Another business lesson taken from everyday life: brand loyalty (or love) is earned, not bought. This sweet video of a man surprising his girlfriend by shaving his own hair after helping her shave hers because of alopecia is a great analogy of how to think about the actions of your business and the expectations you have for your customer’s reactions. The girlfriend’s expectations were very positive with the loving way her boyfriend was helping her shave her head, no doubt being very supportive through the process. Her expectations were met, and she was happy—just as we expect our customers to be from our business actions.
But when he unexpectedly starts shaving his own hair, she is completely blown away with emotion and love. My challenge to your business: what can your business do that might so completely blow away your customer’s expectations that it cements loyalty to your brand? Here are some examples that have happened in my lifetime.
Salesfloor Empowerment: When my four year old MacBook Pro motherboard decided to melt down, I took it to the Apple Store for repair. It took them two weeks to repair it which was an agonizingly long time for a CEO to be without his laptop. They finally fixed it, but I took it home the Wi-Fi now didn’t work. Arggghhh! I brought it back, complained to the lead guy on the sales floor. He apologized and took it in back to check it out. It turned out that the replacement motherboard was bad and I was facing another two week turnaround. Of course I was getting steamed…that was, until he came up to me with a brand new (not refurbished) MacBook Pro in the box and asked if a new $4,000 top of the line computer would be okay with me to replace my four year old model. I was stunned. Upon questioning, he told me that store employees were empowered to do whatever was necessary to make the customer happy if their repair was delayed by two weeks. Needless to say this has just reinforced my love of the Apple brand and products.
CSR Empowerment: I had some issue with my NetFlix billing long ago that raised my ire. The initial feedback from their customer support representative was not acceptable to me, so I asked to speak to his supervisor. The CSR assured me that he was empowered to take care of my problem to my satisfaction no matter what was necessary to resolve it, after which, he did. I was so pleasantly surprised with this twist that not only had my irritation gone away, I became a huge advocate for NetFlix as a company after that.
eTailer Lagniappe: Sometimes just bringing a smile to your customer’s face is enough to earn brand loyalty. A ‘lagniappe’ is a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase. I purchased a close-up lens for my iPhone from a now-defunct online reseller named PhotoJojo.com. Along with my purchase was a 10 cent toy dinosaur—presumably something for me to photograph with my new lens? A little perplexed, I looked at the packing slip which listed all of the items I had purchased and added one line item: “Rawr!” with a price of “$0.00.” This small and thoroughly frivolous lagniappe caused me to remember PhotoJojo forever and make many subsequent purchases.
The point is, how can you encourage thinking amongst your employees to not just meet customer expectations, but to wildly exceed them? It is by instilling this ethos within your company culture that you will earn brand loyalty, build brand value, and create a company that is memorable and beloved. This type of thinking is many times difficult to instill within company culture and requires a level of trust between employees and management that enables what seem like ‘crazy’ ideas to be proposed, tested, and adopted without 100% knowledge of their effectiveness beforehand. To facilitate this type of culture change, it helps to have an ‘agent provocateur’ from the outside to encourage participation in problem solving because they do not carry the same perception of negative judgement as someone would from the management chain above.