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  • Writer's pictureSusan Tatum

Growing Your Business Through Improved Client Loyalty

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

with Jim Tincher, Founder Heart of the Customer

How hard is it to be your customer? In this interview, I am discussing customer loyalty with Jim Tincher, author of How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer, and founder, CEO, and Journey Mapper-in-chief of Heart of the Customer. Jim shares his definition of customer loyalty and what feedback really means and how both of these greatly affect the success of your business.

Notes from the Show

Jim Tincher is the author of How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer. He works with a variety of clients from business to business, business to business to consumer, and business to consumer to build loyalty and create success.

Jim describes loyalty as a behavior. Customer loyalty is a behavior and an emotional response to a business. What are the 5 characteristics of a loyal customer?

  • They come to you first

  • They want to stay with you

  • They want to buy more from you

  • They advocate for you actively

  • They behave in less expensive ways

To understand these customers, and earn their loyalty, Jim proposes three questions for your business.

  • How effective is the experience?

  • How easy is the experience?

  • How do customers feel about the experience?

Jim discusses the importance of feedback. Are there perfect questions to ask? Possibly yes, but just as equally is allowing response time. Allow time for your customers to fill in the blanks and elaborate on their experiences. If you want to grow, be more profitable, be more need to be talking to your customers.

When it comes to deciding how many interviews and how many people you should talk to, Jim says, How many can you? While we discuss, repetition in answers is common after about 7 to 15 people. After completing 100 interviews for thought leadership, Jim finds the sweet spot to be around 30 to 40 people.

You can follow up with Jim on LinkedIn or on his website, Heart of The Customer.

What’s Inside:

  • 5 characteristics of a loyal customer & 3 levers you can pull to earn it.

  • Secret to becoming a trusted advisor.

  • What’s most important about customer feedback?

  • How to double your business by talking to your clients.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:37

Welcome back to stop the noise. I'm Susan Tatum. And today our guest is Jim Tincher, who is the founder and CEO of Heart of the Customer Management Consulting firm. And he is a professional speaker, and he's the author of How Hard is it to be Your Customer, which is a really interesting book title. Welcome, Jim.

Jim Tincher 0:56

Thank you, Susan.

Susan Tatum 0:57

It's great to have you here.

Jim Tincher 1:00

I've been looking forward to this had to wait over the holidays. That's the January timeframe ready to go. We came back to work yesterday, and now ready to hit it hard.

Susan Tatum 1:09

Thank you so much for for scheduling with me for this time. So what what do you tell people that you do when they ask you?

Jim Tincher 1:16

Well, we help them grow through improve customer loyalty.

Susan Tatum 1:20

Now, when you say customer loyalty, are you talking about things like brands that I might buy or stores that I might go to, or

Jim Tincher 1:27

it varies quite a bit, a lot of our work is business to business. So organizations that whose name you may not recognize, but a really important 60% of the economy. Some of our clients that allow us to use their name are like DOW, the giant Chemical Company is an example of that. Roche, they do a lot of health care work. So we do, about half of our work is in the business of business. But another 30% is business to business to consumer. So for example, insurance companies, and the remainder are B2C.

Susan Tatum 1:58

And so when we talked previously, and you had an interesting way of defining loyalty, as I recall,

Jim Tincher 2:05

sure, well a loyalty is a behavior. It's not based on I work in the field of customer experience. And a lot of times it's confusion, that thinking loyalty is a survey score. It's not. A loyal customers, one who comes to you first, they want to stay loyal, they want to, they want to stay with you, they want to buy more from you. And they want to generally advocate for you actively, and behave in less expensive ways. They want to they typically their incentive to learn how to work with you and to give more of their business to you, which makes it less expensive for them in terms of their cost of ownership, as well as less expense that's what a great loyalty is when you've got all that running for you.

Susan Tatum 2:45

And so then when what how are you determining what loyalty specifically means to one of your clients, clients or customers?

Jim Tincher 2:55

Well, it varies a lot by industry, as you would guess, we look at things like net dollar retention, NDR. And what that means, essentially, is if you had 100 customers that last year spent $100 with you, you lost five of them, they're still spending $100. That's 95%, your net retention

Susan Tatum 3:09


Jim Tincher 3:10

If you lost five, but the overall average of majors was moved up to 110. Well, now it's your MDR is 104.5%. So it's, it's really are your clients coming to you more or not? Another part of loyalty is advocating for you. That's harder for most organizations to measure, but also useful, but looking at the actual behavior, what does it cost to serve them? And are they bringing in the business? Are you getting a larger share of their wallet?

