One of my colleagues here at CNBC, Christina Cheddar Berk writes the fabulous Consumer Nation Blog and recently she posted, "Don't believe the drop in consumer confidence. Shoppers may be more willing to spend again soon."
Ho Ho Ho - looks like it's going to be a jolly season.
Christina says her sources tell her there are five reasons for the new optimism including the fact that foot traffic is up - shoppers are returning to their old favorites - and are discovering some new ones in the process.
So what are you doing to welcome those customers back — are you ready to show some love? That's the subject of today's Guest Author Blog.
Guest Author Blog: Do Your Customers Love You by Jeanne Bliss is the author of “I Love You More Than My Dog” Five Decisions that Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad."
Are customers saying they love you? If they do, it shows; they keep coming back, they recommend you to others, and they are happy to tell others how they feel about you. At yelp, epinions, twitter and hundreds of Web sites every day, customers who are treated well are unabashedly praising companies they, well, love.
“I'm in love with The Container Store - like I go out of my way to try and find a reason to need to go there.” (yelp.com)
“Umpqua Bank: They even love my dog there! I wouldn’t trust my money with anyone else.” (yahoolocal.com)
“In a way, doing business with CD Baby feels like hanging out with your best buddy. They just make you feel all warm and fuzzy.” (epinions.com)
“I drive out of my way for Chick-Fil-A.” (rateitall.com)
“Oh, Apple, how I love you. You snuck me into your Genius Bar despite being booked 'till the morrow.”(yelp.com)
“You might think that I’m kind of a funny creature, but I’m here to tell you that Customink rocks my world!” (technorati.com)
“I Love Netflix. They had a shipping problem on Monday. They didn’t make excuses or try to slide by. They fessed up.” (consumerist.com)
Beloved companies earn the right to their customers’ devotion by making five critical decisions that drive devoted customers and business growth.
1. They decide to BELIEVE. They believe their customers and they believe their employees. The suspend their cynicism and decide on purpose to trust their customers and employees.
For example: Beloved company Griffin Hospital wanted no secrets between themselves and their customers. The traditional approach of medical professionals delivering only select information was taking the power out of the hands of the patient and putting it into the hands of medical professionals. Griffin wanted to balance this lopsided relationship so they decided to make medical records available to patients and their families. Trusting patients with their own records increased patient belief in Griffin Hospital, and contributed to its growth.
2. They decide with CLARITY of purpose. In decision making they align to a clear purpose, to a clear promise, on how they will improve their customers’ lives.
For example: most guarantees put the monkey on the customer’s back to manage a countdown clock on product happiness. That’s because most guarantees have a limit on the amount of time customers have to return a product after its purchase, forcing a transaction-based relationship with customers. Beloved company Zane’s, who sells $13 million in bicycles and supplies from a single store, decided to instead guarantee the happiness of the customer relationship — throwing out the clock. The Zane’s guarantee says “We are going to live up to our promises, no matter what the timing, no matter what the product or service.”
3. They decide to BE REAL, by dropping the corporate veneer and by connecting in a personal way. They encourage their people to bring the best version of themselves to work.
For Example: Beloved company Trader Joe’s wants to be your neighborhood store—a place where people feel welcomed and want to have a personal relationship. That’s why they resisted the decision to install scanners as part of its checkout process for years. Why? Usually a “pinging” noise sounds as each item is scanned and they didn’t want that noise to interrupt the conversations at check-out. They didn’t want technology to limit personal connections. Even though their growing inventory mix eventually pushed them to concede to the technology, it wasn’t until they were absolutely sure the sound of the “ping” from the scanner wouldn’t interrupt the flow of conversation between cashier and customer.
4. They decide to BE THERE, basing their entire operation on customers input when they develop and deliver their products and services.
For example: beloved retailer Zara wants to get a product from idea to market in less than three weeks. This efficient process for bringing in new product is compelling for customers who constantly visit Zara stores. “Fast Fashion” is Zara’s pull: it means having and agility for listening to and responding to customer requests in the marketplace. An item requested by enough customers can be in its stores to accommodate that request within ten days.
5. They decide to SAY SORRY. When things go wrong, they are humble, contrite and they right the wrong.
For example: Netflix, the DVD-by-mail service with 10 million subscribers, experienced a severe technology glitch a few years ago that delayed shipping. Netflix confessed immediately and honestly on their Web site. They followed up with e-mails to make sure all customers heard the news – even to those who hadn’t even noticed the delay. Not only did they fess up, they extended an olive branch by applying a credit to customers on their next billing. New members got their free trials extended.
Do these decisions guide your business decision making on a daily basis? The proof is in the love notes they send: you can earn your customers’ business and become a beloved company by deciding how you will run yours.
Feeling Bullish? Check out these books:
- Think Like Einstein To Energize Your People
- Get Ahead by 'Borrowing Brilliance'
- Why Workers Behave Like Babies
- After The Layoffs — Healing the Wounds
- Impact!: What Every Woman Needs to Know to Go From Invisible to Invincible
Jeanne Bliss is the author of “I Love You More Than My Dog” Five Decisions that Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.
She learned firsthand about the customer bond while working as Chief Customer Officer at Lands’ End under founder Gary Comer.
She went on to hold the chief customer job at Allstate, Coldwell Banker, Microsoft and Mazda.
Now managing partner of Customer Bliss, Jeanne coaches leaders on how to wrap their company’s focus around customer profits.
She is a worldwide keynote speaker on sustaining the energy and effort required to keep pushing that customer rock up the hill.