I Have a Thing About Customers…

There is only one way I want customers to feel about my companies and their products: crazy love.

Deidre Paknad  ::  Leader Development

On its face, this is a ridiculously high standard, but in practice it’s the most rewarding and resilient way to build a business. Working with and for customers that love your company — rather than hate it or couldn’t care less — is simply a more satisfying way to spend the 60% of your adult life that is work.

When they're crazy about you, they’re generous with ideas, perspectives, praise, and referrals. They’re resilient when you come up short (as you surely will) because one problem rarely empties a deep well of crazy love.

In the long haul, it isn't harder to create this kind of engagement than it is to have mediocre relationships that don’t last, that can’t absorb the inevitable shortcoming, that require outright fire fighting or that inspire your customers to pit you against your competitors. However, It is a clear strategy and requires dedicated execution; it won't happen by accident or luck.

My short list of values and behaviors that inspire crazy customer love is below — I’d love to hear what’s on your list!

  1. Add genuine value in each engagement and touch point. Help people rather than sell to them. Leave out the self-congratulatory stuff; never thank or pat yourselves on the back and expect the customer to clap.
  2. Put customers first. Not second, never last. It is all about them, and even you are about them. They are your right to exist as a company and the return on that existence.
  3. They’re individual people — engage them that way. Connect to what they need, worry about and care about as humans. See that they have futures and pasts.
  4. Be authentic and human yourself, but make it your best self.
  5. Let compassion for users guide products, sales and messaging if you provide products for business customers. It’s work not vacation; you can’t really help customers without compassion.
  6. They’re your company’s family. That family doesn’t end at your employees — it ends at the customers that share their time, ideas, and intentions and that make career investments with you.
  7. Care about each customer. Celebrate when they decide to join the family and mourn each and every one if they leave. Bring everyone in the company into this celebration and mourning.
  8. Recognize that working with customers is pure joy, even when it’s not all rosy. It’s how you know you’re working on something worthy and it’s how you learn to grow your value to them and others. Let these thoughts nourish your soul and your company’s.
  9. Demonstrate and assume intelligence and integrity. With this platform for partnership, you will have a perfect relationship even when you or they are imperfect.
  10. You will fail and it will be problematic for your customers, but how you respond will define your relationship for years to come. Rise responsibly, quickly, and with even more integrity and compassion for their situation and you will be friends for life. Fail at failing, and you’ve lost a customer as soon as they can practically leave you.
  11. In my experience, every person at your company must act with this belief system. Crazy customer love comes when every facet of engagement — yes, even bill collecting — functions with the same commitment to customer.

I've had the great pleasure of working with amazing teams that embodied this belief system and of working with wonderful people as customers over many years as a result. (Sonia Cheng, Scott Cohen, Mike Meehan and Nicholas Tsang top the team list.) This is the strongest thread in the company’s fabric, weaving together your company’s financial success, your customers' success and your cultural health.

What's your experience when you're the customer? the provider? an employee? What's on your list?

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