Customer loyalty is a precious and high value asset.
In my last two blog posts, I have put forward the view that customer trust – that the service provider will deliver a consistent experience that the customer values – is more important than customer delight to build customer loyalty. I define “delight” as continually aiming to raise the bar, to do something better or different.
This point of view seems to go against most conventional thinking where the mantra is that customer delight is the pathway to customer loyalty. So let’s explore a little deeper…
Why is our company loyal to our accounting software provider, Rina? She is a quiet person who periodically comes to our office to advise us on how to use the software to understand our business better. We are loyal to her because she is there for us when we need her. She gives good advice. We feel supported by her. We feel that she cares about our business. In other words, she satisfies our needs at a functional (software and information) level, and at an emotional level (she cares about us and our business). She hasn’t tried to delight us by going over and beyond, or by continually outdoing herself. Rather, she has earned our trust by being consistent over time in the way that she delivers her service to us.
Let’s think about a company that has much less human contact. How about a web experience? How about Amazon.com? This company turns over around US$48 billion in revenue. You might say that Amazon.com’s success is based on convenient arm-chair ordering and low cost. However, Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon.com would disagree. Amazon.com does its goes to great lengths to know YOU as an individual. It helps you buy books that cover the subject that it knows that you are interested in. It almost speaks to you as a person. So, Amazon.com builds loyalty at an emotional level (it knows me and helps me) and at a functional level – it delivers the right product, fast, at a low price. Consistently.
Think about businesses that you have been loyal to over an extended period of time. What is it that has made you loyal? I believe that the essence of your loyalty is based on three elements.
First, your needs have been satisfied at a functional or rational level. You get a good haircut, your hotel accommodation is up to the standard that you paid for, your accounting software is easy to work with, you get your books delivered fast. These in effect are the “tickets” to the game of customer loyalty.
Second, your needs have been met at an emotional level. You feel good about dealing with the company. Research says that the emotional experience is a critical ingredient to the creation of customer loyalty and word of mouth recommendation.
And third, you trust that the company will deliver on your functional and emotional needs consistently, every time.
Sure, it’s nice to be surprised and delighted once in a while. And I’m not arguing against trying to surprise your customers or to raise the bar. What I am saying is that the core focus of every service provider should be to build customer trust through consistency. Stay tuned for more on this…