Loyalty is Dead

Is there such a thing as brand loyalty? I argue the answer is no.

Before you start quoting Steve Jobs and proclaiming your allegiance to the almighty Apple, please consider this:

The fans of Netflix were die-hard, too. Then they left-quickly and en masse. Yes, the fourth quarter showed some recovery, but it’s better to not have to recover in the first place.Netflix envelopes

Commercials claim generation after generation has banked at Bank of America, so why wouldn’t we? (Thanks to the #occupy movement, people are leaving the big banks, too!)

Specific, smaller communities like Foursquare and Path are staking a claim among the Facebook masses.

Customers are reevaluating not just your product, but the entire experience more frequently than ever before. We are kicking the tires and walking up to the shiny car in the lot to kick its tires, too.

Customers, for a long time, were trapped. The pain of switching kept many of us stuck in limbo – not really liking our experience but not really feeling enough pain to deal with it, either. Now, the barriers are breaking down, and typically a 5-minute sign-up is all it takes to become a new customer elsewhere.

I’ve found, with most companies, it is too difficult to keep evaluating what’s out there. Startups are the ones who do this best. They explore the marketplace, find a need, and exploit the missing piece for customers. (Ironically, Netflix is a great example of this, too.)

Companies, however, get fat and happy and ignore the truth. Your product isn’t really cutting-edge anymore. Your experience is lackluster to say the least. But, you still have plenty of customers, right? So how should you prioritize this?

As Customer Experience Investigator(tm), I’ve heard all the reasons why constant (and honest) evaluation gets tabled. I get it. You are busy. Your job is demanding. Your boss is breathing down your neck for that report that requires 3 calls to Hong Kong and 4 updates to an outdated Excel spreadsheet. Who has time to explore what else is going on?

The smart companies, the ones who continue to wow their customers past that honeymoon start-up phase, are the ones who prioritize the evaluation. You have to not only keep evaluating your experience, but you have to keep an eye on your competition, as well as what customers are expecting.

Remember stories of the Pony Express? They were hailed as heroes (rightfully) because they delivered mail. Now, the USPS is advertising paper bills to try to attract more customers. Our expectations have changed. It happens.

Stay ahead by remaining curious, paranoid and forever investigative. The absence of constant evaluation leads to stifling innovation. It’s the nail in the coffin, I’m afraid.

Photo credit: alforque 

 

Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement and connections like social media. 360Connext serves mid-market companies and larger by helping them evaluate their true customer experience. The evaluations always lead to improvements which then lead to results like increased online conversions or loyalty.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

7 comments
LauraC
LauraC

I would agree with you on this. In the business I'm in there are very few recognizable brands and although we get a lot of return customers price plays a bigger issue. With so many things nowadays customers are just a click away from finding a different place or deal and so brand loyalty certainly doesn't play the role it used to.

dgulbran
dgulbran

I'll qualify this by stating that I'm not a customer experience professional... However, I think brand loyalty is alive and well because--at least to me--a brand is meant to represent to the consumer a predictable level of quality, value, style, etc. It seems to me, in the case of Netflix, more recently the Komen Foundation, and even BoA, customers and supporters have only revolted when they see the company doing something antithetical to the brand. Netflix fans *were* super loyal and promoted the company via word of mouth, etc. but when the company acted in a way that fans perceived as being disingenuous (raising prices so drastically and in such a heavy handed fashion, splitting CDs, etc.) then they turned on the brand *specifically because they perceived that the brand turned on them*. That's not the same as loyalty being dead; far form it. I think it's consumer's saying that brand loyalty, just like personal loyalty, is a two way street. There's a level of trust involved in the relationship, and when organizations breach that trust, they have to earn it back before they regain the loyalty they once enjoyed.

BillRoss
BillRoss

Great post, I was actually have a conversation about this yesterday with another SEO. I think brands used to be based on products and the features the products had. Today I think brand means the mental state of the consumer while using the product, or if they feel they "belong" to a greater group. I think that is what most brands like Apple or Facebook have going for them.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

Yep... everything in our lives lasts 2 seconds now, including loyalty. I try to stay focused on that and take nothing personally.... but I still ask why they left so that I can what we do.

jeanniecw
jeanniecw

@dgulbran I like your take on this. My point is that too many companies decide that once customers are loyal, their work is done. They believe that the current state of loyalty is enough. To earn (and keep earning, as you point out) loyalty, it's critical to consistently evaluate, innovate and appreciate your customers. Love this discussion. Thanks!

jeanniecw
jeanniecw

@BillRoss The sense of community is a key strategic differentiator today. We want to know we can turn to our peers and get information, support, etc. The user communities are what bolster a lot of the brands today. I'm so glad you brought this up! Thanks!

jeanniecw
jeanniecw

@AmyMccTobin It's so important to pay attention to the exits. If one person leaves, it means many others are considering leaving. Great point to bring up here, Amy. Thanks!

Trackbacks