sharing updates from their various corners of the world.

Though our satellite offices continue to multiply, the day-to-day workflow at Referential remains relatively unchanged. Our skill nurturing customer advocates and managing advocacy programs, however, continues to grow and improve with the addition of each new team member. Leveraging the collective experience of customer advocacy professionals who have contributed to advocacy programs of every shape and size has only improved our ability to support the variety of needs of our clients. We're excited to incorporate all the strategies and best-practices our newest employees bring into our consulting services and customer advocacy training. Hope you have a chance to meet and work with our growing team!

Making Better Marketing Decisions

Data has come to define how strategy is crafted and how decisions are made in almost every aspect of business operations. That is, everything except the creative part of marketing according to Dan Gingiss, a Forbes contributor and customer experience keynote speaker and consultant. In his article, "Why Subjective Marketing Decisions Can Lead To A Poor Customer Experience", Gingiss contends that most aspects of a company, from accounting departments to product development teams, would never default to relying on one individual's opinion to make wide-reaching decisions for the company. Yet, creative decisions in marketing often boil down to the executive choice of a single person making their best educated guess about what will work best. The marketing team can then go on to test the individual's hypothesis and iterate around the results to uncover the best communication strategy, but this subjective decision on what to test is rarely efficient or as effective as a more nuanced approach could be.

The problem, Gingiss argues, is not that individuals tasked with these decisions think and operate in a bubble; on the contrary, their decisions are often informed by emerging market research. Rather, Gingiss states that this market research too often focuses on what the customer thinks, and doesn't contextualize that data with what the customer actually does (he cites the fallibility of projected election polling results as prime example of the potential dissonance between how an individual thinks and acts). Customer surveys and focus groups are incredible insights into the consumer psyche that should not be taken for granted, but also should not be considered in a vacuum without any attention to how those customers decide to act.

Ultimately, Gingiss suggests that creative marketers invest more time into understanding why their approaches work, as these insights are more likely to align with how a customer acts. He recommends using advanced analytic tools like multivariate testing and experimental design to create marketing campaigns, which will demonstrate not only what works, but why different aspects of your approach are effective on the audience you are trying to reach.

To Remote, or Not to Remote, That is the Question - Thoughts from Referential's Barb Leavy


I recently read an article proposing that remote workers are outperforming traditional office workers and it made me reflect on the difference between the two work environments.

As a remote employee for the last several years, preceded by working in a traditional office environment for nearly twice as much time, I certainly have experience in both, so it got me thinking: Do I miss being in an office?…Yes, sometimes; Do I enjoy the short commute, not to mention the casual dress attire of working from a home office…absolutely!

While reflecting on the joys and challenges of telecommuting, I started to wonder if being remote or physically in an office changes an employee’s productivity level. How many of us, no matter where we work, still check and respond to emails in the evening, plan what we need to accomplish tomorrow while eating dinner, or reflect on what we did not accomplish during the day while laying in bed at night?

One could certainly argue that an office environment invites more collaboration and thus productivity, but with current technology it is very easy to connect with your co-workers even if they are not just a cubicle away. As for distractions, there are countless ways to lose focus in both office and home environments, from casual, meandering conversations with coworkers that run longer than expected while in the office to pet dogs that vocalize their need to go out every hour when working from home.

Personally, when I worked in an office, I felt disrupted more often. When I work from home, I often realize all of the sudden that it is 2:00 pm and I haven’t had lunch yet! When I finally get around to that meal, it usually consists of a mouse in one hand and a sandwich in another and as someone once said to me, just make sure you don’t mistake one for the other! The environment that helps an employee focus will differ from individual to individual. Reflecting on your own personal work habits (and willingness to adapt them) can help you determine whether working remotely will impact your productivity level.

Many people ask me, “how do you do it…I could never work from home!” I will agree that being a remote employee is certainly an adjustment and that transitioning from a traditional work environment may not be for everyone. Working remotely is like a long-distance relationship, it can be difficult at first but over time it can be very successful. You just need to keep in mind, just like maintaining that long-distance relationship, that working remotely takes a great amount of dedication, focus and commitment. As much as possible, keep to a schedule (just like you would if you were going to an office), do try to take short breaks when you can and at some point, shut down that laptop and try to enjoy your home as your home and not as your office!

The one thing I can say for sure, when you work from home…you never come home from work!

