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Is L-O-V-E a four-letter word in your business?

By: Shirl

Does your company love its customers? Think about this honestly for a moment.  Because the stark reality is that most businesses don’t love their current  customers; they love acquiring new ones. If you’ve ever felt that your cell phone  provider or other business is treating their brand new customers better than  you, a loyal customer of 10 years, then you know what I mean.

In his report Competitive  Strategy in the Age of the Customer, Josh Bernoff  states:

“Lock-in mechanisms — mobile phone  contracts, proprietary technology, and frequent-flier programs, for example — don’t create loyalty; they just create barriers to leaving… In the long run,  you’ll always be able to use your iPhone  on another network, migrate your Microsoft  Word files to Google  Docs, and plant your body on a comfortable plane from Virgin Atlantic that makes  you forget your mileage balance. Customer-obsessed companies worry more about  flexing to meet customer needs and less about ways to block them from  fleeing.”

Yes, any business wants their customers to love them. Yes, any business wants  their customers to stay and be loyal. However, you can’t focus on trying to get  customers to love you; you can only love your customer and hope the feeling will  become mutual.

As the CEO of a small company in a rather mature market, I quickly learned  that loving our customers would be the only way to make any headway in a  competitive field. For us, loving our customers boils down to five things:

  1. Know your customers: No matter how big your business gets and how much staff  you bring on, I always advise business owners and  top management to stay as close to their customers as possible. Talking to  customers one-on-one is the best way to truly take the pulse of the market,  customer needs, and just how your company is doing. Metrics and market data  yield fantastic insight, but nothing beats personal conversations with the  people that make up your target base.
  2. Listen to your customers (even the noisy ones): With social media, customers  are sharing their experiences and airing their opinions louder than ever. Yet  too many companies choose not to listen. Successful companies recognize that  their customers possess good ideas. They gather feedback at any and every  opportunity and track real-time sentiment and issues from monitoring social  networks. There’s no better source to tell you how you’re doing than the  customers themselves. And customers love a responsive organization; so keep  people in the loop of how their feedback was used or why it wasn’t this  time.
  3. Genuinely want to help your customers: I began my business because I love  helping other entrepreneurs and I love the concept of the small business. If you  don’t feel a genuine connection to your customers, you might want to consider a  different line of business.
  4. Surprise your customers: Exceeding your customer’s expectations falls on the  opposite side of the spectrum from those tricky lock-in strategies. The best  example here is Zappos,  who advertises free ground shipping, but mails most orders overnight. That’s a  company that went from no sales to $1 billion in gross merchandise sales in just  10 years.
  5. Don’t be afraid of ‘Love’:  The era of ‘feelings aren’t professional’ is over. When an employee or customer shows up with their heart, the end is  always far greater. I’m an expressive person by nature. While I may have toned  down outward displays of affection early on, I’m pretty well known now for  ending calls with employees, contractors, or customers with ‘Love You.’

Of course, what’s natural to me isn’t going to hold true for everyone. As a  business leader, it’s your job to intentionally set the emotional tone of your  company, department, or brand. The key is to figure out what level of emotional  intensity you want to bring to your organization.

Love can be an incredibly effective business tool. After all, it’s emotion  that shapes our thoughts, words, and actions. Don’t be afraid to love your  employees, your colleagues, your clients, and customers; you’ll get even more  back in return.

*Original content written by Nellie Akalp for the Business Insider.

Nellie Akalp

Nellie Akalp

Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate and mother of four. As CEO of CorpNet.com, a legal document preparation filing service, Nellie helps entrepreneurs start a business, Incorporate, Form an LLC, set up Sole Proprietorships (DBAs) and maintain a business in compliance with state filing requirements for a new or existing business.

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