Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How to build customer loyalty.

Post 340 - "Customer" is derived from the Latin word custom, meaning a relationship built on faith over a long period of time. One of the things that Saturn did really well was to develop and retain customer loyalty. The company knew how to serve its customers the way they wanted to be served — simply. Policies and practices were based on a belief that trust, honesty, and respect were the ingredients for success in any relationship, including a relationship with its customers.

To truly understand its customers’ motivations and ultimately why they would or wouldn't buy its products, Saturn asked potential customers about their purchase experiences. With the purchase as the "end goal," they studied the steps the customers took to achieve that goal. They asked about their thought process as they took each step and the obstacles that got in their way. Understanding these answers helped to create products and services that real customers — not their demographic category — truly wanted. As a result, it inaugurated a no-dickering price negotiations policy.

People that bought Saturns made “pilgrimages” to its Smyrna factory, enjoying picnics and rallies with other owners. Saturn was creating brand-loyalty where “the experience” was more important to its buyers than getting a great deal off the sticker price of a car (in fact the marketing-of-loyalty was cheaper for Saturn than discounts and rebates). In an industry where the average customer loyalty rate hovered around 40% in the mid 90s, Saturn excelled at more than 60%.

I've found the payoff for customer focus holds true in every industry. For example, once, when Elvis Presley was a guest at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, he wanted a pool table in his room. He and his buddies wanted to be able to play any time they felt like it. The problem was it was Sunday evening and all the stores were closed. Jim Connelly was tired and ready to go home after a long weekend at work. But Elvis was a faithful client of the hotel and Connelly wanted to make sure he continued to be. At that time, as the hotel's general manager, he'd developed many friends and contacts in Beverly Hills. Through some connections he got the private telephone number of a pool table store-owner and told him he needed to rent a pool table for a week. He agreed and had the table delivered that night.

Elvis’ room was on the 10th floor and that was a big problem. Connolly gathered all the strong guys who were just leaving to go home, and lucky for him, they were very flexible that night as well. Through amazing feats of strength, slick maneuvers and much blood, sweat and tears, they delivered the pool table through a cramped service elevator to Presley's room that night. Elvis was very grateful and actually humbled by their efforts. Connolly could easily have told him that pool tables weren’t allowed in guest rooms or that all the stores were closed and he'd have to wait until tomorrow. But he knew that through this one big moment of being “flexible,” there would be great dividends to follow. The result was that not only did Elvis keep returning to the hotel, he referred countless others there as well.

Check what your Customer Promises and Commitments are (all stated in terms of outcomes):
* We’ll be friendly.
* We’ll be professional.
* W’ill be helpful.
* We’ll be proactive.
• Etc etc

Where are these written down? Are they visible? Does everyone know them? Can they repeat them if asked? Do you track how well they’re being followed? Are people held accountable for following them?

As Jim Rohn once observed: "If you make a sale, you can make a living. If you make an investment of time and good service in a customer, you can make a fortune

No comments: