Love Customers“Payin’ with lovin'” seemed like a clever twist on McDonald’s advertising theme, “I’m lovin’ it!”. In a Superbowl ad, the company announced its random selection of customers to pay for purchases with “random acts of love”, from the big game day through Valentine’s day. Yet, stories abound about deep embarrassment felt by customers who were randomly selected to perform an on-the-spot dance, hug someone, call someone to say “I love you”, and the like. And bystanders, as well as employees, were similarly uneasy in many cases. What was it about this seemingly clever idea that didn’t jive with customer experience excellence?

It boils down to the notion of customer experience management as “engaging customers” in any way possible, or doing things to customers, or getting customers to do something for you. After paying fair market value to you for your goods/services, customers don’t owe anything to your company. If you want more from them, you’ll need to give more to them, and in ways that aren’t disruptive or awkward or self-serving.

The McDonald’s example is kind of like announcing that you won’t be giving out any presents to family and friends this year because you’re donating to a charity instead. It looks like they’re loving customers, because after all, the company is forgoing payment for certain transactions. Yet, what they’re asking of customers, as small and innocently designed as it is, puts many customers in an uncomfortable situation: they’d really rather just give the money. Conversely, good etiquette says you should flip the do-gooding around: you could announce that in lieu of receiving any gifts yourself, you prefer that the giver gives to the charity, if at all. A corollary to customer experience management is this: do things for your customers, not to or from them.

This Valentine’s weekend, you may be preparing to show appreciation for your customers. Or perhaps you have a customer appreciation day coming up later this year. Or maybe you have a whole department dedicated to employee loyalty and/or engagement campaigns. Learn from the McDonald’s snafu by assessing whether your ideas are more me-centered or customer-centered:

  • Is the idea aimed at giving something to the company, or giving something to the customer?
  • Is it aimed at long-term relationship strength, from the customer’s perspective?
  • Does it generate mutual value, from the customer’s standpoint?
  • Is it weaved into customers’ busy lives, or asking them to step out of their comfort zone or interrupt their flow?

I’m a big fan of companies loving their customers. I think it’s often hard to be a customer. Customers put up with a lot of surprises, delays, and things that don’t make sense to them. One of the places a company might start getting it right is to show more love to their suppliers. How can a company expect to be loved by its customers, and at the same time be an indifferent turkey to its suppliers? It doesn’t add up. Many of us subscribe to the principle of treating employees well if we expect them to treat customers well. It’s plain logic. We know that employees see through the hyperbole to their actual work conditions and prospects for personal fulfillment.

Likewise for customers. Treating customers well means getting things right the first time. Making it a joy for customers to do business with your company, or at least pain-free, is an essential foundation to effective customer engagement, and to reaching your loyalty goals. If you want customers to love your company, focus on ease-of-doing business and helping customers efficiently achieve what they’re setting out to do. Show love not by asking to get, but by giving. Love, and you’ll be loved in return.

Image purchased under license from Shutterstock.

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