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Business Insights for Women
PNC INSIGHTS Magazine Spring/Summer 2014 Issue
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Author Jeanne Bliss describes how top brands engender deep affection among consumers.

Some companies seem to earn more than just their customers' business--they earn their genuine affection, which translates into repeat business and consumer evangelism. But what is it about companies as different as Zappos and Apple that makes them so beloved? Jeanne Bliss, a former customer leadership executive for Lands' End, Coldwell Banker, Allstate, Microsoft and Mazda Motor of America, attempts to answer that question in her book, I Love You More Than My Dog: Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

True to her title, Bliss boils the formula down to the five things brands can do to win their customers' affection:

  1. Decide to believe in your customer and your employees. Bliss explains that those inside and outside extraordinary companies conduct business by putting the customer's needs and convenience first. For example, Zappos has both a generous return policy and free two-way shipping--and the company gives front-line employees latitude to solve customer problems, thereby making a human connection.
  2. Decide with clarity of purpose. Make sure your mission statement is so engrained in your culture that it drives decisions large and small. Bliss's most compelling example is Johnson & Johnson, which might not have responded as heroically to the Tylenol poisoning crisis in the early 1980s if CEO James Burke hadn't made a conscious decision to recommit to the company's then-40-year-old credo--which describes responsibilities to consumers and medical professionals, employees and communities as being ahead of the responsibility to stockholders--a few years earlier.
  3. Decide to be real. In Bliss's terms, "being real" means replicating the quirky individuality of a mom-and-pop business. The approach of USAA insurance, which caters to military service members and their families, is one she likes. During orientation, the company's new employees try on combat helmets and heavy backpacks and eat MREs (meals ready to eat) to better understand their customers' experiences.
  4. Decide to be there. Beyond being reliable, Bliss suggests that companies focus wholeheartedly on meeting their customers' expectations in meaningful and memorable ways. The tech firm Rackspace does a great job of this, according to Bliss. Through customer-centric teams capable of resolving just about any issue that arises without passing the buck, Rackspace strives to give its customers--IT managers at major companie--peace of mind with "fanatical support."
  5. Decide to say "sorry." Throughout the book, Bliss describes companies that have earned their great relationships with customers by simply apologizing and righting the wrong after the inevitable error occurs. At Southwest Airlines, for example, executives meet each morning to review snafus that took place the day before and issue apologies quickly thereafter--often saying "sorry" to customers who haven't even complained yet!

Fallible, quirky and authentic, the human factor is what drives customer loyalty, says Bliss. Through numerous real life examples, she challenges her readers to elevate the humanity in their own organizations to turn customers into fans.

 


 

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