Susan Tatum 3:40

So as part of that, then understanding is that understanding what new services or products that you might offer to them.

Jim Tincher 3:47

That's part of the work we do is understanding more about what your customers need, what are they doing? And often we do find that our clients offer services their customers don't even know they have. And so it's being able to position that effectively. But the first step is to earn the right to get that business. And that's what we focus on is how do you earn the right for your customers to want to do more with you. And the hardest part for b2b organization to understand is that's an emotional decision. It's not based on price and price matters no question about it. Functionality matters. But in the customer experience research, it typically breaks it down to three levers you can pull out how effective is the experience, how easy the experience and the emotions? How do customers feel? And the research is very consistent is that while the first two matter, loyalty comes from an emotional decision, and that's hard to say, especially if you work with procurement, maybe you believe people procurement don't have emotions. They do they do definitely even finances emotions. It's understanding what are those emotions and how am I doing it? The procurement manager wants to hear she take pride of the work knowing they're protecting a company they're doing the right thing. It's not always about the lowest price. It's about getting the right guys organization. If you can reinforce how they're getting the right value, and they are making wins for the organization, that's an emotional connection that will pay off in loyalty.

Susan Tatum 5:10

So ultimately, you're figuring out how you can make your client look like a hero, or you're helping figure that out.

Jim Tincher 5:17

Yeah, we wanted them to become the trusted advisor for their customers.

Susan Tatum 5:22

Okay, and I think all of us in the professional services business want to be trusted advisors. Right?

Jim Tincher 5:27

Exactly, yes. And that that is an emotional reaction. You don't become a trusted adviser by being easy to work with. Now, if you're hard to work with that may prevent you from getting there. But being easy to work with isn't enough, you also need to create emotional connections to help them feel like they are winning when they work with you.

Susan Tatum 5:44

Right, yeah, so you have to go into every relationship with how can I make this person look great?

Jim Tincher 5:50

Oh, yeah, yeah, they look great for their organization, you're much more likely to become that trusted advisor.

Susan Tatum 5:56

So we're, so we talked about the importance of customer feedback? And is that where is it that that customer feedback that's letting you know what's important to them to the to the, to the other, to their customer? So let me rephrase that. If I'm, if I want to know about customer feedback, and the importance of it, is it because it lets me know what I'm doing right? And what I'm doing wrong? But lets me know, how they what's important to them? Or is it a little bit of a lot of things put together?

Jim Tincher 6:26

Well, first of all, let's define feedback, because typically, feedback is defined as giving you feedback on a transaction you sent that is important. We know we go beyond that to actually proactively find out what it's like to work with us. So that could be defined as feedback. Most organizations think of feedback as surveys or an interview after an interaction. That is important, no question about it, especially from a measurement perspective. But the real art of understanding what your customers feels when you go out and talk to them much more open ended, is one example one of our clients, a software company, and billion dollar software company, and we had the we are setting the implementation and support journeys for their customers. And I saw to the VP of implementation. He said, When I was told to his interviews, I didn't want to go, because I'm out with customers every single day. This is pre COVID. But what I realized is when I'm out talking to customers, it's because there's a problem. And I'm reacting, that I'm bringing feedback. But I'm not proactively hearing about what are they trying to accomplish? Whether we're helping them accomplish their jobs. And that's where most most feedback is about the company. It's about you. It's not about your customers. And so our work is go out and hear from the customers. And we'll start with the feedback what's going on, but then quickly transition to what are they trying to do? How do they look good? What are their goals, because that's what's most important, we want to be, we all want to think everything's, we really care, first of all about ourselves, and how we're doing. And so by by understanding more about what they care about what they're trying to do, that allows you to bring your products, your services, your capabilities, to help them be more successful, which will come back to you to create loyalty.

Susan Tatum 8:06

So how do you do that, though? How do you there's got to be something about asking the right questions.

Jim Tincher 8:11

Oh, yeah. But I find that more important than asking the right questions is shutting up.

