What makes customers loyal?

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Waiter serving dessert

 

With global access to suppliers, direct-to-purchaser specials and myriad options, loyalty to brands and businesses is no longer a given. So what makes relationships sticky?

While price points can be a factor, many people say the will pay more for quality, great service and sometimes even ‘brand personality’.

Personally, I have quite a number of service providers that I have stuck with for years (several more than 10 years)—businesses that I am happy to drive across town for. There are several restaurants and cafes where I can successfully just ask for my ‘usual’, or I am welcomed either by name or with a warm greeting.

I’ve built long-term relationships with many of my suppliers—be they business product providers, health and beauty services or dining establishments. What’s interesting is that very few of them provide me with official loyalty programs, cards to be stamped or even discounts.

What they do give me is the knowledge that I am going to get a consistency in products, services or food and an enjoyment in my dealings with those providing them.

When my beloved grandmother died 15 years ago, our favourite waiter at our favourite restaurant told us he would not be giving us menus, and instead organised us an incredibly nourishing, nurturing meal. It was meaningful and I still remember it. We dined there for a decade more until they changed hands.

I drive across town for beauty services—my beautician is fast, reliable and amazing at finding time for me when last-minute media opportunities pop up. Some of my other providers put aside products to give to the many disadvantaged people my organisation, m.a.d.woman, supports.

Not everyone feels the same way. I posed the question ‘Are you loyal to a business or brand?” on Twitter and got a raft of responses.

While many people replied with some great specific examples, hardly any mentioned loyalty cards or discounts. The majority of positive responses related to great customer service and quality of goods (or niches).

On the flip side, I also got this response: “Frankly, no. Brands are no longer loyal to their customers; why should fidelity run in one direction?”

A new father cited the safety record of Qantas as the reason he now flies exclusively with them, while another said that when Virgin Australia offered to match status points of Qantas, he chose to swap airlines.

Vacuum cleaner brand Dyson got a big thumbs up for “exceptional service and customer liaison and follow up. An excellent product supported by excellent after care service”.

One friend has frequented the same hairdresser for eight years because the owner loves what he does, “genuinely cares about his staff and customers” and has some of the best magazines in town to boot.

Sometimes loyalty is driven by necessity, such as one woman who is allergic to most commercial clothes washing products. Sometimes it could be laziness: “I’m ready to switch phones but I know this and can’t bother learning a new system. So it’s more of a passive/habitual ‘loyalty’ that saves mental effort. Passive loyalty, but loyalty nonetheless”.

On Sept. 12th, 2001, Regal Movies opened their theatre on Broadway and 13th Street to show free movies to New Yorkers all day long (people could stay all day).  As people left, staff offered tissues to protect them from breathing smog from the World Trade Centre site.

“I will never forget this kindness, offering a small escape from was happening in New York City … I am a loyal Regal Movies customer”.

When it comes to attracting and keeping business, it’s clear that while great products and services are important, it’s the way you treat people that will keep them coming back for more—and spreading the word to others.

What are you doing to keep your customer base happy?

 

| Social Entrepreneur – www.madwoman.com.au