Noah Fleming, Author, Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving
Customer loyalty is a crutch that lazy businesses have used to bludgeon the public for decades instead of actually providing value.
The corporate world (and even more often, small businesses) relied on the twin forces of this nebulous concept of “loyalty” and the sheer habitual inertia to keep people coming back.
But just as all that goes up must come down, all vehicles powered solely by inertia must also come to a stop, and that’s exactly what happened with the idea of doing business solely based on loyalty.
Here are three reasons why customer loyalty is dead.
Reason #1: Companies Rely On The Concept of Loyalty
No business actually wants loyalty. That might be surprising to hear coming from someone who works with organizations to build loyalty. It shouldn’t be, because what organizations really want are the benefits associated with loyalty, like repeat business, referrals, word-of-mouth, increased profits, and some level of forgiveness when inevitable mistakes are made.
For decades, both the “experts” and the companies fooled themselves and customers into thinking that simply providing the product or service they paid for was worthy of the reciprocation of future business and goodwill.
In a world with nearly unlimited choice for the consumer, the tables have turned. Now businesses have to be loyal to customers, and most of them aren’t happy about it. In fact, most of them can’t even conceive of what that actually even means. So we use words like authentic and transparent to try and make sense of this new world without actually understanding what those words even mean.
Reason #2: Trying To Please Everyone
Many got huckstered into believing the Zappos Way was the only way. No customer service request was too big, and no customer service response was big enough. So we started going above and beyond. We believed the “wow” experience would deliver the salvation organizations so desperately craved, but it hasn’t worked for most. It has left organizations more confused than ever before.
What has worked for many has been the often-old yet-never-tired cliché of knowing your customer base. The best organizations have this dialed in. They’re able to communicate with their base with total relevance. They know the types of customers they don’t want and aren’t simply willing to take everyone. The concept of having the “most eyeballs” is another myth we’ve been fed, as if someone in the crowd might actually be focused on us they’re saying and interested in what they’re offering.
Reason #3: Trying To Buy Loyalty
If your wallet is anything like mine, then you’ve got a wallet full of points and rewards cards. Far too often when an organization embarks on increasing loyalty they start by asking, “What can we give in exchange for someone continuously buying our stuff?”
But when you look at the top high-growth companies over the past five years you’d find a different story. It starts with exceptional customer service combined with high-quality products and service offerings. But then you’d find businesses that are very serious about honoring the promises they’ve made about who they are and what they stand for.
The values, that influence loyalty, are spread throughout those companies from the CEO to the front lines. It’s the reason why the line staff at Chipotle shouts “Hello” when you enter, and the same reason nearly every Starbucks employee greets you with a smile, makes eye contact, and writes your name on the side of the cup. The personal touch matters more than ever.
Loyalty is a human response to being dealt with in a positive way. No card or reward system will ever replace that.
Why Loyalty Isn’t Dead
Could you grow your company this year by 25-50% with zero capital investment? Your only resource to use is your existing client base. What would it take to accomplish that?
I believe it would require a massive focus on embracing your existing customer base. But more importantly, it would require you to start thinking about the benefits of loyalty and how to actually bring them to life.
It’s not just “pie in the sky,” and it’s not just a nebulous concept when you start to embrace what it truly means.
Loyalty isn’t dead. In our fickle, mobile society, loyalty can be stronger than ever – but only if you know how to build it.
About the Author
Noah Fleming is a strategic marketing consultant, coach, and speaker. He is the author of Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving. You can subscribe to his e-newsletter and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.