The Dos and Don'ts of B2B Influencer Marketing

Much of the marketing industry is confidently familiar with, if not incredibly well-versed in, influencer marketing. The home-grown celebrity touting praise for trending products is present in the social feeds of countless, and their reach and power to persuade has gone unnoticed by few.

Beyond increasing brand authenticity and building trust with consumers, influencers offer a solution to some of the most notable digital marketing challenges and opportunities today. With tweaks and adjustments to social media algorithms, brands are experiencing a noticeable dip in their organic reach across popular platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. The rising cost of digital advertising and increasing use of ad blockers also have added barriers to the communication flow between brands and their buyers. Influencers create a new path to communicate and connect with consumers despite these digital advertising challenges.

Though many have come to understand influencers through the lens of B2C marketing, in his CMO's Guide to B2B Influencer Marketing, Lee Odden suggests that the B2B marketplace has an opportunity to improve upon the strategy of engaging influencers and to reap the same benefits of their consumer-facing counterparts.

In the Guide, Odden highlights challenges B2C influencer marketing is confronting as pitfalls for B2B marketing professionals to avoid. He urges B2B marketers to stay mindful of cultivating a culture of opportunistic influencers. In the B2C space, concerns surrounding influencer legitimacy and the authenticity of their networks has diminished the perceived value of insights shared by genuine influencers.

To support a better culture in B2B influencer marketing, Odden advises against treating your influencers as a mere advertising distribution channel or approaching your relationships with influencers as transactional engagements. Influencer marketing should be a collaborative endeavor, with companies investing time and energy into helping influencers pursue their personal goals, just as influencers are helping companies achieve theirs.

Clarifying key differences between B2C and B2B influencer marketing, Odden explains that longer sales journeys, larger purchase decisions and decision-making committees that consist of more than one person change the way B2B marketers should collaboratively create content with their influencers. He emphasizes the subject matter expertise of B2B influencers as a key skill set to leverage in influencer marketing. Understanding this unique value B2B influencers bring to the table should also inform how B2B marketers strategize returning value to their influencers. An ideal way to structure relationships between B2B influencers and the brands they support is to position B2B influencer marketing as an opportunity to raise awareness among a brand's and a B2B influencer's mutual audience.

As Odden said in his Guide, “Pay an influencer and they’ll be your friend for the day. Help someone become more influential and they’ll be an advocate and friend for life.” B2B influencer marketing abounds with opportunity if you know the mistakes to avoid and best practices to abide by. Lee Odden's CMO's Guide to B2B Influencer Marketing is a great place to start learning.

What Exactly is Advocate Marketing? - Thoughts from Referential's Ryan Quackenbush


Dudley Field Malone, someone you don’t need to know anything about, once said that one good analogy is worth three hours of discussion; I think many of us probably had a professor or two in school that could have benefited from this approach.

Along the line of analogies, if you’re like me, you’re always looking for a brief, simple way to explain otherwise complicated topics. I struggled with this in my past, working for highly complicated cloud-native software organizations, when my Grandmother would ask me what my companies did. “We work in computers, Gram,” I’d say.

The conversations would inevitably turn to a topic she was more interested about anyway: me, her loving grandson. She’d ask me something like “what exactly do you do?” My response, of course, is that I worked in advocate and customer-centric marketing. It’s at this point that I’m sure you’re picturing my loving grandmother’s eyes glazing over with confusion. You wouldn’t be wrong. If you tell someone you work in marketing, they generally understand what you do. But if you add the modifier “customer advocacy” to the term, suddenly, it’s like you’re speaking in Greek.

“What exactly is advocate marketing, Ryan?” She’d ask me.

Truth be told, it’s pretty simple.

“Think about it this, way, Gram,” I’d say. “I’ll give you a few different scenarios. Let’s say there’s a brand-new restaurant that opened up across town. You’re reading the Sunday paper, and in the middle of an article you’re reading is an ad that says ‘New Restaurant- best steaks!’ You kind of register that, you might check it out sometime.”

She nods, and I move on.

“Ok, second scenario - you’re watching the hockey game tonight,” (true fact: my gram loves watching hockey, but doesn’t care about teams), “and during a commercial break, an ad comes on for this new restaurant. They take you inside, show you food being put on tables, maybe the owner says ‘Come on down’ or something to that effect, and it’s over, and you sit through a few more minutes of ads before the game comes back on.”

