In the fickle world in which we live, loyalty is one of the most sought-after and hard-won aspects of customer experience.
After all, it's likely that you're selling a commodity. It doesn't matter whether it's a product or a service, consumer-facing or business-to-business, brand new or a century old. Someone else can offer something just like it—or at least something similar enough to it that a customer will gladly switch brands if you can't meet their need.
Acquiring these customers and retaining them is the challenge. How do you differentiate yourself from the ever more crowded market?
Certainly it's about paying closer attention to how you treat them and deliver on your promise today. It's fruitless to try to execute on "futurizing" your business if you haven't paid proper attention to current operations.
Loyalty comes from establishing trust. You can't take shortcuts to loyalty with deep discounts, unless that's your brand and you deliver on it every time. The best brands establish trust in a variety of methods—methods that are commodities themselves. You don't necessarily need to perform every one of these, but some combination of them could make your brand unstoppable.
The Five Cs of LoyaltyIf you want loyalty, it's essential to deliver on what really matters to customers. There are a handful of things to consider, but there's really one that matters in the end.
Confidentiality / ClarityWith recent technology news, you might think that they care most about privacy. But consumers still use social networks despite not trusting them. And what's their privacy worth to them? About $150. That's what the price they'd sell their personal data for. They expect some degree of confidentiality in a transaction, unless they explicitly agree to something else. It's part of what's behind the GDPR push. They need transparency or clarity about what's happening with their data. That's an important part of building trust.
CostOkay, so if it's not personal information, what about money? We know everyone likes to save money, and the price point about the data exchange above reflected some sort of value that they'd realize. That is, what kind of value is there in such an exchange? Amazon is driving everyone to its own off-brand merchandise by under-pricing the competition. And the promise of free two-day shipping for a flat rate has been what's driven Prime from the beginning. Bottom line: customers love knowing they can get a deal and that you're helping them save money.
CertaintyThe thing with cost is, someone can always lowball you and try to attract customers in the short-term. As stated above, it comes down to whether that's a sustainable strategy. Ride-sharing services have offered lower prices than cab fares, but they've added something else: predictability. When you open your Uber or Lyft app, you can see where the cars are and how long it will take for them to arrive—and you're able to inform friends and family when you'll arrive. In our over-scheduled, time-fraught lives, we can all benefit from more certainty.
ConvenienceSo you've nailed the other elements above, giving customers peace of mind about their data, saving them money, and being reliable. But they're in a hurry. Customers need to do things more quickly and in a way that hews to their schedule, not yours. You need to give them back time. Interestingly, Uber recently announced that they'll be giving customers an option of paying less if they're willing to wait longer, acknowledging that customers' time is an important commodity.
Imagine if your company, rather than saying "we're available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday for an appointment," said, "When would you like to have it done?" That could go beyond normal business hours too: if I'm not out of work until 7:00 p.m. and then need to get to a Little League game, maybe it's not convenient for me to bring my product in until 9:30 p.m. When Amazon is promising same-day delivery for goods, it means every brand—products or services—needs to be thinking about similar behavior.
CachetThis is a very special category, which is why I saved it for last. All of the above items are about business processes. You've made decisions about pricing, about the availability of your goods and services, about providing predictable and repeatable results, and about data security.
But there's one other thing that you can develop with your customers that will not only keep them coming back, but will also make them shout from the rooftops about what you've done.
Status makes them feel special. Status gives them cachet. It's more than being able to say they're Titanium Level in your rewards program. You need to give them experiences that make them feel like they're unique. It means a move toward personalization—no more "Dear Valued Customer" emails (or God forbid "Dear
Delta has very specific tiers for their SkyMiles program. They call them "Medallions" and they come in Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. But as you see more passengers accruing the 'status' of Medallions, it decreases in its uniqueness. So Delta upped the ante, and among other things, offered Diamond Medallion members the ability to be driven between connecting flights, on the tarmac, in a Porche.
Now that's cachet!
Don't give your customers a reason to look elsewhere. Make them trust you to the point where they're completely loyal to your brand. In order to accomplish that, you need to be diligent about every touchpoint with them. Execute flawlessly. And ultimately, make them feel like no one else can.
Image credit: the original reward's program [sic] by frankieleon (Flickr)