My last birthday came and went with little fanfare. Naturally, my mom and a few friends remembered the occasion, and I received VIP treatment from my family for a day.
I've never been a "birthday diva" and, thus, didn't expect a bunch of presents or even greetings. So I was surprised when I opened my mailboxes (postal and e-mail) and found that retailers I've patronized in recent years sent me birthday gifts—or, to be precise, coupons for big discounts or free products of my choice.
I am a bit embarrassed to admit that these commercial overtures made their mark. My thrifty, practical-minded instincts told me I need no new clothes or accessories, and, on principle, I aim to avoid excesses in materialism and acquisitiveness. But, I figured, I can't keep wearing threadbare sweatpants all around town on weekends!
Besides, I really like how those businesses treat me. So I found myself planning a visit or two to "my" friendly stores despite my hectic schedule. Why not make time for them (and me!) around a grocery run and kid's soccer practice this weekend?
Do I sound like a loyal customer to you? If you've read a lot of Baldrige Program materials, you probably know where this is going next—to the Criteria for Performance Excellence, particularly to category 3, which focuses on customers, and, for further detail, to item 3.2, Customer Engagement.
In Criteria terms, the practice of remembering a customer's birthday might be part of an organization's approach to engaging customers to ensure its long-term marketplace success. In order to build customer relationships, organizations using the Criteria consider the following:
How do you market, build, and manage relationships with customers to achieve the following?
• acquire customers and build market share
• retain customers, meet their requirements, and exceed their expectations in each stage of the customer life cycle
• increase their engagement with you
The Criteria note that “customer engagement” refers to your customers’ investment in your brand and product offerings and that characteristics of engagement include customer retention and loyalty, customers’ willingness to make an effort to do business—and increase their business—with your organization, and customers’ willingness to actively advocate for and recommend your brand and product offerings.
While I cannot name in this blog post the organizations that, in effect, celebrated my birthday (agency policy prevents such endorsements), I would not be surprised if other customers who are treated similarly are actively recommending those businesses to their friends. And when off-duty, I too wouldn't hesitate to praise them by name. After all, we have a solid relationship.