Once again, she nods, patiently waiting for me to get to the point.

“Last scenario - Aunt Phil calls you, or I do, or your old co-worker Gene. Or maybe someone next to you in line sees the paper you’re reading, recognizes the steakhouse in the ad and says to you ‘Oh, I’ve been there - I really enjoyed the food they provide!’ I ask you this - which of those three scenarios is going to make you that much more interested in going to the new steakhouse?”

My grandmother responds that obviously the third, as familiarity with the product and personal experience is much more valuable than simply reading or seeing an ad.

“That, gram, is pretty much what I do!”

Advocacy is about building relationships, establishing trust, and enabling your existing customer base to get out and market – or advocate – for you, on your behalf. Most times, it’s a bit more strategic than a stranger looking over your shoulder in a checkout line.

At Referential Inc., we take our collective experience as a team to build our clients fully fledged reference and advocacy programs from the ground up. My restaurant analogy doesn’t take into account overseeing program goals, providing detailed reports and metrics or implementing launch plans, but at Referential Inc., expertise in these and other core aspects of advocacy program management drive our approach and service delivery.

At the end of my analogy, my grandmother responded by stating that it “sounds like what you do is very important to the company.”

An effective advocacy program truly is.

Customer Experience: A Bandwagon Worth Joining

Customer experience is on everyone's mind and for good reason. According to nearly three-quarters of the more than 8,000 consumers surveyed for Salesforce's third edition of the State of the Connected Customer report, an exceptional customer experience with one company raises their expectations of other companies.

Customer engagement infographic
Click to Enlarge Image

Today, experience with a company is as important to consumers as the quality of product or service they purchase from an organization. In the age of consumer empowerment, customers' new-found agency in the marketplace is driving a demand for ethical, trustworthy brands that build customer relationships founded on personalization, timeliness and connectivity.

The key takeaways from the report revealed that those organizations that excel at customer experience are proactive about customer needs and interests; they anticipate when a consumer might be interested in trying a new product version or be in need of assistance and deliver support before the customer asks for it. They also meet their customers where they are, offering a variety of ways for consumers to connect with a company through platforms like phone support, social media, websites and smartphone apps.

Lastly, organizations meeting the customer experience expectation listen to their consumers, document those interactions and share them broadly across the organization so that no matter which department a customer engages with, they're always speaking to a company representative that has a complete, up-to-date record of the customer's relationship with the company.

How can companies deliver on the increasing customer experience expectations of consumers? One discovery the report made was that consumers expect companies to leverage emerging technology like AI to improve customer engagement.

For those eager to "hop on the customer experience bandwagon" and meet new expectations of consumers, implementing an innovative customer engagement strategy should be followed by careful measurement of the approach's success. In the report's key findings article, recommendations are made for evaluating the effectiveness of a customer experience strategy from a variety of vantage points.

For marketers, measuring client lifetime value can provide invaluable insight on how effectively you're engaging customers. Sales teams shouldn't forsake the value of tracking customer retention as it can often indicate how satisfied a consumer base is with their relationship with your company. From a company-wide perspective, analyzing the effectiveness of cross-functional collaboration can also be a key indicator of how well-positioned your organization is to deliver on today's customer experience expectation.

The report shares many thought provoking discoveries that are worth a read. Is customer experience top-of-mind for you and your team? How do you provide meaningful engagement to your customers?

A Foundation in Trust - Thoughts from Referential's Ryan Quackenbush

Advocacy is all about establishing and nurturing relationships. At Referential, we help our customers build trust and lasting engagements with their existing customer base in order to foster mutually beneficial interactions. Collectively, we have decades’ worth of experience on our team to determine the best course of action for any given situation.

It’s with this as the backdrop that I’d like to tell you a little bit about my first week working here.

Whenever you start a new job, there’s always a level of tension and nerves. You go over scenarios in your head, maybe shop for some new clothes to wear in the “business casual” office, and keep your fingers crossed that you get along with your co-workers. I’m based out of upstate New York, but I went over the above in detail as I flew across the country to San Jose for my first week at Referential, Inc. 

I arrived at the airport fairly early, and upon landing received a message from Helen, my new boss. The text was an enthusiastic “Welcome!” accompanied by a grinning picture of her and two other recently arrived remote employees.


