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Customer Centric Sales & Service Policies: Survival of the Kindest

Survival of the kindest may be a novel concept, but there's new scientific evidence that humans are genetically wired to be kind. The more generous we are, the more respect and influence we wield. For example, think of Zappos and LL Bean: for their customer-centric sales and service policies, they've earned widespread admiration among customers, as well as among executives across a variety of industries who've sought to learn from them.

Gratitude goes hand-in-hand with kindness; the one spurs the other. As we strive to win customers' hearts and share-of-wallet, remember that kindness breeds gratitude, which builds customer enthusiasm for a brand. Kindness, gratitude, and loyalty are not one-way streets, however! If we hope to develop these sentiments among customers, we must first demonstrate the same to them.

Are we truly grateful for our customers? Do our sales and service policies show it? A new study by Consumer Reports lists the naughty or nice policies of 20 leading consumer companies. (By the way, these concepts apply just as well in B2B, government, non-profit, etc.) The essence of what differentiates a nice policy from a naughty policy is whether the company recognizes that customer experience gravitates toward the nicest and easiest solutions. For example, customers naturally prefer absence of penalties, caveats, exclusions, and extra steps (hassles). Customers prefer straightforward, intuitive policies and easy access to live help in sales and service. They're contributing to the company's revenue stream, and they simply expect gratitude from the company in terms of kindness that creates an excellent customer experience, which they would gladly reward with future business.

Customer retention begins with trust. We should scrutinize our sales and service policies for the degree of kindness they demonstrate. In my position as a Marketing and Business Development Director I had the responsibility to determine warranty criteria, service levels, and sales policies for each product launch. We entertained scenarios that predominantly favored ourselves, in our quest to acheive company targets for revenue, market share, and margin. Ultimately, though, we had to acknowledge that common practice didn't necessarily mean best practice. Rather than locking customers into situations they might later regret, it's best to prevent negative word-of-mouth, and build trust with the kind policies that build mutual gratitude and long-term profitable relationships.

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