7 things I’ve learnt since launching The Business of Customer Love Podcast
Read time: 2 mins
When I look back, deciding to launch a podcast on top of an already hectic job may have been ambitious! But from day one, it’s been a labour of love (quite literally).
I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with some of the best minds in customer experience on a topic that you can’t help but feel inspired by. I mean, what’s better than striving to make people's lives better? Or, in the view of one of my first guests, Dr Paul Zak, striving to make people better human beings.
Now the podcast is in full swing, I wanted to share some of my biggest takeaways to date. Note, some references are from episodes that are yet to be released.
1. You don’t have to be Disney to be loved
At the start of each episode, I ask my guest to share a time recently when, as a consumer, they’ve experienced customer love first-hand.
While I initially expected to hear about the likely candidates (Apple, Disney etc), in almost every instance I’ve been given examples of companies I’d never heard of.
One guest gave the example of Scott’s Plumbing, an independent business where Scott and his son go above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer support. Another shared a harrowing tale of when her son got into a car crash, and the owner of a local body shop personally went out of her way to look after him until she arrived.
Often, there’s a perception that you need to sell an exciting product or service to get people to love you. What I’ve learnt is that that’s unequivocally false.
No matter what business you’re in, the customers you sell to, or the market you serve, you have the chance to create a base of loyal superfans who come back and tell their friends by delivering an exceptional customer experience.
In fact, I would argue that if you work in an industry that isn’t perceived to be that exciting or differentiated, you have an even bigger opportunity to stand out and gain a real competitive advantage by focusing on customer happiness. An incredible example of this is Pink Zebra Moving, founded by Ron Holt. Ron is on a mission to revolutionise the removal industry through customer love. Here's a taster of his truly inspirational story:
2. Your customers need to personify your product
Linked closely to the previous point is a fascinating revelation shared by Dr Aaron Ahoovia, Professor of Marketing and brand love expert, when I asked him about the fundamentals of people falling in love with brands.
Essentially, he explained, there are 3 core ingredients. A good product (obvious), a good customer experience (clear), but the third ‘secret’ ingredient is one that brands are largely unaware of.
To explain, here’s a very brief lesson in neuroscience.
Our brains automatically sort people from objects and, crucially, love is a mental process your brain uses for humans, not for objects. What this means is that if your customers see your brand or product simply as an object, it’s almost impossible to get them to love you.
This is the third ingredient — you need your customer's brain to think about your brand as it does about people.
What did the two examples of customer love we highlighted previously have in common?
They both had people at the heart of the story. The company and service have been personified to be about, in this case, Scott and the owner of the body shop. There are three ways you can get your customers to personify your brand and product…be sure to look out for Dr Aaron's episode coming out later this year to find out more!
3. Repeat business doesn’t always represent true customer loyalty
If your customers are coming back and spending more, does that automatically mean they’re loyal? Here's how Shep Hyken, customer experience guru, explained it to me:
What I’ve learnt from a number of guests is that repeat custom is often a marriage of convenience, and can be as easily taken away as it is given. Just because I have a loyalty card for the local coffee shop, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t drop them for a new one that's just opened up down the road which has an even more appealing offer to entice me.
True customer loyalty means your customers have built such a deep, emotional connection with your brand that they stay with you through thick and thin.
4. Customer Experience is a culture, not a department
To be a truly customer-centric business, your entire organisation — from the boardroom to the front line — needs to be championing customer love. It’s not just the responsibility of one person or one team. Customer happiness needs to be rooted in your company values, embodied in your brand's tone of voice, and even considered for the type of people you look to employ.
As Brittany Hodak, author of Creating Superfans, explained it to me "Your brand isn't your logo. Your brand is the interactions that your customers are having with your team every day. So every single person on your team needs to be aligned around the idea of improving customers lives."
In case you’re not sure where to start, Gem Passant, CX expert and advocacy expert, explains in her episode how to make great CX part of the fabric of your organisation.
5. Great customer experience starts with great employee experience
One almost unanimous lesson that has come from my guests is that before you can nail your customer experience, you need to fine-tune your employee experience. After all, they’re the ones responsible for delivering a great customer experience right? So if they aren’t happy and engaged, how can you expect that to be translated to your customer relationships?
As Annette Franz, Founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc, explained: “Leading brands like Nordstrom and Trader Joe’s put employees first because they know that employee experience leads to great customer experience. They understand that when employees have a great experience from their employer, they have the energy and enthusiasm to deliver a great customer experience”.
It’s true too that being a company that focuses on doing the right thing for your customers is better for your employees, and will help you win and retain more top talent. Andy Cockburn and Tim Boughton, co-founders of Mention Me, argue that “having a true focus on customer love is not only better for customer relationships, but employee ones too. It’s way more fun to be working for a company that wants to do the right thing and we know that people are seeking out companies that are doing this because it provides a far more fulfilling environment to work in”.
6. Businesses that focus on customer love transform their business economics
Customer love doesn’t just sound good on paper — it makes absolute business and economic sense. Fred Reichheld, creator of NPS, revealed that for his own personal investment strategy he backed those companies with the highest NPS in their sector. That portfolio beat the median return in North American public companies by 500%, putting it in the top 95 percentile of all private equity funds over the last 15 years!
Similarly, Jon Picoult, author of From Impressed To Obsessed, shared that in over 13 years of research, his company has found that those businesses that lead in CX outperform those that lag by more than a 3:1 ratio in shareholder return.
Fred also explains that there are fundamentally two ways a business can grow: Earned Growth (through customers coming back and bringing their friends) and bought growth (through paid advertising). Here's how he outlined the different impact 'earned' customers have on your business compared to 'bought' customers:
7. Foster inclusivity in customer experience to increase customer acquisition and retention
It’s important to remember that when you’re designing your CX strategy, you will have customers visiting your website or store with a range of different abilities. In fact, people with disabilities spend a half-trillion dollars annually, while 82% of consumers with access needs say they would often return and spend more with a company that provides an accessible online experience.
I had an inspirational chat with Stacy Sherman, customer experience and marketing keynote speaker, who has a deep understanding and passion for inclusive CX.
She made the point to “look around your room and ask yourself who’s at your table making decisions? Is it diverse in thought, ability and experience? This is how you are going to design customer experiences that have more mass appeal, more empathy and are more intentionally helpful for those different than yourself”.
Inspired to become the customer champion in your business? Subscribe to The Business of Customer Love today, available on all major platforms, to learn more. You can also access all episodes by following the link below.