By Janie Gaunce, President/CEO of Grapevine Designs
Remember the United Airlines commercial (ok, some of you weren’t born yet) where the CEO gathers his team to announce the sad loss of a major account they had a relationship with for 20 years? He then distributes actual paper tickets for flights to send the sales team out to visit with and thank all of their customers in person. I always loved this spot, it brings tears to my eyes. You can watch the video below if you’ve forgotten it. If you’ve never seen it, I hope it moves you.
Looking back now, it’s interesting to see from a casting perspective just how the demographic make up of the business world has changed. But the real intent of the message is unchanged and to me, it screams so loud.
If we were to re-scope that commercial in today’s world, what would it look like?
Likely sooner than later, you’ll have the CEO Skyping in on Gogo Inflight. The sales reps are outfitted in different colored polo shirts as they work from their home offices. None of them will be looking at the CEO because they are texting, tweeting and god knows what else while he is speaking. There are more women in the sales rep positions as well as people of color, and certainly no paper tickets in little jackets.
Maybe the CEO would be agitated after downing a 5-hour energy drink because he’d been up all night brainstorming with his creative lead in digital, trying to upload a Vine to reflect this new mission. Six seconds later, he implores the group to be more active in their social channels, to utilize their personalized content deployment strategy to get in front of their customers.
Would they even talk about an in person meeting? Would they be upset about the loss of this 20-year relationship and subsequent revenue stream? Maybe in today’s world companies don’t teach and recognize customer lifetime value like they should. Corporate marketing managers know the value, but how well does your front line?
If you own your own company, when was the last time you picked up the phone and actually asked your clients how your company is performing from their perspective?
Call your company from the phone like a real client might. How long does it take to answer the call, to get to the person you need? Is the voice (and I hope there is a live one) friendly and helpful?
When was the last time you actually wrote a simple hand written thank-you note to your valued customers and sent it via snail mail? It breaks through.
How often are you getting involved with the front line of your sales team? Do you know the intimate details of their possible frustrations and more importantly, have you examined how you can create solutions that really super-serve your clients?
How many customers have been on board with you for the lifetime of your company? Or half-life? It’s a great exercise in prioritization of your time.
Do you know the lifetime value of the business they have provided you and do you think of them with that level of awe? Or do you think of them simply from the perspective of the last conversation you had where they were frustrated by the mistake your team made or the fact that you nitpicked them with a set up charge.
The B-to-B sales cycle is a long one. It takes time to earn the trust of a new customer so that they will actually transact their business with you. Make it your biggest priority to thank your loyal clients with the kind of personal, face-to-face feeling that worked so well in the good old days. Because, guess what? It’s the best kind of content, with the best type of delivery. And it never, ever goes out of style.
Janie Gaunce is President/CEO of Grapevine Designs, headquartered in Kansas City. Janie served on the PPAI Board of Directors and is currently involved with PPAM, the PPAI L.E.A.D. program, volunteers for Operation Breakthrough, and is a member of the University of Kansas Hospital Advancement Board.