Principle 11 – Proud to Serve

Book Discussion:
“Sticky Branding” by Jeremy Miller

We almost made it. So, stick with me (pun intended), and we’ll pull it all together in the last part of the book. In Principle 11 we find the following headlines:

The first part of Principle 11 talks about: “Be brilliant at the basics” (page 164). It’s the not so glamorous, often invisible work that’s done behind the scenes. Think of a theatre production. Everyone working on a production has only one goal: creating a magical experience for the audience. But what we see on stage is only a minor part of the work that goes into it. Many hands are needed. Someone designing the costumes; someone building the stage set; someone ensuring that the restrooms are clean; someone cleaning the auditorium, …. 

Sticky Brands pay attention to everything, even the work behind the scenes. They know and take pride in the most mundane things. Every moment counts towards a great experience.  

Just imagine you had to use the bathroom in the theatre, and it was filthy? OK, the performance may have been wonderful, but, I for one, wouldn’t forget my unpleasant restroom visit. 

“Sticky Brands sweat the little things.” (page 164) Even if it means cleaning the bathroom. Miller attaches this commitment and attitude to a clear purpose. “Their attention to detail is absolute, and it radiates through their products, services, hiring practices, operations, marketing, and every customer touch point.” We talked about this and the impact on company culture and employees in the previous two blogs. The focus here is more on the inner and “technical” workings of the company. Purpose fosters enthusiasm and the desire to constantly improve to better serve clients. The attitude of employees is more that of an artisan than that of a factory worker. They continuously ask the question “How can we be just a little bit better?” 

I’d like to start the second point “Good is not enough” with a question: When do you brag about something? I can’t talk for you, but I brag about products or services after something unusual has happened. 

Do you remember my blog about buying my Mini Cooper? I still remember talking with the sales rep about details of my car and later on sitting in the dealership going over the paperwork. Buying my Mini was a fun experience and out of the ordinary. That’s why good enough won’t work for Sticky Brands. They want to be excellent or, as many feedback forms state it, “exceed expectation. This Mini dealership certainly did. […] “you have to give your customers a reason to seek you out and choose your brand first.” And that includes sweating the little things as well. 

What can you do to make your customers remember you? Pick criteria that align with your purpose and that make you unique to your customers. This way it’s not just marketing, it’s who you really are. 

The next point is, if you “love your customers, they’ll love you back.” Meaning, if you give your customers your full attention they’ll notice. Miller uses an experience he had during an interview with Muldoon’s president Jimmy Muldoon. A long-time customer had a minor complaint. This is how Miller describes the situation: […] the whole tone of the company shifted on the spot. […] the office was under DEFCON 2.” (page 169) The Muldoon team pulled all information they had about this customer, talked with the service manager, called the customer service rep and attended to the customer’s concerns with the “utmost care.” (page 170)  

Complaints are opportunities for improvement. […] In our business, our current customers come first […] and we make sure they are satisfied.” (page 170) 

And it’s not just lip service. At the Family Business Forum in April 2013 Miller heard it first-hand. A presenter, the CEO of a large retailer of designer men’s wear in Canada, praised Muldoon’s Coffee, their quality coffee and service. He, the CEO, hadn’t intended to talk about Muldoon’s. His presentation was about successful family-owned businesses. Muldoon’s just happened to have presented earlier that day, and the CEO happened to have first-hand experience with Muldoons. So he used them as an example. 

And this leads us to the next point “listen and respond.” It’s your customers who will tell you what they like or what they want. You just have to listen. It’s the perfect feedback loop and the best opportunity to learn about your customers’ needs and/or concerns. Understanding their point of view gives you valuable insights for product or service improvements. I mentioned “Muldoon’s complaint” already. Miller cites another example, the CEO of FeedBlitz who said: […] “out-servicing our clients and out-listening our competitors” is “the only way we can compete successfully against free services like Google.” (page 171) FeedBlitz’ CEO even shared that when the company was struggling with three equally viable strategic decisions they found the answer on the exhibit floor by … you guessed it, talking with their customers. 

The last part of Principle 11 is about being seen as an expert in your field. I’m sure you know that this will take time and practice. Miller compares it to a craftsman and calls it the craftsman mindset.  

Do you know Malcolm Gladwell and his book “Outliers”? He refers to research done by Andres Ericsson, researcher and professor of psychology at the Florida State University. According to his research it’ll take about 10,000 hours to reach mastery through deliberate practice. It also explains that deliberate practice […] entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well – or even at all.” (page 173) 

I believe Miller emphasizes this point because “Becoming an expert is a hard and difficult road, but the process is also extremely fulfilling – it’s a source of pride.” (page 175) It takes a long-term commitment, as mentioned before approximately 10,000 hours, for your team to learn. “Do you have the purpose and pride to push your team to develop their skills and capabilities to consistently improve and serve your customers? Is your work a source of pride?” (page 175) Because if you only do it for the money, it won’t work. 

Now over to you. Are you proud to serve your customers? What are you doing to sweat the basics, be better than good, show love for your customers, listen to them and have a craftsman’s mindset? 

Let me know in the comments below.
Regine

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