“I don’t know whether I’m loyal, or lazy,” tweeted a friend of mine last week as his eye doctor ran more than 30 minutes behind. He seemed as frustrated with himself for not finding another provider, as he was with his doctor for wasting his time. There may have been a patient emergency, of course, or an unforeseen situation with that caused the delay; yet, others with appointments were expected to endure without being alerted to the problem and given the option to reschedule. While this particular situation is most prevalent with professional appointments, we all know of similar situations that occur in our businesses and organizations.
Customer loyalty, like friendship, is built on mutual understanding and acceptance of one another. At a minimum, the relationship between the customer and the organization requires:
- Humor (maybe not needed, but indeed helpful)
While the customer easily gives these qualities, organizations with which they purport to have a relationship often do not reciprocate. From an organization’s perspective, a customer relationship is all too often built only on revenue generated. Specifically, the value of that relationship is measured by the number of purchases made and the size of those purchases. When a customer recognizes that their loyalty is measured only by these factors, such as with supermarket loyalty programs, they become fickle about the relationship. Laziness creeps in and whoever has the best sale prices or is closest to home gains the customer’s favor. When this happens, the relationship becomes a commodity for the customer, as it is already for the organization.
Organizations need to think of customers more like friends, than as dollar signs to prevent customer laziness. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask yourself the same questions you might ask about your friendships, for example:
Do my customers:
- Feel like they’re “my only customer” whenever we get together?
- Talk about our relationship in a positive light with their other friends?
- Tell me when I’ve done something wrong and give me an opportunity to make it right?
- Share their lives and stories with me because they know I care about them and the relationship?
- Count on me to deliver whenever they’re in need?
- Desire to spend more time with me and take every opportunity to do so—wherever I may be?
- Show passion about our relationship (brand)?
- Believe that every action I take is in their best interests?
- Feel that they’re desired?
- See tangible and long-term value our relationship?
If you can truthfully answer yes to most of these questions, your customer relationships—and long-term customer loyalty—are in good shape. If not, you have some work to do.
Do keep in mind social media tools make it very easy to build and cultivate customer loyalty today. You can connect anywhere at any time and have a meaningful conversation with customers. There’s no excuse for not putting time and effort into building these relationships. Not doing so will make it easy for the customer to decide if he’s loyal, or just lazy.
Can you afford lazy customers?
David Harkins is a serial entrepreneur with significant experience in branding, strategy, licensing and marketing.
In his spare time, he consults, coaches, speaks, writes, hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.
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