Two hundred and fifty women gathered at The Sheraton Hotel in Burlington VT on October 28th for the ninth annual Key 4 Women breakfast. This year, marketing guru and executive coach Cindy Solomon asked the question: how can we change the world for ourselves and our customers and build a business that thrives?
The annual event, held at Key cities across the U.S., is designed to inspire and move women to greater business success.
Before the presentation, Key Bank presented the event proceeds ($6000) to The Vermont Women’s Fund and the 2010 Key Achieve Award to Lisa Ventriss, President of the Vermont Business Roundtable for her wide ranging and intelligent public service.
Back to Cindy Solomon–a dynamic presenter who’s inspirational style is best described as “stand up comedy”. She says that the companies and organizations who are winning the customer loyalty wars have discovered the basics of getting and keeping the people we serve. Solomon outlines the keys to success in her recent, highly regarded book The Rules of Woo: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Winning the Hearts and Minds of Today’s Customers. The short story according to Solomon:
1. Think like a beginner: All things are possible. The sky is the limit.
- We are in the new normal. The world has changed, the pace has changed. The opportunities are plentiful– but they are different to the ones we are accustomed to. We have to think in new ways about ourselves and about the future.
- We have to think about customer loyalty. A 5 percent increase in customer loyalty results in an 85 percent increase in business. One study shows that 80 percent of customers who defected to another provider WERE satisfied. Satisfaction no longer enough. We need to do what it takes to create true and abiding loyalty.
- The beginner sees every single interaction as the opportunity to build a deeper partnership with the customer. New customers are important but we need to spend more time on wooing and wowing our existing customers.
2. Know the the trends that affect your customer base.
- Customer expectations have escalated. As customers we want “Fast, simple, know me, give me what you promise”. Your competition is the last business that served your customer. Ask yourself, how does your business stack up to your competition? Know that every single interaction is a moment of truth for your business.
- The Power of One. In the internet age, the customer is king. Word of mouth is not longer a neighborhood phenomenon. Do your policies get in the way of your customers? If so, it is possible for the news to spread across the whole world. The StarbucksSucks.com story described how one customer badly treated customer tapped into international dissatisfaction with Starbucks failure to serve them –costing Starbucks 34 percent of its corporate value in one week. In another famous example, UnitedBreaksGuitars showed 100 million people how the airline failed to make amends to just one customer.
- Social media is the best free early warning system your business can have. Google Alert your company name and personal name. Even if you are not interacting with it, your customers are. This is true of large and small businesses. If you care about your customers sign up for Twitter (@cindysolomom) and Linked In. if you can engage your advocates they will help you (Key4Women & Cindy Solomon). Check out Yelp! to monitor customer satisfaction with your business.
- Time is still the currency of our economy. Limited resource that people will pay for. Do not compete on price, compete on value. Make it simple and easy to deal with your business. Only 8 percent of customers leave because of the price of your services. The question is: How can you provide more value? Find a way to keep it simple and make it a pleasure to work with you. Squeeze value out of your partners (that is, get better prices and leverage opportunities for your customers).
3. Without “relationship” there is no second chance.
If something goes wrong you need to have a recovery plan in which all your people are involved. If you recover well, your customers will be 40 percent more loyal. Keep them in the fold. Your great product or service is the entry point. A well cared for relationsip will help to keep your customer. Solomon continued her side splitting presentation by asking: Do you have the courage to do what you have to do? Are you willing to look at the loyalty issue and build a true customer dialog? To create a true dialog depends on these themes:
- Set the bar and hit it every time 100% Set realistic expectations and meet them. A good example is RyanAir, the airline that promises to get you from point a to point b on time, safely and cheaply. Their corporate philosophy is “You are cattle and will be treated as such”. Their satisfaction rate is 92 percent! Be crystal clear about what you can deliver. No muss, no fuss. What expectations are we setting and are they commonly held and clearly communicated?
- Talk to the Right People. Customers can be broken down as follows: Advocates (2%), Serial Killers (25 that take up 40% of your time) and your Backbone (96%). What are we doing for the backbone customers? Serial killers cost you money and will never be loyal!
- Use technology for good and not evil. If your technology is not useful and easy for you, find another way. People look at technology as part of your value proposition so make it work to build partnerships.
- Hire and retain the best people. Use this buyers market to build your team. You will spend 30% of your time with your level C workers and compromise your productivity by 50%. A workers leave you 60% of the time because you don’t spend enough time with them. B workers are reliable and get the job done. You want mostly B workers. Let your team help to hire people–it will strengthen your team and improve your product and service.
- Prioritize (Focus on your priority not the noise). The Rules of WOO regarding time management: Focus first on the big jobs with the biggest payoff, second on the things that make you a healthier and more effective leader. Get the rest of the items off of your “to do” list.
In conclusion, Solomon advises that in order to build the business of the future you have to risk change and overturn deeply held beliefs about how we do business.This requires Vision, Reality (who is on the bus with you?), Ethics and Courage. Read more at: http://www.cindysolomon.com/