I recently wrote about an innovative way to meet your customers' needs--by figuring out what they hate. (Or, as Jerry Seinfeld says, by answering the question: "What am I really sick of?")

Now CVS Pharmacy has demonstrated how to follow this strategy by introducing a new pill bottle labeling and scheduling system. The objective is to address two things that customers hate about prescription medicine: understanding out how to take each medication, and figuring out when and how to take multiple prescriptions throughout the day.

You may recall that CVS received some criticism last year when the company acquired Target's pharmacy operations. In 2005, Target had developed an innovative labeling system that, according to RetailDIVE, was "hailed by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices because of the clarity of the labels, which include a system to separate different medicines prescribed for various members of a household by color and an easier-to-handle bottle design." But when CVS took over, it abandoned Target's labels.

It turns out that CVS was busy working on an even more comprehensive way to alleviate the frustration that patients experience when managing their medicines. And in doing so, CVS shows us an important way to create customer loyalty--by alleviating a vexing pain point.

The company's new system, which CVS calls ScriptPath, starts with a new prescription schedule that puts all the information about a patient's medications in one place. The instruction sheet and labeling medications are marked with graphics that show the time of day a patient should take them.

Soon to be introduced will be new labeling, designed by Deborah Adler, the designer who developed Target's drug packaging.

Assuming you're not in the drug business, how do you leverage CVS Pharmacy's idea to build loyalty among your own customers? Focus on these two words: "how to."

Although adults rail against rules, the interesting thing about human beings is that we don't mind instructions, guidelines and (with the exception of guys who are lost while driving) directions. We're happy to accept guidance if it helps us accomplish something that matters.

That's why "how to" is such a powerful phrase. And it's why a key way to help your customers: provide a "recipe"--advice that makes at least one aspect of their lives easier.

Note the difference:

  • A rule tells you something you must do, stated as a command. The body language that accompanies a rule is a wagging finger pointed at the offender.
  • A recipe helps you do something you want to do, expressed as a set of suggestions.  The accompanying body language is a hand on your shoulder, offering encouragement.

In a world filled with rules (and annoying things we need to struggle to figure out), your customers don't need more procedures, regulations and admonitions. What people want most is a friendly helping hand to help them solve problems and get stuff done. If you provide that, you're sure to get and keep your customers' loyalty.