If You Want Loyal Customers, Be Loyal in Return...

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Customer loyalty. We all want it.

We understand the economics.

We search endlessly for ways to "make" customers loyal.

But instead, shouldn't we just be loyal to our customers?

First, why not look after me, like you'd look after a friend, or someone you care about. Keep in touch, as long as it's relevant. Look out for things that might help me. And please, say thank you.

Of course, there's a whole industry involved in rewarding customers. Just look at the number of reward cards in your wallet. But a helpful reminder from iTunes, that you already own the tune you're trying to purchase, shows far more care, than a supermarket card you have to carry to get half-decent prices.

It's the mindset, not the mechanic, that counts...

Second, why not ask my opinions, and use the data I let you track about me, to improve my experience.

More and more data is becoming available - the era of Big Data is upon us -, but again it's the mindset that counts. Tesco was transformed back in the 90s, because it was determined to use the data from its Clubcard program, not just to make rewards more personal, but also to improve the whole shopping experience. The book on the subject, Scoring Points, documents this well.

Third, please live up to the reason you became a part of my life in the first place.

I remember a focus group I was doing more than a decade ago, with loyal customers, to explore how Tesco could help them in financial services. As soon as it started, one customer announced that all she wanted to talk about was how she felt Tesco was no longer on her side. The others, heads nodding, soon joined in...

Fast-forward to 2007, a group I was doing here in the US, about what makes a great place to work. Two Starbucks baristas were taking part, and all they wanted to talk about was how Starbucks no longer cared about its customers...

Both these stories had happy endings.

The entire Tesco organization recommitted to "every little helps", it's customer-centered philosophy, and enjoyed 5 years of the highest comparable store sales growth it had ever seen. Howard Schultz, of course, came back to Starbucks, helped it rediscover its mojo, and put it back on the path to growth.

Both taught a valuable lesson.

Be loyal to your customers, if you want them to be loyal in return...