Monday, September 19, 2011

How to Out Heart the Competition, Part 2

Love isn’t something you feel – it’s something you decide.

THE QUESTION IS: Has your organization made that decision yet?

If you haven’t, people will find out.
If you haven’t, people will find someone else.

From my column on American Express Open Forum, we’re going to explore a few more ideas about how to out heart the competition:
1. Contact trumps content. Loveless companies are notorious for only delivering select information. And that makes people feel out of control. For example, I recently called a local property management company to discuss leasing options. When I got their voicemail, here’s what the recording said:

“Thanks for calling, but everything you need can be found on our website.”

And I thought to myself, “Well, I need to talk to a human being right now. Got any of those on your website?” Click. Frustrated, I sought out one of their competitors. And to my delight, when I called their number, not only did a human being answer on the second ring; she even googled my name as we talked to learn more about my business. Which company would you pick?

That’s the amazing thing: Sometimes loving people is as simple as showing up and giving voice to their needs. Are you offering access to information about your company or access to individuals who work there?

2. Ask your customers early. Netflix recently increased their streaming service by sixty percent – without making any changes in the subscription model. According to an interview in The New York Times, the purpose behind the move was to make streaming films the core of its business – not physically mailed movies. Sadly, this price increase spurred tens of thousands of customer complaints, thousands of cancellations and hundreds of negative media stories.

After reading several dozen comments on the company blog, here’s what I learned from their (now former) subscribers: If Netflix loved their customers, they would have increased the quality of the streaming movie selection with the increase of the price. Or, they would have offered bundled discounts for veteran members. Also, wouldn’t have made the pricing change when the economy was the worse since the Great Depression.

And lastly, they would have realized they made a horrible pricing mistake, listened to their customers, apologized, and then returned to their original pricing model. By loving customers, you have automatically asked for their opinion on everything. Have you?

3. Make normal a possibility. Secrecy is a lonely experience. People don’t want to feel terminally unique – they want to feel like they’re not alone. That’s why it’s so important to respond to their experience in a calm, even way. You have to meet them where they are. You have to be willing to go as deep – or as shallow – as they want to go. And you have to help them merge their checkered past into something that smacks of normality.

My physician is an artist when it comes to this. He never fails to remind his patients that they’re not the only ones having an experience. I remember the first time I came in with stomach problems. “Tell me about your typical day,” he asked. So I did. And when I finished, he smiled and said, “Well, you certainly have a unique career path for someone your age. But your symptoms couldn’t be more normal. Happens every day at this clinic. In fact, if you didn’t have stomach problems, then I’d really be concerned.”

That was the love I needed to hear. Interestingly, I’ve only had to see him once in the past three years. Behold, the healing power of normality. When was the last time one of your people trusted you with a secret?

4. Intimacy can’t be forced – but it can be accelerated. I don’t have to warm up to people. I don’t have to get to know someone before we connect. And I don’t have to wait until we’ve hung out six times before I start opening up. I just jump right in. I reveal myself quickly, openly, honestly and respectfully. And most of the time, others reciprocate.

Sure, not everybody is used to that level of openness. But most people appreciate the willingness to cut the formalities and start connecting for real. As my dad likes to remind me, “When you treat people like family, it’s hard to say no.”

That’s the key to exhibiting loving intimacy: It’s not about pretending you’re everyone’s best friend. It’s about finding the common point of interest that makes people feel like you’ve been friends for years. Do you treat customer intimacy as a feeling or a business model?

REMEMBER: It’s not a secret that love is what everybody secretly wants.

Love looks good on everybody.

It’s the style that never goes out of style.

Make the decision.

Out heart the competition.

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011-2012!

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