7 Effective Tips For Better Customer Loyalty

The emotional bond of customer loyalty may not appear on your business’s bottom line, but ignore it and you’ll quickly see how important customer loyalty is to the survival of your organization.

7 Effective Tips For Better Customer Loyalty image customer experience understandingTo create better, more effective customer loyalty, your have to craft a customer experience that combines elements of physical, emotional, and transactional value for your customers.

Most business industries today really work in commodities. Your specific type of product or service, from your customer’s point of view, is less unique than you think it is.

Customers today are bombarded with options and are constantly being pitched by competitors to switch and save. With the high cost of customer acquisition in many industries, ongoing customer loyalty is critical for organizations to remain profitable.

7 Key Elements of Organizations With Massive Customer Loyalty

Generating the type of customer relationships and bonds with customers that keep customers engaged and loyal requires connecting with customers on an intellectual, emotional, or even a spiritual level that makes your customer experience more than just a typical transaction. In essence, the experience becomes more human interaction, than business necessity.

1. Be totally upfront about bad news

Customers crave transparency and reward organizations that are totally upfront in good times and bad. Buffer, an online social media sharing service that I highly recommend and use every day, recently had a security issue that compromised the sharing service for many of their customers. Rather than denying it took place, the Buffer team was totally honest and upfront, and most importantly timely in their response.

Rather than angry mobs the customer response was actually positive with encouraging words for the team as they worked on a fix. Buffer enjoys even stronger customer loyalty because of their transparency and emphasis on solving issues for their customers. Specifically look at how often the Buffer team updated customers during the situation and then the overall response of customers in the post comments.

2. Be generous with good news

One frequent frustration customers have is that companies are so quick to reward new customers and at the same time ignore existing, long time customers. Take cable and satellite service companies. Look at one of their ads and you’ll quickly see a long list of perks that you as a customer are clearly not getting, no matter how long you’ve been a customer.

Customers quickly become frustrated when they see the value of their purchase or service diminishing. Offering new and improved services for new customers but ignoring existing loyal customers is basically throwing away that loyalty you’ve worked so hard to build.

3. Personal means more than value (usually)

Your customers are human and they expect a human interaction, not a bland, generic one. A personal message on your customer’s birthday, in terms of customer loyalty can often mean much, much more than an extra 10% off sale on a holiday weekend. Customers still appreciate the value you offer them, but the emotional bond that really creates customer loyalty is more effective when customers feel and know that you are thinking about them on a personal level.

4. People are loyal to people, not corporations

No one has a relationship with corporate headquarters, computers, and office desks. But customers relate to and connect with the people who occupy and use those to drive your business forward. Remember that your customer loyalty often comes down to the relationships that your customers develop with the people they interact with from your business on a regular basis.

5. Customers have to be part of your organization’s DNA

Everyone can spot fake and cheap customer experience. Creating the type of experience your customers feel is genuine, begins with converting your entire organization to wanting to win the customer. If your organization is not on the same page, at some point of the experience, the emotion you’re trying to build will break down.

Your front line people may be fast, effective, and engaging, but if product development isn’t as obsessed with customers, the experience will feel disjointed and it’ll be difficult to develop the type of loyalty that keeps customers for the long run.

6. Compete only against yourself

Customer service today is in trouble. Customer service is so bad that we’re often delighted just when we receive mediocre service. With such a bad standard or service, competing against the rest of the bad customer service pack will keep you delivering average, mediocre customer service. Instead, forget about the competition and compete against yourself.

Be sure that you’re delivering what customers expect, then dream of how you can make what your customers are trying to do even better, fast, more efficient and effective. Your customers will validate the minor details of how things should work, but innovation has to come from your and your vision for developing a more complete customer experience.

7. Reward customer loyalty

It’s not only enough to offer value and function to your customers, but customers need to be recognized for their willingness to shut the door when competitors come knocking. Too many times feeling neglected is enough to send customers to the waiting arms of your competitors. Be on the prowl of customers doing right and be sure you recognize it.

