Want your customers to love you? You’ve got to love them first (right along with your employees). We typically don’t think of love and business as existing in the same universe. Yet, not only does love belong in the business world, Boelkes says, it should fuel everything you do, both internally and in your interactions with customers.
“Your customers are the reason you exist, and your job is to earn their love and loyalty,” says Boelkes, author of The WOW Factor Workplace: How to Create a Best Place to Work Culture. “That means you must first love them. And that, in turn, means you must first love your employees.”
None of this will happen if you go through the motions, she cautions. You can’t fake love for employees or customers. You must infuse love into all that you do. And that means building it in from the ground up.
To get the love flowing, says Boelkes, commit to becoming a WOW factor workplace. That’s a workplace in which heartfelt leaders inspire employees to create extraordinary products and deliver impeccable service at a great value.
This creates an unparalleled experience for both employees and customers and makes them both feel special, appreciated, and respected.
Here are a few tips for getting hearted (oops, we mean started):
1. Don’t be afraid to use the ‘L’ word
In her book, Boelkes quotes the late Teresa Laraba, former vice president of Southwest Airlines, as saying, “Early on, when we started, one of the taglines was: Somebody up here loves you. We used the word love in a space where it had not been used, especially in the airline industry. Our stock symbol is LUV. We were open about introducing love to corporate America and the airline industry. We were going to have a product which loved you and a company which was going to serve you and appreciate you doing business with us versus the attitude: ‘You exist to keep us in business.'”
“We were going to have a product which loved you and a company which was going to serve you and appreciate you doing business with us…”
“Find fun, creative ways to show the customer that you love them each Valentine’s Day and beyond,” suggests Boelkes. “Send them a heart-adorned coupon book with discounted services or offerings. Pen personalized cards listing the reasons you love them. Put together ‘We Love Our Customers’ gift boxes full of Valentine’s Day goodies. Or make a charitable donation to a local soup kitchen or an animal shelter in honor of your customer. There are countless ways to show you care.”
2. Recommit to your relationship with employees
Engaged employees are happy employees, and happy employees create happy customers. That’s why leaders make it a priority to work on their relationship with employees. And as with any good relationship, it means putting in time and effort.
Teresa Laraba said, “We do not subscribe to ‘you leave your problems at the door.’ Customers shouldn’t have to pay for your employees’ problems. As leaders, you ought to know what’s going on and find out if something is stopping your employees from delivering on their work promise that day.
“If you take the time to get to know your employees as you work with them every day… it builds,” added Laraba. “If you don’t bother asking employees how they’re doing except for every six months,” it won’t work. “You’re trying to build a relationship in a ten-minute conversation when you should have been building a relationship every day.”
3. Think of yourself as a ‘superior service’ role model
When you WOW customers, employees will too. If you commit to giving the best possible service to every customer and making decisions that benefit the customer, your employees will do the same. They are watching and taking cues from your behavior. Exemplify heartfelt leadership, and they will WOW the clients every time.
Boelkes says legendary coach John Wooden is a prime example. Wooden said, “I’m convinced that regardless of the task, leaders must be enthusiastic and really enjoy what they are doing if they expect those under their supervision to work near their respective levels of competency. With few exceptions, an unenthusiastic leader will keep those under his or her charge from achieving their collective best.”
4. Look for the Servant’s Heart in those you hire (and make sure you have it, too)
To win your customers’ love, you must truly love the work you do. No one should ever phone it in. Great leaders and employees alike develop what Teresa Laraba called a “Servant’s Heart.”
She said, “We’re lucky at Southwest. We first try to hire people who care. Our hiring process is looking for people who genuinely enjoy what they do. We call it the Servant’s Heart. People who have a Servant’s Heart are people who, especially if you’re going to be on the service side of it, enjoy serving. Not somebody who merely pretends they enjoy serving.”
5. Look at customers in context of their humanity
Don’t treat them like transactions. Boelkes quotes Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks Coffee, as saying: “I have this idea. Rather than seeing people as customers or seeing people in their roles as bankers or teachers or authors or whatever, we need to see all people in the context of their humanness, of being a human being.”
“We all get caught up in the transaction,” Behar adds. “We’re all in a hurry to get things done.” Instead think about what you’re doing and how you can love customers beyond their transaction with your company.
6. Allow employees to go above and beyond for customers
Take a cue from Donald Stamets—general manager for Solage, an Auberge resort in Calistoga, CA—and don’t make employees ask permission to go the extra mile to WOW customers. As part of his Expected, Requested, and Delighted philosophy, Stamets encourages them to go above and beyond what the customer expects or requests and try to delight them at every turn.
For instance, if a guest is sick, employees can bring them tissues and chicken soup without asking a manager. “Likewise, tell your employees their goal is to delight customers,” says Boelkes. “Let them use their judgment and tap into their creativity. Being allowed to do it ‘their way’ will encourage and inspire them to go in whole-heartedly.”
Chocolates are enjoyed and then forgotten. Roses eventually wilt. But the loving feeling you create between you and your customers will endure through the year — well beyond Valentine’s Day.
“Yes, it’s hard work to be a heartfelt organization, but the rewards are so much greater for you, your team, and most of all, your customers,” says Boelkes. “Life is just better when you give and receive love every day, in all that you do. There’s no reason why this truth can’t apply to the workplace.”
Deb Boelkes is not just a role model heartfelt leader; she’s the ultimate authority on creating best places to work, with 25+ years in Fortune 150 high-tech firms, leading superstar business development and professional services teams. As an entrepreneur, she has accelerated advancement for women to senior leadership. Deb has delighted and inspired over 1,000 audiences across North America. For more information visit Businessworldrising.com.
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