Susan Tatum 8:16

Excellent point.

Jim Tincher 8:18

So we will we always bring our clients with us. And we have to train them first about you know, I'm not saying anything. That's okay. I am waiting to give the customer more time. Nobody likes silence. Somebody is going to break the silence. I make sure first of all, it's not me, but it's also not my client. Because that's usually when the magical information shows up is when we ask a question, sit back and we get a short answer from their customer. And then there's silence and they start going more into detail. It's getting beyond the superficial. So yes, there are right questions to ask. We pride ourselves in asking those right questions. But it's how they're asked. That's really more critical.

Susan Tatum 8:55

So it's interesting, I didn't realize that you so you have your do you call them customers or clients?

Jim Tincher 9:01

Oh, I go back and forth. I'm trying to use word clients and once we directly work with but then you also the questions the client, the individual in the company, the language is imprecise.

Susan Tatum 9:11

You're, I'm going to call them clients cuz you are providing the service. You take them with you to talk to their clients or customers. While you're while you're in but you're doing the interviewing, and is the objective for the client to learn something from that is about how you're talking to them so that they might be able to carry on these conversations themselves.

Jim Tincher 9:33

No that that's nice to have what happens, it's more about. So our work involves a lot of change management

Susan Tatum 9:40

of it. Yeah.

Jim Tincher 9:41

And I can give the best report ever and the nicest speech, everything else. But instead, if that VP of Product Development, talks about what she learned in the interview, carries way more weight than I do.

Susan Tatum 9:53

Oh, yeah.

Jim Tincher 9:54

So one of our individual hiring us, the customer, the client, whatever you want to call her, she said, I'm going to go to all these interviews myself, and I said, That's a horrible idea. So what is a horrible idea? You know, we've known each other for like a week, that's horrible idea. Because this is the ability to get your executives out to hear firsthand for your customers is a precious resource. If you take all these interviews, then your VP of Product Development, your VP of implementation, they're not going to hear from your customers firsthand.

Susan Tatum 10:19


Jim Tincher 10:20

And she went the opposite direction, she attended all the virtual ones. But all the on sites, she sent out her team to her fellow executives so they could hear firsthand about what their customers are saying.

Susan Tatum 10:31

So it sounds like your advice to any any firm really is if you if you want to grow or be more profitable, or be more successful is that you need to be talking to your customers.

Jim Tincher 10:40

And that sounds so Elementary. So I want to go a little bit deeper into that, because yes, that is the advice. But let me give an example. So two years ago, a prediction came out that one out of four people in customer experience would lose their jobs, because they're not having any business impact. Interesting. A year earlier, other research showed that only one out of four programs can actually show that they're having any impact. So one out of four can show impact, one out of four so bad they should be fired. So interesting. And it's but what we've seen as well, we've done research that's confirmed that the one out of four is having impact as well. And but the question is why? And there was no good answer. Most of the research out there of this type is quantitative nature. So we said let's talk some people. We talked more, and I want to talk to 100 people, my team said you're nuts. We don't need to talk to 100 People your research shows that after about 15, you get the same thing blah, blah, blah. I said no, I want to talk to 100 people. Why? Because I want to talk to 100 people, we wouldn't be on that we did over 150 hours of interviews. Now moving aside, what that has done for my business has been phenomenal. Because we learned so much that we never thought to ask and I also early on, I went just pre COVID and spent two days with each of my with two of my clients each. So four days out in the field, just following them along, watching what they did, listening on their one on ones, attending their meetings. And those four days are the most impactful of my eight years of had this business. I learned so much. And what we're able to do with that, between that and the other interviews, is we built new products. Our sales approach changed. And now I have so many stories that I can share about how others are solving the problems that this new prospect has.

Susan Tatum 12:22


Jim Tincher 12:23

And so last year, we doubled the sales. And I put a lot of that to what we learned going out and talking to customers. So yes, you need to talk to customers, but you need to do in a very deliberate way. So that you're able to capture learnings and build a hypothesis, test it and come up with better solutions. Now it might help them writing my second book. And that forced me to document what I heard. And it wasn't just me. The whole team did the interviews. I probably did about 50 of the interviews. But the rest of the team then did the other. I don't know 60 I think we did 110 total. Those on sites added up the hours. I think we did about 100 total. So the wrestling team did the other 60. And we learned a ton.

