Rugby on Saturday Is Just Not Enough

Rugby on Saturday Is Just Not Enough

Probably the most common question I am asked by our clients and delegates is, “I understand why taking care of customers is so important, and I know that we have to get the basics of reliability and service right, but what else can we do to be unique and different from our rivals?” Would you believe me if I told you that there are at least eighty two ways to add value for customers and keep them loyal? Would you trust me if I told you that most of them are free, or require almost no investment? But they have a very powerful effect on your customers’ loyalty!

Over many years I have come to the conclusion that to get sustainable levels of customer loyalty in your business, with the immense benefits that this offers you, there are four broad features that must exist in your strategy…

First, the foundation on which everything rests is to ensure that every single touch point goes smoothly. In fact, you have to get the basics incredibly right, otherwise nothing else you do will make a difference. You cannot put whipped cream on garbage. And yet, in spite of how hard it is to get everything right, it’s still not enough. It’s the equivalent of a three-star hotel. Nobody notices what you have done, but if you screw things up even once, then your customers will definitely notice.

So what else does a business need to do if getting the basics right is not enough? Second, if you are fortunate, your business will be able to make it difficult, or even impossible, for your customers to move to a competitor. These barriers to switching can include legal contracts, warranties, the use of hardware and software to prevent switching, the strength of your brand, the power of your loyalty programme, and many more possibilities. But these are dangerous because if your customers feel trapped like hostages, they may be reluctant to support you, and may sabotage all efforts to get them loyal.

The third contributor to customer loyalty is to ensure that you build good relationships with your customers, in fact, to put relationships first. It’s not enough to just talk about it: you have to give me evidence that I am more important than the company’s priorities. It includes things like recognising and responding to customers and their individual quirks, communicating with them about what’s important to them, and building an emotional bond and trust between you.

Finally, continuous value innovation. Your business needs to constantly and continuously come up with innovative and creative ways to add value for your customers. They need to occasionally get little surprises which your competitors simply cannot imitate with a lot of effort, if at all. These are the unique and distinct little details that customers love, and that make them irrationally loyal to your company.

I’d like to share a few examples with you, if I may. A sales rep had been trying for years to make inroads into a client’s factory with her valves and compressors, but the competitor was deeply entrenched and used price as the primary weapon to keep out rivals. One day she heard that the client’s factory had almost completely burned down the night before, and on the Sunday morning she took her husband, sons, and a hamper of food to the factory to offer help. She saw the Operations Director and asked what they could do to assist. He was surprised to hear that she had specially come to do so, and said he was just so amazed that she had done so. There was nothing anyone could do, but they ate and drank together, and went back home. A few days later the director sent Shirley a warm note to thank her and her family, and added, “You know, of all of our suppliers and partners, and all of their employees, you were the only one who pitched.” Six weeks later she received an order to supply her products for the rebuilding of the whole factory, and that one order was bigger than her annual sales target.

I once ended up in hospital on Christmas Eve, and was feeling very sorry for myself because all of my and my brother’s families were together and I was all alone. Eventually I fell into a fitful sleep, and woke up at about 3:00 a.m. with the drip hurting. A night nurse popped in and asked if I was okay, and then she brightly said, “Would you like some ice cream?” I don’t know where she found it at that time of the night, but she brought two of them and sat chatting to me until I feel asleep again. How nice was that.

I bought a second-hand Pajero from an independent dealer, and when he realised I’d never driven a 4X4 before, he wrote me a letter and attached a voucher to attend free training at an obstacle course. I went one Saturday afternoon with a bunch of other people in the same boat as me, and learned how to drive my new car. Afterwards they made a huge fire and gave us all beers and boerie rolls, and the sense of community was very special.
Knowing that poor people in Mexico cannot afford to build extra rooms in their homes, Cemex has come up with a special savings scheme, which piggybacks on the custom of having a big, expensive party when children are confirmed in the Catholic Church at the age of thirteen. Many parents save for years for the party, and at the end of the day, the money is gone. “What better gift to give your daughter than her own room,” they say, “and add value to your home to boot?” When your child is still a toddler, the scheme offers a monthly savings facility with better interest rates than the bank, and then helps customers to plan the additional room, to purchase all the raw materials – and the cement from Cemex, of course – at preferential rates, and they will even teach you how build it all yourself.

These are just a handful of stories, and there are plenty more. They all come from my book Rugby on Saturday Is Just Not Enough, in which I list the eighty two ways of adding value and share numerous examples. Why did I give it this title? I wanted “Chocolates on the pillow is not enough,” but it was already taken. But that worked out well, so let me tell you about the new title.

In the almost forty years since I left school, I have spent millions at my banks, airlines, hotels, cell-phone suppliers, printers, various retailers, and many more businesses. In all of that time I have been invited to a major sports event a total of three times, once to Loftus, once to the Wanderers, and once to Sun City for the golf. I know I am considered one of the “rats and mice” by those businesses, but it would be really nice to feel appreciated sometimes.

And if you don’t believe me that there are hundreds of ways to add value for your customers and keep them loyal forever, write to me and I’ll send you the list.


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