Happy Father’s Day, Dad

My dad was a “people person” of the first order.

Among his proudest possessions was the official  photograph of Army Unit 1102  in which he served as Corporal during World War II.  The photo was shot on a rainy  September day in 1943, days  before the men shipped off to France.   On the picture’s front, my dad numbered many of the men and on the back of the glossy photo he wrote amusing notes about them.  Here’s a few examples:

-”The man who kissed the wrong woman.”

-”The gunner of all gunners.”

-”A hell of a guy…the bugeler.”

-”The best damn baker in all the outfit.”

-”Had much rather be in Tennessee hills having cornbread and water with no puffed wheat.”


Only a true “people-person” would  search out such funny and kind-hearted observation and record them.  His humorous, light-hearted tone left no mistake—he was deeply fond of his fellow soldiers and, no doubt, was a better Corporal because of it.


This week I had the privilege to address “Women in Lodging” at their annual convention in Houston.  I shared the wise words of Barbara Talbott, EVP  of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts who I quoted in my newest book, Taming the Search & Switch Customer. Says Barbara:

“Whenever the topic of customer service is broached, people always ask us about our training.  We respond by talking about recruitment.  There is an aspect of good customer service that’s un-teachable.  It really comes down to how we select our employees.   We believe that there are certain attitudes that some people bring to their job that predispose them to being an effective deliverer of service.  [Those include] kindness, helpfulness, a genuine desire to see other people happy and taking pride in doing things well.”

Loyalty lesson: Get the right person with the right temperament and clients (and co-workers) will notice.”


This entry was posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2012 at 11:03 am | Comments Off

Thanks, Steve Jobs!

Steve Jobs recent departure from Apple makes me sad.

I wrote my first loyalty book on a MacIntosh computer in the early 90’s. I still remember the thrill of cutting and pasting text and peering at it in, what at the time, was considered an amply-sized window! I told friends that, thanks to the Mac my writing method was to dump text in a chapter file and slowly start to weave the information into a coherent chapter. I likened it to watching my grandmother make biscuits as a child. First she’d pour in all the ingredients, mix them together, knead the bread, roll it out and then cut the dough into biscuits.

I remember writing my first chapter (actually Chapter 3) by “kneading the information” and being amazed and surprised by the unexpected topic connections that emerged. The computer’s ability to let me “text dump” made it happen!

Today, I realize Steve Jobs and his programmers were my book writing “wing men” and I’ll always be grateful.

Steve Job’s Back Story

Born in San Francisco in February 1995 to two unmarried graduate students, Steve was put up for adoption within a week of his birth. He was adopted by a blue-collar couple, Paul and Clara Jobs, and the three of them soon moved to Mountain View, California, a rural town full of fruit orchards. The town didn’t stay rural very long – Silicon Valley was born.

As a kid, Steven Paul Jobs was considered by many as a borderline delinquent. “I would have absolutely ended up in jail,” says Jobs, if it wasn’t for two things: My fourth grade teacher who bribed him with candy and money and a down-the street neighbor who got me hooked on the wonders of electronics by giving him Heathkits (hobbyist electronic kits). These kits taught Jobs about the inner workings of products. He discovered that such things as TV’s were not mysteries, but were the results of human creation.

College was a condition of Job’s adoption but he dropped out of Reed College in Oregon after the first semester. He soon returned to California and briefly took a job at Atari to save money for trip to India. Upon his return, he began hanging out with electronics whiz Steve Wozniak who loved to build personal computers but had little interest selling them. Job had other ideas and the two founded Apple on a shoe-string. Jobs sold his Volkswagon microbus Wozniak sold his calculator.

Catching the wave of the early PC revolution, Apple took off like a missile . Says Job, “I was worth over a million dollars when I was 23….and over a hundred million when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.”

Here’s just a few of Job’s contrarian leadership “rules” that help transform Apple prospects into unshakeable loyalists.