My daughter’s school has a genius program to getting kids to act right and keep them acting right. She had “caught being good” cards. Teachers walk around with cards that they hand out to kids doing what is right, going the extra mile to do good to others and excel in what they should do. When they see a student going above an beyond, they reward them with a “caught being good” card that they can turn in for small prizes.

Do what is right!

It has to be personal, it has to be valuable, and it has to be meaningful. Discounts are not enough, especially in B2B where your customers aren’t spending their own money. Instead, reward continued business with special gifts or perks that go beyond just typical discount so that it rewards the person making the decision that rewards your business.

Customers want to be rewarded for doing what’s good for your business. Be good to your customers, no, really good to your customers and they’ll reward you with long-term customer loyalty and success.

Originally published in Business 2 Community

Study: Apple is no longer consumers’ favorite tech brand to deal with

Apple Customer Satisfaction Study

Apple had been a leader for several years in Forrester Research’s annual study on consumer electronics brand customer satisfaction, but the latest edition of the research firm’s survey marks a huge changing of the guard. The study gauges consumers’ satisfaction level with consumer electronics brands by posing three questions: 1) How enjoyable were they to do business with? 2) How easy were they to do business with? 3) How effective were they at meeting your needs? Amazon had topped the rankings in the three-year-old study for each of the first two years, and the company continued its streak in Forrester’s 2014 survey, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple secured the No. 2 spot in 2012 and 2013, but the company’s satisfaction score fell behind rivals Samsung, Microsoft and Sony this year.

forrester-customer-satisfaction-apple

The study surveyed 7,500 U.S. consumers and assigned a point value to satisfaction ratings for each question. The total scores were then tallied and compared.

According to WSJ’s report, Amazon handily topped rivals in Forrester’s 2014 study with a total score of 91. That’s a huge improvement from 2013′s score of 85, though 85 would still have been enough to lead the pack in 2014.

Sony’s score of 83 was good enough for the No. 2 spot, while Microsoft and Samsung shared the No. 3 position with a score of 82 points each. Apple rounded out the top-5 with a score of 81.

Forrester labels any score between 76 and 85 as “good,” while Amazon’s score of 91 pushes its rating to “excellent.”

Originally published in BGR

Cheerios, interracial marriages, and the wisdom of children

When a Cheerios internet commercial came out recently that featured an interracial family it was a test.  And as a society we failed.

It was a simple message.  Cheerios is heart healthy.  For those of you who have not seen it, there is a link below and a summary of the commercial as well.

A mother sits at her kitchen table writing when her daughter walks up with a box of Cheerios.

“Mom,” says the girl. “Yes, honey?” says mom. “Dad told me Cheerios is good for your heart. Is that true?”

Mom looks at the box, and answers that it says the whole-grain oats inside are “heart healthy.”

The commercial picks up with dad asleep on the couch.  He starts to wake up notices a pile of Cheerios on his chest covering where his heart is located.

The commercial sounds harmless enough and similar to other commercials aired in the past.  The difference in this commercial is that the mom is white, the dad is black and the daughter is biracial.  Disappointingly, the comment section had to be turned off due to the vitriol spouted by anonymous racists out on the internet.  While the overwhelming majority was supportive of the commercial, I can only say I was saddened by the strong reaction of a few.

We have a ways to go.  We struggle in our personal and work lives to be included.  The idea that every citizen and employee should be able to feel valued, heard and have a safe place and a space available to them is an important one. This is one of the reasons we have discrimination lawsuits and engagement levels are so low.  Those that spread hate make us all uncomfortable.

There is hope.  My faith was restored when I watch a follow-up to the commercial (link below).  When the commercial was shown to children not one of them could see anything wrong with the commercial.  To say that these children were confused, stunned, and shocked when told what the reaction to the commercial was and why is an understatement.    Here are some of their reactions:

“It’s just the color of their skin, what matters is if they’re nice or mean”

“I thought Martin Luther King spoke against this and fixed this already”

“Underneath it, you’re literally the same. You have organs and a heart.”

