business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Of all the columns in all the world, I can't believe I'm writing one about Oprah Winfrey and sex, but here I go.

It started a few days back when I jumped on an exercise machine at my gym without taking the time to consider what was showing on the television opposite me on the wall. By the time I looked up, it was too late: Oprah was having a show about sex - specifically the female orgasm. (Let's pause here to welcome all the new readers who just discovered MNB by typing "orgasm" into Google.) I realized I had two choices: to jump off the machine and move to one near ESPN or to watch. Naturally, I watched.

In fact, Oprah did a brilliant job on the topic, seeming to know exactly when to feign embarrassment, bemusement or whatever else her audience needed to get through the moment. I figured I would watch the episode and never speak of it again, when suddenly Oprah and her guest, Dr. Laura Berman, author of “Real Women, Real Sex” (and welcome again to more new MNB readers) discussed the 10-second kiss. At that moment, I realized I had a column to write.

The 10-second kiss principle is pretty simple, according to Dr. Berman. Early in relationships, people kiss; in fact they kiss a lot and they kiss long. Then time goes on and the long passionate kiss has been replaced by a quick peck in the middle of discussing who took out the garbage, made the kids' lunch or fed the dog. The kiss goes missing as does romance and everything that built the relationship. Pretty soon, the relationship has slipped and all kinds of trouble follows.

And that got me thinking about customer relations.

When we first meet a customer, it's all about kissing and romance. We cannot do enough for them, cannot show them enough love and cannot turn our eyes away. For instance, a store in my neighborhood recently completed a long overdue remodel. Reopening day was like the start of a new romance. Sample were everywhere, employees were demonstrating the new self-scanners and there were even figures in costumes to show off new products and services.

Sadly, we know this store can’t maintain that level of excitement. Having shopped there on and off for 15 years, we just know it won’t. (Prior to the remodel, this store had a well-deserved reputation for poor lighting, poor service, poor food quality and many reasons to go elsewhere. All it really has is a great location.)

So just as Oprah and Dr. Berman said, the relationship will almost certainly get lazy. Sure it starts off great, but then the romance is gone, the kissing is missing and the shopping trip is just routine. The relationship, like it or not, is in trouble.

As Dr. Berman explained, bringing back the 10-second long kiss helps restart the relationship. It brings back the romance and special feeling. And once again, I thought of customer service, which might explain why my wife threw something at me when I explained this column.

One thing we all know is that it costs far more to win a new customer than it does to keep an old one. So for marketing purposes, we need our own version of the 10 second kiss. We need to keep staff mindful of the need to keep a little bit of that opening day magic every day, to romance our customers and keep them happy beyond delight.

In truth, every day cannot be opening day. Every time someone buys a product cannot be just like the first time. It simply isn’t possible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make every day special, every customer interaction something more than ordinary. It’s those little touches that make companies like Southwest Airlines, Disney and Stew Leonard’s special. It’s the little something that we should all strive to give.

Just think the 10-second kiss…only skip the kissing!

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at .
KC's View:
I hope that was as good for you as it was for me.