After my OC Transpo rant, I thought it appropriate to counter-balance that with a review of a company I LOVE to do business with.
Apple? BMW? Starbucks? Bridgehead? All good guesses… but I want to talk about Dakota Automotive.
I spend a lot of my free time researching employee and customer engagement. One of my favourite sources for such research is Gallup; you might be familiar with some of their polls. Their research has revealed that there is an underlying structure to “emotional attachment” to businesses and it is remarkably consistent from industry to industry. This emotional attachment model is layered much like ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs‘ and includes the following layers:
- CONFIDENCE (Do I feel safe doing business with this company? Do they deliver on their promises?)
- INTEGRITY (Will this company treat me fairly? Do they offer fair resolutions to any problems?)
- PRIDE (Will I feel good about myself if I do business with this company? Do they treat me with respect?)
- PASSION (I can’t imagine a world without this company. The company is perfect for people like me.)
Building customer engagement based on this model translates directly into increased profitability, revenue & customer retention. Just one example of this is a customer with pride or passion in a company who will actively promote that company to friends and family (or even on their blog!). Lots of business leaders/owners have a hard time believing that their customers actually are ‘passionate’ about doing business with them, especially since they don’t see that passion about the business even in their own employees. Paying no heed to customer engagement can lead to something worse than having customers that are unengaged, you can actually make them ‘actively disengaged’.
Before we go there, lets talk about Dakota Automotive and how Andrew (the owner and mechanic) satisfies this emotional attachment hierarchy:
- CONFIDENCE & INTEGRITY: Andrew sticks to his quotes, even if he low-balled. While I actually prefer that he gets paid fair value for any work he performs, this clearly shows he is more than willing to deliver on his promises and treats me fairly. I reward him the best I can by referring business his way, although he has PLENTY of business. When he does work on your car he is always looking out for potential future problems which he informs you of, with none of the customary ‘hard sell’ pressure you find with other shops.
- PRIDE: Do I feel good about myself when I do business with him? Absolutely, he offers great value for the money and he clearly loves what he does. It feels good to pay someone to perform a task that they enjoy and do so well. From a respect point of view, his willingness to hear what I think to be the problem pays great dividends. He will always listen, ask questions and actively diagnose the problem with me. This not only is a sign of respect, but helps build trust. In contrast, many mechanics give you that ‘look’ when you try and describe the problem to them that clearly says: “I am just moving my pen to give you the impression I am listening, I actually have no interest in what you are saying, I am just going to get my guy to plug your car into the computer and that will tell us what we need to know”.
- PASSION: Well, I am writing a blog about him, so that is a pretty good sign that I am one of Dakota’s ‘actively engaged’ customers. I won’t go as far to say that ‘I can’t imagine a world without this company’, but I will mention something that is very telling: Whenever I consider getting a new car, I have this pang of guilt in my mind that a new car warranty will reduce the business I do with Dakota. Can you imagine a company that you actually adapt your behaviour to do business with them… by choice!! What gets me to this level of passion I find hard to understand, but it has a lot to do with contrasts. Andrew is a rare gem amongst a large pool of average or even borderline-criminal people involved in the automotive industry. He’s the sort of guy that you give money gladly because you know there is great value, it is well-earned, he enjoys his work and is just a plain likeable guy.
Speaking of contrasts, Gallup on ‘actively disengaged’ customers:
These customers harbour substantial negative feelings towards the company. Most actively disengaged could be considered strong candidates for defection to a competitor [where one exists]. Yet many remain with the company –spreading their discontent to other customers or prospects along the way – because of either high switching costs or a sense that the competitor would be no better [or there is no competition]. Their motto is, “Better the devil I know than the devil I don’t.
From my life experience the companies that quickly come to mind here are: Microsoft, OC Transpo, American Express, HSBC, Bell Canada, just about every NA car manufacturer, and George Lucas as a writer/director since about 1983. For each of these I can think of a defining moment (or many) where I was treated with a lack of respect and/or my confidence in them was severely shaken. I go FAR out of my way to avoid doing business with these companies.
It is on days that I deal with the likes of OC Transpo that I am so especially glad that some businesses can deliver so well on their brand promise, and make their customers feel like a valuable asset to their business. Luckily for me, I was taking OC Transpo to go pick up my car being serviced by Dakota Automotive.