In Praise of Predictability by Carl Sylvestre

A customer’s frame of mind

In the past few months, New Yorkers have been getting used to a great new service, courtesy of the New York City Transit Authority (every once in a while they surprise us). Most stations now have signs telling us the estimated arrival of the next train.

It is amazing how such a minor improvement has made my commute less stressful. I feel like I have better control of my time. Does this idea translate on how we communicate with our donors and subscribers? Will our relationship with them improve if we spend more time thinking of ways to make their interaction with us more predictable? Many organizations have been working towards that goal for years. For example, it is now standard practice to tell theatergoers the running time of a performance or the date of when to expect the next booking notification. Many membership programs have sustainer programs where contributors make contributions at regular intervals.

When dealing with customers or donors one way to build and grow a relationship is to think of ways and ideas that will be make their interaction with your organization easier. It is not just simply about what you want and need from them. It is about thinking about their needs and what you can do to make it easier to enhance and grow that relationship.

Effective stewardship has to take into account that some level of predictability is required. This process starts by always adding to your working plan an idea that will make life easier for the typical subscriber or donor. The action could be as simple as making the print larger on your letters/programs or by providing traffic alerts through social media. Some are big and some will be small, but over time these minor improvements add up to a culture of great customer care and that will go a long way towards building life long sustainers.

The path of building great organizations often begins with small steps. Learning to anticipate a customer’s needs and having some predictability in the relationship is one of them.