Last week, I got to thinking about how easy it is for a merchant to lean on a marketer (you) for their customer loyalty. As a marketer, is it fair to say that YOU are the reason for their customer’s loyalty? I think not.
Today I will cover 7 Elements of Loyalty that will remain true — no matter what type of system or engagement technology a merchant has in place.
-Only a merchant can make their customer loyal (we just help keep them that way)
The way a merchant treats their customers is going to directly impact the effectiveness of the loyalty system/technology they have in place. The best WE can do is to educate and advise, which comes down to taking the opportunities to teach your merchants and keep them focused on what loyalty really is. Your merchant is solely responsible for their customers’ loyalty, you just help keep them that way.
-Technology does not create loyalty
Technology is just a way of capturing loyalty and leveraging resources to be able to engage loyal customers. Putting a great system in place makes their experience better. It can make them satisfied. But it will not make them loyal. That comes down to the little extras. That comes down to the ways in which an employee smiles when they walk through the door. It’s the way that they’re greeted. It’s the way a problem is resolved. There are more loyal customers created in the moment when there’s a problem than there are in just the day-to-day operations. Technology can’t generate loyalty, but it certainly makes it easier for the customers to express it.
-Loyalty is a function of nature, not habit
Loyalty is about an emotional experience. Jeffrey Gitomer asks, “would you like your spouse to be satisfied or loyal?” This question makes the emotion of loyalty very real for all of us. It puts in perspective the difference between a satisfied customer (one who has nothing to complain about) and a loyal customer (one who has an emotional connection with you).
-Loyalty is given as an emotional reaction to a human experience
Loyalty is most often given as a result of someone earning it. It’s about “wowing” the customer, and having them think, “Wow, that person did something for me. They did something that would cause me to think they care about me, or would invest more in me, or go above and beyond for me.” Which makes them think; where else would they want to be? They’re thinking, “By being loyal to this brand, I’ll get something out of it.” It’s a very selfish emotion, but a very human one.
-Loyalty is earned over time
Loyalty is something that is not bought. We can often buy our customers in the door, we can invest in them, we can leverage our technology and marketing resources, but it’s how they’re treated long term that leads to the relationship building. With the more interactions you have, the more opportunities you have to “wow” them. Loyalty takes a long time to earn, and it doesn’t go by a checklist or timeline. If you have a plan to continually “wow” your customers, then you should be able to expect that. Just putting a system in place won’t instantly buy you loyalty, but it can help you identify how much of it you have.
-Loyalty is often undervalued
A lot of merchants don’t get it, and a lot of customers don’t get it. They don’t realize their loyalty or see the significance in it. Customers are being taught constantly that their loyalty doesn’t matter. It’s about price. It’s about what they get. It’s not about the experience. They’re being taught they can overlook the experience, as long as they get a good deal. Walmart has pioneered this approach — and done so very successfully, I might add. For smaller merchants to compete with the Walmarts of the world there MUST be a renewed sense of quality, service and experience to justify a higher price point.
-Loyalty credits can be lost
Loyalty is one of those things where, especially in a change of ownership, can be lost. Relationships are fragile, and with each bad or neutral experience you lose an opportunity to earn customer credits. Think of it this way, “Customer Credits” are invisible tokens given to merchants with each “WOW” moment. In the event something doesn’t WOW a customer a token is taken away. If a merchant is running on negative tokens in the bank, the customers will not return.