In preparing for this year’s customer experience event with the Emplifi community, we had conversations with each of our guest keynote speakers. This is the third in a multi-part series that will be published in the weeks leading up to Emplifi Summit '22.
Business strategist Fred Reichheld is a Bain Fellow and the founder of the firm’s Loyalty practice. He is the author of the new book, Winning on Purpose: The Unbeatable Strategy of Loving Customers, in which he argues that the primary purpose of a business should be to enrich the lives of its customers. Fred is known as the creator of the Net Promoter System (NPS) of management, which we discussed during our conversation this summer.
What does it mean for a business or a brand to love its customers?
This is the idea of treating customers right. It’s vital to love your customers, so they come back and bring their friends. You want customers talking about the experiences they’ve had, with the people they trust. It’s hopefully an emotionally-charged moment, in which someone did something that made your life better. It could be an act of kindness the customer didn’t expect. Showing customer love communicates a culture of the company rather than a business strategy.
How well do you think companies are doing with this concept?
Most companies start out right, but lose track of how important it is to love customers. Startups have to earn their growth. But then they get big, and they start to see the business through the accountant’s lens. Companies tend to lose sight of what matters. They mistake profits for purpose.
Many people don’t understand that they’ve abdicated the responsibility for building loyalty systems and processes to the accountants and the engineers, who do not think this way. They don’t measure it, and they do not yet have earned growth. It’s so hard to swim against the current when the current is all financially-oriented stuff. The accountants will say, "Well no, you have to get the financials right," but that’s not nearly enough. What creates the financials is this lovely idea of enriching people’s lives in such a way that they come back for more — and bring their friends.
What brands do you see as leading with customer love?
Apple is brilliant at this. Their philosophy is customer-centered, and they don’t sell your data. Discover Card does a wonderful job, too. They have a slogan, "We treat you like you treat you." People don’t expect a credit card to watch out for their interests, but Discover Card sends a warning email the day before you get a late charge. That’s a Golden Rule kind of behavior. The customer trusts the company, employees are happy to work there, and that builds trust over time.
Warby Parker is another company that stands for treating people right. They give a free pair of glasses to people in need for every pair a customer buys. Some of their customers know this; all of their employees know it.
How does the NPS framework help companies meet rising customer expectations?
NPS is a score that reveals the link between customer loyalty and sustainable growth. The whole logic of NPS is to inspire teams to delight customers and wow them. With the 0 to 10 scale, a 10 helps people know when they’ve knocked it out of the park and why.
You can spot a promoter by their behavior, and it doesn’t have to come through a survey. It can be through referrals, online reviews, social content, or other channels. Companies need to celebrate that, learn from it, and give recognition to the people who earned it. We want our employees to think, "Of all the lives I touch, how many are enriched, and how many are diminished?" You have to innovate ways to delight customers and create 10s. Profits are a necessity, but purpose is about enriching people’s lives.
How can those of us who work in marketing, commerce, and care do a better job of loving our customers?
Employees need to be in a position to treat their customers with love and care. It’s the highest form of service there is. Every time someone is doing a job, we want that person to ask, “Am I treating this customer the same way I would want to be treated?” We need to remind our teams of what success looks like. And they have to receive positive feedback to know when they’ve succeeded.