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How to train a dragon

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Do you look at customers who aren’t loyal as fire-breathing dragons who are trying to destroy your life and business? Like the hapless young Viking who aspires to be a dragon slayer in the movie, “How to Train Your Dragon,” you may discover how these customers can become unlikely friends. The movie’s hero named Hiccup found an improbable comrade in his “night fury,” the dragon called Toothless.

Customers who stop doing business plague your organization like attacks from fierce dragons that steal your livestock and burn your home. By trial and error, Hiccup discovered a way to earn the dragon’s trust by beginning to understand and care. By going to your own dragon training school, you too can earn back the loyalty of those who have left.

  • What problems are your customers facing?
  • What kindness, compassion and care are they seeking?
  • How can you win their trust and ultimately their undying loyalty?

In “Flip the Funnel,” author Joseph Jaffe suggests that to build customer trust and create loyalty you must be a problem solver. Hiccup found the dragon’s problem was the inability to fly because of a tail injury and fashioned a makeshift prosthetic device that allowed Toothless, with the young Viking’s guidance, to resume flight.

All organizations depend on relationships because when the need arises customers will first buy from people they trust, know and like. Although a competitor may be able to duplicate a product or service, produce and deliver it for less, it’s not easy to replace the value of the relationships.

Strong relationships, premium prices and loyalty exist in companies where customers are engaged. David A. Aaker, professor emeritus of Marketing Strategy at the Haas School of Business and author of “Brand Relevance” points out, “The Betty Crocker Mixer website invites members to talk to experts and connect with others, while bikers can post pictures of their most recent ride on the Harley-Davidson site.”

Do you know what your customers are interested in and how to engage them? Crocker and Harley found that engagement happens by going beyond the product, offering expert advice and providing online meeting places where relationships with other customers and the company are solidified.

Be an expert

There is an important difference between just selling something and being recognized as the expert in the field. At dragon school, Hiccup became the star pupil and was selected as the expert of the entire village. How do you prepare and train yourself and your people to slay the dragon of customer defection?

You don’t become an expert by telling people you are one. Customers tell you and they tell their friends. Train your people to help others with the knowledge they’ve obtained and to do it unconditionally. When you position yourself as an expert who offers truly useful products or services, people seek you out.

When a customer leaves, it robs you of part of our livelihood and burns your bottom line. Who is the real villain? While you may see the deserting customer as the destructive dragon, perhaps the customer sees you the same way. The movie ends with the villagers and dragons working together. Knowing what problems your customers’ face, by showing kindness, compassion, care and providing solutions you can win their trust and ultimately their undying loyalty.

Questions for discussion:

• Have we trained our people to recognize the issues facing our customers and their role in providing a complete solution?

• Do we show the same kindness, compassion and care for our people that we expect them to show to our customers?

Joe Murtagh is The DreamSpeaker, an international keynote speaker, meeting facilitator and business trainer. For questions or comments, contact Joe@TheDreamSpeaker.com, www.TheDreamSpeaker.com or call (800) 239-0058.

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