Sunday, February 28, 2010

How To Lose Loyalty

Interesting how a few weeks can make such a difference!

Toyota, previously the driving public's darling of the automotive industry, has been reeling ever since the revelation of problems with the accelerators in some of their best-selling models. Toyota went from media darling to media target. How will Toyota fare? What does this situation show us about loyalty - and how to earn it/keep it?

Well to begin with, unless Toyota makes some MORE blunders (the company's decision to delay the recall and then admitting it was for financial gain was a huge misstep), I expect they will stop the bleeding, turn things around, and be on top once again very soon.

Here's the deal: Earning loyalty in business is the same as earning it in our personal relationships. Both start with getting your attention, then getting to know each other. Finding similarities in values, preferences, and interests. Occasionally, one makes a mistake - but if there's been sufficient deposits in the "emotional bank account", AND open/honest regret AND sufficient behavior change, the relationship can be repaired. For this to happen there MUST be value for BOTH sides. Common ground. It needs to be worth the effort.

Yes, Toyota screwed up. Safety is a non-negotiable when it comes to driving. But they've built up a lot of deep relationships with many, many years of consistent safety, excellence and service. If they make the proper recovery, their reputation and future opportunities will be as impressive (or nearly so) as it was before.

The lessons are:
1. Always be wooing your significant other (in this case, your customers are the significant ones)
2. If you really care, you'll do what's in their best interest
3. If you screw up, and you really care, you'll make an obvious effort to fix the problem AND fix the relationship...based on what the offended party deems appropriate

Loyalty is rarely earned by "faking it" in front of the customer. We all know when we're being conned. If the relationship is fake, then these kinds of mistakes will ultimately be fatal - and any loyalty gained will be lost. If the relationship legitimately has value, it's not by accident. It's because you've taken action on the things that matter to the customer.

Toyota can rediscover that truth and get past soon as they SHOW it (not just talk about it) and the media finds another whipping boy - which should be any day now.

What are YOU doing to earn loyalty? What are you doing to KEEP it?

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

When In The Midst Of The Storm

Recently, it seems like nearly every client, colleague, and friend has been overwhelmed by unexpected circumstances. Sometimes the challenge has been out of left field, sometimes the challenge has been more intense or longer-lasting than expected...but either way, they are struggling to manage.

Sometimes, Life has a way of ganging up on you, eh?

This past month has been a challenge for me as well. A "perfect storm" of previous commitments, professional challenges, and personal set-backs. Sometimes it can knock the wind out of you - leave you reeling for a moment. A setback like this can be painful, but it can be an attention-getter when you desperately need one.

When things in our environment are so dynamic, it is dangerous to be inflexible in anything except your values and The Truth. The saying that "good always triumphs over evil" is only true in the longest term. Short term, the ugly truth is that evil sometimes wins...temporarily. The key is getting through the temporary times.

Here is what I've found to guide me (and other clients/colleagues/friends) through these temporary trials: The "A List"...

1. Accept the pain/circumstances: Denial only prolongs the process. It IS happening - and time (nor any connected circumstance) isn't stopping. Grow up and face it with courage NOW or a messy "domino effect" will make it worse. (Yes, it ALWAYS makes it worse...)

2. Assess the root cause(s): Objectively review your circumstances and YOURSELF to get at the root cause of the problem. Look for trends/patterns. What is REALLY causing the pain right now? Could it be the natural consequences of YOUR actions? (or LACK of action?)

3. Adapt to the new situation/challenge: What was is no longer what is. Let go of the past and embrace a new now to establish today's starting place to make progress towards your goals. No, your goals don't have to change, necessarily (if they are still worthy), just your approach to achieve them. Maybe there's ANOTHER right answer that will get you there?

4. Action your way through towards your goals: Thinking/talking about your intentions get you NOWHERE. As overwhelming as it may seem, you can take a step NOW...even a baby step is progress. Baby steps, multiplied by consistent effort often turns to momentum and larger steps.

If you've experienced a painful set-back, you have my condolences. Take a moment to grieve (Accept) and then commit to the rest of the process. There IS hope...even in the midst of the pain and confusion. Focus on your goals and the process and soon you will be out of the maelstrom.

Take a deep breath, and begin. Now.

Think about it, but more importantly do something about!