When I was at Lands' End, Fortune magazine wrote an article on us titled "Getting Customers to Love You." The big revelation was this: Lands' End was loved because it was dependable; it could be counted on.
Lands' End established peace of mind with its guarantee. We trained our telephone reps to not only know the products backwards and forwards but also care why customers were buying them. Our graveyard shift operators were some of the busiest in the business because of the calls they'd receive in the middle of the night from insomniacs who, sure, would buy a turtleneck—but were also on the line to hear the friendly voice on the other end. We had quality standards that customers could count on, because we flew quality assurance experts to the plants every 30, 60, and 90 days throughout the production cycle to ensure they were on course. Products were inspected once (and sometimes twice) when they came through our doors. And when you called in your order, it was on its way to you usually within 24 hours. Customers loved us because we respected them and their time. And we made sure that we translated that respect to actions they could see and feel.
In the time that's gone by since then, I've experienced a multitude of cultures, some close to that of Lands' End. But most, unfortunately, are far removed from that respect we were able to weave into our operation and business decisions.
It's the unusual organization that's set up to let people think and act collectively on behalf of customers. We're stuck in our silos making independent decisions, taking isolated actions for the purpose of executing our discipline, achieving good numbers and earning a good review.
Of course, the customer experience doesn't happen neatly down each individual silo. The customer experiences a company horizontally—across the silos. This fact creates the breeding ground for the lack of respect customers feel and the discontent they have with us. The typical silo structure bumps the customer disjointedly along to deliver the outcome of its experience. It's only when the silos clang and clash into one another that the total experience comes together.
And then the customer becomes the grand guinea pig, experiencing each variation of an organization's ability, or inability, to work together. Not much customer respect or love results.
Looking for Love
So what I'm going to give you here is not 10 tactics on how to execute a great loyalty program, or tips on how to cook up some special offer or whiz-bang thing to give customers so they love you. What follows is a list of hard work and actions that must be done to show customers you respect them.