There’s a large North American home manufacturer that demonstrates the arrogance of the housing industry perfectly. They post rules on the door that ensure customers enter their homes with maximum discomfort and insecurity. Their condescending bulleted list treats customers like an inconvenience. It tells parents to keep kids under control (including no jumping on beds) and requires all customers to remove footwear and leave snacks in the car. It makes me cringe. When the housing industry is bustling, home-builders become arrogant and instead of building something customers feel so committed to they don’t want to leave, they make themselves unfireable. This is an important principle for any industry.
Here’s the difference: When customers end up in a have to (unfireable) mode instead of a want to (unleavable) situation, they are driven by fear -- just like going to the dentist. It’s something they begrudgingly do, but dread. On the flip side, love and certainty motivate customers in a “want to” situation. If you are unfireable, customers feel they can’t leave you, while being unleavable means they don’t want to.
Follow these two steps to make yourself unleaveable:
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1. Create a product or service they love.
Whatever product or service you’re selling, people are paying you to make their lives better. If they feel they have to micromanage something they hired you to take care of, you lose credibility. The devil is in the details. Stay on top of them and you’ll look like an angel.
Holding customers hostage with an airtight service contract or big deposit is not the right way to keep them. It’s our job to treat them right and do our best to create a situation where buyers are so happy with us they simply wouldn’t dream of leaving, even when problems arise. When we treat customer requests as though they are as important as our own desires, they have a lot harder time walking away -- not because they have money on the line, but because we have earned their loyalty and trust.
2. Make customers feel important.
Let’s go back to our example of the builder that imposes a list of restrictions on visitors as soon as they walk in. Imagine if that sign said something like, “We’re so glad you’re here and we hope you enjoy your visit. Our home is your home.” Imagine if tired, hungry families walked through the door to a bowl of snacks and a refrigerator full of drinks. What if we made their experience more like visiting the Ritz-Carlton than going through an airport security line?
Making a few simple changes dramatically transforms the customer’s experience and makes the builder stand apart from industry norms. It is a simple solution: Examine everything you do in the company and see if it creates trust or traps buyers. Change is possible. Pretend every customer has a sign around their neck that says, “Make me feel important.” This is what makes us stand out -- as the only builder who let their kids be free, for example.
We strive to run our businesses in a way that makes us unleavable. If we wanted to be unfireable, we’d get the biggest, baddest attorneys to draw up iron-clad contracts. When problems arose, we’d say, “You’ve already signed.” Instead, we work our butts off to be unleavable. We want to provide so much value that clients justify the expense, knowing our service is worth more than they pay. If we’re not providing the value that makes us impossible to leave, we see it as our own fault. Look for opportunities to provide a standout experience in everything.