I love what happened at Leicester City this weekend and surprisingly it’s got nothing to do with the football.
If you’ve followed the Premier League at all this season, you’ll know that the Foxes are now almost certain to do the unthinkable and win the league, despite being a 5000-1 shot at the start of the season.
In short, things at Leicester are very, very good. They’ve got a settled squad, a fantastic manager and a very bright future. Everything a football fan would want of their club.
But despite things going so well on the pitch, Leicester haven’t rested on their laurels off it either.
Before Sunday’s 1-0 win over Southampton – the game that pretty much cemented the title for the Foxes – all Leicester fans attending the game were given a free Singha beer and a Krispy Kreme doughnut in celebration of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s birthday.
Nice gesture but why would he want to do that?
What Leicester have done is treated their customers when all logic would suggest that there’s no need to do so.
Leicester’s customers (fans) are pleased as punch with where they’re at right now. They’ve had an incredible season, and you could argue that their relationship with the club has never been stronger.
Logic suggests that they don’t need doughnuts and beer at this point in time. And yet that’s exactly what Leicester have given them.
In the past, football clubs have made gestures like this towards their fans (such as refunding travel costs for an away game), but they’ve generally been in response to some bad news – an embarrassing defeat, or some unsavoury PR.
Leicester’s gesture appears to be entirely without motive, and that’s what makes it so powerful.
Because of the position that the Foxes are currently in, the gesture doesn’t appear false, or forced.
It comes across as the club truly valuing the support that the fans have given them over what has been a remarkable season, and the relational capital that this will build will be well worth the £20-30k investment.
So how can we apply this in our own businesses?
We all know that it is our customers who keep our businesses alive but that knowledge doesn’t always feed into everything we do.
We should always be on lookout for opportunities to invest in the relationship that we have with our customers.
Not just when things have gone wrong. When things are going great too.
And while an unprompted gift like Leicester’s is a fantastic way to do this, we don’t always need to be giving things away. Sometimes it’s just as simple as picking up the phone and talking to our customers on a regular basis.
At Ideal Result we’re very conscious about the importance of regular contact with our Private Clients.
If we haven’t spoken to one of them for a couple of weeks, we’ll pick up the phone. Not just because they might need some help with the marketing but because the strength of the relationship is massively important to us.
In many cases, customer loyalty (especially when a competitor comes along) sits outside the boundaries of your key product or service.
Instead of the core product being the single most important reason why they do business with you, in some cases your customers’ decision to continue to transact with you is based on how much they like you.
And this is what Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has done this weekend: he’s invested in the relationship between him and the fans of the club and made them more likely to do business with him rather than a competitor.
Now you might say, “That’s rubbish Thom, Leicester fans aren’t going to go and support another team”, and you’re quite right they won’t, but there are plenty of other things people could be doing with their Saturdays.
They could spend time with the family, watch Leicester Tigers, play golf, pop down the pub, the list is pretty much endless.
Competitors are out there in all sorts of different ways, not just in the direct sense of offering the same product or service; and consequently investment in the relationship that we have with our customers is becoming more important than ever.
For me, Leicester’s gesture has been an important reminder of the importance of building relationships, and I hope it has been for you too.
So if you find a spare 15-20 minutes in your schedule this week, it’d be a smart thing to spend a bit of time focusing purely on how you can strengthen the relationship with your customers – I’ll definitely be doing exactly that.