Has Your SMB Earned the Right to Grow?

Friday, March 22, 2013
Posted by Andy Wendt

Does Your SMB Have The Right To GrowBy Jeanne Bliss, CustomerBLISS

It’s an everyday charge uphill for small businesses to be there for customers in ways that are important to them. Beloved companies (one’s built on an energy and spirit that draws customers to them) gladly decide to do the hard work. They’re in the scrimmage every day to earn the right for their customers to return.

Being there for customers fuels the prosperity engine of beloved companies. Small business The Container Store encourages employees to bend over backwards for customers, and with fellow employees.  By encouraging flexibility and “gut” in its employees, The Container Store excels not only in customer service, but in employee retention.  A full-time salesperson at The Container Store receives about 263 hours of training, compared to an average of 8 hours for most retail businesses. By preparing people through training and throwing away the rule book, the company created an environment where people are encouraged to do whatever it takes to assist coworkers and customers and find the right solution for each situation.

Beloved companies think and rethink how to conduct themselves, so they earn the right to their customers’ continued business because they understand that we naturally gravitate to companies and people with whom we connect in a human and sincere manner.  Beloved companies leave customers thinking, “Who else would have done this?” “Where else could I get this?” “I want to do this again.” By creating reliability in the way they do business, and fusing that with moments of contact delivered from the customer’s point of view, beloved companies earn the right to grow.

This will not only grow repeat business but also referrals, both essential to the prosperity of a small business.  When you make decisions that respect and honor customers, you will earn their admiration; eventually even love. Then customers will begin to grow your business for you through word of mouth. When customers love you, they will:

  • Turn to you when a particular product or service is needed.
  • Turn to you first, regardless of the competition.
  • Tell your story, forming an army of cheerleaders and publicists urging friends, neighbors, colleagues, even strangers to experience your company.

A great example of a beloved company who has earned the right to grow is Amazon.com.  The company sold its first book in July 1995. Their success and ability to build a strong customer base earned the company the right to add a music store in 1998, and consumer electronics and toys and games in 1999. Since then, the addition of nearly every category has been met with customer acceptance: a kitchen store, a camera and photo store, office products, apparel, sporting goods, gourmet foods, even health and personal are and high-end jewelry.

If Amazon.com had not executed the delivery of books well during its foundational years, its expansion into these other lines could not have occurred. Amazon.com continues to operate with the understanding that customer loyalty is a right - not an entitlement - that must be earned. Giving customers peace of mind for what to expect fueled their business growth. 

Companies that earn customers’ trust and peace of mind with a company often create the emotion of desire for their experience and look forward to repeating their experience with that company. While buying books over the Internet is old hat to us now, when Amazon.com was first introduced to us, our lives changed. They delivered the joy of receiving books in the comfort of our living rooms. And not just with their operational finesse, but also with the thoughtfulness with which they delivered what was in our shopping carts. We wanted to repeat the experience again and again and that is apparent in the company’s astronomical growth over the years.

About Jeanne Bliss

Jeanne Bliss began her career at Lands’ End where she reported to founder Gary Comer, ensuring that in the formative years of the organization, the company stayed focused on its core principles of customer and employee focus.  She was the first leader of the Lands’ End Customer Experience.  In addition to Lands’ End, she has served Allstate, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker Corporation and Mazda Corporations as its executive leading customer focus and customer experience.  Jeanne has helped achieve 95% retention rates across 50,000 person organizations, harnessing businesses to work across their silos to deliver a united and deliberate experience customers (and employees) want to repeat.

Jeanne now runs CustomerBliss (www.customerbliss.com), an international consulting business where she coaches executive leadership teams and customer leadership executives on how to put customer profitability at the center of their business, by getting past lip service; to operationally relevant, operationally executable plans and processes.   Her clients include Johnson & Johnson, TD Ameritrade, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals, Bombardier Aircraft and many others.  She is also the author of two best-selling books Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions that Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.