Loyalty is often the holy grail of customer experience.
It’s seen as the end goal. The raison d’etre for many companies. After all, loyal customers mean more revenue, more repeat business, more referrals and just more more more!
Yes, loyal customers mean more. But how do you define loyalty among your customers? How do you know when it’s actual loyalty?
I often challenge clients with this question and it’s surprising how many really can’t define what loyalty looks like in their organization. The very definition of what it means to be a customer is changing. How many “free” apps live on your phone? How many media outlets deliver content you consume but never actually “buy?”
Our world has changed dramatically in the last decade, some saying we are in an era with as much change as the industrial revolution! What does this mean for defining what it means to be loyal?
1. Loyalty is a feeling.
When we say we are a loyal friend to someone, we are saying we are dedicated to that person. We are loyal in how we behave, because loyalty in that context means putting that person above others in our life.
When we are loyal customers, there is simply no way we can have the same level of loyalty. I have heard many business leaders brag about their loyal customers. These leaders tell me they are not concerned about the newest “trend” of having a web site/social media presence/24-hour customer support…because their customers are so loyal. This argument simply does not apply to customers and companies. Those feelings of loyalty are not unconditional. They are based on serving your customers in the best possible ways.
2. And we are loyal…until we aren’t.
Remember how loyal many of us were to Blockbuster Video? We showed up regularly on Friday night, and our little laminated cards were well worn in our wallets. Then one day, we found that card while cleaning out an old wallet or the car glove box and laughed at carrying it around. Why did we need Blockbuster when we had on-demand viewing and Netflix to entertain us without the trip to the store?
While we love to discuss our loyal customers, we have to realize they are loyal because what we are offering works – in the context of their lives TODAY. If we aren’t constantly thinking about tomorrow and innovating accordingly, then their loyalty won’t last.
3. Loyal customers still want to be heard.
Another way to dismiss customers is to simply not hear them. Loyal customers who have an issue with your organization are at higher risk of being disappointed.
Loyal customers often have relationships they don’t want to risk, especially in business-to-business relationships. If a customer really likes her account manager, she may not bring up how their company is shopping around for a better situation. Suddenly, when it’s time to renew, she says “we found someone else.”
A new account manager will drop everything to hear her, as well as proactively reach out. Too often, we stick loyal customers in the “can be ignored” category and focus instead of acquiring new customers. This is the most backward definition of loyalty.
Make sure your organization has a proactive strategy for checking with those loyal customers.
Loyalty is a great goal for any organization, and great customer experiences will continue to inspire loyalty. Just make sure you are taking steps to ensure loyalty remains.