2016 March News

EQ Heights: a business built for loyalty

In Houston, we have hundreds of coffee shops competing for customer loyalty. Starbucks has a strong presence and Dunkin' Donuts is coming on strong, but in the old inner-city neighborhood called The Heights, locally-owned cafés rule. Here's the story of how a new coffee shop carved out a loyal following.

A New Orleans transplant, Kevin Blasini left a corporate career in the energy business during the boom times, looking for a happier home in the coffee culture, and a place to hang out with his neighbors. He wanted to know all his customers' names.

To build a sustainable business, Kevin differentiated his café using his personal values, while carefully selecting a location that matched. Then he called up the "power of AND" and conceived of a place called Equilibrium Social House:

  • a walk-up cafe in a walkable neighborhood AND reasonable parking
  • areas for socializing AND areas for working quietly
  • healthy AND indulgent food
  • coffee and tea AND beer and wine. 

Functionally, the coffee, food and atmosphere had to be as good as the five other highly successful cafés in that neighborhood. But the emotional benefits had to be different. This unique customer experience is based on

  • architecture that echoes the historic Craftsman-style homes in the neighborhood
  • speaking to the interests of the residents with home-grown art, music and intellectual pursuits
  • opportunities to get to know other people who are related by both place and interests
  • adventurous chances to discover new products, ideas, and people.

Now known as EQ Heights, Kevin's business thrives by attention to the individual interests of a group strongly bound together by culture. At the same time, it's so welcoming to strangers that many sales people use it as a place to 'perch' between calls. Truly, it's a place that's found its equilibrium.

CustomerThink: Emotions Rule Customer Loyalty Index, 2016-Feb-22

“The consumer engagement process today is more dependent on emotional benefits... than ever,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys.... "To succeed, marketers need to accurately answer these questions, ‘what drives my category, what are the emotional engagement values I need to focus on, how can my brand exceed consumer expectations for those emotional values?’ To their detriment, most brands can’t.”

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To create loyalty, you must first be memorable

To create customer loyalty, we have to provide good experiences, but it's even more important to provide memorable ones. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains that we form our memories based on the peak and the end of the event. Even if the peak was agonizing, the happy ending can cement customer loyalty. But really, it's more reliable to have a good peak and a good ending together. 

To help people appreciate a room or a building, architects want to provide not only a pleasing or exciting total experience, but an emotional peak, a surprising recognition of an exceptional detail. With its extraordinary handling of the wood in walls, doors and custom-made furnishings, Brochsteins supplies that experience, earning the undying loyalty of both architects and their customers. 

Houston Chronicle: Woodworking company still solid after 80 years, 2015-Oct-30 by Miles Kruppa

Large commercial clients commission Brochsteins when they want to create signature styles that clients and customers will remember, [Brochsteins president Steven] Hecht said.

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Image from Barn Images, http://barnimages.com

Understand the challenges of growing loyalty

Leaders of the company must be loyal to customers... Points 4 and 5 of our loyalty pledge are

4. Become a better partner

5. Share our plans and dreams.

Unless the sales team are truly partners (not employees), they are unlikely to perform on 4 and 5 as well as the senior management team would do if they stayed in regular contact with customers. 

If customers don't experience 4 and 5 from our company, they won't have an incentive to do more business with us. 

Gallup: B2B Barriers to Organic Growth, 2015-Feb-11 by Craig Kamins 

Customers tend to have a strong status quo bias, or a preference for keeping things the same. Even if a B2B company delivers perfectly on its current contracts and takes measures to address or minimize problems, the customer won't necessarily give the company more business. Convincing customers to take that next step into new or existing territories or product lines often requires building a different kind of relationship with them.

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Image by Tony Foster: www.bushmansfriend.co.nz/