A couple of weeks ago I was speaking at a conference and found myself in a conversation with the president of a large distribution company. We started talking about business challenges, and he quickly launched into a tirade against the entire millennial workforce.
He repeated what sounded a scan of Forbes/Inc Magazine headlines with an endless rant on “millennial entitlement.” He claimed it was hard to hire young talent who didn’t infect the organization’s culture with their narcissistic, entitled attitudes.
(I don’t buy into all the sweeping generalizations about an entire generation of people, but that’s a much longer post and discussion another time.)
I let him finish his rant, and then we talked more specifically about his company. For what its worth,
To my surprise, he said their products “sold themselves.”
He said his clients were “ safeguarded” by “a historical loyalty” and the “pain of switching providers.”
He said nobody could “compete with them on service and the ‘wow’ experience they delivered.”
That might have all been true, but something bothered me about his attitude, so of course, I dug deeper.
I asked basic questions about their business, their retention strategies, and their efforts to cultivate long-lasting loyalty.
Their client relationships were steadfast, he assured me. Yet, he couldn't answer some of the most basic questions I asked him. He also couldn't give me specific examples of things they had proactively done to create a memorable experience for customers.
It seems the entitlement mentality doesn’t fall far from the tree, and this attitude is precisely why organizations lose customers and their foothold in a competitive marketplace. It's why organizations at the top of their game, suddenly find themselves scrambling.
Here he was telling me that his single biggest business challenge was the exact "entitlement attitude" he was inadvertently projecting.
I once worked with a client doing some contingent work after a few of their salespeople had left. When they called to introduce the replacement for Bob, their customer said, “Who’s Bob? We haven’t seen anyone here in over a year!” You can’t make this stuff up.
Another CEO I spoke to a couple of weeks ago told me they don't know until six months after a customer is gone that they've lost them! When I told him I could help with this, he said he wasn't ready for help. I guess we need another six months!!!
Companies become complacent.
They get complacent about continuing to get their customers business without even having to try, and this is a mistake.
Companies feel entitled.
They feel they've delivered great value and they're entitled to loyalty and entitled to long-term relationships.
This is also a mistake.
Companies get lazy.
They become less responsive to their best client's requests. They take those clients for granted as they continue to hunt for new business. The value they once delivered isn't as valuable anymore.
As I've discussed in the majority of my books, loyalty is never owed. Loyalty has to be earned, day in and day out. And it's earned from your actions.
There are a few simple ways to do this:
1) Create and utilize a process like my 90-45 rule (or whatever timeframe makes sense for your company). Ensure the process is followed and senior management knows when it's not.
2) Choose to over-communicate with customers.
3) Regardless of your role in the company, you need a pulse on customer behavior. Utilize exception reporting to keep you up on the things you expect to be happening that isn't happening. Notice when client behavior is changing. Six months is too long to know a customer has switched to a competitor.
Your Challenge For This Week:
1. Write down the names of your top 10 customers & clients.
2. Start a timer and see how long it takes you to find out the last time they had a phone call or an in-person meeting with your company.
(For B2C readers, the challenge still applies. When was the last time they made a purchase, had a service request, or a proactive reach out from your people?)
3. How many of your current clients have gone longer than 90 days without an in-person contact?
4. Start another timer and see how long it takes you to find that information.