customer loyalty

The Death of Stuffy, Disconnected Business Cultures

Your business has a culture. Do you know what it is?

Business Cultures

I began my due diligence in exploring this deeper by asking several business owners directly what they thought the culture of their business is, and what I found out is…

Culture isn’t something that gets a lot of discussion in many small businesses.

Sure, culture can be hard to put your finger on at first. But all it takes is the willingness to dig deep and explore how you want your customer experience, and employee experience, to feel like.

My objective in exploring this is to get small business owners thinking more about hidden customer perceptions. These are things customers see in a business and from which they form their own opinions, and then decide if they will continue to patronize a business.

Having a good business culture is assumed to be important to making sure employees are happy, productivity is good, and customers feel welcomed, yet what goes into creating a good culture in your business?

One Definition of Culture

By one definition, culture is the common values, practices, and beliefs of a group of people. In these words, it means everyone in your business shares common values, practices, and beliefs.

Really? I’m pretty sure such workgroups don’t exist. People will align themselves to behave in a way that seems they buy into expressed company values.

I’m not saying people don’t care, but company values aside; they really are there for the paycheck. But on the other hand, there’s something important here that needs to be explored. Businesses emit something that forces customers and employees to create perceptions.

This means a business owner needs to have an answer to this question…

“What is it I want my business to be known for?”Is it the kind of business where customers remember it as…“the place that does [fill in the blank], I love that place!”Sure, culture is important. Values. Practices. Beliefs. All of them are crucial to creating a lasting business entity.

But for employees and even customers, the idea of culture seems a bit stuffy and not relatable.

Mission statements and core values on office walls, and on websites, show thought was put into the overall purpose of the business, but emulating them in real life is, well, difficult to relate to.

That’s when I had a blinding flash of the obvious.

Business Cultures Are Important, But Vibe…

VIBE is the word I think of when I think about how I feel about a particular business.

I expect integrity, honesty, humility, and communication when I patronize a business. Employees expect the same when they join a business. That’s the minimum price of entry for most good businesses.

But the vibe of a business tells me they have nurtured an employee and customer experience that makes me feel comfortable and one that makes me want to come back.

What nailed vibe down as THE business term I was seeking, is the definition I found in the Urban Dictionary…

Vibe (noun): A distinctive emotional atmosphere; sensed intuitively.

BOOM! That’s exactly how I want small business owners to think when it comes to culture. Small businesses may not have the time or desire to define their company’s culture, but they can relate to creating an atmosphere in which employees work joyfully, and the atmosphere customers crave.

The culture of a business emits a vibe.  It’s how customers, and employees, feel about the business atmosphere. And it’s sensed intuitively.

Our senses are fed by the environment, by the actions of staff, and by the energy coursing through the workplace. Don’t tell me you haven’t been someplace and thought to yourself, “Gee, this would be a sucky place to work”.

Your Experiences

Think about your experiences. Here are a few I came up with: As an infrequent visitor to the doctor’s office, but every time I’m there they are ‘running behind’ leaving me sitting for 20-30 minutes past my appointment time without even acknowledging the fact that I’m being inconvenienced.

The restaurant, where after being seated, doesn’t have a wait staff member ready to greet us immediately even though there’s plenty of them running around, and instead leaves us sitting wondering if we’re invisible.

The service business that promises a technician at a specific time, who then arrives late, blames the office staff for overbooking him and proceeds to share all the company’s dirty laundry.

None of these experiences leave me feeling like those businesses have a ‘customer first’ mentality. They don’t make me feel like I’m a priority or even important. They don’t leave me craving more. In fact, there’s a good chance I won’t patronize them again. And I certainly won’t refer them to anyone.

Perceived Indifference vs. Customer Experience

It’s easy to sense or perceive, that those businesses just don’t care enough. The business throws off a negative vibe. There’s not a culture that defines what they stand for. They simply offer a product or service they can profit from. That’s it. They don’t satisfy the customer experience.

Not like going to an Apple Store. I recently went to a mall where I passed by many empty stores until I got to the Apple Store. It was packed, as usual, and it was vibrant as usual. It’s has a vibe, a culture, where providing the user with an experience comes first.

Disney World is another example. When you go there you are transported away from everyday life and into one known as the ‘magical kingdom’. I always get a kick seeing stick families with Mickey Mouse ears on the back of mini-vans. It’s a customer experience. It creates loyalty.

And you know the feeling when you have to return something or call a service department because something went wrong? It’s that ping of anxiety knowing you could be in for a hassle.

Well, not when dealing with companies like Zappos or Amazon. They encourage returns if you’re not happy or something doesn’t fit. They make it as easy as possible to ensure a pleasant customer experience, no questions asked.

You might say, “Yes, but these are big businesses with enormous amounts of resources.”