What Not To Do

Says John Sculley, Apple’s CEO from 1983 to 1993, “What makes Steve’s methodology different from everybody else’s is that he always believed that the most important decisions you make are not the things that you do, but the things you decide not to do.”

Simple Drives Different

For Steve, product difference is never the goal. In fact, the first iPod had the hardware for FM radio and voice recording, but these features were not implemented because they complicated the device. In Steve’s mind, it was very easy to create a different thing. What was hard was making the product a simple thing. And this striving for simplicity ultimately became the Ipod’s key difference.

Products as Gravitational Force

Says Jobs, “Lots of companies have tons of great engineers and smart people. But ultimately, there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together.” Citing Steve Ballmer (the company’s chief salesman) who took over from Bill Gates (the programmer), Jobs explained that people who built the company in the first place—the product-oriented staffers—tend to be replaced in importance with a sales focus. Says Jobs, “Then one day, the monopoly expires for whatever reason…..But by then the best product people have left, or they’re no longer listened to. And the company goes through this tumultuous time, and it either survives or it doesn’t.” Apple lost its product-oriented focus in the 80’s when Jobs left Apple, but he restated the product culture in the nick of time, when he returned.

“I want to put a ding in the universe,” says Steve Jobs. His passion, drive for excellence, innovation vision and more make him a stunning example of a Loyalty Maker.

At your next staff meeting, use the above rules as a jump-start on how your firm can think more like Steve. No telling what loyalty-making ideas may come to mind.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Comments Off

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 www.wiredanddangerous.com

This entry was posted on Monday, May 30th, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Comments Off

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.

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 28th, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Comments Off

Storytelling, Fly Fishing and Me


Last week I travelled to Arkansas to “talk loyalty”  with 350 tourism professionals attending the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism. Most of my audience either owned or managed tourist destinations, lodging, dining or some combination. “Find your firm’s  signature story” was one of the loyalty strategies I shared. Customers learn through your story and come to care about your business because of it.

Jim’s Story

Take resort owner,  Jim Gaston.  This 69 year old can talk Facebook marketing strategies with the best of us.  But Jim’s signature story began more than 50 years ago when his father Al bought 20 acres of White River frontage including six small cottages and six boats.  In 1962, Jim (then in his 20′s), took over the operation. “I didn’t have a clue how to grow the business, so I had to learn,” says Jim.  And grow it he did!

Today, Gaston White River Resort covers over 400 acres with two miles of river frontage and houses  79 “cottages” ( including a two-story with ten private bedrooms) and a fleet of 70 boats with a massive state-of-the -art dock to hold them.  A restaurant, three  nature trails, a fly fishing school, swimming p0ol, tennis court, airstrip and conference lodge complete this one-of-a-kind resort.

Says Jim, “People still visit us who were guests of  Gaston’s back in 1958. Many of them were children then and now visit us with their children.”

Jim’s secret sauce? “It’s a host of  little things that bring people back,” says Jim. For example, if we notice a guest has a flat tire, we get their cars keys and fix it. There are no scared cows in this business.”  Wise words from the man who just this month was named Arkansas 2011 Executive of the Year.

Loyalty Lesson

What’s your firm’s signature story?  It can separate you from your competition while building  a pathway to the hearts of your prospects and customers.  Bottomline, it helps your buyers care about your cause.

Gather your team and brainstorm on your signature story.  Whether you sell healthcare or hamburgers, you have a compelling story to tell.

Capture  it.

Then start sharing it with the world!

Already Have A Signature Story?  Please tell us!

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Comments Off

Worth Fighting For

I come from a lineage of “fighters.” Not the kind that argue, the kind that know what it takes to hold true to a dream and fight for an outcome against great odds.

My maternal grandmother, Ada Faircloth Marsh, was a fighter. As a poor farm girl in eastern North Carolina she finished high school a decade before the Great Depression. Ada was the oldest of three. Her parents were tenant farmers who depended on their children to help in the fields. With school behind her, Ada was destined to pick cotton and harvest tobacco full time.

