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How to Make Your Customers Love You? Wrong Question.

farber-quoteIf we want to make our customers love us, then we … well, wait a minute … Scratch that. We can’t make our customers love us. We can’t make anyone love us. That’s simply not how it works.

 

Love is a gift we freely give and that’s freely given back to us. The same applies to our business or to any other enterprise or organization. So if we want our customers to love us – our brand, our product, our services – then we start with what we give, not what we want to take or make.

 

And how can we give love that generates the type of love that’s good for our business?

 

Now, that’s the better question. Here are five answers:

 

  1. Love What You Do. Under Armour is one of those brands customers love, and it shows in the company’s results – 24 consecutive quarters of 20 percent-plus growth. It’s also loved by employees. Uh, I mean “teammates.” It’s No. 17 on LinkedIn’s Top Attractors list of places people want to work. Why? CEO Kevin Plank says it’s all about love.

 

“You have to love the brand,” he says. “You have to really love it, what it stands for, what the company values, the way it does things. We have that. Our teammates — we never use the word  ‘employee’ — love our brand and our products.  And then, as an individual, you have to feel loved. So, yes, it sort of starts and ends with love.” (See the entire interview here).

 

If our employees (or teammates) don’t love their work and love each other, they will have a hard time loving our customers. So generating love the flows outside our walls always starts inside our halls.

 

  1.  Make Love a Part of Your Daily Routine. Love isn’t something we “do” only when times are tough or when we need to make a sale or when we’re launching a new product. It’s something we “do” from the moment we wake up and until we fall back asleep; it’s part of who we are. If we can dream about it, we do that, too.

 

But we can make acts of love intentional and habitual. We can make a point to lead with a positive attitude and to serve others. We can respond to customers pleasantly and in a timely manner. We can empower employees to make decisions that lead to customer satisfaction. As comedian Steve Martin once put it, we can “be courteous, kind and forgiving; be gentle and peaceful each day; be warm and human and grateful; and have a good thing to say.” Watch the video.

 

Perhaps most of all, we can show gratitude. We can implement regular, formal recognition that shows people they are appreciated. We can regularly tell our customers we appreciate them with positive messages posts on social media. We can proactively find a million ways to say two simple but powerful words: Thank you.

 

  1. Quit the Blame Game. One of the quickest ways to push people away is to act defensively, to blame others for mistakes, and to avoid taking responsibility for our actions. When our teams develop a bond built on love, however, they own their work and their results. They take responsibility. They are more productive and more innovative. And, as a result, customers are more satisfied.

 

We can start by taking the time to equip people with the information and tools they need to handle typical problems. We also can create systems that empower people to feel comfortable bringing up internal issues for discussion. That, in turn, leads people on our team to trust each other so they will help each other more effectively deal with customers’ issues. And when we deal effectively with our customers’ issues, they will feel loved.

 

  1. Learn From Your Customers.

 

Extreme Leaders are extreme learners—they see every opportunity as a chance to learn. When we dedicate the time and resources it takes to learn about our customers, we usually find they have a lot of great insights to share with us about our organization.

 

Strong relationships are built on mutual honesty and trust. We want to share transparently with our customers, and we also want to make it easy for them to share their feelings and opinions with us. Then we need act on what we learned.

 

When employees and customers feel heard, they feel loved. That generates the type of trust that allows them to freely give love in return.

 

Then we’ve reached that inspiring state of being where we’re all doing what we love in the service of people who love what we do.

 

How to Change the World One Pizza at a Time

Byron Stephens has helped Marco’s Pizza grow to more than 700 stores in 35 states and three countries.the-only-way-to-change-the-world-is-to-be-fully-in-it-1

That type of expansion often kills a culture; in fact, while Marco’s growth numbers looked great on paper, employee morale began to nosedive.

As an organization, they were falling victim to the classic “Growth Trap.”

Stephens joined Marco’s Pizza in 2004 when it was a successful but regional chain operating 110 stores in three states. Now, he’s the president and chief operating officer for Marco’s (and was featured earlier this year on CBS’ Undercover Boss).

When Stephens plotted people’s attitudes and moods against the numbers, he saw that the company’s stellar financial growth was creating emotional misery in the team.

He knew growth wouldn’t last if he didn’t focus on “getting the people equation right.” So he turned the organization’s attention to some basic human principles.

Let’s look at three of these principles, along with some questions you can answer if you want to apply Stephens’s insights to your organization.