Very true. Which should make it even harder to get thousands of employees serving millions of customers to get it right. But they do.

And you can too, even in your small business.

YOUR Business Has A Vibe

Do you know what it is? Do you know how your business is perceived by customers, and by your employees? Earlier I spoke of having the kind of business that customers will remember and recall as…“that’s the place where [whatever it is that makes your business memorable], I love that place”.

How would you fill in that blank for your business?

Your business creates perceptions for customers by throwing off a certain vibe. Understand what it is and learn to cultivate it.

After all, during a business’s lifetime, it cycles through many stages. Problems come and problems go. But its vibe, and its culture, last forever.

Reach out to me if you’d like to dig deeper on this topic, and find out how you can use a vibe to gain better control of your business and unlock its full potential. Use this contact form, or click here if you’d like to schedule a free 15-minute strategy call to explore what might work for you. And if you found this article useful please share it. That way others can learn how perceptions are shaped by the vibe of their business.

Also, you can join me at one of my free workshops.

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customer loyalty

Why Having Satisfied Customers Isn’t Enough

Satisfied customers are not enough. We’ve all heard the phrase “customer satisfaction” a gazillion times. Businesses, large and small, strive to fulfill their customers’ needs and desires.

They do everything they can to meet the customer’s expectations or demands. Somehow believing that as long as they have content customers, that those customers will continue to buy from their businesses – forever. Well, sort of.

Your satisfied customers are probably still shoppers. Here’s how you can get them to the next level…

Satisfied Customers

A survey conducted by The Sales Board suggests that 75% of customers who leave a company for a competitor said they were satisfied or even very satisfied with the company they left. Twenty-five percent of those who defect from a company say they left for a lower price, while 10% leave because their needs have changed.

Having a satisfied customer doesn’t mean you have a customer for life even though most of us think that to be the case. So when it comes to having a customer for life, satisfaction just won’t cut it.

As business leaders we have to create – no, actually we have to earn – customer loyalty. A truly loyal customer couldn’t imagine an offer from a business’s competitor that would tempt them away. These customers have for all intents and purposes, stopped shopping. The relationship with that business is too valuable to consider giving up.

Do you have customers that are loyal? Are you that passionately loyal to some of the businesses providing products or services to you or your business?

Personal Experiences

I had a personal experience just this week that illustrates the difference between satisfaction versus loyalty. I’m a pretty avid runner and purchase running shoes 2-3 times per year.

There’s a retail specialty running store from which I have always had a good customer experience. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and they have a large selection from which to choose. Yet, that’s not where I bought my last pair of shoes.

Instead, I purchase from another specialty retailer who I was “satisfied” with having purchased other products there before. The staff wasn’t overly engaging, in other words, service wasn’t over the top, and they got me into a brand of shoes I have never worn before.

Fast forward two months and a hundred plus miles of running with these shoes and I’m having a foot problem. So instead of going back to where I purchased them, I went to the store where I knew I would get the personal service necessary to solve my problem.

The clerk and running specialist who helped me was totally engaging. She told me her name, asked me mine, asked questions about my running style and running history or previous problems. She analyzed my foot structure, and then gave me several shoe recommendations.

Essentially I learned that the shoes I had been running on were not what I needed and were creating my foot problems. The whole interaction reaffirmed why I will not shop at other stores for my running shoes ever again.

Customer Loyalty

So here’s the deal about customer loyalty: loyalty doesn’t come from creating loyalty programs that encourage large-volume or long-term buying by offering discounts or special packaging. Who doesn’t have some kind of loyalty program now?

Businesses that only rely on a program to encourage customer loyalty are missing the boat. Customers may be attracted to your program, and satisfied by it, but only until they are wooed away by another program.

When it comes to generating real loyalty a business’s greatest asset is the potential of its team. All customers, and especially B2B clients, are most apt to become loyal when they have developed a bond with a particular team member.

Salespeople and team members who market not just their company or products but themselves provide something much more valuable. They create a relationship.

Do your team members develop relationships with your company’s customers? Are they outgoing and engaging? Do they ask the right questions to dig to the root of the customers’ needs?

Are they able to leverage the company’s resources to provide good solutions for the customer? Do they care enough to foster a relationship that will keep that customer coming back and buying from your business – forever?

Customer Expectations and Relationships

Satisfaction is about being content. It’s obvious that meeting customer expectations is critical to operating a successful business, but customer expectations change without notice. Your satisfied customer is still shopping.

Loyalty is about being faithful. Loyal customers see the value in doing business with your company not just because of the products or services you provide, but because of the relationship they have with someone in your business on your team. They couldn’t see themselves going anywhere else. They’ve stopped shopping.

Your challenge is to lead your team from one that services your content customers to one that earns the customer’s loyalty.

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