This Is True Customer Loyalty

Author

Shep Hyken, Contributor

April 17, 2015

One of the outcomes of building data-collecting computer chips into everything we use in life today is the rise of metrics. Management watches key metrics on dashboards that summarize every aspect of their business. Sometimes I think we risk drowning in an ocean of big data, and we would be wise to focus on some simpler, more basic metrics.

For example, the Net Promoter Score, which is a simple question that goes something like this:

On a scale of one to ten (ten being highest), what is the likelihood that you would recommend this business to a friend?

A high number, a nine or a ten, and the customer is likely to promote. A low number, six or lower, and the customer is considered a detractor. You may or may not like the NPS system, but you can’t argue with its simplicity.

Of course we want nines and tens. If the customer is willing to recommend a business, they are probably pretty loyal. But I want to cover a metric that may be even deeper than loyalty. Loyalty means there is a connection, and sometimes that connection means going beyond simply enjoying doing business with a company, or someone inside the company. And, if the emotional connection is deep, that customer will do anything they can to support you with more business, recommend you to others and defend you if necessary. Now, consider this:

Would anyone cry if your business closed down?

Or, putting it into the NPS metric:

On a scale of one to ten, what’s the likelihood that your customer would cry if your business closed down?

Here’s a story to make my point. After many years of being the neighborhood barber, my friend Giovanni Livera’s father retired from the business and closed his shop. When he broke the news to his long-time faithful customers they cried. Then he cried too.

Giovanni’s father didn’t just run a business, the service he provided – and the person he was – were important aspects of his community. No one sheds a tear for a business unless there has been a connection made on a deep level over a long period of time. Mr. Livera was doing something right in his little barbershop for many, many years. He greeted people not just as clients, but as friends – close friends.

I’m reminded of the hook from the theme of the sitcom, “Cheers”: You wanna go where everybody knows your name. The desire for community is strong, and maybe even stronger than it was a few generations ago. I think our national addiction to social media reflects this. We need and want to be engaged with others.

Your business is a center for engagement. We may sometimes call it by a different name, such as “customer interaction,” but at its heart it’s the same thing. I like to ask how customers would describe their experience when they engage with you and your employees. Would they use words like courteous, kind, friendly, nice, neighborly, genuine, and helpful?

I think that list of adjectives, and a few more endearing ones, would certainly apply to a neighborhood barber whose announced retirement brings his customers to tears.

Further, I think that this kind of customer loyalty also reflects on the importance of every employee you have working for you. They are the touch points; opportunities to deliver great customer service and build on the relationship. Mr. Livera was the touch point in his small barbershop. He had something of an advantage because as he got his shop going, he understood that his success or failure rested fully on his shoulders because he was an owner-operator.

The question then becomes: How can you instill this kind of attitude into your employees? Honoring your commitment and responsibility to your employees above all else is critical. The culture you create and the way you treat your employees will determine whether or not you instill this kind of loyalty and devotion in them.

I’ve read a couple of articles that illustrate what is possible when your employees are dedicated to your business and treating customers right. The first was about a BBQ restaurant in Tucker, Georgia, that held a fundraiser to aid the employees of the local Ace Hardware store when it burned down. Scott Ellenberger the restaurant’s manager, explained, “I felt like it was necessary to do something for the employees,” said Ellenberger. “They just went out of their way to be nice.”

His comments were echoed by long-time customer Rick Muska, who said, “It was my favorite store. I would bring people from out-of-state even to see it. It was the greatest place. It’s a devastating loss. The people, every aisle they had experts. People went out of their way. They were like family.”

How many of your customers would refer to you or your employees like family?

You might think that feeling this kind of connection to a smaller, local hardware store or neighborhood barbershop is fairly natural, but that it would be difficult for a larger operation to get this kind of support. That’s not necessarily true. The second article I read is about a Costco employee.

Tragically, Arlie Smith, who works at the Costco in Danville, California, was stricken with terminal kidney cancer. Everyone loved Arlie. Costco customers rallied around him – calling themselves “Arlie’s Angels” – and raised money to send Arlie and his wife on vacation.

Even under the roof of a huge, deep-discount warehouse store, employees can engage customers in ways that create true loyalty and heartfelt appreciation.

People cried when Mr. Livera’s barbershop closed. I’m certain that tears were shed when a fire put those hardware store employees out of work, and I know that many cried when they learned about Arlie Smith’s illness.

Customers have an attachment, a love, and a pride, for the businesses that create intense loyalty. These businesses are more than just good at what they do. They demonstrate a genuine caring for people. So, consider the original question:

Would anyone cry if your business closed down?

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert and New York Times bestselling author. Find more information at www.Hyken.com.

This article was written by Shep Hyken from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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