[The following post is by Chip R. Bell, respected consultant and author of several best-selling books. His newest book (with Marshall Goldsmith) is Managers as Mentors. Chip can be reached via www.managersasmentors.com.]
What do Clint Eastwood in the movie Million Dollar Baby movie, Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire, Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, and Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans have in common? They are all characters who sought the best in others, even in their darkest hours. They used the philosophy first espoused by Carol Lavin Bernick, chair of a skin beauty products manufacturer, “If you want something to grow, pour champagne on it.” Champions of customers don’t merely recognize or appreciate customer patronage; they nourish spirit and excellence by whatever means necessary. They give more than they expect to receive.
Advocate, Don’t Just Appreciate. Did you ever have someone who believed in you unconditionally even though you didn’t feel you deserved such backing? A typical customer appreciator recognizes and thanks. But a customer champion shows deep respect and admiration for who/what a customer can become and believes in that possibility when others may have written off such a prospect. A champion of customers backs customers against all odds and defends them against all foes. These champions do not view their role as cheerleaders; they see themselves as stewards of reputation.
Mentor, Don’t Just Train. Customers today seek learning in practically every facet of life. For example, as customer we want software that not only instructs in application but offers insights into possibilities. We not only want added competence, we desire added wisdom. While “tutor me or lose me” is not yet the by-word of today’s customer, smartness is fast become a core service expectation. A champion of customers does not simply provide customer education, a champion thinks like a customer mentor, implanting enlightenment into every customer experience.
Grow, Don’t Just Improve. When famed tennis coach Mike Estep talks about his role as the coach of tennis great Martina Navratilova, he focuses on bringing out the very best in his client. He also speaks of elevating her playing to match the greatness of the game itself. Champions of customers are growers committed to a noble customer vision rather than simply a quest to improve. They use that vision as a tool not only to direct and align the customer relationship, but to nurture solutions rather than symptoms; opportunities rather than problems.
The word “champion” comes from the Latin word “campio” which means “trial by combat.” When our parents labeled such a person “someone who came from great stock”—they meant a person of character. They implied a person with soul and substance, not just someone with talent or tenacity. Paraphrasing an old adage, champions of customers know that if they give to their customers the best that they have, the best will come back to them.