Is Loyalty STILL Dead?

by Jeannie Walters

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Almost one year ago, I declared loyalty dead. I meant what I said, but now I’d like to examine this argument and hold the magnifying glass up to the crisp, new year of 2013. Is it dead? Can we revive it? What are companies to do to hang on to their customers if loyalty is as elusive as U.S. political harmony?

Loyalty is changing.

There was a time, not long ago, when customers would brag about their loyalty to products or companies. Loyalty seems to be moving on a scale, however. Take the way customers had to get information from companies. We would be required to sign up for a newsletter – either snail mail or the e-variety – and they could tell us great things to do with their products. Campbell’s Soup can be used for a great casserole!? Wowza. I better stick to that brand!

Now, we scan the pins of our friends and search for “what soup is best for casserole” instead of using brand names.

We also share – vehemently – when we are less pleased with the brand. We post to social media, insert reviews on Foursquare and sometimes go out of our way to make brand managers feel our pain.

And we seem to be especially affronted when we felt like we were loyal, and then we are disappointed.

dead bird
Belly up

Loyalty is fleeting.

A recent statistic from Oracle shows 82% of people describe their experience as taking too much effort.

We used to accept what a trip to the bank entailed. And then we heard about online banking and phone photo deposits. Victory!

The experience you are offering your customers is most likely NOT the easiest, lowest-effort option out there. Your customers will realize that soon enough, and if the products or services are comparable, your customers will start drifting to the easiest option.

Loyalty is still people-centric.

Even the most mundane product is influenced by the people selling it and buying it. Check out this quote from a makeup customer:

I love lipgloss, I don’t wear anything else. And I love Buxom! I was a very loyal customer, until a sales associated convinced me to try a Smashbox lipgloss, and now I love them too.

In the blink of a well-mascara-ed eye, a loyal, Buxom-buying customer just purchased a new product from a competitor.

Loyalty is still dead.

I stand by my argument that loyalty is not really attainable, at least not in the sense we used to consider it.

Loyalty is swift, so take charge when your customers ARE feeling loyal and start viewing loyalty a little differently.

  • Loyalty means customers care enough to tell you when something is not going well. Listen closely to what your customers are telling you. “Is there an easier way to do this?” means “I’ll be looking for an easier way to do this.”
  • Loyalty means advocacy, but not necessarily publicly. Not all of us are town square criers. Just because we’re not publicly announcing our loyalty doesn’t mean we don’t want to advocate for your brand. Give us the opportunity by providing the tools.
  • Loyalty means recognition. We want to be recognized for our loyalty. After all, being a new customer elsewhere will get us recognized with deals and perks, so what’s in it for us to stay with you?

Loyalty is hardly a new concept, but the way we treat it – both as customers and companies – is evolving. If you aren’t paying attention, then you aren’t really serving any goals.

What are your thoughts on loyalty?

Photo credit: Lightning Rod Man via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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