Friday, September 23, 2011

True Blue

True Blue

“Everyone wants to be true to something, and we’re true to you” - that’s the marketing tagline for Jet Blue’s travel rewards program.   I know because it kept scrolling across the little screen on the back of the seat in front of me when I recently flew across country.  It’s okay in the context of what they’re trying to promote, but it also might apply to more than just loyalty programs.  And it may be that because people naturally want to be ‘true blue’ to so many things, it becomes overused and almost trite.  That’s too bad.  Because being ‘true blue’ can be a good thing.

First: ever wonder where the term ‘true blue’ comes from?

• Loyal and unwavering in one's opinions or support for a cause or product.

• 'True blue' is supposed to derive from the blue cloth that was made at Coventry, England in the late middle-ages. The town's dyers had a reputation for producing material that didn't fade with washing, i.e. it remained 'fast' or 'true'. The phrase 'as true as Coventry blue' originated then and is still used (in Coventry at least).
• True Blue is an old naval/sailing term meaning honest and loyal to a unit or cause.
• And dictionaries say that true blue refers to “people of inflexible integrity or fidelity”.

And second: does ‘true blue’ really mean anything in this era of fast food and slick advertising?

There are lots of loyalty programs – hotels, airlines, slot clubs, retail stores, pop food brands, credit cards, clothing, wine, restaurants, movie theaters, travel sites, theme parks, computer games and countless more – and they all try to get you to stick with them by rewarding you in all kinds of ways: points, miles, free gifts, shows, food and on and on.  But it seems a bit contrived, as if there’s some Oz-like character behind a curtain trying to entice you with these awards (read: bribes).

Imagine if this kind of thing were done with going to school or work, singing in a choir, participating in some community event, volunteering your time to some worthy cause, remaining friends or staying in a relationship… doesn’t seem as appropriate in those, does it? Think of someone or something you really like: do you really and truly like them or it, or do you need to be bribed with rewards to feel that way.  Of course you don’t.  So why do the airlines and hotels and all those other things we purchase have to bribe us like them?

But – there are companies out there that do understand what it takes to win your loyalty:

•  Southwest Airlines was one of the first companies that made having fun and using common sense part of their strategy for success.  Singing the safety jingle, devising a different boarding routine and setting the record for on-time departures set them apart and won over customers.  They got it!
•  Zappos doesn’t give you anything extra to make you want to come back – they believe that great service plus free shipping and returns will do that. Everyone said that nobody would buy shoes online – wrong.  Zappos gets it!
•  Apple wins and keeps their customer’s loyalty by incubating and introducing cool new ideas and products all the time.  And they’re just about the biggest and most successful and most admired company on the planet.  They get it!

But for every Southwest Airlines-type great experience there are hundreds of others that under perform and underwhelm.  So they sign you up and hope that rewarding your loyalty overcomes the other things they do that destroys your loyalty.  Seems to me they just don’t get it?

Jet Blue says they give you more leg room – that’s true if you pay extra for those few rows that have it.  How come they just don’t make eye contact and smile more?  How come they can’t get the bags to the conveyor in less than 30 minutes (which may not seem like much to them but after a cross country flight an extra 30 minutes is painful).  How come they don’t get it?  I want to join their loyalty program so I can get another trip with them like I want to have my teeth drilled.  And then they spend so much time and energy trying to give you that free round trip ticket if you apply for their credit card – you know, the one that has annual fees and high interest rates.  How come they don’t get it?  Why can’t they just treat me like a loyal and valued customer, like someone they genuinely like and appreciate, like they’d like to be treated if they had to fly on someone else’s airline.  Seems to me they just don’t get it.

Most of the good things in life are rooted in quality, trust and respect.  People you work with and for, family that you live with and love, things you do for fun and relaxation, games you gladly play with others, friendships you’re lucky enough to have, clubs you join and actively participate in, activities you sign up for – they’re all based on the simple premise that things that are good are that way because they are genuinely good and fun and worthwhile.  And that’s why you stick with them loyally.

But all these other kinds of loyalty programs are contrived. And yet we sign up for them like they’re free and worthwhile.  They’re not free – we pay for the increased costs of these rewards.  And they’re not worthwhile - we’re treated poorly by those who have the attitude that the cheap rewards they give are enough to overcome the thoughtless and robotic service they go through the motions of providing.  Next time someone asks if I’ve signed up for their loyalty program I’m going to give them a tip:  treat me nicely, treat me fairly, treat me respectfully, act like you really do care, thank me like you really mean it and treat me like you really do want me as a customer – and I’ll come back as often as I can or need to, willingly and freely.  When are all these marketing geniuses going to wake up?  When are they going to be ‘true blue’ to the Golden Rule?

My message this week is about how excellence can lead to greatness:

Arte Nathan
”If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.” -Thomas J. Watson

Thomas John Watson, Sr. (1874 – 1956) was president of International Business Machines (IBM) and oversaw that company's growth into a global force from 1914 to 1956. Watson developed IBM's distinctive management style and corporate culture, and turned the company into a highly-effective selling organization.  He was called the world's greatest salesman.

Do you want to achieve excellence?  Some people don’t – they’re content to work alongside others, doing just enough to get by and satisfy their basic needs, content to have a few toys, take life easy and not make waves. But is that what you want – would that be enough for you?  If not, then you’ve got to decide right now to start going farther, looking to help others, caring more, trying harder, and being more  of what you can be today.  You’ve got to take it to the next level – in commitment, in energy, in enthusiasm, in being a role model, in paying closer attention to details, in always striving to do and be all that you’re capable of.  As of this second, you’ve got to quit doing less-than-excellent work.  That’s how YOU can achieve excellence - (note: the emphasis is on YOU)!

Stay well!

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