Six Lessons in Cultivating Loyalty
By Jean Marie Johnson
Breaking Up is Hard to Do
I feel terrible. I mean, really bad. Our relationship lasted over four months and I was the one to call it quits. Everything was perfect, better than I would have expected. But then, something else caught my eye. After a little online research and a brief rendezvous elsewhere, I moved on.
Ugh…we've all been through breakups of one sort or another. They are rarely pleasant and often emotional. We sometimes have misgivings after the fact and wonder if we did the right thing, in the right way. We wonder, too, if we made the right choice.
Allow me to explain: I just bought a car. Not the brand I'd originally intended, and not from the utterly MAGIC salesperson who did indeed have me from Hello.
It's the Relationship, Not the Outcome
Of course, I was not obligated to lay out a good chunk of my hard earned money to anyone. I had the right to look around, to pick the salesperson's brain for insight and information that would lead me to a purchase decision that was the best fit for me. But still…as I think back on my four month relationship that did not culminate in commitment, I feel bad; even a little guilty.
The Business of Loyalty
I know exactly why this magical salesperson, whom we'll refer to as "M," earned my respect and my trust, even though I failed to give him my business. Without exception, every contact M had with me was so appropriate that I wanted to have another contact with him. And isn't that the foundation of loyalty? We always remember how we are treated. As sales and service people, we are all in the business of loyalty. Not every interaction results in a fresh contribution to the bottom line; instead it contributes to our reputation, to referrals, to raving fans—all of which determine our sustainable future.
Make it Memorable
You don't know if this particular interaction will be the one that hits your bottom line with a flourish and makes you king or queen for a day. But you do know that if you regard every interaction as an opportunity to build loyalty, legacy follows. Here's how:
In every email, however brief, "M" used my name and often referenced something I had told him about myself. Let's face it; I wasn't buying a high-end, top-of-the-line vehicle. In fact, I was in the market for a euphemistically described "pre-owned" model. And yet I felt that the treatment I received was nothing short of first class. "M" even clarified if I preferred Jean Marie to Jean, and asked how to pronounce it. Nice!
2. Be Courteous:
From the greeting all the way through the goodbye, "M" used the timeless and true "please," thank you," "you're welcome," and "If I may." It never got old. In fact, I found myself cooling my Type A jets because I sincerely appreciated his attentiveness to the small things that say everything about respect.
3. Be Kind:
Regardless of how many times I posed the same inane question, or asked him to repeat some technical specification or warranty detail, "M's" body language, tone and words made me feel important. That mattered because I often felt completely out of my comfort zone.
4. Be Responsive:
If I showed up at the dealership unannounced, "M" greeted me as if it was perfectly natural for me to pop in and equally natural for him to give me his undivided attention. The same was true of my odd-hour email requests for more information about this car or that.
5. Be Gracious:
When I finally mustered the courage to tell "M" that I would not be purchasing a car from him, his response was the epitome of grace: "The most important thing is that you found the car that was right for you. It has been a pleasure to work with you, Jean Marie."
6. Be Professional:
"M" asked if there was anything else he could have done to earn my business. That was painful because, of course, there was not. My service experience with "M" was exemplary, but in the end, the product I decided was best for me resided elsewhere. I made the right decision, a pragmatic one. That said, "M's" example of sustained MAGIC will stay with me. It will further shape my expectations as a buyer, and be a standard to refer to when I am the one on the receiving end of a sales or service breakup.
And when my husband finally gets around to breaking up with his 18-year old car, you know where we'll be headed.
Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.