Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s controversial comment that the company ‘supports biblical families’ has secured the fast-food outlet plenty of press coverage this summer, while dividing its customers.”Appreciation Day” saw block-long queues of patrons eager to show their support, while those who opposed the comments retaliated with “kiss-ins.” Whatever their stance on the issue, customers vote with their wallets.
Cathy made it clear that his remarks reflected not only his personal opinion, but the values of the entire organisation. And that’s what’ll have the biggest effect on the bottom line. When deciding where to spend our hard-earned cash, we choose organisations whose values overlap with our own.
That’s the headline from new research, which revealed that the extent to which a customer identifies with an organisation is a stronger predictor of that customer’s spending than their satisfaction. While customer satisfaction varies from one interaction to the next, feeling that the organisation shares your values is a long-lasting impression that can weather the odd negative experience.
In the study, which examined over 12,000 customers of 212 clothes stores over 12 months, moving up one point on a 7-point identification scale increased spending by $124.39, even when other factors like satisfaction, income and prior spending were kept the same
organisations attract customers whose values are similar; Chick-fil-A will see the real impact of the recent controversy over the coming months. But it’s difficult for leaders who want to boost profits to transform their organizational values. Besides, you can’t be all things to all people. Luckily, the research revealed two other, more malleable predictors of customer spend: the degree to which employees identify with the organisation, and the extent to which customers see themselves as similar to individual employees.
Employees who see their own identity as overlapping with their employer’s will be more motivated to achieve company goals like sales targets. Customers are more likely to buy from a sales associate with whom they feel a personal connection. When a customer thought a shop assistant was highly similar to themselves, and that assistant highly identified with the organisation, predicted spending over 12 months was $1,134.54; compared to just $673.42 for a low-low combination of these traits.
The message is clear; to boost sales, find common ground—both between employees and the organisation, and employees and customers. I saw a great example of this when I visited the private wealth arm of a global bank.
From the carefully groomed, designer suit-clad media wealth manager, to the tweed jacket and signet ring of the chap who dealt with the landed gentry, to the oil wealth manager’s keffiyeh, the private wealth managers were carefully selected to make the best possible connection with their clients. Something which no amount of advertising, celebrity endorsement or half-price chicken sandwiches can create.
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