(Full disclosure: Stephens is a client. But rest assured: I consumed no pizzas–or any other currency–in exchange for his insights.)

Love your everything

Most of us are not accustomed to using the words “love” and “business” in the same sentence.

For Stephens, though, love is not an abstraction–it’s the underlying motivation for everything he does as president and COO. And it’s what drives his success and keeps him motivated when times get tough.

“It’s not just love for what I do,” Stephens told me. “It’s love for the challenge, it’s love for the competition, it’s love for the people, it’s love for the different ideas, new experiences, and helping them develop and become better than what they are.”

That kind of love gets and keeps a leader energized through the toughest days.

Ask yourself: “What do I love about my business and how do I show it?”

Raise others up

Stephens started out as a dishwasher at a Holiday Inn, so he understands culture at all levels. His career took off partly because of his hard work, but also because others believed in him and gave him a chance. And now that dynamic is encouraged throughout the Marco’s culture.

For instance, Joe Jaros started as a driver for Marco’s. He became known for his above-and-beyond service, so much so that customers would request that he deliver their pizza.

He shoveled snow of sidewalks for customers. He changed their light bulbs.

His excellence stood out so much that he eventually earned a part ownership in the store where he worked. Today he owns two other stores.

That sort of thing doesn’t happen at every store, of course, but many of Marco’s franchisees are known for giving talented employees the opportunity to achieve well beyond their original job description.

Ask yourself: “What great opportunity can I create for a talented member of my team?”

Change the world

Can you change the world by selling pizza? Seems like a tall order. But you can change the world no matter what line of work you’re in. Even if it’s the “world” of one person.

Not long ago, an elderly lady in Mentor, Ohio, fell ill and went to the hospital. She was treated and a few days later she was cleared to go home.

But there was no one to pick her up. She had no family or friends, and the hospital wouldn’t release her to a taxi.

So she called the only number that came to mind: Marco’s Pizza. The manger called an off-duty driver, and the driver picked her up from the hospital and took her home.

The manager and driver were recognized for their commitment to helping others, and rightly so. But Stephens points out something more. The store was owned by Jaros–the former light bulb-changing, snow-shoveling driver. Clearly, his leadership by example had paid off.

When you’re cooking pizzas and the phone is ringing off the hook, Stephens says, it’s easy to think of the pie as just another product. “We have to remember that every pizza we sell is an opportunity to impact the life of a customer,” he says.

Ask yourself: “How can we use our product or service to impact the lives of our customers?”

If your organization is falling victim to the Growth Trap–or if you want to ensure it avoids that snare–the time to do something is now.

Share what you love about your work so that others can share that passion. Create opportunities for others to grow with you. And empower your team to make a difference in the lives around them.

 

[This post was originally published on my weekly column at Inc.com]

A WUP Upside The Head 1.6

Chapter 8

observe-dont-judge

While I was staring, incredulous, at that blank sheet of paper, Rich Delacroix had just started a senior management meeting in the oak paneled conference room at the national headquarters of Independence Lending Group, Inc. The topic at hand, I would later find out, was the uncertain future of one Cam Summerfield, SVP of sales.

 

“Folks,” said Rich, “I want your help with the impend- ing crisis on the sales team. If things don’t change soon, we’re going to lose a lot of good people and it’s going to be a real bitch to hit the numbers we need for the next expansion phase.”

“Isn’t that what we pay Cam for?” asked Sharon Washington, SVP of underwriting. “Shouldn’t he be here for this discussion?”

“Yes, he should,” said Rich, “except for one small thing.” He raised his eyebrows and exhaled a sigh ripe with the unspoken but obvious reality.

“Cam is the problem.” Sharon completed the thought for him.

“Do we have anyone else ready to step in for Cam?” A fidgety, uncomfortable silence permeated the room as the implications of Rich’s question hit home.

“Are you going to fire him?”

“Not necessarily. He’s got one last chance to start getting his leadership act together.”

“How long are we giving him to show some improvement?”

“One day.”

“Generous,” Sharon oozed. “What if,” she continued sarcastically, “he doesn’t get hit by lightning, or his lobotomy doesn’t take? Are you going to fire him?”

“No,” Rich replied. “Worse. I’m going to demote him.”

 

Chapter 9

 

“Let me see that.” Cam snatched the notebook—sorry, WUP—away from me, looked at it, and slapped it back down on the table. “Listen,” he demanded, “very, very carefully: I… don’t… have… time… for… this. I’m going back to work,” he said to me, “and I’m telling Rich that this didn’t work out. Smitty, it’s been a real treat, but I’m outie.” He pushed his chair back and stood up.