My grandmother had other ideas. She dreamed of attending college and becoming a teacher….something that farm girls simply did not do. Afterall, ‘Why would any poor family invest money in a daughter?’ went the conventional wisdom of the day. That money was better spent on seed, farming tools and curing barns. Yet, my grandmother held to her dream.

Day after day, out in the fields, Ada begged her “Papa” to send her to a nearby teachers college. And with every no, she’d regroup and ask again, and again, and again. For nearly a year, she pleaded, she made her case, she fought for her future. And finally, she got her yes.

But much hard work lay ahead. Ada went to Pineland Teachers College where she cleaned tables in the dining hall and took on every other odd job she could find to offset tuition. When her sister, Lila, was ready, Ada made way for her, as well.

Back home, the men in the community ridiculed Papa for sending his daughters to college. But, he had the last laugh: Papa was able to get farm loans from the local bank using his daughters’ teacher salaries as collateral.

My grandmother’s 3rd Grade Class, 1959.

Ada and Lila lived fine lives… between the two, they logged more than 70 years of teaching in the North Carolina public school system. And masterful teachers they were!

Loyalty Lesson: In today’s siloed, turf-focused firms, it takes “fighters” to unify the company around the processes and systems that deliver dependable customer experiences. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s typically a long, arduous, uphill path for leaders with the courage to take on the challenge. As my friend and fellow author Jeanne Bliss preaches,“You gotta believe.” And that means relentlessly committing to and fighting for the cause.

The fight is worth it because the emotional payoff is so huge: You can look back with pride and satisfaction in years to come with the knowledge that you gave your all. But, sadly, many feel fear and run from the fight, unable to “man-up” for the hard work required. And by doing so, they remove themselves from any chance of receiving the unimaginable lessons this challenging work will bring.

Don’t retreat. Be a fighter. Commit to the loyalty work.

You’ll grand kids will love your stories!

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 10th, 2011 at 11:36 am | Comments Off

I Want You Back: Seven Tips for Winning Back Lost Customers

In the down economy of these past years, you probably have customers who have left you. Many had no choice. It was about the economy — not about you.
They are ready to return IF you just ask them.

But before reaching out, get prepared. And that starts by defining the term “win back.” The Direct Marketing Association tells us, “A win back is a dormant customer who begins to purchase again due to a targeted sales and marketing effort.”

Here’s seven factors to consider:

1. Avoid This Trap. Many firms lack a win-back component and treat lapsed customers as new prospects. That’s a huge mistake! The very fact you have a history with this lost customer is a huge advantage to wooing them back. Use it!

2. Turn “Lost” Into “Love” . It’s easy to forget that lost customers are, first and foremost, people with feelings. Many may feel shy about the fact they haven’t sent you an order in a long while or been in to shop. Leveraging these very circumstances can positively differentiate your firm in the minds of lost customers. It’s your opportunity to show you really care…to reach out and let customers know they’ve been missed…..to demonstrate they matter to you.
3. Do Your Homework. Not all lost customers are created equal. Some lapsed accounts are worthy of higher win-back investment than others. Segmenting your lost accounts by such factors as “long-term revenue potential” and “shortest time to revenue” is critical. Before you reach out to lost customers and invite them to return, it’s important that you have a clear understanding on which lost accounts are your best win-back prospects and the payback potential for winning them back.
4.Pay Attention to Last Price Paid. Studies show that at the point of reactivation, customers respond negatively to price if that price is higher than the last price paid before lapse. But relax. After the relationship has been reestablished price increases can occur without affecting customer defection.
5. Use Social Media as a Win-back Tool. Research shows the role of social media has a direct effect on switching intentions. A service provider with strong social media presence will likely have an advantage over the provider who does not. Bottom line, go where your customers are online to strengthen your win back efforts.

6. Test. Test. Test. What win-back offers best entice which lost customers? Is a lapsed customer that received special favors and gifts in the past, best motivated by a price advantage coupled with special treatment? Testing various offers is key. It enables you to understand which factors influence which customers to return.