“Some people just fall in love like that.”

Leave it to the next generation to demonstrate the wisdom and caring that ours still needs to learn.  Hopefully, they can out beautify the ugly spouted by those still living in a past world that lacked the understanding and value of others that differed from them.  Hopefully the next generation will continue to make this world a more inclusive place where everyone has a safe place and a space to contribute.  Thank you for restoring my hope.

Engagement without Borders

Are You “Expanding the Territory” of Engagement at Your Workplace?Territory

In reaching out to employees and customers, organizations are realizing that engagement begins beyond their own walls. ClubCorp, which markets itself as the World Leader in Private Clubs and Resorts, introduced a concept to attract and retain members by appealing to their interests. The concept, “Clubs without Walls,” recognizes that the company’s members bring dreams and aspirations that go beyond services that can be provided in the Club environment.

Employees and others with whom we come in contact have dreams and aspirations they bring to the workplace, as well. In fact, these dreams and aspirations are an important part of making them “engagement ready,” motivated to create value through a spirit of teamwork. The success of these individuals in the work environment depends, to a large degree, on their sense of fulfillment and their recognition that their teammates care about their personal success, as well as their contributions in the workplace.

It would seem then, that our success in developing a spirit of engagement depends on our willingness to know our teammates as individuals, and to be willing to help them achieve their personal goals.

Recently, I read a story written by Bob Proctor, CEO of Life Success Productions, in which he described a conversation that illustrated this point. Bob had an employee, who in her previous career was a golf pro. In speaking with her about her work with his organization and her level of satisfaction there, Bob sensed an unusual degree of excitement when she described a program she had developed before she joined his company.

The employee had been arranging golf trips for women in small groups. Although the participants were given the opportunity to play golf with a pro and receive personal instruction about the game, it was not necessary or common for them to be expert golfers. Instead, the women took the opportunity to focus on the relaxation of this time, and the companionship with other members of the group. Many of these women followed up with one another and the golf pro after the trips, to maintain these relationships and describe the value they continued to receive from them.

Bob said this conversation helped him understand how he could be doing a better job with his own people. He believes business owners have an obligation to create an environment in which every person “grows as a human being and develops more of their potential, so they can truly become all they are meant to become.” He believes that to do this, every person must have a dream.

So, Bob decided to help his employee by encouraging her to continue with her program, and he supported her in doing so. He introduced his employee to others by saying,

“Kathy Gallagher is a beautiful person.  She is a good friend.  I feel very

fortunate being able to introduce you to her and to her Ladies Luxury Golf

Vacations.”

Bob felt that as long as his employee performed well in her work with his organization, there was no reason not to encourage her to continue in her interest in the golf trips. He found a way to create a win-win, by highlighting this interesting offering. In turn, he was able to share with others the professionalism of his staff, build employee morale, and create added value for his contacts.

How would you introduce your employees and teammates to others? Although the circumstances may be different, there is always a way to appreciate the dreams of employees, and help them fulfill them. This might come in the form of introductions, recognition, a bonus to help the employee succeed, or adjustments in their schedule, assignments, or professional development opportunities to help them fulfill these goals.

As you look at your fellow employees, customers, and other contacts in this way, your business can expand. The offerings of your company are shown as going “beyond the walls” to make a much greater and more positive impact.

To begin this process, ask yourself the following questions:

What are my dreams and ambitions?

What are those of my teammates?  My customers?

How can these interests and abilities be recognized in the team environment?

How can they create value, now and in the future?

How does sharing these dreams and ambitions help employees learn from, and support one another, in the work environment?

How are the gifts and interests of employees captured and included in the future planning for my company?

Employee Engagement Surveys…Junk?

Survey PictureBack in the 90’s employee engagement surveys became the rage.  Of course many of the surveys and the data were being collected in the 80’s.  One of the seminal studies was made famous by the Harvard Business Review demonstrating a connection between employee satisfaction and revenue/customer purchasing.  It was about Sears in their heyday.

