As Valentine’s Day approaches, I have love on my mind. Not the romantic kind – rather, I’ve been thinking about Fred Reichheld’s latest book, “Winning on Purpose: the Unbeatable Strategy of Loving Customers.” His foundational principle for business is simple, yet powerful: focus on enriching the lives of customers. Reichheld takes his cue from the Golden Rule, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
It’s a fantastic read, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know because these principles ring so true to our own value of authenticity here at Axway. But first things first: why would this matter to our customers?
Why would a company want to have a relationship with an enterprise vendor?
All too often in the B2B world, the buyers and sellers of enterprise software solutions and services look at them as mere transactions. “I need this, you have this, I want to buy it and I’m going to go away and use it for myself.” And they don’t see each other again until the vendor is ready to send another bill.
The problem with this transactional mindset is that not only is it very cold and clinical, it’s also separated from the purchasing company’s overall business goals. These companies have a problem they are solving in order to serve their customers, and it takes a variety of people and services and vendors to do that.
In reality, it’s the strongest relationships that make for the happiest customers – and the most efficient businesses.
As Reichfeld points out, “Relying on profits as our gauge of greatness is often misleading, because profits quantify value extracted from customers and employees rather than value created for them.”
Effective, long-term relationships don’t take a transactional view – we’re not talking about spare car parts here! At Axway, we work together to help solve complex digital transformation and integration challenges, and that just can’t be done through a one-off transaction.
We might not send each other birthday cards every year, but we keep the lines of communication open because we’re in it for the long haul. As I’ve mentioned previously, some of our clients have been with us for ten, fifteen, twenty years because they see the value in this too.
So, back to love languages.
5 languages of (customer) love
I think most of us are at least somewhat familiar with relationship expert Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. They apply to more than just marriages and intimate relationships, though, and Reichheld’s coauthor Darci Darnell cleverly applies these principles to how we interact with customers in a recent article, Five Languages of (Customer) Love. Here’s a look at some different ways to show love to your customers.
Words of affirmation
Put simply, show appreciation for your customers, whether in writing or in word. Darnell gives the example of American Express’s practice of listing “Member Since” dates on the front of every credit card, a valued recognition of loyalty.
On the flip side, let your own team members know when you get great feedback, too – they don’t always get to hear it if they’re not on the front lines. Not too long ago, one of our own Griffins, Kostadin Galabov, Axway Senior Director of EMEA Technical Support and Cloud, shared with all of us how a simple email from a happy support customer made his day.
That heartfelt thank you means a lot to the ones who work tirelessly to support our customers – and it helps us renew our commitment to their success.
Seeing our customers as more than transactions means we need to take the time to understand their key motivations and the problem they are trying to solve. It means establishing a shared vision so we can make sure we are helping them achieve their goals. And those things take quality time.
Quality time can also look like hosting joint events and celebrating our wins together, forming customer advisory boards, and offering human support when chatbots just won’t cut it.
Acts of service
This may seem tangential to the actual customer relationship, but people in our day and age value companies that make the world a better place more than ever. Research demonstrates that the social behavior of companies increases their consumers’ perceived value.
This goes beyond Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives – although these are important too – to the actions of individual employees.
Darnell gives the example of Airbnb partnering with resettlement agencies to fund temporary stays for 20,000 or more Afghan refugees. She adds, even the efforts of a single Good Samaritan – like a lead installer at a closet company stopping to help with a flat tire – can have a positive impact on the customer relationship.
It may not be part of the job description, but it is part of being human.
“Domino’s built a whole campaign around this idea when, in lieu of the fees delivery services add, the pizza company decided to give away $50 million of ‘surprise frees’ — pizzas, lava cakes, and other goodies delivered at random to people who had ordered on the Domino’s app,” says Darnell.
And she notes it doesn’t have to be physical things; an experience or service that goes above and beyond can delight and surprise your customers.
I loved the pithy totes Axway’s Financial Accounting Hub team gave customers at the solution’s launch event: « Je peux pas, j’ai clôture » means “I can’t, I have to close” in English – a humorous nod to what can be a stressful moment at the end of a financial period for finance teams.
It was useful, funny, and a nice reminder that we’re here and we care. Don’t underestimate the power of gifts – this little tote left a lasting impression on attendees!
Ok, we promise we won’t smother you with a bear hug next time we meet. But it’s undeniable that we’ve all felt the loss of human connection during the past few years, as pandemic measures made physical gatherings impossible. As we’ve slowly returned to in-person events, the energy and enthusiasm – a sense of relief – was often palpable.
Remote work is likely here to stay, but we still need time together to connect with partners, customers, and vendors. We’re only human.
Let’s keep the relationship alive.
Solid customer and partner relations are built on trust, open communication, a shared vision of the future, executive relationships, and they help parties keep each other accountable.
That’s why enterprise customers care about developing long term relationships with their vendors and partners: they understand it’s in their best interest to take a take a longer-term view, just like they do with their personal relationships.
Here at Axway, it’s important to us to continue to invest in these relationships because we are invested in our customers’ success. I look forward to continuing to share more thoughts on these principles of a strong customer relationship throughout the year.
Until then, happy Valentine’s Day!
Discover some of the relationships we’ve built with customers over the years.