7. Reinforce the Decision After the Sale. Research shows that the lost customer’s decision to reinitiate a relationship after a long lapse results in a greater amount of dissonance relative to the decision to reinitiate a relationship after a shorter lapse. The way a lost customer who comes back handles this dissonance is to engage in post-decision processing that reinforces the new decision that has been made. Do this: Provide your newly reacquired customer with ample messaging that communicates why the decision to return was a sound one.

The down economy has heightened customer defection in most firms. Don’t squander the opportunity to recapture lost customers you simply can’t afford to lose. Winning back lost customers is your ticket to increased sales, profits and heighted emotional attachment with your reinstated customers.

The time is now. Don’t delay. Win them back before your competitors grab them!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Comments Off

Need Your Input! I Have New Videos on YouTube

Would you take a few minutes and look at my new, short (2 minutes!) “how to”  You Tube videos.  They focus on how to build customer loyalty.  What do you like?  Not like? I’d love your input as I work to make these better and better. www.youtube.com/loyaltymaker

I made these videos with a cool tool called Screenr  (www.screenr.com).  I so appreciate your help!


This entry was posted on Sunday, September 19th, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Comments Off

3 Ways to Enhance Your Loyalty Marketing Program

Loyalty expert Jill Griffin was featured in Deliver Magazine. The US Postal Office publishes this great publication which you can subscribe to online. Jill’s latest book Taming the Search and Switch Customer addresses how Google and online search are changing the game of customer loyalty.

This article was written by Pamela Oldham and is crossposted at oddpodz.com

Loyalty marketing has significantly evolved in the last two decades — and there are pitfalls to not keeping up. Marketing guru Jill Griffin, author of the best-selling Customer Loyalty: How to Earn It, How to Keep It, explains how changing your approach to loyalty can help you win more business from the customers you already have.

1. Evolve with Your Customers
Customer needs are changing, constantly evolving, be it business-to-business or business-to-consumer. “Customers can help you stay on top of the ‘value curve’ and help you find ways to deliver exceptional value,” Griffin says. “But you can’t depend on them to spell it out in a focus group. You have to dig for that info.” Find the behaviors of your best customers, understand why customers are walking away from you when they do and put together the pieces of the value puzzle.

2. Keep Up with Loyalty Marketing Trends
Right now, it’s less about redeeming for merchandise and more about access and enhancing experiences — for example, a credit card company giving customers the ability to get great tickets for a major rock concert before they go on sale to the general public. “Bigger retailers are recognizing that customization of experiences is a big deal,” Griffin says. “And the payoff is that customer spending increases significantly over the months following an event.”

3. Identify and Monitor Your Best Customers
Don’t just amass customer data, truly wade through it and make it strategic.Look at spending. But don’t stop there. Also look at future lifetime value and share of wallet. Marry geographic and income data with that to see if that person has a larger wallet and a larger potential to spend long term. “You want to invest in that potential,” Griffin says. “It’s not just who’s spending the most money with you right now.”

This entry was posted on Monday, July 19th, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Comments Off

Must-Read New Books

Two of my favorite colleagues have recently released must-read new books!

Selling guru Jill Konrath’s new book, Snap Selling, address head-on solutions for capturing the attention of today’s “crazy-busy” (Jill’s words) prospects. Download a samplechapters and other free resources at Jill’s spunky site:  www.snapselling.com.

Customer Experience Expert Lior Arussy has a new book entitled, Customer Experience Strategy. The chapter “Different Experiences for Different Customers,” alone, is worth the price of the book!

Lior’s describes a segment of “inherently unhappy customers” which represented only 5% of the customer base but occupied 45% of the service department’s time. Can you get that granular in your customer segmentation? Lior’s book is a great start.  Learn more at www.CEStrategyTheBook.com

Want to stay ahead of the competition?  Read.  It’s your opportunity to get into the best minds in the business.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 at 8:23 am | Comments Off