Through Your Client’s Eyes

While there are many commonalities between a typical retail experience and a nonprofit client’s experience, the differences are significant.  The differences have an impact on the ease with which clients achieve the desired outcomes.

The retail experience is usually transactional.  Focusing on the transaction and the client’s experience makes sense in retail.  Retail outlets have many competitors.  There are minimal differences between the products and services of two retail competitors.  The client’s satisfaction with the transaction often determines whether the client will return.  Each transaction has financial significance.  For those reasons, retailers carefully monitor a client’s satisfaction with each transaction.

The relationship between a nonprofit and its clients is a continuum of service dotted with transactional moments.  While many nonprofits have competitors, each nonprofit has the potential to provide unique outcomes. Though the transactions are important, it is outcomes that determine the nonprofit’s success, the nonprofit’s value to its community, the level of support a nonprofit receives from donors, and the impact the nonprofit has on the lives of its clients.  In addition, the outcome is the transformation that happens or should happen in the client’s life long after leaving the program. For nonprofits, what happens between the transactions is more important than what happens during a transaction.

For the retailer, client engagement is important to retaining the client and profit from the client.  For the nonprofit, client engagement is important to retaining the client, serving the client effectively, and achieving the desired outcomes.

The nonprofit client is on a transformational journey.  How the client experiences the transaction is important.  It is equally important to understand how the client perceives the world between transactions.  When you can see the world through your clients’ eyes, you can begin to understand how to meaningfully, measurably, and durably improve the processes, your clients’ transformations, and your clients’ interactions with the world.  In the cases where the clients’ caregivers are members of the family or are outside professionals (nurses, teachers, counselors, etc.) it is also important to see the world through the caregivers’ eyes.

Engaged clients can help you see the world through their eyes and the eyes of their caregivers.  You will also find that working with a client to see the world through the client’s eyes can be an effective way to start the engagement process.  In its simplest form, client engagement is ensuring that a client has a deep and meaningful relationship with your staff members and client caregivers your nonprofit provides.

Client satisfaction sustains the interaction with a client.  Client engagement is important to the success of your mission, staff, and clients.  Client satisfaction and engagement must receive equal attention.

Next Step:

Use client satisfaction to determine the quality of your transactional processes

Use your client’s success achieving the desired outcomes to determine the quality of your client engagement

Measure the depth and breadth of each client’s engagement

Teach your client services staff to see the world through the eyes of your clients and their caregivers

The success of your clients, the value of your nonprofit to your community, your nonprofit’s reputation, and your nonprofit’s sustainability depend on your clients’ outcomes.  Client engagement is an important tool for achieving the success you want for your mission and clients.

Take It Further:

Apply the same process to increase donor engagement

Educate your board about the differences between your nonprofit’s service delivery model and the typical retail process


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