Smitty rose with him, put his hands on Cam’s shoulders, and gently pushed him back into his seat.

“Relax, dude,” he said in a surprisingly calm voice. “Just hear me out for a minute. I’m gonna tell you how to use this thing, and then you decide if you’re innie or outie.” It wasn’t a request, and he didn’t give Cam a chance to protest.

“Number one,” Smitty began as he picked up the WUP, “carry this with you at all times. Now a Wake-Up Pad doesn’t have to be paper. You could use your iPad, laptop, or a voice recorder on your cell, but just to get the practice down, start with this little book until it becomes like another appendage like your hand or your—well, let’s just say your hand.

“Go on,” he pushed a pen into Cam’s hand. “Write that down: carry at all times.” His eyes bored into Cam until he complied.

“Number two.” He waited until Cam wrote the number on the pad. “Scan, just like you were a computer scanner. Your scanner just copies; it doesn’t comment, it doesn’t offer an opinion, it doesn’t tell you you’re stupid for wasting your time on that photo of the girl you met while y’all were dancin’ on the bar at Jimmy Love’s. Just scan your environment and record what you see. Scan the bestseller lists and notice what people are reading; scan the magazine racks and pick up publications that don’t interest you like, I dunno, The Tattoo Review or Graffiti Today; scan the weekly TV show rankings; scan the headlines of your online newsfeeds and actual print-and-ink newspapers from 20 different cities; scan what’s trending on Twitter; scan the room that you’re sitting in; scan the crowd as you’re toolin’ down the street during your lunch break. Then, every so often, write down what you’re seeing in your WUP. Write down your observations of subcultures that are entirely alien to you and trends in the tastes of the popular culture. Capture little ideas, snapshots of natural, political, and social phenomena. Scan, scan, scan. Look at everything going on around you and write your observations in the pad.”

“And then what?” Cam asked. “What’s the point?” Smitty held up a finger. “I’m coming to that, but at first all you’re doing is scanning the world and writing down what you see without comment or judgment.”

I thought about Cam’s earlier scathing commentary on the beach population. “What do you mean by no judgment?” I asked, trying to lead Smitty in a direction that I thought Cam needed to be taken.

“I mean,” he said looking right at Cam. “That I ain’t no flea infested guttersnipe, am I, Buck?”

 

“I’ll give you that.” Cam conceded. “My first impression of you was wrong.”

“Well, now, ain’t you the big man for admittin’ it? And that’s the point, my repentant friend. Observe but don’t judge. You might have  written  a  description  of me in your WUP, but you’d have left out the arrogant, holier-than-thou attitude. You with me?”

“Yeah,” muttered Cam, letting the insult pass like gas in the breeze.

“All right, then. Let’s move on to number three.”

 

[Note: I’m excited to share my second book, The Radical Edge, in serial fashion here on SteveFarber.com! We’ll post one installment a week until the very end of the book. You can go back and read from the beginning here. If you ever get impatient and want to scarf the whole thing down at once, you can always just pop over to Amazon and satiate yourself.]

 

High Turnover is Not a Recruitment Problem, So What is It?

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A WUP Upside The Head: 1.5

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These Extreme Leadership Qualities are the Gateway to this Healthcare Facility’s Vibrant New Culture

Allen James is the chief administrator of a post-acute care skilled nursing facility—you know, a nursing home.  For many people, that brings to mind images of elderly men and women sitting alone in wheelchairs and watching televisions turned up to … Read the full article→

A WUP Upside The Head: Part 1.4

Chapter 6 (continued) “Jeez! Look at that guy. Can you believe him? He looks like a dog I used to own. Get a load of that hair. What a fleabag!” He gave me a conspiratorial nudge on the arm. “What sewer did he sleep in last … Read the full article→

Get Out of Your Office

Some of us remember the days when we could lock ourselves in the office, turn off the phone, and put the outside world on hold. But now—what with texts, social media updates, instant messages, and the incessant vibrating and chiming of our mobile … Read the full article→

A WUP Upside The Head: Part 1.3

Chapter 5 … Read the full article→

A WUP Upside The Head: Part 1.2

Chapter 3 Closer, dealmaker, phone demon, top producer, Cameron Summerfield is a sales god. He came to work at ILGI fresh out of state college where he’d graduated unceremoniously with a liberal arts degree. Armed with a diploma on the wall and the … Read the full article→