She was at least six inches taller than me but I was in love. Or what passes for love as a 14 year old boy in middle school. Lori was tall, blonde, and a super-smart basketball player with the sweetest southern accent you have ever heard. The eighth grade dance was almost here and I had to work up the nerve to ask her to go with me. My hands were sweaty, my heart rattled like a subwoofer in my chest, and my already cracking voice was hitting Mariah Carey high notes with ease. Was this love? If so, it was the scariest thing I had ever experienced in my life.
Fortunately, Lori said, "Yes." And after a brief whirlwind romance, which consisted of us passing hastily scribbled notes through the mail-carrier network of her friends, we went to the dance. With the melodic strains of "She Drives Me Crazy" by the Fine Young Cannibals drifting through the middle school cafeteria in Knoxville, TN, I thought I was truly in love. The cruel noose of fate soon cut off our young love when my family moved to another city the next year. But I will never forget Lori and the brief violent introduction to what "love" really felt like.
We can all relate to the emotions I described above. Everyone has had someone else that raised their heart rate, caused instant stammering, and driven us to insanity. But what if we could elicit those same emotions with our customers? Is it possible to have a real love experience with a company, product, or service? And what can we do to build those kinds of relationships? Here are three ways that you can inspire real loving customers.
First and most importantly, true love is reciprocal. If you expect your customers to love you, you have to love them first! Some of the most passionate brand relationships start with companies who really love their customers. Zappos's list of core values begins with this: #1 Deliver WOW through Service. If you have not read their list of 10 values you should do that now. It reads like a love letter to the Zappos customers and the team. You will build a loving relationship with your fans by following the Zappos mantra of "whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver." Simple lesson, love your customers and they will love you back!
Second, true love is genuine. Passion comes from the heart and if you don't believe from your very soul in the product you are selling, your customers know it. Hardcore fans can spot a fake. Jim Koch, co-founder and chairman of the Boston Beer Company loves beer. And it shows in everything he does, from getting soused in dunk tanks full of beer to encouraging his own customers to brew their own beer. If you don't love your company, product, or service with everything in you, then how can you expect your customers to be that way?
Finally, true love is hard. I have been married for 13 years and I genuinely love my wife. But anyone who loves someone else knows that you will have your biggest fights with the person closest to you. I have a love hate relationship with Charter Internet at the moment. But I know that if I have an issue I can send a tweet to @UMatter2Charter and I will get an immediate response. They know they have an uphill battle but they work through the tough issues to resolve situations because they genuinely love their customers. If you really love your customers you will work through the failures and shortfalls and turn them into fiercely loyal fans.
Love is such an easy word to say, but the hardest thing in the world to follow through on. But if you love first, be genuine, and fight through the problems, you will be rewarded with loving customers. Lori if you are out there, I hope the eighth grade dance was a blast for you. But more importantly I hope you found someone that you love and that loves you back. I can't think of a more wonderful thing than two people who genuinely love each other. Now go love on your customers, they deserve it.