Valentine's Day is just around the corner. It's fun to go into stores and see the shelves stacked with shiny red hearts, yummy chocolates and cards that express love in so many different ways. What's even more fun is knowing that this celebration of love goes all the way back to 5th century Rome. Some ideas just have staying power.
Love for instance. While we don't usually talk about it much in business, it's one of the main reasons people stay with a company - they feel cared about! I just have to listen to some of the language I hear in my own backyard to understand the role love has in business. In the past week or so I've noticed the following things being said. "I love dealing with them - their service is great" "I love that restaurant" "I love my car!" "I love my hairdresser" "I love the food there" "I love that website" "I love that class; I go back as often as I can." "I loved that movie." "I love my job."
Pay attention to all the expressions of love you hear in the next week or two. Then think about whether or not the expressions of LOVE mean additional business for the establishment they're meant to describe.
Will we go back to the printer that we love dealing with - you bet! Will we return to restaurant that we love - yes -! Will we spread the name of the hairdresser, the movie and the websites we love to more people - you can bet on it! Will the love that they create in the marketplace pay off? Oh Yes. In my book "Building Customer Loyalty" one of the 21 Essential Elements, the last one, and perhaps the most important, is Devotion.
Devotion is the feeling or showing of great caring, commitment and loyalty to the customer. It's dedication, it's enthusiasm - it's LOVE! When you create a business a customer loves coming back to, they come back and they bring friends. They say nice things and experience joy when they interact with you.
Some companies have it - many don't. Jeanne Bliss's new book "I Love You More Than My Dog" tells the stories of companies like Wegmans and Harley and The Container Store, companies that are beloved by their customers. The forward of the book is by Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines and the afterword by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Need I say more? Click on the picture of the book to the right of this column and RUSH to buy the book at Amazon, one of the beloved companies cited in her book. I promise, you'll LOVE it.
Do something nice for your customers Valentines Day (and everyday.) Spread the love, spread the joy.
Here is our suggestion for a Valentine that will last throughout the year.
Value - When was the last time you took a close-up look at the value you offer to customers and employees? When was the last time you and your team discussed new ways of adding value to the customer experience? It's a great time to do it now. Value is at the heart of loyal customer relationships and profits. Create value for your customers every day in every way. Ask everyone, "How did you create value today?" List the many ways.
Attention - In a world where most people are multitasking, make it your business to pay 100% attention to your customers, what they are saying, how they are feeling and what they need. Pay attention to your people - their needs for involvement and to make genuine contributions to your organization. Giving someone your full attention is one of the best ways there is to tell them you care.
Love - That's right, love! It makes the world go 'round, even in business. Love in business is about your devotion to the well being of you customers, your staff and yourself. It's all about your caring. And it's common sense; customers and employees are more likely to give you their loyalty if they feel cared about. Customers today (especially today) are saying "Show me the love!" Go ahead - show it to them!
Energy - Pour your energy and enthusiasm into everything you do. Customers love to do business with people with a "can do" and upbeat attitude. Co-workers love to be in environments where everyone pitches in, rolls up their sleeves, and gets the job done - without whining or groaning. Become a more positive leader. Don't know how - call me, I specialize in teaching positive leadership.
Nurture your relationships with all your stakeholders. This group includes customers, co-workers, your manager, suppliers, stockholders, the community in which your organization is located and even others in your industry. Make sure you're always doing your best, and be constantly on the lookout for ways to build trust, show respect, communicate with kindness, and to nourish and grow them.
Touch people's hearts before you expect them to reach for their wallets. Loyalty is an emotional attachment. Since customers are usually emotionally attached to their money, you'd better be able to meet both their business and emotional needs.
Integrity - Be able to define it, know what it means and what it looks like to you personally and to your organization. Have it, be it, demonstrate it - consistently. We are suffering painfully from a lack of integrity in today's world. Stand out from the crowd and live your values.
New Ideas - Industries and technology and communications are changing faster than you can say, "Google." If you want to be able to anticipate customer needs, and to provide them with fresh ideas and new solutions you need to think not only outside the box, but also as if the box never existed in the first place. If you value new ideas, you have to show that you do by making time for your team to brainstorm. New, exciting ideas are an important part of what long term professional relationships thrive on these days.
Exquisite - If you want to stand out in the crowded, competitive business world today, the experiences you create for customers and staff have to be more than satisfactory - they've got to be exquisite! After all, employees who receive exquisite care from management are more likely to deliver exquisite customer care.
Have a Happy Valentines Day and remember - We Love YOU!