It was the start to a truly immersive first-week experience, unlike any I’d ever been through before nor expect to partake in again. I sent along an appropriate and timely response:

Several other members of the global team and I were picked up by Helen and promptly whisked away to her home for the week – literally. After all, the best way to establish rapport and a relationship with someone is through close interaction; this week proved to be a quick study, in that regard.

Each evening, after working and commuting to the office together, our gracious hosts Helen and David prepared dinner for us, and we would gather around the dining room table to talk about


work and our lives away from Referential. We all speak the language of Customer Advocacy of course but very quickly reached common ground on topics that touched on family, art, music,sports and even politics.

After dessert, we’d move to the lounge for a glass of wine and a few laughs. Quickly, I came to enjoy this most of all, as those that began as strangers quickly became my friends and trusted associates. It also helps that, for the most part, they laughed at my jokes!

Advocacy is, again, all about the establishment and nurturing of a relationship. My hosts for the week certainly walk the walk, as the kinship I sensed between my new team was readily apparent to all. I look forward to learning more as a Referential employee, and I’m grateful to join a team equipped and enthusiastic about teaching.

Meet the Referential Team: Ryan Quackenbush

If you were to rewind the clock on Ryan Quackenbush, you’d find him jumping off stages at rock concerts and singing loudly in equally loud bands. Go back a bit further, and you’ll find a young – Keanu Reeves-looking – man aspiring to write the next great American novel while studying beatniks and black mountain poets and earning a degree in literature and creative writing from an Upstate New York (NY) college. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find an established Advocacy Consultant with a track record of success in the high-tech industry and experience that he draws upon to benefit his clients.

Taking the background as a stage performer with him today, Ryan has spoken at various tech and advocacy events on the programs he’s created. You’ll also find him on occasion attending advocacy-focused get-togethers in the New England area. He’s built internal advocacy programs for mid-sized startups, global enterprises, as well as global, open-sourced tech communities. His experience is varied, as is his approach.

Born in upstate NY, Ryan lives in the Albany, NY area with his wife and new daughter, Luna. He is gradually becoming accustomed to all the challenges that fatherhood provides; he admits, though, that yes everything is different but he’s genuinely surprised at how quickly he’s become used to everything being altered.

If you’re looking for a few fun facts about Ryan to breakout at a dinner party, he loves to cook, he feverishly roots for the NY Mets, he plays 5 instruments and has co-written and performed on over a dozen different albums. His vinyl collection boasts over 1300 records to date, his favorite book series is without a doubt Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, he’s a “big time space nerd” and, more than anything, he wants to stand on every continent before he dies.

Ryan loves a challenge and meeting new people; he joined Referential in May of 2019, having most recently come over from Oracle. Having the opportunity to learn from Helen and everyone at Referential, frankly, was too good an opportunity for him to pass up!

The Good Guys Triumph - Thoughts From Referential's David Feber

One of our primary goals as a champion of ‘all-things-advocacy’ is to make our clients, and in turn, their own clients, look like heroes. Creating award nominations – be it for a specific person, a product, or even for an entire company – is one of the most rewarding of the many advocacy-related activities Referential gets involved with. The task is all the more fulfilling when we have the opportunity of showcasing the achievements of someone that both really deserves to be recognized and who is just a great person to work with.

We had this experience with Dr. Stefan Lüders, the Chief Security Officer of CERN, the Geneva-based home of the Large Hadron Collider - the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator. Our team did an onsite video session with Stefan last year and was immediately taken with his expertise, personality and immensely pragmatic approach to securing the vast and complex CERN infrastructure. Fast-forward a few months, and we had the opportunity through one of our clients to select and nominate Stefan for the much-coveted SC Magazine “CISO of the Year” award…… and he won!

Dr. Stefan Lüders, the Chief Security Officer of CERN, accepting SC Magazine's CISO of the Year award.
Source: SC Magazine

The black-tie awards ceremony was held at a high-end London hotel, with the opening speech noting that this year’s nominations registered the highest scores ever, including many that would have won in any other year. Stefan beat out multiple high-profile CISOs from organizations such as FedEx, Legal & General and the UK's National Lottery.

The ceremony and the ensuing after-party really emphasized the magnitude of winning this highly prestigious industry title. Stefan’s reaction two days after the event? “I am still trying to recover!!!! What a thrill! I am deeply touched, grateful and honoured to be presented with this award!”

