Generosity and kindness are important social behaviors for individuals, but they are also important for businesses. Yes, our moms taught us to share and to care about those around us. Some businesses have learned that lesson as well.
I was reminded of this last week when I was completing a purchase of t-shirts for my supper club. I had ordered the t-shirts from CustomInk. The company had sent me a delivery confirmation but I had not received the shirts. I shot an email back, not really expecting to speak to someone. And what do you know? I got an email from my very own T-shirt Ambassador. She tracked the purchase and told me if they were not there when I got home that evening, that she would be working until 10 pm my time and would immediately work on a replacement order. Well, the t-shirts did show up and all was well. And CustomInk now has a loyal customer. And I have a friend at CustomInk. When you look at their website, you see the importance of real human contact – they say “talk to a real person” and “chat with a real person”. Seems I am not the only fan of CustomInk. They say that 99% of customers would order again.
- For the past 6 years, CustomInk has been named to the Inc. 500/5000 list of the fastest- growing private companies in America – debuting at #55 in 2005; and, CustomInk has made the Internet Retailer list of America’s Top 500 retail websites based on online sales since 2007.
They also have a great program for fundraising for user groups. Seems like their core values of The Golden Rule, Ownership and Innovation are working well for them.
Here are some of other companies known for their generosity:
Costco. Have you ever seen Costco on a good sampling day? You can hardly navigate the aisles as samples of products are passed generously to all customers. And those cheap hot dogs and drinks keep shoppers in the store longer. And returns are easy for members.
Nordstrom. The return policy at Nordstroms is no return policy. It’s all about taking care of the customer – no time limit, no receipt, no paperwork. Free shipping is always available.
Southwest Airlines. Southwest has always been known for their humor and low prices. Recently, they have resisted charging for bags. So their policy for two free bags has certainly added to flyer preference.
Zappos. Well, Zappos knows that ordering shoes online takes a bit of faith. So, they allow you to order as many as you want, ship them for free and then let you return them for up to a full year.
Kroger. Did you know that Kroger tops the list in most generous companies through their community rewards program for schools? Kroger gives some 10% of their pre-tax profits back to schools and local charities.
TOMS. Sometimes generosity is to someone else other than the consumer. TOMS recently gave away their ten millionth pair of shoes. Their charitable business model has proven successful for them and the millions of children who have benefited from their high quality shoe gifts. The company has succeeded without outside investors and has never had to purchase an ad.
Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s has personality. The employees walk around ready to answer questions, easy to spot in their Hawaiian shirts and “ask me” signs. They always have a cup of coffee and a sample ready for you at the back of the store and continue to rid the world of plastic shopping bags with their own stylish 99 cent bags.
What these companies have in common:
They recognize the importance of their customers. And they recognize that their benefit and value to a customer is comprised of more than just price. Here are just some of the lessons as reported in Harvard Business Review:
• Offering things that make consumers feel great with low cost. Nordstroms often has a pianist in their stores during the holidays. It’s a small thing but it makes us join in the celebration of the season. Those cute 99-cent bags at Trader Joe’s make me feel good and look cute.
• Providing customers with a friend. That t-shirt ambassador took the hassle and fear out of my t-shirt purchase. Having an ambassador is more than just answering questions. It is taking responsibility for the customer’s peace of mind.
• Sampling as a marketing strategy. A sampling study from Knowledge Networks PDI noted that sampling programs (the kind used at Costco) drove a 475% sales lift on the day of the event. A friend recently was invited to a sampling event at a restaurant which made her more involved and loyal to the restaurant.
• Offering benefits in exchange for important information. Free warranty programs gather detailed consumer information that can be used for customer relationship management purposes.
• Focusing on the life-time value of a customer. A single transaction might be a loss leader, but generosity may benefit in a life-time customer. That’s why Gillette gives away free razors for a teenager’s first shave.
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