Susan Tatum 13:02

Did you find having virtual conversations with them? You're still able to pull good information out.

Jim Tincher 13:08

Yeah, it's better to be in person.

Susan Tatum 13:11


Jim Tincher 13:12

And that same with our business is that last, you know, 2020 we had to pivot and do all of our interviews virtually. We still get really good advice. You don't get like we're working with one client visiting doctors offices. And we found that when they faxed everything and where the paper templates were those types of things you only get by being there.

Susan Tatum 13:30


Jim Tincher 13:31

who's out some but you can get quite a bit of benefit from doing it still virtually.

Susan Tatum 13:37

Do you do you see things going back to have you been doing in person interviews, since.. now,

Jim Tincher 13:41

we've just started picking them up, most of our clients are still virtual, we have done some more, more rural customers, as well as more southern customers. So kind of follow you, you can look at many maps that will tell you that's where you can find people comfortable being in person.

Susan Tatum 13:57

That's interesting. So, so bottom line is, I mean, it's getting understanding your customers is going to lead you to have a better business. Is that what we're saying?

Jim Tincher 14:06

Yes. But again, that sounds so superficial. So I want to go a little bit deeper into that, which is not just talking a few customers, and it's actually most of the people we talk to, and that 110, roughly, we're not customers. Most are more prospects, people in our community, the customer experience community, we want to understand what motivates them, what drives them. So we reached out to friends, we reached out to friends of friends, we use LinkedIn, we use the blog just to try and talk to anybody we could find in customer experience. And we spent about six or eight months doing those interviews. And then we all got together to share what we learned and the part of the power was having so many different voices involved in the interviews. So it was a very deliberate approach. So I'm coaching a friend of mine who just started her consulting company, she's having a hard time getting started, so we've all been there. Certainly my first year's revenue. If I hadn't gotten a contract, we would there wouldn't have been a second year, the the journey mapping work that we do, that didn't really sell the first year took took almost a full year to get any sales. So I said to her the same thing. I said, Okay, you have your value proposition. Now go out and talk to 50 to 100 people who need that kind of work, don't sell, just learn from them. Learn what they're doing, how are they creating the service that you wanted to provide? I think people would never buy from you because they're really good at it. Learn from them. And so that's her goal. She's been wanting to 50 interviews, talking to everybody she can and where that's gonna come back to her is A she's going to find out whether her value proposition works. She's not going to ask them the value proposition. It's not about her. It's about them.

Susan Tatum 15:41


Jim Tincher 15:42

But she's going to learn about what they need and what they're doing. And I guarantee she's going to find limitations to our value proposition is probably superficial. I think most of us when we first started business have a superficial offering least I do?

Susan Tatum 15:54


Jim Tincher 12:54

Second of all, she's going to learn what else what parallel needs they might have based on just asking what their challenges are, what are they trying to accomplish? Thirdly, when she does have a sales opportunity, probably not for these people. Because again, we're very close, not selling. She can start talking about well, I talked to somebody who had this issue, this is what they did, or they had this is your this is what you might do. Yeah, so she's building the stories, which is how I sell, I was fired from my last job, my last real job because I couldn't sell.

Susan Tatum 16:25

What were you trying to sell?

Jim Tincher 16:26

It was research, not that different we're doing today. But it was trying to go outbound and sell and getting appointments and prospecting and all these other things. And I got fired because I couldn't do it. I'm not good at it. And what I do instead is we have great thought leadership. So potential customers call us. And I tell stories. Those stories come from these interviews. They come from spending time with clients. And so I'm able to walk through and also say, hey, you know, this other person with a similar problem, would you like me to introduce you? And so they get benefit out of it. And it's the stories about talking to people that are really good, that has driven my business.

Susan Tatum 17:04

So that and that's, that's key because that's different from just I mean, you've got a lot of great fatherly leadership going on. And you've been doing this for a number of years, you got a lot of inbound. But you're also I don't want to say under the guise of learning, but because you're trying to learn from these prospects or people that you're talking to. You are talking to a lot of people

Jim Tincher 17:26

Yeah, Yeah

Susan Tatum 17:27

and then you are connecting them. Maybe with you maybe not with you maybe with other people that can help them with whatever their issues are. And that that is what I tell I try to teach our clients to do is not be selling,

Jim Tincher 17:41

right. The 110 people we interviewed probably 20, 25 30 were clients, okay, just set them aside. A number we're friends, and I think literally this morning, we got the first lead from people we interviewed almost three years later. But it has meant so much my business in terms of what we learn to do to others. So we were not doing any selling work whatsoever in those interviews, were very strict about that it was not about us it was about them. But the learning allows me to grow.

