07/07/14

“Sledgehammers” for Loyalty

The two strongest ways to endear yourself to a customer are to help them over a fear, or to make them feel better about themselves. Today, more strongly than ever before, these two realities are your highest voltage power tools for driving a continually vibrant top line.

But this approach to endearment in not yet a popular idea among many business owners. Or engineers. Because it’s right brain thinking. Not all logical and neatly measurable. And because it’s contrary to nearly everything that’s made them successful in the past.

But societal patterns and cultural norms are changing. Fast. With the combination of immediate access to everything we want to know, and with the realities of our “new normal” global economy, business as usual is passing away.   And in its wake, the specific attributes of what people buy are becoming less meaningful in their purchase decisions, than the experiences they have in buying it.

So, what does this mean for the person in The Job At The Top?

It means rethinking every aspect of your business according to new standards. Sure, you’ve got to continue offering great products and services. But no longer are those sufficient. Wrapped around what you sell needs to be your obsession with what it feels like to do business with you. Whether you help them over their fears. Or to feel better about themselves.

This means new focal points for your attentions. Sure, you still need to be forcefully committed to the competitive specifics of your offerings. And to be on the constant alert for something better to offer. But other things only indirectly related to what you actually sell — like your interest in helping your customers over a hidden fear, or making them feel better about themselves — have likely slipped into the rationales that are compelling them to frequent your door. Or, someone else’s.

Ever find yourself wondering why your customer base and your top line have eroded? Even though you’ve added new items and services, increased marketing and lowered prices. Despite the economic situation, most of the customers you’ve lost still are buying from someone. And the likelihood is high that they’ve gone to someone who’s attuned to the emotional content of the relationship more specifically and better than you.

As an example, my own choice of dry cleaner has nothing to do with the quality or the price of cleaning. To me, it’s all about the same.

But it has everything to do with the counter person remembering my name. With a cup of fresh, high quality coffee at the ready. Without my asking for it. A pleasant place to sit and chat about town issues. With an owner who’s well informed. With a zeal to rush a job, and deliver to my home, when I need it. A business that my friends support.   And that supports charities I admire. If those aspects of what it feels like to be a customer changed, so would I.

Add in to your time thinking alone, three days a week, how you can make your business as important to your customers as Patriot Cleaners is to me.

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About the author

Dick Cross
Dick Cross

Dick Cross is the founder and Managing Principal of The Cross Partnership III, a twenty-year-old, Boston-based, “hands-on” consulting and turn-around firm focused on improving the operating and financial performance of businesses owned by financial sponsors. Over the past decade, Dick has served as an interim President/CEO, leading successful business transitions in eight companies over the past twelve years.

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