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.

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.

Do your passwords put you at risk?

SplashData's fifth annual "Worst Passwords List" report shows people continue to be at risk.  “123456” and “password” again top the list!   “Football” is more popular then “Baseball” and “Dragon” beats “Monkey”.  New, common passwords in 2015 included “welcome”, “princess”, and “starwars”.  “12345678” and “123456789” are both high on the list but not necessarily more secure than the top worst password of “123456” as they are based on the same simple pattern.  Makes you wonder about password choices! So what should you do?  Some simple recommendations from SplashData and others include using a minimum of 8 characters and make sure you mix letters, numbers, and special characters.  Don’t use common words or phrases, even if spelled backwards, and do not use the same password everywhere. If discovered once you are at risk everywhere else it’s used.  Don’t share your passwords, don’t save them to your browser.  Even today it’s still worth repeating those basics.  Finally, consider using a password manager which can save and generate secure passwords for you.

How secure are your passwords?

Do all companies need to differentiate?

In  this post from Gartner, Hank Barnes makes an interesting case.  Do you need to differentiate from your competition?  He contends that in some cases that’s not at all necessary.  Particularly for leading, established vendors.  Those vendors can be ‘good enough’.   He contends if products are ‘good enough’ differences don’t matter and customers will embrace known leaders.  He describes this as neutralizing vs. differentiation.  Do you agree?  The post, and some of the comments, discuss the implications this has for innovation.  Interesting read.

September: National Preparedness Month

During September, National Preparedness Month, we all need to take action to ready ourselves for whatever the future may bring.  Whether natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes or other situations, disaster can hit at any time.  This is a perfect month to  take proactive steps to prepare which could include signing up for local alerts, assembling supplies, checking insurance coverage, planning for emergency communications, reviewing the security of your data, or even conducting drills.  September 30 is America's PrepareAthon!, a day for action planning for emergencies.  If you have more to do to ensure a robust emergency plan take steps on the 30th.  www.ready.gov and https://community.fema.gov/about are just two of the many sites full of helpful resources and ideas. Earthquakes are the natural disaster we prepare for.  10:20 am on Oct 20 is the Great ShakeOut.  Visit shakeout.org if you are in an earthquake prone area to learn more about the event and related resources.

Pokémon Go has benefits for us

Pokeman Go
Pokeman Go

You’ve probably heard of it.  Pokémon Go is all the rage.  For those of you not familiar with it, the game allows players to interact with virtual Pokémon as if they are in the real environment. When you find one, the game opens up your phone's camera and you flick a Poké Ball toward the creature to capture it. The game has added billions, yes billions, of dollars to Nintendo’s valuation. It’s not without controversy.  Intent on the game, people have fallen or walked into things.  There has been criticism of the use of certain graveyards and memorials as part of the game, and even reports of crime as people were lured with the thought of Pokémon and then robbed.

For us it has been beneficial.  The game gets people up and walking and if you know Referential you know we value health and encourage exercise.  The part of our team that usually walks the least is now up and about at lunch and breaks.  Not only are they getting steps, they are having fun together.  And those of us who don’t play are enjoying it.  We’re learning the lingo and watching the friendly competition as folks move through the stages.  Who knew a game would have such impact on health and camaraderie!

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, a global event that celebrates women and recognizes their accomplishments in the political, social, economic, and cultural spheres, while also advocating for increased women’s rights and gender equality. I’m proud of Referential’s female staff members, this year I’d like to highlight:

  • Kristy Ward, COO, works tirelessly to ensure that our company runs smoothly, efficiently and delivers optimal impact for our clients.
  • Lynn Watts, Senior Reference Manager, has been with us for 20+ years and continues to ‘go the extra mile’ day in day out to ensure that everyone has the best experience.
  • Regina Dawkins, Reference Manager, is devoted to customer satisfaction and puts in a tremendous effort to train our newer members of staff to meet and exceed our standards of delivery.
  • Alexandra Zaniewski, Communications Specialist, juggles multiple different customer communities to ensure customers receive the latest information from our clients and get highlighted for their acts of advocacy.
  • Diana Mueller, Reference Manager, forges ahead with engaging customers in the DACH region by connecting with them in German; her success stems from her ability to align with them and having a clear understanding of the culture.

I appreciate our diversity and celebrate having these ladies in our company. Thank you!

We're Sponsoring the Summit on Customer Engagement

We’re again sponsoring the Summit on Customer Engagement.  The event is back at the Sofitel Hotel in Redwood City, California.   We’ll see you February 25-26, 2014! The event is for everyone active in customer reference and advocacy.  If you’re new to the field you’ll have access to experts through formal presentations and informal discussion sessions.  Even the experts will learn something new.   The workshops often provide tools and forms that you can put to use right away.  The summit also provides perspectives from experts in related fields such as social media, advisory boards and councils, demand generation, and other topics customer reference program managers need to be informed about.  It’s a great opportunity to meet others in the field and share ideas.

We hope to see you there, make sure to stop by our display.  For more information on the event itself see www.customerreferenceforum.com