In Toy Story 4, they introduce a new character to the toys named Forky. Bonnie, the little girl who owns the toys now, made Forky out of garbage. He’s basically a spork that totters around on two feet made from a broken popsicle stick. The little girl, Bonnie, loves Forky and views him as a toy. So, though he is made from garbage, he becomes animated like all the other toys. Being made of garbage causes an immediate existential crisis for Forky that sets off the conflict of the whole movie.

Pixar has a series of shorts called “Forky Asks a Question,” where Forky asks basic questions about life, and the other toys attempt to answer them for him. In one, he asks, “What is a friend?” and in another, “What is money?” They are funny, in part, because Forky is so silly. Oh, Forky! Don’t you know anything? But the really, really hilarious thing about these shorts is how incredibly complicated it can be to try to answer such seemingly simple questions.

So, Forky asks a question: What is customer advocacy?

How do you answer Forky?

Do you say:

a) Customer advocacy is the foundation of Customer Success, wherein businesses put the customer experience first. This strategy involves tasking CS professionals with advocating for their customers’ needs across the entire customer lifecycle.


b) Customer advocacy is when a customer loves your business enough to tell the world how awesome you are by being references, writing testimonials, or referring others to do business with you. Companies use customer advocacy programs to harness the power of social proof by incentivizing loyal customers to sing your praises.

Now, Forky is confused. Which is the correct answer – a or b?

The answer is, of course, they are both right. The term “customer advocacy” is used in both contexts for two totally different things! No wonder Forky is confused. But it’s critical to understand both definitions of customer advocacy because they are both absolutely critical to Customer Success!

When you’re talking about your commitment to Customer Success

Customer Success is built on the premise that if you deliver value and take world-class care of your customers, they are more likely to stay loyal to you. We all know how it used to be before the rise of CS. Businesses would sell you something, you would now own that something, and that was it. Now that XaaS has taken over, businesses need to foster and grow relationships of mutual value with their customers to ensure their long-term success with your product or service. In many ways, Customer Success was born out of the need for better, more consistent internal customer advocacy. CSMs are the ultimate customer advocates, supporting their customers through onboarding, adoption, and beyond by acting as their customers’ voice to leaders and other internal teams.

In this context, customer advocacy is your ability to surface the needs and wants of customers to the people who really need to hear it. CS organizations who don’t regularly communicate with other departments, like Product or Support, will have a much harder time being good advocates. CS leaders need to learn how to advocate for their customers at a much higher level, up to and including the C-Suite. They need to find the most effective ways to communicate their ideas up the chain to ensure that everyone, company-wide, can understand and contribute to Customer Success’s mission.

When you’re talking about your turning your customers into advocates

If you consider that 76% of B2B buyers consult with three or more sources of advocacy before they make a purchase decision, you can see why customer advocacy programs are getting a lot of attention. In this context, customer advocacy comes from the customer side. You’re talking about customers who say nice things about your business on social media, write reviews about you online (five stars!), put their names and logo on a case study, and encourage others to sign up for your product or services.

CSMs have such close relationships with their customers that it’s usually a good idea for Customer Success to own the advocacy program. One of our recent webinars, The Path to Advocacy at Scale, dove deeper into the relationship between Customer Success and customer advocacy (and how to branch out to discover customer advocates in scaled or digital customer segments – check it out, it’s a hoot!). However, the reality may be that CS doesn’t own the program, and that’s okay. Sometimes, Marketing or Sales might. In that case, CS can help with their advocacy campaigns. After all, assisting other departments makes it easier to be advocates for our customers when the time comes, right?

And now we’ve come full circle. I hope that answers the question for you, Forky!