While US organizations spend over $700 million attempting to strengthen employee engagement, most of it is spent on surveys that do not work and not on efforts that do.

The Journal for Quality and Participation says that in many cases you are wasting your money. “The dirty little secret of employee engagement surveys is that they’re largely junk science.”

There are a number of problems with these surveys.

  • The models were born in the 80’s and people still think they are relevant.
  • Benchmark data can lead you astray by comparing your organization to averages and organizations that are either not relevant or face different challenges.
  • Consulting firms provide recommendations that for problems that do not exist or have little impact.
  • Action planning, the way it is handled, does not promote engagement principles.
  • Organizations spend so much getting a picture of what their organization looks like from the survey, they invest little in actually impacting engagement.
  • Survey companies have difficultly offering practical advice or understanding their client’s business.

Live Strong Or Die Armstrong: Trust, Engagement, and the Impact of a Brand

“A little circle of trust.” You may remember this line from the popular movie, “Meet the Lance ArmstrongParents.” It is used to describe a wedding ring. The symbolism is that the individuals involved are encircled within a trusting relationship, with no beginning and no end.

Organizations and brands are expressions of a much larger, but just as important, circle of trust. When this trust is broken, many more people are affected. The ripple effect of the loss of this trust reaches people in obvious ways, and through extension, many more people in less obvious, but equally serious ways.

One recent and especially painful example of this is the events with Lance Armstrong, and their impact on his brand and the Live Strong ethic and programs. Lance is not the only, but only the most recent, icon to fall amidst charges of “serial cheating.” The trail of destruction begins with Lance himself. Recently, in a television interview, his confidence seemed superficial, and his body language showed him hiding his face behind his hand as he spoke.

We can view Lance himself as a victim in the loss of engagement and trust, through the mishandling of his talents, and the loss of a tremendous opportunity to make a lasting, positive impact in the world. He was robbed through his actions of the opportunity to know what he could truly have accomplished on his own, something so important to each of us.

Even more sadly, all the opportunity for good Lance created through his brand is at risk, as well. Live Strong, the symbol of his achievement and his overcoming of all odds in the face of illness, and those who most desperately depend on his inspiring story, are at risk. Financially, it is disastrous, but in human cost, even more so. In addition to his family, friends, business associates, and fans, other brands that depended on the promise of Live Strong and Lance’s talents are affected. These brands include those who sponsored Lance, and many others that were influenced by his fame, spirit, and the markets that were enhanced because of them.

We must not overlook the Tour de France event and organization, and the sport itself, that have been forever changed. Certainly, other participants will be affected by the response of the organization to these developments. Then, there are the contenders in the races Lance won. Those who trained with him, raced with him, and were inspired by him. Several individuals lost the opportunity to win the Tour de France fairly, and without scandal, because Lance’s actions stole that opportunity from them.

What does this say about engagement, trust, and the ability to make a difference? Clearly, trust and engagement are inseparable. Engagement thrives in an environment of trust, and can be destroyed when trust is absent or broken. This story reminds us, like so many stories before it, that each of us can make an impact. Even if we are not famous athletes, the impact of what we do reaches those closest to us, and others we may not consider in our actions. It has been said, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room!” Although it is an extreme example, this joke certainly holds true.

As we follow the story of Lance Armstrong, we do still seek to Live Strong. Perhaps this is the opportunity for redemption and benefit for all of us from his experience. We must rededicate ourselves to making good choices, remembering that what is built over a lifetime can be lost in a moment. We can consider our family, friends, colleagues, and our personal brand, as well as our corporate brand. What good can it do? What is its impact? Who is affected? How can we show trust and engagement, and encourage these qualities in others? How can we take this opportunity to ensure that our brand “Lives Strong?”

Embedded Engagement: It is a Process

We have discussed the ways in which building a culture of engagement in the workplace is like building a healthy home environment. One necessary component in this process is, well, process.

