The one time I uttered the words ”love” and “customer” in the same sentence I practically got laughed out of the boardroom. That was 17 years 3 months and 5 days ago and as you can tell by my razor sharp memory of the event, my ego is still smarting a bit from the experience.
So when I first read and reviewed Jeanne Bliss’ book I Love You More Than My Dog in 2009 (see my review), I have to say that I felt vindicated. Jeanne Bliss (@JeanneBliss on Twitter) outlined how some of the most beloved companies got their stellar reputations for having rabidly loyal customers. In her research, Jeanne uncovered the five basic decisions that companies made that generated this insane level of love and loyalty:
- Decide to Believe: Beloved companies trust their employees and their customers.
- Decide with Clarity of Purpose: Companies who decide to focus their operations on why they exist for the customer are rewarded with loyalty and love from their customers.
- Decide to be Real: To what degree do you “get” your customers? Companies know they can’t be real if they don’t know what it’s like to be their customer.
- Decide to be There: Beloved companies are “there” by giving their customers what they want.
- Decide to Say Sorry: It’s how a company says “I’m sorry” that makes them beloved by their customers
Introducing an Updated Release of I Love You More Than My Dog
In October of 2011, I Love You More Than My Dog was re-released in paperback and updated. So, I thought I’d follow up with Jeanne Bliss and get an update on the book and its impact on business. My interview of her follows:
How did small businesses embrace “ I Love You More Than My Dog “?
Jeanne: The small business community responded to this content very enthusiastically. My goal in writing it was for a small business owner / operator to see themselves in this book – both through the case studies and also through the challenges common to every type of business. The response and interest in pursuing these five decisions in the conversations I have had with small business owners around the world (and I love these conversations) has been what I had hoped – that these five decisions are relevant, within reach and not usually a cost decision but a direction decision. How should we decide to grow?
Which of the 5 decisions did many businesses easily adopt and why?
Jeanne: The most obvious and “easiest” of the five decisions to adopt is “Decide to be there” because this is about operational reliability, process and stability. That decision was the clearest for business owners to build a path of actions for how to be reliable. And in this world of social media, that is critical. If a customer can’t tell someone they know what they get from you and how they get it, then you don’t have the baseline for a story about the experience of your company.
The other decision that many “aha” lights have gone on for and many have importantly worked to improve in their business is “Decide to Believe.” This decision is about deciding to believe your customers by releasing many of the policies that protect a business from its customers and it’s about deciding to believe and enable belief in a company’s workforce by investing in training and development and by believing that people want to bring the best version of themselves to work. I am very encouraged that this has also been a focus area because this fundamentally is a shift for many organizations and is one of the true differences attitudinally between a “beloved” company and an “everyday” company.
Which of the 5 decisions did companies find very difficult to adopt and why?
Jeanne: Companies still struggle with “Decide with clarity of purpose.” I think that’s because most companies, especially when they are starting out have so much on their plate in the “doing” of the work, that focusing on “why” we are doing this regarding improving customers’ lives is not focused on intently. As business grows, this becomes more and more important to unite decision making across the organization. It’s hard to stop and find the time to have this clarity and make sure it doesn’t turn into a long protracted “mission statement” exercise instead of what it’s meant to be – which is an operational lens through which to guide decisions you make to run your business.
What is it that companies are most afraid of when it comes to adopting the 5 decisions of becoming beloved?
Jeanne: What has impressed me the most is that small business owners are pretty fearless! I haven’t seen fear as much as wanting to make sure that there is enough time to calibrate for making decisions in this manner and making these part of the fabric of the business.
Do companies really care about being beloved?
Jeanne: This is such a great question! The word “beloved” means that you grow and become prosperous because you are the kind of business that draws customers to you and keeps employees because they can’t imagine being a part of another mission, another organization. This word is pretty galvanizing as a commitment and is aspirational financially– what this book has proven out is that having clear direction for how you will and will not grow your business is one of the most potent arrows in the quiver of beloved companies.
But what these companies have goes beyond financial prosperity – to prosperity of the human spirit. Employees stay and become more valuable, and customers become the army that grows the business for them. Companies want this when it’s understood that this is what it means to be “beloved.”
That’s one of my great goals in writing … to try to transport the reader to these environments so they could feel how differently it was to be inside of one of these companies – and whey they earn the right to growth in good times and bad.
What are companies who DON’T adopt the philosophy of being beloved missing out on? What don’t they get?
Jeanne: There are a lot of companies who are proficient and professional. They do the work, they get it done, but the spirit is different inside of their organization. Their customers are not fiercely loyal to them. Customers shop them on price frequently because there is not an experience and an attitude wrapped around the delivery of their products and services that magnetically pulls them and keeps them there. And their employees see the work as important – but they often miss and don’t connect to the higher purpose of the organization. People come to work, they execute tasks, they go home. Customers buy products and services but aren’t out in the marketplace with the megaphone of the internet selling their company for them. Interactions are transactional – there’s no relationship, no bond. And by the way these five decisions can and are successful in both B-to-B and B-to-C businesses.
Customers at the other end of our decisions are human beings. And we all respond when a company decides to conduct itself along these five decisions. In fact what we see is that in B-B when this is more unusual, the beloved companies prosper even more.
Do you have any examples of a small business who adopted the principles you discuss in your book?
Jeanne: One of the great adopters of these five decisions is a beloved small business called Simplicity Sofas. The owner Jeff Frank is a zealot about how he will and will not guide his company toward growth – and they are adopting every one of the five decisions. In a depressed marketplace (especially for the furniture industry) their results are astounding.
What are some of the updates that you’ve included in this book?
Jeanne: With the paperback coming out this year, we had the benefit of looking back at how the companies who run their business with these five decisions have done in the financial downturn. So we embarked on redoing all of the financial research for these businesses. And the results are that they have ALL prospered during the downturn. They are above their competition even in a depressed market, some of them having had their best years during the downturn!
Why should people who have the original get an updated copy of the new book?
Jeanne: With these new updated financials inside this book - get it to prove to your people, your board and the people who manage your financials – that making these five decisions pays off. And get the paperback in volume – because with this greatly reduced price, you can use the contents to continue your transformation toward becoming “beloved.”
How do you recommend that people read and use the book?
Jeanne: Reading and absorbing content is a pretty personal thing. But here’s a few ideas/suggestions:
- For leaders – read the book all the way through to at least understand the five decisions and how they impact you. Go to the last chapter and determine how proficient you are in making the five decisions today. From there you can prioritize the order in which you’d like to make some changes. If you’d like you can send your organization through the electronic version of the audit. And if you email me, I will also send you a paper version. Info is below.
- For folks leading teams throughout the organization, we’ve found that some companies have reading groups where they read a chapter a month and then focus on each of the five decisions.
Most importantly, understand how your organization needs to customize your business to your translation of the five decisions in your operation. Do this thoughtful work with multiple cross functional groups in your organization.
Is there any supporting information such as a web site, etc?
Jeanne: There is! What I really wanted to do is provide folks with an ongoing journey for using this information to guide their business growth, so there are quite a few resources I offer at no charge on my website along with a few that have a bit of a price tag associated with them.
Here is a list of the free items you’ll find on the Customer Bliss:
- The first chapter of the book
- A ten question high level snapshot
- An Depth Online Diagnostic
- Videos: Difference between an everyday company and a “beloved” company and Impact of beloved and prosperous companies
- Culture Kick-Start: 45 Cards to Change Your Culture
- BELIEVE “In a Box”: Nurture a Culture of Belief Shared by the Beloved Companies