Review

I read this book when it was first published and recently re-read it. Those who have checked out my reviews of other books which address many of the same issues already know that I have a bias with regard to “customer satisfaction” and “customer loyalty”, agreeing with Jeffrey Gitomer and others that the former is wholly dependent on each transaction and the latter can end (sometimes permanently) because of a single unsatisfactory transaction. The objective for those who have customers (be they internal or external) is to achieve and then sustain their passion about doing business with you. You want them to become evangelists.

 

Of course, Reichheld fully understands all this. In a brilliant essay which recently appeared in the Harvard Business Review, he shares new research which (again) shows that companies with faithful employees, customers, and investors (i.e. capital sources which include banks) share one key attribute: leaders who stick with six “bedrock principles”: preach what you practice (David Maister has much of value to say about this in his most recently published book, Practice What You Preach), play to win-win, be picky, keep it simple, reward the right results, and finally, listen hard…talk straight. In this book, Reichheld organizes his material within 11 chapters which range from “Loyalty and Value” to “Getting Started: The Path Toward Zero Defections.” With meticulous care, he explains how to devise them and implement programs which will help any organization to earn the loyalty of everyone involved in the enterprise. He draws upon a wealth of real-world experience which he and his associates in Bain & Company, a worldwide strategy consulting firm. Reichheld heads up its Loyalty Practice. In his most recently published book, Practice What You Preach, David Maister explains why there must be no discrepancy whatsoever between the “talk” we talk and the “walk” we walk. Reichheld agrees, noting that the “key” to the success of his own organization “has been its loyalty to two principles: first, that our primary mission is to create value for our clients, and second, that our most precious asset is the employees dedicated to making productive contributions to client value creation. Whenever we’ve been perfectly centered on these two principles, our business has prospered.” It is no coincidence that the world’s most highly admired companies are also the most profitable within their respective industries. I wholly agree with Reichheld that loyalty is critically important as a measure of value creation and as a source of profit but that it is by no means “a cure-all or a magic bullet.” Loyalty is based on trust and respect. It must be earned, usually over an extended period of time and yet can be lost or compromised at any time with a single betrayal.

 

Here are three brief excerpts:

 

“One common barrier to better loyalty and higher productivity is the fact that a lot of business executives, and virtually all accounting departments, treat income and outlays as if they occurred in separate worlds. The truth is, revenues and costs are inextricably linked, and decisions that focus on one or the other — as opposed to both — often misfire.”

 

“Companies cannot succeed or grow unless they can serve their customers with a better value proposition that the competition. Measuring customer and employee loyalty can accurately gauge the weaknesses in a company’s value proposition and help to prescribe a cure.”

 

“While every loyalty leader’s strategy is unique, all of them build on the following eight elements: Building a superior customer value proposition, finding the right customers, earning customer loyalty, finding the right employees, earning employee loyalty, gaining cost advantage through superior productivity, finding the right [capital sources], and earning [their] loyalty.”

 

Who will derive the greatest value from this book? Decision-makers in any organization — regardless of size or nature — which has been weakened by defections among customers and/or employees. If the primary objectives are value creation and partnership, decision-makers in these organizations must never betray or neglect any of the fundamentals of loyalty-based management: “partnership builds incentive; incentive builds value; value builds loyalty; loyalty builds even greater value.” It’s as simple and (yes) as difficult as that.

 

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