The X-Factor: Driving Customer Loyalty

Marilyn SanfordsmartPRENEUR Blog Series

The Oxford English Dictionary defines x-factor as “a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.”   According to an article by Sunil Menon “Brands that excel at delivering the best customer experience have something special, an x-factor.” 

From our earlier article ‘Dare to be Different’, “50% of brand promises are not believed by customers”. 

That is a challenge that every business faces.  Is the offering unique in the marketplace? Does the offer resonate and is it valued by enough customers? Can it be delivered beyond expectation?  Is the brand promise delivered? Is everyone in the firm aligned around this brand promise? More likely than not, that happens when the stakeholders are engaged by an X-Factor.     

We know it is challenging to gain customer loyalty.  At the same time, customers want to deal with brands that they can believe in.  The X-Factor is that one element that is known beyond doubt to be deliverable and that the market values.  This is building customer loyalty.  “When customers feel connected to brands, more than half of consumers (57%) will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor” article by Sunil Menon.

Getting to your X-Factor, really understanding your business, takes work.  

I included a simple SWOT chart above.  Taking the time to map your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) can be illuminating and to be revisited at the commencement of the planning process or as needed.  It will help expose elements of your company that you may not see, or incorrectly assume are strengths, or expose threats that weren’t clear.  Your team may also see opportunities that you hadn’t considered.  It is a very good team building exercise as well.    It has the potential to build employee loyalty as well as strengthen and empower your team.  

If it were easy, everyone would do it!  It takes commitment and most likely many revisits to expose your ‘X-Factor’.  I engaged employees around meaningful discussions and hired facilitators to help us think outside the box.   What I initially missed, that was critical and a major part of exposing our ‘X-Factor’, was the team itself.  Once I connected that dot, we made changes to our meeting structure and rhythm.  We also kept building and improving our internal processes to make it easier for employees to do their work.  This included  improving how we captured information, responded to customer concerns and implemented change.  This deepened our culture.  We even changed our training processes as well as our new product vetting.  We took a ‘whatever it takes’ approach to encourage and support the team in pursuit of improving and building on the customer experience.  

Conducting our SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis with the entire team, was insightful.  I started to see the business through the eyes of my team in ways I hadn’t before   The changes we made also reinforced our commitment to the customer experience and the quality of our systems.   This included pretesting products and tools; essentially anything that we were going to add to, or do to improve, our offerings had to be vetted through this process.  We lived the customer experience in every aspect of the business.  So much of that I would not have seen were it not for the team’s input.   

The 5 Why’s

Duncan Wardle, Head of Creativity and Innovation at Disney once said, “insights that are useful for customer-oriented innovation tend to only appear after four or five consecutive why’s.”    The consecutive use of ‘why’ around any statement or assumption, can bring amazing insights and rewards.  One of our challenges was the handoff.  It never failed that during this process we’d uncover something that wasn’t completed to spec.   We addressed this ad nausea.   It wasn’t until several ‘why’ layers that we realized the wrong people were testing.   Once we connected that dot, that the installation technicians were not the right people to test, we made a change, putting the head of our service dept in charge.  I can assure you, he did not want to go fix something he’d missed.   It also was a great way to familiarize with the new site.    As well, we added a post project review that ensured we captured and addressed any gaps in our process.    So much of our commitment, our processes, our systems, came from engaging the team and exposing failure points through our SWOT and business processes.  

Lastly, in an article by Tony Robbins he explores  “Why Businesses Fail”.  Doing this strategic work is important to staying viable and healthy.  Working on our SWOT, helped us find our X-Factor which led to a culture of improvement.

About the Author

Marilyn Sanford

Marilyn is a Professional Accountant. She spent 23 years running trade based businesses, offering Low Voltage Custom Integration solutions to demanding and discriminating customers for high end residences and businesses. She has served on boards, taught in her Industry and is a Fellow of the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA). Marilyn Co—founded Smart fx in 1992, merged with La Scala in 2000 and later acquired LaScaIa in 2007. Over the years running a custom installation business, she learned what it takes to run a profitable business dependent on construction timelines. These insights and lessons learned, delivering ‘skilled labour’ as a primary service offering, were the seeds that grew the LincEdge concept.