In typically modest fashion, Stefan added, “However, I do not claim this trophy for me, but for my team, my colleagues in the CERN IT department and throughout the organization, as well as all our external peers helping us to raise the security bar. In the end, ’security’ is all about team-work, no?”

In these times of somber news stories and escalating tensions around the world, it’s great to see the good guys winning! Congratulations again to Stefan!

The Team is in Town!

At the end of May, our San Jose headquarters were abuzz with various members from our worldwide team, including colleagues from our satellite office in Monterrey, the East Coast and England. The worldwide team gathered for a week of reflection, planning and team building -- a bi-annual tradition at Referential.

In between client meetings, cyber security training and catered lunches, the team partook in a variety of different activities, including a fruitful skills sharing session, celebrating the conclusion of our office wellness challenge, and developing curriculum for our online training courses.

During our skills share session, we discussed strategies for collaborating with sales teams and for making advocacy programs easily accessible to all internal departments. Our discussion also touched on how to foster meaningful customer relationships, deliver value at every touch point with a c-suite client and show appreciation and gratitude for advocates. The team drew on current and past experiences in the customer advocacy field to provide perspectives from a variety of different industries and types of advocacy programs, sharing an incredible breadth of insight and strategy with the group, which also is being leveraged to educate other customer advocacy practitioners through our training program.

We also celebrated the conclusion of our office wellness challenge by collectively reflecting on the initiative and holding a raffle for all who participated. We used Influitive's AdvocateHub to create an Experience comprised of a variety of health and wellness activities for our team to partake in. The entire group stepped up to the challenge, committing to weekly activities like trying out a new food plan, taking 10,000 steps everyday, volunteering for a charitable cause, and tackling home wellness projects such as updating fire safety equipment and donating items from a newly reorganized room.

"All-hands" weeks are invaluable to our worldwide team as they provide precious moments for our global workforce to gather in the same time zone to share account updates and best-practices, and connect with one another over lunch and coffee instead of video call or email. There are always new tactics and techniques to be shared with one another, as well as stories of triumph and learning.

We're looking forward to hosting worldwide team members at our San Jose headquarters again in November!

Verizon Creates a Campaign Based Entirely on Customer Stories

If you tuned into the Oscars in February or have since consumed your share of television commercials, you might have experienced Verizon's recent foray into the wonderful world of customer advocacy. In an ad series titled "Why they chose Verizon", the wireless network provider abandoned its cleverly comical, celebrity-studded approach to advertising to produce a collection of 30-second stories from real-life customers filmed in front of simple white backdrops.

As the half-minute ads play, the audience is introduced not to characters, but to people presenting as themselves, sharing stories from their lived experiences using Verizon's phone services. In one commercial, instead of being greeted with tantalizing statistics about quality of performance, we meet a husband who shares the story of how his phone provider enabled him to contact his wife in the middle of hurricane. In this moment, the audience gains an immediate and tangible understanding of the everyday value the wireless service provider returns to customers. It's a comforting, emotional moment that surely inspires Verizon customers in the audience to feel confident in their phone service while making others wonder what the "reliability" their provider touts means when it matters most.

Andrew McKechnie, Verizon's chief creative officer, shared in this interview: “The sentiment around the campaign is that these are real stories...As the stories come to life, it’s to show we have 130 million customers and they all have a reasons they chose us.”

The campaign is a compelling example of the different response a customer advocacy infused approach to marketing can elicit from an audience. Have you seen any recent commercials that leverage customer advocacy?

A Better Way to Ask for References

Strategic customer advocacy professionals approach customer advocacy as an opportunity to build relationships with customers, not simply ask for favors – an invaluable framework for asking for references shared in this SiriusDecisions blog.

The blog’s author, Amy Bills, teaches us that beforeapproaching customers for a reference, advocacy practitioners should take apause to consider the personal and professional motivations of customer advocates.The blog shares a great example of how leveraging customers’ motivations inrequests for references can morph a company-focused ask into a customer-focusedask that inspires action from advocates and nurtures more intimaterelationships with customers.

In the article, Bills also reminds us of the importance of ensuring program participation is simple for advocates. She shares how keeping in mind customer motivations and using them to structure acts of advocacy so that a customer can engage in those actions they are most interested in (and avoid laborious tasks like PowerPoint production) can improve customer interactions with your advocacy program.

