Last week, Mack and I had to put down our beloved, “amazingly loyal” 14 year old Welsh Corgi, Scooter. And with that came the reminder of a loyalty truth: the deep heartfelt connection that loyalty can create between two parties comes with a price. When your time together is over, your heart can suffer a huge, inconsolable loss. And it hurts.
Ever notice how life has a way of merging events so you can “get” a lesson at multiple levels? Amidst the grief of losing Scooter last week, I began preparation for a loyalty keynote for a multi-national, b-to-b manufacturer. During a fact-finding conference call, I asked my executive sponsor why his troops (mainly engineers) should actually care about customer loyalty. (He had previously admitted that the company’s “siloed” performance metrics conspired against the building of customer loyalty by driving an “every-division-for-itself” work mentality.) He paused for what seemed like a very long moment and then replied, “To build true loyalty, you must make a real, noticeable difference for the customer. You go the extra mile to get results. And there’s a huge personal satisfaction and pride that can come from that level of customer work.”
So true. Building deep loyalty requires you to own your customers’ problems. It moves you from the “Me Zone” to the “We Zone”. You stick your neck out. You put your heart in it. Your customers’ successes become your successes. And alas, their hard times become your hard times, too. Yes, there is a price to pay for this level of commitment. And there is risk, as well. The daily grind of navigating your way through corporate war-fare (both inside the firm and out) and cut throat competitive market spaces can make “doing the right thing” for the customer feel almost like an after-thought.
Yet, hidden deep in every employee’s soul is a yearning to make a real difference. To courageously serve a customer. To put some skin in the game. To make work life count for something. Loyalty Leader companies know this and constantly work to help, not hinder, their employees’ natural affinity to make a difference for customers. Indeed, their customer-first corporate cultures attest to what Scooter’s passing so aptly reminded me: the loyalty rewards of the heart far outweigh their price.