An organization dedicated to an engaged workplace will develop its processes in a way that supports this effort. It may seem odd to talk about processes when we are discussing culture, but when we think about it, isn’t this where the rubber really hits the road in an organization?

Everything is process in the workplace. Almost nothing gets done without it. And in this maze of competing processes lies one of the greatest opportunities for engagement to become lost, and never to be found again. There are even processes for shaping the processes.

Sadly, in the situations that provide the great opportunities for engagement, this opportunity is often overlooked or ignored. This is because these situations often involve urgent or unexpected developments.

They can lead to a reactionary response, designed to ensure secrecy and “hierarchical” behaviors. However, if the mission and culture of the organization are not being considered, and all employees who may create value included, the result may in fact not be responsive or confidential, because it will lead to further problems down the road.

Take, for example, two companies with urgent customer satisfaction issues. Both companies consider themselves to be dedicated to engagement, valuing the benefits of an engaged workplace to their organization.

However, the first company responds to the situation by bringing together a small group of individuals, on a “need to know” basis. The conversation in the room is mostly one-sided, and focused on gaining agreement, assigning blame, and protecting those not directly accountable from the incident being deflected toward them.

This process is being conducted quickly, so the organization can get back to its normal discussions, engagement practices, and celebration of those things that are going well. But does it really speak to engagement?

In the second company, a different approach is taken. There is sincere interest in not only solving the immediate customer problem, but creating a learning experience to ensure this customer, as well as others, have increased confidence in the company in the future.

Discussions include all employees who can contribute, and whose work impacts customers like this one. There is a dialog in which everyone is allowed to participate, and a solution is agreed upon and implemented.

Leadership is informed, the customer is made aware of the solution and the company’s commitment, and the developments are shared with all employees who support customer relationships. In this company, the problem is not likely to occur again, and if it does, employees will be better prepared to handle it.

This is one of the situations in which it is most important to “walk the talk” about engagement.

There are many other types of processes that should be examined to be sure they support the engagement effort. These include:

  • employee selection and on-boarding
  • employee development
  • performance reviews
  • strategic planning
  • budgeting
  • product launch
  • customer relationship management
  • project management
  • crisis management
  • community relations
  • media relations
  • meeting and event planning
  • employee recognition
  • employee surveys

In what ways does your organization design processes with engagement in mind? In what circumstances does this not happen? Do these circumstances usually have to do with unplanned or emergency situations? How can you better use these opportunities to create better results through the engagement of your employees?

The Engagement Culture

We have said that among the four things necessary to build engagement in the workplace are a mission and culture that support the behaviors associated with engagement. The specifics of the culture will be unique to each organization, but there will probably be some common ground among the organizations most successful in promoting engagement.

These organizations will have a strong mission that attracts and keeps dedicated employees. The mission will be carried out in an environment of trust that is supported by the organization’s culture. The culture will be applied throughout the organization by its leadership, making decisions that affect every aspect of the organization’s activity and the selection and development of its employees.

This sounds simple, but in truth, it will be challenged every day.  Although engaged employees will be more productive and lead the organization to greater success, protecting the engaged environment takes valued time and resources. It is not always the “short cut” to getting things done.

The culture of engagement requires effective and consistent communication.  Time must be taken to ensure that everyone understands priorities and has the information they need to be effective contributors. It also requires that individuals have the opportunity to respond, and that questions and suggestions can be applied to create maximum benefit.

In the engaged environment, an actual acceleration in productivity, as well as an increase in opportunities, will occur. It will be necessary to plan for this to ensure that opportunities can be met, and that the appropriate resources will be available to meet increasing customer expectations.

Staffing, processes and reporting structures may need to change in support of increased levels of engagement. As the organization becomes more responsive to opportunities and customer needs, it will become more dynamic and flexible.  This will provide for competitive advantage, but will require a transition from more “company centered” behaviors and planning. As individual employees feel comfortable making contributions, talents and interests not formally addressed in their job description will be discovered.  Changes will allow for the application of these talents in support of the company’s mission and the employee’s personal development.

