I was recently in Ecuador and had a surprising conversation with the taxi driver that was taking me from the airport to my hotel. As we headed to Quito, he was kind enough to point out some interesting facts along the way - geography, demographics, key sites etc. Since the driver seemed to enjoy playing the role of country guide I inquired whether there were any especially interesting stores or shopping in the area. This is a habit of mine as my wife is in the retail industry and I always try to do a bit of reconnaissance on her behalf. I expected the suggestion of a good store or perhaps a mall or two. Without missing a beat, he emphatically suggested I visit Supermaxi, a local chain. But he was just getting started...
The driver went on to describe Supermaxi as the place for everything from tangerines to tires and just about anything else you could want or need in life. He raved about the customer service highlighting his recent experience of returning a product with no receipt but completely hassle free. In fact, the driver shared that there are three similar stores in the area and that he and his family staged a comparison for price, product and service; Supermaxi blew away the competition. And most amazing, he acknowledged that Supermaxi’s prices were actually a bit higher - but he didn’t care. Finally, he told us that he and his girlfriend visit the store at least three times a week whether they need to or not - they just love being there! You couldn’t have trained a better brand ambassador if you had hired and coached a professional.
With the current “amazonning” and commoditization of shopping, this story highlights some important lessons about how to stand out from online shopping and your other competitors. And since I typically write about the nonprofit industry, I’ll add a few parallels that can inform our work:
Customer Loyalty is about providing outstanding products and services supported by superior customer: Sounds like a no-brainer but it’s not! That’s probably why there’s an entire industry dedicated to customer loyalty programs. There’s certainly something to be said for giving customers a discount, a freebie or a little something extra now and then. But it shouldn’t be the #1 reason customers do business with you. For example, airlines literally buy your loyalty or at least sell seats by giving away miles after delivering average (and often below average) service. When it comes to the nonprofit world, a similar parallel exists. How often do we try to win donors with a t-shirt, tote bag or some other trinket? I may be old fashioned but I believe donors would be more excited to get a call from someone who benefits from their support, a note sharing an impact story or an extra special thank you from the board or staff.
Price is only an issue in the absence of value: When I was in sales training way back when, this was the standard price rebuttal. It’s sad that this true statement is used as a cheap throwaway line. As our Supermaxi friend demonstrated, his perception was that while the products cost a bit more, he was more than willing to pay for that extra something - the “special sauce” - that made his shopping such a WOW! Experience. Our donors may not state their preferences around price or cost; however, we have an opportunity to fulfill their expectations whether their focused purely on impact, self-actualization, or need assurance that they’re making the right investment in a social cause. Be sure you’re making the most of that opportunity.
Great customer experiences create the story of the brand: Great customer experiences like that of our driver inspire great stories. That’s where the rubber hits the road in terms of true brand loyalty. It’s rare that someone has an average experience and tells others about it. But how many of us hear from friends about the place we should steer clear of because of (fill in the blank for something terrible)? Happy stories are far less frequent. But when they are told, customers are ecstatic. It’s harder to inspire great stories but as our friend demonstrated, when you create a true believer - evangelist seems to be the new buzzword - they can’t tell you enough wonderful stories. Are your customers and donors becoming your evangelists? I hope so and our Supermaxi fan has provided a good start for the road map.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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