Visit the blog for several other readily actionable tips for personalizing and enhancing your asks for references, and if you decide to put any into action, we’d love to hear about what you learn in the process!

Happy Monday!... Happy Tuesday!...

Jim 1

Jim 1

That was Jim Mooney’s signature greeting and a statement for his philosophy on customer satisfaction: He wanted very happy customers. The advocacy community lost a leader on Saturday when Jim succumbed to a respiratory infection and my heart goes out to his wife and sons, especially because he’d finally stepped out of the business to have more time to spend with them.I came to know Jim very well after the merger of Boulder Logic with RO Innovation, when we saw quite a few joint customers through database transitions: He was thoughtful; listening carefully and coming back with suggestions to keep the customers happy.While we didn’t always agree on everything and had our back-and-forths; I applauded his willingness to try to do right by his customers. He was appreciated and loved by many of them.

Goodbye my friend, you left us far too soon.

Small Businesses, Big Impact

happy-nsbwWe qualify as a small business, per the US Small Business Administration. Their definition of a small business varies by industry, based on NAICS code. For us it’s a business with revenues under $15,000,000. That actually sounds fairly big, but to put it in perspective small businesses with under 20 employees are nearly 90% of all US businesses.  More than half of Americans work for or own a small business and those companies create two thirds of new jobs in the US every year. We are doing our part - we are hiring! Nearly 10 million small businesses are woman owned, as is Referential.  This week is National Small Business Week in the US, give your business to small businesses this week - and every week! Smaller businesses are key to innovation and growth. Learn more here.

When in Rome....

Our managing partner, Helen Feber, recently spent a week in Rome. She joined a world wide meeting held by one of our clients, bringing customer advocacy expertise and focus to the event. Helen also taught one of our training classes, customized to meet specific needs of this client. After the training she then proctored a certification exam, the ICCAP Level 1 exam.  Referential is authorized to deliver training in support of the certifications offered by the Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals and to proctor the associated exams. It was a very busy week.IMG_2771Attentive students and a wonderful teacher led to a very high pass rate on the exam.  Congratulations to all the newly certified customer advocacy professionals!Of course one can’t spend a week in Rome without some fun!  Here's Helen as she was ready to cycle off on an adventure!Let us know if your organization is interested in customer advocacy training. We even have an ICCAP authorized training center at our site in San Jose California, should you not have a meeting in Rome scheduled!

Time Zones - Thoughts From Referential's Lynn Watts



Our days are governed by time, and the concept of time zones around the world can be quite daunting. If each time zone were 1 hour apart, there would be 24 in the world. But several time zones have only 30 and 45 minutes offsets, making the total number worldwide much higher, so there are 37 different time zones! With the Referential team being dispersed across several continents we have to be very mindful of the time when reaching out to our own team as well as customers. But with this spread, we can be productive and assist our clients across most of the 24hrs in any given day.I’m always a little edgy when sending out a meeting invite to a customer, have I calculated the time difference correctly? I think we have all experienced that oh so embarrassing event of phoning someone at some antisocial hour only to find they are stirring from a deep sleep to answer your call…once is enough and we will do all within our power to never have to go through that again!Have you ever had to arrange a meeting where there are several attendees, all in different countries? You know how confusing it is too, trying to align a time that works for everyone, and being respectful of trying to keep things within business hours, working out what are the business hours in that particular country, as much as one can. It can be a challenge!Also, throw into the mix the switch between Summer and Winter time. Some countries make changes before others, which means connecting with the rest of the world a little daunting! Your usual weekly meetings are not at the ‘usual’ times, and you either end up dialing frantically into a call, when prompted on Skype by a kindly colleague who notices you missing, or sitting on an empty line as you realize you are the only one who is 60 minutes too early!I use this great little tool, World Time Buddy – it has certainly proven to be my ‘buddy’ on a many an occasion!In a few weeks time, the whole Referential team will be getting together for our regular 6 monthly meeting at US head office in San Jose. It’s a chance for us all to be in one place, see each other face to face (rather than on webcam), brainstorm, bond and, for once, not have to think about time zones before reaching out. Its amazing, although we are spread far and wide around the globe, we never feel like there are thousands of miles and varying numbers of minutes between us.