Aretha Franklin may have said it best in one of her biggest R&B/pop hits: “I’m about to give you all of my money/And all I’m askin’ in return, honey, is … R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
A new study published in the Harvard Business Review says companies that make customers feel respected are likely to reap substantial benefits in their bottom line.
“Customers trust companies that they feel understand them,” the researchers said. “They respect companies that they believe respect them in return.”
The customer quotient study, now in its second year, tries to assess what draws customers to certain brands. It describes and measures five attributes that consumers value in a brand: openness, relevance, empathy, experience and emotion.
The researchers believe that a brand’s performance on these measures predicts loyalty outcomes, which is correlated to profit and growth.
In the survey of 20,000 customers, outdoor retailer REI came out on top as the No. 1 company that makes customers feel respected.
Last year, REI announced it was closing all its stores on Black Friday to encourage employees and consumers to spend the day outdoors with their loved ones instead of partaking in the shopping mayhem that often accompanies the post-Thanksgiving weekend. The bold move won the brand acclaim among marketers and consumers and helped it pull off a 9.3 percent year-over-year revenue gain. The retailer announced in October that it would repeat the successful move this year.
“The outdoor clothing and gear co-op was the top CQ-ranked brand overall and also scored the highest on our measure of respect,” the research team wrote. “Awareness is up over the past year, too — consumer mentions of the brand increased by 270 percent from 2015.”
Athletic footwear-and-apparel brand Under Armour also ranked among the Top 20 firms that win in the customer respect game, at No. 13.
“Customers also value companies they see as authentic. Companies and brands that ‘mean what they say’ had high CQ scores and outperformed their peers,” the team wrote. “While some basic level of quality is a prerequisite, consumers place a premium on brands that they believe to be direct, forthright about their values, and consistent in acting on them.”