Archive for April, 2012

April 3, 2012
Jeffrey Heilbrunn

Can Business Achieve True Customer Loyalty?

I am often asked by clients and students to discuss the issue of customer loyalty, customer retention, customer relations, and the lifetime value of customers. In fact, in discussions with students during the first week of April, we kicked around the issue and some of my students ideas are incorporated in the thoughts to follow so thanks to them.

The loyalty cards I carry to obtain a low price at the grocery stores is just that, a discount card. I will go from one grocer to another based on who has the best values that day. So what is true loyalty and how can we in business get even close to having truly loyal customers?

PEOPLE … first, loyalty is a uniquely human endeavor so the dimensions of loyalty rest on human interactions. Don’t expect a plastic card to do what it takes a person to accomplish. We are loyal to people, and to each other.

VALUES…. Our target audiences have shared values and we need to be included in their values. Loyalty needs to includes elements of trust, respect, appreciation and fairness. And by sharing, I mean that values is a two way street and we should expect to receive respect when we give respect, etc. Ritz Carlton famously lives by the mission, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Serving Ladies and Gentlemen” and this is a values based business, a two way street, and a firm that engenders loyalty from customers.

EMOTIONAL…we are emotional when it comes to our love of family, country, flag etc. We well up with pride as the Star Spangled Banner is sung (or cringe when it is abused by a singing group). Loyalty should engender an emotional response. So our marketing efforts need to touch the responsive chords of humanity and associate the brand with our humanity. Speaking of the flag, often we ascribe our loyalty to an idea or ideal through the use of icons and symbols, like the flag. Consider yout use fo symbols in this regard as well.

If you think that true loyalty in business is impossible and that the leaky bucket of customer attrition is a natural part of business, perhaps you need to examine your approach to loyalty.