Susan Tatum 18:10

Did you? Did you circle back and follow up with any people that were during the interviews you thought might make good clients that you could help them? See you just let it go?

Jim Tincher 18:21

No, I've got shaking my head on audio. So you

Susan Tatum 18:24

Jim said no.

Jim Tincher 18:25

no, we did not. Now maybe maybe would have been more effective if we had. But I'm kind of a purist about this. And they were not there to be sold to, they were there to share what they know about the industry, what's working for them. And so in the honor of that, I mean, I sent a LinkedIn connection to them, so they can see my content on LinkedIn. And that's actually what led to this one person to reach out to us. But if I'd done the single the slightest sales thing on there, I think I would have hurt myself. And yeah, it was for,

Susan Tatum 18:55

well, they wouldn't have trusted you again, to come back and have another conversation with them or run something past them. Huh?

Jim Tincher 19:01


Susan Tatum 19:01

So let's say, a smaller company than yours? What how many people do you need to talk to? Is it how can you figure out what the goal should be?

Jim Tincher 19:11

How many can you? I don't know I chose 100. Just because I'm that kind of guy, I guess I don't know.

Susan Tatum 19:17

You chose it. And you did it. And the team

Jim Tincher 19:20

The team is still is like that you're nuts. But, you know, it just felt like we were learning more and more, and why should we stop?

Susan Tatum 19:26


Jim Tincher 19:27

I also just think that when we published thought leadership saying you talk to 100 people, it's pretty rare. I remember reading one interview, it was from a big multinational organization that talked to 12 people and put out a white paper based on talking to 12 people. And I thought, wow, that's weak. Not that 100 people's significant other, you're getting close at that level. It wasn't about that. But it was about just being able to make sure that what we were hearing was true.

Susan Tatum 19:50

So you said earlier in the conversation that your people were telling you, oh, we only need to talk to once you talk to 15 people that your start getting same answers again. Is that coming from somewhere? Is there some sort of data that says that things repeat after 15? And you were..

Jim Tincher 20:06

a small seven? How are you gonna find the same things? And there are a number of researchers out there that will do seven or 10 interviews and they'll put together report? That's not us.

Susan Tatum 20:16


Jim Tincher 20:17

We typically talk to our clients, we'll talk more likely 30 to 40. The 100 was because I wanted to package up for thought leadership. And plus, I just felt it was worth for us to learn. And I didn't have to pay for the incremental interviews because my team members that helped too whereas, you know, a client they're paying us for those interviews so 30 or 40, you can get some really good findings.

Susan Tatum 20:38

Okay, and there's just seems like a whole lot of reasons that that's a good idea.

Jim Tincher 20:41

It certainly worked for me.

Susan Tatum 20:43

Yeah. Well, you got that you got the thought leadership out of it. You got new customers out of it. You got

Jim Tincher 20:48

we got a rockstar employee. Two out of it. She was one of the people we interviewed. And that's been phenomenal. So yeah.

Susan Tatum 20:53

Well, that in this in this environment that by itself would have been worth it. Huh.

Jim Tincher 20:58

Yeah. Yeah. I was very happy when she came to join us. I've known for years. But so it's hard to say with Kim from the interviews or knowing her but regardless, very happy with that.

Susan Tatum 21:07

You have built a relationship over time. All right. Well, um, this has just been awesome. I is everything that I hoped that it would be gotten some great information out of it. For people that want to follow up with you, Jim, what's the best way to do that?

Jim Tincher 21:19

LinkedIn, Jim Tincher, or Too long email, but it works.

Susan Tatum 21:25

And we'll put some links in the show notes. And that's T-I-N-C-H-E-R, if you're looking for it on LinkedIn. All right. Well, thank you so much, and take care.

Jim Tincher 21:35

Thanks, Susan. Appreciate it.



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