Words from your humble Master of the Obvious: “Superior customer care in congress with heartfelt kindness muscles up a products offense, defense and brand currency. In essence successful brands have boundless sensitivity, rugged constitutions.”
Leadership is smartest, most effective and competitive when it walks, talks and builds an unyielding demand for customer kindness, customer value. I truly believe and have applied for decades this trenchant rule for customer engagements: kindness and respect are your most valuable assets, your greatest competitive advantage, your most profitable business weapons of choice.
Products make brands…brands do not make products. And brand kindness super-fuels and matures leadership products. Forlorn customer care, arrogance, neglect and or sluggish response portends failure in company vision, product sales and brand value: in financial results. Trust me, without naming certain companies we all have competed with, their lost sales and market share footing was as much about a blatant lack of customer kindness and valued experience as it was about the value of their brand, products and operational deliverables.
Our new social and e-commerce digital tools, instruments and levers are creating challenges and opportunities that are consumer invigorating. While the ancient valued power of customer kindness, respect and reflective actions may be considered e-old, they are still highly valuable as e-new and much easier to deploy. Customer kindness is still lacking and anemic in so many who attempt to “serve” us, yet strong, flinty and fierce in so many who wish to defeat us. As we know in highly successful companies, customer kindness and customer service is not a department, it’s simply and smartly everyone’s job.
Some great leaders I personally study, highly respect and learn from, I believe say it best:
- Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart: “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.”
- Ross Perot: “Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.”
- Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon.com: “If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”
- Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon.com: “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.”
- Peter Drucker: “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”
- JC Penney, founder of JC Penney’s: “Every great business is built on kindness, on friendship.”
If you care through formidable, kind and valued actions, through every capital aspect translated through your products and brand value, then over time you will be able to ask for a few more pennies for your products and your brand than your competitors. If you truly care about customers through your kind actions trust me, they will in turn care about you, your brand… your future. Regardless of your social engineering prowess or your expensive advertising and marketing muscle in this new, highly exposed socially charged customer world of instant information your brand glorification or gratification isn’t what matters most. What matters most and competes best is customer care in the language of customer kindness.
As leaders we must never mistake kindness for weakness within our organizations or within our perceived brand value: our financial brand equity. Weakness is always an opportunity to improve. However, weakness can also be an advantage that you sadly hand to your competitors as they command smarter brand recognition and customer kindness through each and every touch point of their organization. Kindness in its most relevant leadership sense is acting upon the courage of your brand conviction.
To best recognize, respond to and crush sales, brand and organizational weakness, I offer six customer relationship mistakes to avoid:
- A silent refusal to be flexible with your business relationships to match each of your customer’s expectations and styles of engagement.
- Misplaced weakness in understanding how to gain new business, not realizing or acknowledging your sales and marketing teams simply did not “earn the right” to ask for the business while your competition did.
- A series of brand and product “fat claims” through your advertising, sales presentations, and marketing programs that your company or your brand does not pay off.
- The inability to impress customers through leadership kindness defined as genuine and relevant organizational customer experiences of competitive excellence.
- The kinetic failure to listen and respond to customer requests, problems, and opportunities with caring kindness, relevancy, and hyper-speed.
- A lack of market sensing prior to the creation, architecture and or manufacturing of a new product. “Questions are the answers” in any market place to ensure highly successful product builds, product launches.
Many years ago when I competed on the streets of New York City, I realized through customer engagements that it was never good enough to simply offer better featured products with more aggressive pricing. It was never good enough to just deliver the products on time or to proclaim our great advertising and marketing programs. The winning customer centric formula that worked again and again beyond better products and services was to be kind and caring to each and every customer, never weak, never late, always first rate creating mutually positive fate.
Leadership reflects and defines a company’s DNA for customer relationships. Let us congress and proclaim loudly the need for formidable customer care and kindness to ensure our greatest competitive advantage, greatest brand value. Those who already play smart this way will surely call me the “Master of the Obvious.” Those who trust and lean into the birr of these words already lead and care in kind action for customers. Sadly, those who do not find accord in these words will continue their competitive journey without this market proven brand and market leadership advantage.
Smart, urbane business leaders kinetically say ”never misunderstand kindness for weakness.” Without assiduous customer kindness, your personal brand, your team members’ results and your company’s future potential will be weakened by those competitors who lead with better products, more caring services, and genuine highly competitive customer kindness.
Pete Weedfald is the author of Green Reign Leadership.