Loyalty – It’s a Two Way Street

When we’re speaking about business, if you ask people to fill in the blank of ______ loyalty, they’ll say “Customer Loyalty” nine times out of ten.  But what’s even more important is a company’s loyalty, as it is a necessity in order to build an organization worthy of its customers’ loyalty.

Image by Nick Youngson – http://nyphotographic.com

A customer will never magically wake up and declare a passion for a company they do not feel connected to.  And they will never feel connected to a company that has not shown them that they and their business matter to the company.  Take, for instance, Southwest Airline’s recent policy change.  In reaction to the public outrage over a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines flight, Southwest announced that they were eliminating the practice of overbooking their flights.  Airlines engage in overbooking as a financial hedge against no-shows and cancellations, so Southwest’s move to eliminate the practice is clearly prioritizing customer satisfaction and peace of mind over a balance sheet.  This is precisely the kind of message and action that builds customer loyalty because the company is sending a very clear message that its customers come first.

The larger a company is, the more data it tends to collect on its customer base.  But that data is often utilized to market to those customers rather than to provide an individualized experience to delight that specific customer.  Smaller companies and the very best of the large companies see the error in that approach and find ways to connect to their customers, encouraging them to remain happy, loyal customers.  Consider the small clothing retailer who discovered that a customer had a medical catastrophe which resulted in having one foot amputated.  When they saw that she had been ordering pairs of shoes at full price, but obviously only able to use half of each pair, they filled her next order with the shoe she’d selected as well as a different color as a surprise.  And both were right feet.  Utilizing what we know about customers to improve their experience as our customers should become the first priority of data collection.

Many large stores offer branded credit or debit cards to their customers.  Sometimes, the use of those cards is tied to special savings opportunities.  Target, however, takes their program further than most.  With the use of their store cards, Target promises customers a savings percentage on every single purchase they make.  The use of their cards also offers an extension to the typical return period, easy donations to customers’ schools of choice, free shipping, and pharmacy benefits.  These perks treat customers as a valued part of the company’s success and, in turn, breed fierce loyalty among the store’s consumers, even those who would typically never carry a branded card.

The more effort we put towards being loyal to our customers’ experiences and happiness, the easier it is for us to earn our customers’ loyalty in return.  Think about companies that you are particularly loyal to.  What have they done to earn that loyalty?  What lessons can you take into your own work to similarly delight your customers?

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