I Love You More Than My Dog: Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad

Consumers now more than ever are carefully considering how they spend every dollar. At the same time, social media that gives buyers a public forum for their thoughts and experiences is enjoying a meteoric rise. Together, they’ve created a completely new business culture, one where businesses need not just loyal buyers, but passionate fans. These fans talk to their friends, urge their neighbors to become customers, post on Twitter and fawn on Facebook. They can fuel explosive growth.

Only an elite few businesses have these true advocates and no one knows how to create them better than Jeanne Bliss, who has served as the senior customer executive at five major corporations. Her new book, I Love You More Than My Dog: Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad (Portfolio, Hardcover, October 15, 2009) is a primer for companies ready to do more than pay lip service to customer service but truly transform themselves to serve those who buy.

From Trader Joe’s to Harley Davidson, Zappos to Zane’s Cycles (which sells more than $13 million worth of bikes from a single store) Bliss’s advice is laced examples from real life companies which enjoy almost cult-like status among their customers.

According to Bliss, beloved companies share a set of five active and purposeful decisions which inform and motivate their conduct. When followed, these decisions take companies on a journey that creates a seismic shift from mere business to beloved company. They are:

Decide to Believe

Beloved companies suspend cynicism by choosing to believe their employees and believe their customers. They are freed from extra rules, polices and layers of bureaucracy that create a barrier between them and their customers.

Decide with Clarity of Purpose

Beloved companies take the time to be clear about their unique promise for their customer’s lives. They make decisions to align to this purpose and this promise. This guides choices and unites the organization. It elevates people from just doing tasks to delivering experiences that customers will want to repeat and relate to others.

Decide to be Real

Beloved companies break down barriers between customer and company, creating a relationship between people and revel in one another’s foibles, quirks and spirit. It draws them to other another. They create a safe place where personality and creativity shows and are believed by customers who are attracted to their personality.

Decide to Be There

Beloved companies devote more resources and more plain old work to be there for their customers. They’re in it every day to earn the right to a continued relationship with their customers and the first decision they make is to be there when the customer needs them, on the customer’s terms.

Decide to Say Sorry

Grace and wisdom guide beloved companies to accept accountability when the chips are down, when things don’t go the way they planned. How a company reacts to mistakes reflects the humanity of the organization and show its true colors more than almost any situation that might arrive. It is the intent and motivation guide a decision’s final outcome that sets people--and companies--apart.

"The common denominator," writes Bliss, "is that these beloved companies consistently find a way to weave their humanity with business in the way they make decisions. They never lose sight of the people who have impacted them. They remember that customers admire them not for how they were treated, but how they were handled. They make decisions that create a lasting bond."

The bad news, says Bliss, is that there’s no shortcut; the world’s biggest marketing budget can’t make people love you. But the good news is that a company can become beloved--if you commit to the five essential decisions about how to run your business. These five decisions will inspire customers to begin to tell your story for you, forming an army of cheerleaders who in essence do your promoting for you.

Southwest Airlines’ Colleen Barrett says, "I believe in this book!" in the foreword. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh writes in the afterword, "Purposeful decisions, informed by how customers live their lives and how your business improves their lives, can change the course of your business. That’s the journey Jeanne has so powerfully led us through in this important book."

Readers who take Bliss’s message and strategies to heart really will start to hear comments like, "I’d marry you if I could," and "I love you more than my dog!"

Jeanne Bliss learned firsthand about the customer bond while working as a customer service pioneer at Lands’ End under founder Gary Comer. She went on to hold the chief customer position at Allstate, Coldwell Banker, Microsoft and Mazda. Today her firm, CustomerBLISS, consults with companies around the world, teaching and guiding them to honor both the people who work for them and those who buy from them every day. Her first book, Chief Customer Officer (Jossey-Bass, 2006) was based on 25 years of reporting to the CEOs of five major corporations. http://customerbliss.com.