The Spirit of Customer Loyalty
Every business is different. But regardless of its size, number of employees, products or leadership, there is one critical need that unifies every company: a need for customers. In his book, Inspire!: Why Customers Come Back, business strategist Jim Champy has written a crisp and readable work that answers the tough question of how to attract repeat customers. The author also acknowledges the challenges posed by the recent global economic tsunami.
Yet, despite that drooping economic backdrop, Champy’s research uncovered companies that thrived due to an innate ability to “inspire” their respective consumers. He goes on to write that the word “inspire” precisely captures the substance and spirit that’s necessary to gain and build customer loyalty for a lifetime.
The Customer Knows Best
Champy begins defending the cliche, “the customer is always right,” by citing a Yankelovich market study that found more than half of all Americans believe they know more about products and services they buy than the salespeople who peddle them. According to Champy, this knowledge, and its online application, empower the customer to control the purchasing process as well as the product’s brand promise via peer-to-peer communication.
Champy writes that smart organizations recognize this power shift. He also found a compendium of traits engrained within the DNA of these organizations that, through their authenticity and transparency, organically fostered loyalty within this empowered customer base.
Among the company traits that Champy identified as inspirational drivers are: a culture where intuition trumps tradition; a common ambition to deliver stellar performance; a continual commitment to innovation; and a blend of “serious fun” within the workplace.
While all the attributes that Champy lists are equally important, “first-among-equals” is the quality of authenticity defined as “… the highest form of integrity, and those who lack it had best choose either a character transplant or a career change.” He goes on to state that once an organization knows what it stands for, it can answer tough questions while engendering customer trust.
What Inspired Success Looks Like
Champy uses a case-study approach for each chapter to examine a company through one of the inspirational filters he has identified. For instance, the company Stonyfield Farm is the world’s largest producer of organic yogurt, and all of its business and marketing decisions are founded on eco-friendly principles. Furthermore, the Boston-based car-sharing company, Zipcar, is acutely focused on “zone marketing” and meeting the needs of its precisely defined customer segment.
At the end of each chapter, the author summarizes the “Rules of Engagement” for the respective quality to make it easy for the reader to spot usable parallels within his or her own workplace.
Champy concludes his book with a realistic assessment of the current economic crisis and its reactive push to close plants and layoff employees. However, he paraphrases a CEO who said that during a recession, organizations can’t shrink themselves into greatness, rather they must think about innovation and growth. Inspire! takes an inspirational leap forward toward that ultimate vision.