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Jim Champy Discusses INSPIRE!

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Learn how to keep your customers loyal—and attract new ones—in this Q&A with INSPIRE! author Jim Champy.
From the author of

1. In the current economic situation, keeping customers is especially important. What are the key components to finding and keeping a loyal customer?

JC: The key components to finding and keeping loyal customers are value and price. Everyone is always shopping for a bargain, but in tough times everyone also wants more value for what they spend. When you read about the companies featured in INSPIRE!, you will see that it's more about the value they create for customers—than price—that keeps customers coming back. But value must be in the eyes of the customer and must be experienced by the customer. All the companies in INSPIRE! have discovered what their customers really value and deliver on their promise.

The other quality that keeps customers coming back is authenticity. That's about what companies value, how they speak about themselves, and their commitment to what they profess—both in their products and their actions. It's a subtle, but critical, component for keeping customers loyal.

2. How did you select the companies featured in this book?

JC: In my research for all of the books in this series, I first looked first for companies that have been growing at double- or even triple-digit rates over a period of two or more years. Growth indicates that a company must be doing something well. I then look for companies that are operating in truly different ways—companies that have adopted new operating models. And for INSPIRE!, I was looking for companies that had built an exceptionally loyal customer base. What I found were a set of companies that inspired their customers with a higher sense of purpose.

3. How can an established company re-invent themselves to appeal to a new group of customers?

JC: It's not easy for a company to "re-invent" itself to appeal a new group of customers. A company must act on what it really believes. You can re-invent how you operate and you launch new products, but the change must be based on an authentic set of beliefs. Sometimes a company has sound values and beliefs that appeal to its customers—but it is not operating well or has underperforming products. You can fix those problems—but be sure that you stay true to your values. That's how you will enhance your appeal to customers.

If you are going to pursue a wholly new group of customers, I would begin by trying to understand those customers' unmet needs—then put together a product value proposition that responds to those needs, keeping true to what you value as a company. But if you don't believe in guns, and the new consumer group wants you to produce guns, don't go into the gun business.

4. Does every company have the opportunity to increase customer engagement? Are there industries that are simply a lost cause?

JC: There is the opportunity for customer engagement in every industry, but it may take a change in a company's business model. For example, the newspaper industry is going through major changes—but the way to engage customers will not be to put more ink on paper. News channels must consider how communications mediums are changing and how customers want to get news. For some industries, the business model changes will be more radical than others.

5. What benefits do alliances and channel partnerships offer when it comes to customer loyalty?

JC: An alliance or channel partner can enhance the value delivered to customers. Many times, however, channel partners distract from the potential customer experience because the partnerships have not been well conceived and only superficially implemented. The best example is the way automobile dealerships can either add to or distract from the customer experience of buying and owning a car. Good channel partnerships require trust, transparency between the partners, and meaningful benefits to all of the parties. Every party should also have something to add to the customer experience.

6. What can business leaders learn from the companies you profile if their own situations are totally different?

JC: Every company sees itself as being in a "different" situation. But companies share a significant set of issues and opportunities. What is most different across companies is their culture—and culture affects how change occurs. That aside, companies of all kinds can learn from the principles articulated in INSPIRE! They can adapt their behaviors and engage customers in many of the ways illustrated in this book. As you read INSPIRE!, just keep asking yourself, how can these ideas apply to my business?

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