Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oh, The Things We Tolerate

Just yesterday, in two separate conversations, people told me about products or services they hate.

"Hate" -- that was the precise language used. Not "dislike." Not "mildly irked." HATE. Now, that's a strong emotion.

The first instance, in a discussion about healthcare, a gentleman told me that he hated his medical plan/provider. (No names here, but I have to concur about my health plan too. And I'll bet many others would say the same about theirs.)

A bit later in the day, a colleague talking about her fairly new laptop stated, "I hate this computer!" Her computer, from a top name PC brand, has been a constant thorn in her side: screen problems, keyboard problems, printer problems, etc. Follow-ups to the company often led to greater frustration.

Thinking of brands or experiences I hate, really hate, a few come to mine as well. I'll bet you can think of a few too.

What does a business, organization, service, etc. have to do to bring about this emotional reaction from its customers?! Think about it -- customers. These are the people that pay the bills, support the owners'/shareholders' livelihood. I may be going out on a limb here, but that probably is neither a competitive or sustainable business model.

On the other side of the coin, what about brands we adore? I mean really love.

I could name at least a handful for myself with Apple, MINI Cooper, and Trader Joe's included.

Sure, each of these has upset me from time-to-time. But I keep going back. In fact, not a week goes by without me evangelizing for one or more of these brands... Someone asks me for my opinion on computers? I'm all about Apple. Parking my car, people often ask about my Clubman, "How do you like your car?" Often they're sorry they asked; I give them a sermon on the virtues of MINI Cooper with the prevailing notion, "I love it!"

Perhaps one of the positive results of this current economy (I also despise terms like, "during these tough times", etc.) will be the weeding out of businesses that don't understand this notion of building their business around the needs and desires of their customer. Same goes with those that don't fully understand their employees. It will be the ones that customers -- and employees -- love that will be best prepared for the future.

In the meantime, it's just smart business.

UPDATE (July 9, 2009) - Fresh off the press... the current issue of Knowledge@Wharton has an article closely relating to this post:

Getting to 'Wow': Consumers Describe What Makes a Great Shopping Experience

"New Wharton research finds that 35% of shoppers have had an extraordinary -- or "wow" -- retail experience in the past six months. But in order to hit that mark, retailers must deliver on as many as 10 different elements of the shopping experience simultaneously. Among the strongest drivers of customer loyalty: brand experience, courteous employees and knowledgeable salespeople. Expediting the shopping process ranked high, too."

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