Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in loyalty

Posted by on in Strategy

Over the weekend we received this wonderful gift from Sage Centers for Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care. It’s not expensive or elaborate, just a hand-made craft with a picture of Lacy surrounded by congratulatory messages from all the doctors and nurses that took care of her over the last few weeks.

Lacy, our wonderful and perfect darling of the family was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma (yes, malignant cancer) a couple of months ago, and the wonderful staff at Sage have been nothing but courteous and professional throughout the whole process of excising the tumor, administering radiation treatment for three weeks, and following up with post-radiation treatments. Her checkup last Thursday was nothing but good news—she’s doing extremely well, and she will be ready for chemotherapy in just a couple of weeks. So, the staff at Sage decided to send us a nice “congratulations,” on the great progress she has made so far.

Sage continues to impress us with not only their professionalism, but their personal touch. As you can see by their Yelp reviews, they take their customer relationships very seriously. They’ve been awesome to this point, but I never expected anything like this. In my opinion, this is over the top.

Relationships are a key component to any business. For any company to have this kind of affect on so many people, there’s more than excellent customer service in play—this is proper execution on a relationship strategy. This is the secret to building long-term customer loyalty; something vital in today’s competitive environment. Relationships must be part of your strategy, and contemplated by the CEO and top management in the same discussion with what products will be offered and what markets will be served. Like anything else in your strategy, you can choose to be competitive, distinctive, or breakthrough. If you choose to pursue a breakthrough relationship strategy, you don’t need to spend a lot of money, but you do need to make a very strong impression on your customers: over and above what they normally experience. Sure, I get cards in the mail at Christmas time from my dentist; however, this is playing at a completely different level!

A couple of weeks ago I talked about The Orient Express, and now Sage. To be honest, I can count on one hand the number of companies that have this level of loyalty with me, and none of them have to do with utilities, financial services, or travel and hospitality. What have you done lately to show your customers how much you appreciate their business? If you value your customer base, you don’t want your competition to come up with a better answer.

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Posted by on in Innovation

My favorite place for Chinese food is Orient Express, in San Ramon. There’s nothing fancy about the decor, there’s really no dining area (just two or three tables inside), and sometimes there’s a long line going outside the door. The food is pretty good, but definitely not fine dining. Most of the food has been sitting in warming dishes waiting for take out, although you can phone ahead for one of the specials.

The reason why I love this place is because of the relationship I have with the people in the restaurant. They run a very small operation in a busy area of San Ramon (well, busy for San Ramon), so it’s not hard to get to know people, especially the people working the counter like Thomas and Michelle. Although they officially close at 9p, there have been many times when I’ve stopped in around 9:30p after a long day with clients, excited to see the doors still open, and happy to take whatever they have left over.

Last night was one of those nights. I pulled into the parking lot around 9:15p, and noticed someone just a few seconds in front of me, walk in ahead. By the way he was looking over the available food, I could tell he wasn’t familiar with the place. Thomas and the crew had already started to clean up, so there were only a few dishes in the warmers, and some other packaged food up on the counter. Among the packaged food on the counter was my absolute favorite, Salt and Pepper Chicken. The Salt and Pepper Chicken at Orient Express is nothing less than awesome. It’s chopped, battered and deep fried with generous portions of salt and jalapeño peppers. Yum!

Thomas was working behind the counter. He acknowledged the gentleman in front of me, then gave me a big smile and shouted, “Hello, John!” As Thomas reviewed the menu options with the gentleman in front of me, he touted all the wonderful dishes in the warmers, and with quick stare and a wink at me, politely “underemphasized” the Salt and Pepper Chicken which he knew I liked. It was already wrapped up on the counter, so even if the customer knew how good it was, he really couldn’t see it that well. As the nice gentleman walked out with his Kung Pao chicken, Thomas smiled at me and said, “I’m guessing you want the Salt and Pepper Chicken, right?” Needless to say, it was a great night for dinner and Big Brother (that’s another story).

Having a good relationship with your customers and suppliers is not taken serious enough in business these days. There are three dimensions to innovation and “product” development when considering your offerings: products, services and relationships. Most companies focus just on products and services; however, relationships are the most critical of the three and they’re often completely overlooked. When it comes to Chinese food, I’m not going anywhere but Orient Express. Do your customers feel the same way about you?

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