Companies today are navigating an increasingly complex business environment with consumers who have the ability to not only provide rapid feedback but to do so in a highly-public way. Offering a superior product or service is imperative to gain—and keep—customers. But businesses must do more: they must treat relationships with customers, providers, and other companies as assets, working to create something more than a win-win exchange by doing business together. Businesses need to add what I call The Triple Play™ to their arsenal.

The Triple Play™ is a mindset about doing business that includes mutual short-term gain but goes further to build relationships and create powerful alliances. It is characterized by systemic thinking, fairness, and empathy and requires businesses to:

  • Understand the needs of others – by asking what is impacting them
  • Invest to meet needs of customers and partners, both expressed and unexpressed
  • Quickly course-correct if they damage relationships

When a company does these things, The Triple Play™ occurs, benefiting its bottom line, its partners, and its customers. For an example of The Triple Play™ in action, look to the recent move by T-Mobile, who entered into an agreement with Netflix to offer a free Netflix subscription to consumers with at least two lines on the T-Mobile ONE plan. Such an offering benefits T-Mobile in an obvious way—providing added value to consumers and therefore decreasing the likelihood that consumers will go to rival AT&T or Sprint. For Netflix, it enhances the brand by being available to people without a separate subscription. For consumers, the benefit is access to Netflix’s trove of movies and original programming at no cost to them—simply for choosing T-Mobile as their provider.

T-Mobile’s move was no doubt carefully calculated. They had to consider which partnership and offering would make a large enough impact on consumer happiness to generate superior results for both companies. The jury is still out on whether or not this move will be enough to significantly encroach on industry leader AT&T. A few more customers, a bit less churn is good but surely not enough to justify the investment. To take this from a single to The Triple Play™, the companies need to make customers happy enough to use the service and talk about how great it is.

I talk about The Triple Play™ and the woman who exemplifies it beautifully, in my book High Stakes Leadership: Leading with Courage, Judgment, and Fortitude.

Susan’s company depended upon suppliers from different parts of the world, and any disruption in the supply chain spelled disappointed customers. In the wake of one particularly damaging crisis, she acted quickly to define and implement a solution. She first recognized how the crisis would impact her suppliers and figured out a way to help them—and her business. She constructed the offer to advantage both not to take advantage. In the spirit of The Triple Play™,  her offer addressed the needs of her suppliers, her business, and the needs of customers; it was fair and given proactively, in the spirit of the business relationship; and her thinking was influenced by empathy as she considered both short-and long-term issues for not only herself but her suppliers and customers as well.

Far more than a procedure, The Triple Play™ is a mindset fueled by a philosophy that businesses do better when they think systemically, operate with an ethic of fairness, and view customers and partners with empathy. This philosophy is made manifest by doing the following:

Communicate clearly, using as few words as possible. Too much verbiage makes people suspicious. They look for what may be lurking in the fine print.

Tell people how they get the best value, rather than leaving it for them to figure out. When customers realize later that they have paid more than they feel fair, they are more likely to bolt.

Use a tone that conveys the understanding of customers. You might be able to dictate, but that approach leaves customers cold. People need to feel that doing business with you is a positive choice.

Play the role of consumer. Leaders, go to your company’s website and call the customer service line, and ask yourself “does this help me understand the offering and give me a sense that the offer understands my needs and provides superior value?”

For a business looking to win market share—and in the case of T-Mobile, steal it from right underneath their competitors—The Triple Play™ leads to lasting results.

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