Pay Checks Can’t Buy Passion

On September 18th, The Professional Development Center hosted a day of showcased training options for driving organizational change and improvement. Here is a presentation by PDC instructor, Brad Federman, entitled, “Paychecks Can’t Buy Passion: The Power of an Engaged Employee”.

Got Engagement?

Are you wondering where the engagement is in your organization? Do you feel your company is as good as many, with good employees, and yet somehow there seems to be no magic? Are you waiting for lightning to strike?

Engagement is indeed elusive for many organizations that on the surface seem to have all the right pieces in place. It is like leadership, character, and many other qualities so important to the success of any enterprise – you know it when you see it, but it is difficult to define, and even more difficult to capture. It is, as Jon Bon Jovi once said, like catching “lightning in a bottle.”

So, how do we get the lightning in the bottle? If we want to build and sustain an environment of engagement, where do we begin? How can we be sure that we will be successful, and not taking the wrong path, or wasting precious time and resources that will create no return?

The answer is simpler than we may think. The model is in our own homes.  If we want to have a successful home environment, we know that a house is not enough. The house must be transformed into a home through careful and deliberate effort, much as a workplace must be transformed into a place in which engagement can thrive. It does not happen with a memo or promotion in the workplace, any more than it will happen if we send a memo to our family members announcing that we will be a happy family.

Four key milestones will help move us in the right direction. First, we must think about the setting, and make the home as much as possible an environment that encourages the behavior that will help us to succeed. Is the neighborhood surrounding our home a place that encourages us? Are there neighbors and friends who can help? Is there a place for family members to come together within the home for meals, conversation, and to discuss needs and aspirations? Does everyone have the nourishment and resources they need to be successful each day? How can family members express their personality and interests within their own room, or some place in the home they consider to be their own?

These are all aspects of the home as a physical location that is important as a setting for engagement. It is the same with a workplace, and even in virtual work environments, efforts can be made to allow individuals to express themselves, interact meaningfully with others, and manage their own “space.”

Care should be taken to facilitate interaction, provide the proper resources to complete tasks, invite individualism, and provide positive and accessible places for individuals and teams to communicate, plan and celebrate success.

The second thing that is needed for a spirit of engagement to thrive is a sense of mission, and a culture in which individuals are brought together to accomplish the mission. In the family environment, the mission may include spiritual, intellectual, educational, financial and community goals. There is a sense of belonging to a larger whole, and an interest in supporting other families or groups in their mission, as well.

In the workplace, engaged individuals must feel they support a mission in which they believe, and goals to which they can contribute. There must be a shared culture, which becomes the foundation and reinforcement of the engagement process. This culture creates common ground in the setting of goals, development of processes, and response to situations that may arise internally, as well as with customers and other external contacts. It is a compass ensuring harmony and consistency in the running of the organization.

Third, an organization committed to an engaged culture requires processes that support the mission, and the engagement effort. In the family setting, this may mean regular family meetings in which each member plays a part, participation of each member in chores and other activities, and a group effort in celebrating holidays and special occasions.

In the work environment, it does little good to talk about engagement, if only a few members of the organization make most of the decisions, with no opportunity for contribution from other team members. Processes that encourage engagement provide opportunity for team discussions, contribution by all team members, creating of new opportunities for everyone, and meaningful recognition for success.

Fourth, the engaged organization requires employees selected for the value they bring to the culture of the organization. As the enthusiasm and contributions of family members are irreplaceable, so are the contributions of engaged team members in the workplace. The selection process must provide adequate information for candidates to understand expectations and be sure they wish to participate. Employees must receive opportunities for development that help them succeed as team members in the engaged environment. Recognition must emphasize the behaviors most valued by the organization, and must take into consideration the relationships that support them.

So, this is where we find engagement – we look around to be sure our surroundings, culture, processes, and teammates each play a vital role in ensuring we will build our “home” at work on a solid foundation.

What are your thoughts? Has your organization covered all of the bases with a committed and actionable plan? In what other ways are the answers, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” right at your own front door?