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  • Personal Branding Interview: Jim Champy

    Today, I spoke with Jim Champy, who is the Chairman of Perot Systems, a New York Times bestselling author and the author of a new book called INSPIRE!. In this interview, Jim talks about how we can inspire customers, how companies can keep their employees motivated during a recession, the importance of authenticity and transparency, and much more.

    What does it mean to “inspire” customers?

    “To inspire a customer is to engage him or her in a way that instills exceptional loyalty.”

    As you read the examples of companies in the INSPIRE! book, you will see that these companies operate with a higher sense of purpose than just making profits. They exhibit a sense of values that are aligned with the values and beliefs of their customers–so customers keep coming back. In some cases, like that of the Big Green Egg, customers become the company’s best supporters and do a lot of the company’s selling.

    How do you keep employees motivated during a time of economic crisis?

    Transparency and honesty are critical in these times. Keep employees informed of what’s happening, even if the news isn’t good. If employees are hearing nothing, they will assume the worst. But balance reality with some vision about the future. This recession will end at some time, and some companies will emerge as stronger competitors. That will require companies to stop spending on wasteful or foolish efforts now and devote resources to innovation. Employees will stay motivated if they see their company still investing in the future.

    What are your tips for reignite customer loyalty?

    Value reignites customer loyalty, even more than price.”

    Customers still want products or services that uniquely respond to their needs. Does your product or service deliver a compelling proposition? Today, the value a company delivers will be its key differentiator, as everyone in a market is moving to reduce price.

    How important are these two words: transparency and authenticity?

    Authenticity is a critical component of inspiring customers. Companies, implicitly or explicitly, express what they believe in. If a company gets it right, these values have great appeal to their customers. Companies like Stoneyfield Yogurt leverage their commitment to the environment to engage customers and they do it authentically. But authenticity requires that a company stay true to its values in all that it does – in the formulation of its products; in its relationships with employees, customers, and suppliers; and in its operations.

    Transparency is part of authenticity: being open about your operations, so customers can see and experience your authenticity. I encourage you to read the Honest Tea example in INSPIRE! The company’s name and how it operates engenders what I mean by authenticity.

    Why do some customers drop out during hard times and others stick around?

    Sometimes customers just can’t afford your product – so they turn to alternatives or stop buying all together. That’s why more people are buying their coffee at McDonald’s today, and fewer people are lining up at Starbucks. But sometimes a customer finds a product that delivers more for their money. That’s about value and why I believe a company needs to focus on delivering more value for price during hard times. Starbucks is trying to do this with its own version of “value breakfasts.”

    Jim Champy
    is the Chairman of Perot Systems’ consulting practice, and is recognized throughout the world for his work on leadership and management issues and on organizational change and business reengineering. His first book, REENGINEERING THE CORPORATION: A Manifesto for Business Revolution, sold more than 3 million copies and spent more than a year on The New York Times bestseller list. He is also the author of the bestseller, REENGINEERING MANAGEMENT: The Mandate for New Leadership, which was recognized by Business Week as one of the top ten best business books of 1995.  His columns and articles appear in such magazines as Forbes, ComputerWorld and Sales and Marketing Management. His latest book is called INSPIRE!: Why Customers Come Back.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

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