It’s worth investing in reputation

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According to Mario Puzo, author of the Godfather, in Sicily, the mafia would often send ransom notes in advance.

If you paid up, they would not go to the troublesome business of actually kidnapping you. That way, in their eyes, everyone wins.

I was reminded of this when thinking of the difference between sales and satisfaction. Too many businesses prioritise making a sale over everything else - whether by winning new customers or squeezing more money out of existing ones. In the short-term, this might seem like a smart strategy. If you are looking to get your business acquired then rapidly increasing revenue might excite a prospective buyer. But this is not usually a sustainable practice. Failure to invest in customer satisfaction often leads to complaints, negative word of mouth and fewer repeat purchases. Companies caught in the trap of high sales and low retention can find they are running just to stand still. It is the definition of being a busy fool.

One business famous for understanding the value of loyalty is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, where employees have a discretionary budget of up to $2,000 per day to improve customer experience. In one example, a guest left a laptop charger in their room only to receive it at their destination by courier before they had noticed it was missing. Expensive, perhaps, but this widely shared story is arguably worth more than any advertisement. Glossier is another business which has built a reputation for satisfaction. Rather than have agents copy and paste canned responses, they employ “editors” responsible for writing personal replies to every message - from email to Instagram DMs. And instead of working in an isolated customer service department, Glossier’s so-called gTeam is a division of marketing, right at the heart of the business. “We never want our customers to feel as if they’re talking to a robot,’ Mallory Pendleton, a gTeam editor explains. “Every editor has a unique vibe, so we all bring something different to the exchanges.” Glossier has found good service creates advocates which in turn leads to more revenue. No hard sell required. Everyone wins.

By Guy Cookson, Partner at Hotfoot Design