You would laugh to see my wife and I curl up in bed at night. She with her People magazine and “chic lit” (her words, not mine) and me reading something about sales or corporate branding. It’s funny how much our tastes in literature diverge.
So the latest page flipper I’ve finished is called I Love You More Than My Dog by Jeanne Bliss. Being the father of a yellow lab myself, I must admit that I was immediately hooked by the title. Jeanne does a tremendous job outlining five simple decisions that every business has to make if it has any shot in hell of becoming beloved by consumers.
Previous books I’ve enjoyed along the same thread include Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh and Start Something That Matters by Tom’s Shoes owner, Blake Mycoskie. I’ve always admired companies who are grounded in passion and break the mold of typical industry norms. That’s why Jeanne’s 5 Decisions are so validating.
As any business owner begins to self-examine the company you’ve started, it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re doing a tremendous job building a loyal following. But it’s when we take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror that we begin to discover whether what we’ve created has stayed true to our core DNA.
You can try hard at becoming a beloved and revered company whose customers sing your praises, but if it’s not reflective of you as a REAL person then you’re fighting an uphill battle. Consumers are too smart and educated these days to fall for the phoniness that may have once worked in gaining market share.
So let’s take a quick look at Jeanne’s five decisions. This is my version (think Cliff Notes here) but I highly recommend you read the entire book.
#1) Do You Decide To Believe? ~ Believe in your customers, believe in goodness, and believe in trust? Or have you grown so cynical that you tend to think the worst of people, especially when there’s conflict? Is your company able to bare itself to customers and trust that an open and honest relationship will ultimately grow your business? What this first question really boils down to is having faith in humanity. Beloved companies believe in people and are rewarded with customer loyalty.
#2) Do You Decide With Clarity Of Purpose? ~ Does everyone in your company not only understand their job description, but know why they do what they do? What are the inner values that your company was founded on and how are they being carried out today? For instance, in just the three short years I’ve been a solopreneur I’ve managed to forget my path more than a handful of times. It’s when I stop to reflect on who I am and who I serve that I’m reminded why I’m in business for myself. I know my company’s vibe and Jeanne challenges you to examine yours. If you’re not making decisions that are true to your own personal values then you’ve got a long way to go before customers will ever love you.
#3) Do You Decide To Be Real? ~ This one is my absolute favorites of the bunch because it’s just so true. From your web copy, to your social media interactions, to your email correspondence and in-person connections, you’ve got to be real, Daddio. When you see a customer are you focusing on dollar signs or is there genuine respect? I once heard that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, would leave an empty seat next to him at executive meetings. When someone finally asked why he left a seat in reserve he responded “That’s our customer.” True story or not, it makes a good point as to how strongly Jeff felt about his customer and how he probably used this empty chair as a constant reminder to make decisions on his or her behalf. Wouldn’t it be great if every business owner left a seat open for their clientele at every planning meeting? I wonder how that would effect the decisions we make. Beloved companies think this way… do you?
#4) Do You Decide To Be There For Customers? ~ Ask yourself this; what heroic acts of kindness do you deliver your customers? Are you going the extra mile to, just as Zappos does, “Deliver WOW through service?” Jeanne doesn’t mention Ritz Carlton much in her book but this is another company to mimic when thinking in terms of being there for customers. Every day, across the world, Ritz Carleton employees meet in the morning to recognize, discuss, and foster excellence in customer service. Part of these meetings includes telling Wow Stories which are true stories of excellent customer service within the company. Now this tradition alone has got to put Ritz on the list of top companies who earn repeat business by being there for customers. For me, ‘being there’ for clients means finishing the job and delivering a quality product. I admit that early in my career I often under-estimated the time it would take to finish a project and thus under-bid the job. I never complained and always finished the work. The reward for me was a wealth of positive word-of-mouth for my business and me as a person of character. I’d like to think that I’m beloved by my clients for the mere reason that I’m there for them, come what may.
#5) Do You Decide To Say “Sorry”? (And How?) ~ This is a tough one for a lot of people. Society seems to have trained us to believe that apologizing somehow translates into “losing.” The idea that saying you’re sorry means you have to give up something is in reality a short-sided view of the situation. Go ahead, put yourself in your customer’s shoes for a moment. How would it make you feel to have the owner of the business genuinely apologize for a mistake and claim the blame as well? Wouldn’t you actually have more respect and more admiration for the person and that business as a result? Wouldn’t the likelihood that you’d return to that business and speak highly about the way they treat customers increase after such an interaction? Of course it would! At the end of it all we are just people dealing with people and it is the human side of our interactions that matter most. Jeanne and I actually tweeted back-n-forth a few days ago about her book and its affect on me. It was so nice to know that she’s a real person who actually cares about her readers. I try to be the same for my customers and I’m sure you do too. Beloved companies treat apology as a zero-sum engagement (i.e. no winner, no loser) and make their apologies proactively, sincerely, and with whole heart.
So take a look at your business and see how the answers to these five decisions tell the story of who you are and what your company stands for. If you don’t like the answer then it might be time to make some changes. Your culture and how your customers view your business are greatly affected by the decisions you make. I just hope yours are genuine… and REAL.
>>>> Follow Jeanne on Twitter: @JeanneBliss
>>>> Follow me on Twitter: @ColomarkMedia