Archive for May, 2011

Guest Blog by Chip Bell: The New Normal Standard for Customer Loyalty

How long does it take the fastest person on the planet to run a mile? Until the mid-fifties, one had ever run a mile in under four minutes; some claimed it was not humanly possible. But in 1954, Roger Bannister broke that barrier forever altering the standards for racers for what was possible. John Walker in 1975 completed a mile in a record 3:50 minutes. Hicham El Guerrouj in 1999 took the record down to 3:43 minutes. Who knows who will be the first person to eclipse the 3:40 mark?

The standards for customer loyalty are a lot like the mile run. The bar gets continually raised on what is required for customers to demonstrate loyalty through their advocacy, repeat business and swiftness to forgive. Research shows customer expectations are 33% higher than a year ago. In other words, what got you a B on your customer’s report card last year will only get you a C this year. Expectations have been elevated by customers demanding greater value for their hard-earned funds. They get a myriad of social network customer reviews continually reshaping how they define value. And, the scary recession has made customers a lot more impatient with even the slightest hiccup.

The “tired and true” approaches for keeping customers loyal won’t work with today’s picky, fickle, vocal, and “all about me” customers. Winning customer loyalty takes service processes that are customer-centric and effortless; frontline employees who are empowered and smart; customer intelligence that is up-to-date and diverse; and, service delivery channels that fit exactly what customers prefer.

Runners did not break time barriers by simply running faster. It came through better training methods, healthier diets, better preparation, and smarter coaching. What can you do to change your approach to winning the race for customer loyalty?


Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do about it. They can be reached at

Red Toes – Real Differences

Do you want OPI red?

That’s the question the pedicurist recently asked me as my feet were luxuriating in a warm whirlpool foot bath and I was comatose in her cushy leather massage chair.

I had answered, “red” to her question, “What color did I want my toes painted?” (Yes, women all over the world face this dilemma everyday! )

But when she said, “Will that be OPI Red, I took note. Ahh….That’s beautiful branding in action, I said to myself.

The American Dream

OPI founder George Schaeffer immigrated to the U.S. from Hungary with his family in 1956. After college, he began his career in the family garment manufacturing business in NYC. Recognizing the amazing opportunity of America’s free enterprise system and a call to “Go west, young man,” George moved his family to California in 1981.

In Los Angeles, George’s success in the beauty industry came with an unlikely start. He purchased a dental supply business called Odontorium Products Inc.  George soon realized that the acrylic “porcelains” used to make dentures were similar to, and in fact, better than the materials used by Nail Professionals for crafting acrylic nails.

Partnering with a chemist, George developed what he fondly dubbed his “rubber band special” (an acrylic system for nails—the bottles were held together with a rubber band.) Working out of a tiny two-room office, George peddled his “rubber band special” door-to-door to nail salons in Los Angeles.  Once they tried it, nail technicians clamored for more!

The OPI Difference

George saw the opportunity to make OPI stand out.  For example, he transformed names like “Pink #2” and “Bright Red #1” into “Coney Island Cotton Candy” and “I’m Not Really a Waitress.” Moreover, under George’s leadership OPI patented the Lacquer Bottle, Ergonomic Cap, and Pro-Wide©Brush designed for ultimate application.

As the company grew, George’s travel schedule grew with it! He annually travelled 100,000 miles meeting with Nail Professionals, listening to their needs, and then spearheading product development to answer those needs. The result? OPI has been granted more than 30 patents for its innovative product ideas, sales grew to $300 million annually and full-time employees grew to 450.

On November 30, 2010 was purchased by cosmetic giant Coty, Inc. in a private sale worth, industry sources say, somewhere between $900 million to a billion.

Loyalty Lesson: Earning customer loyalty requires giving your products and services distinct differences that customers find compelling and relevant.

You must constantly find ways to deliver true value in a way your customers understand and that clearly distinguish your offering from your buyer’s next best buying alternative.  That’s one of 5 critical ways to pass your customer’s Worth-It Test.

In your market space, among your customers and prospects, is your brand perceived as “simply Red” or “OPI Red?”  What compelling and relevant differences can you bring to your products and services to stand out?

It’s a question well worth pondering.