Recently on Twitter I was asked, “What makes you loyal to your favorite Brands? Is it the product, service, discounts, or loyalty programs?” My immediate response was service, with absolute certainty. Here’s why service is the key to brand loyalty.
Products come and go from the market. Trying to create a sense of loyalty based on a product is a difficult task. Products don’t create loyalty because anyone in the market can duplicate your product, undercut your price, and gain your market share. Products are commodities.
Discounts and Loyalty Programs
Designed to help fulfill the need for instant gratification and need for a good deal, discounts are simply a marketing tool. Discounts, in my opinion, require little to no thought and once redeemed, leave the clients with no lasting attachment to your brand. As for loyalty programs, we have seen how this all plays out. Look at the hotel and airline industries for example; unless you are the notorious road warrior with over 100,000 airline miles per year and stay in hotels 3-4 days out of each week, you typically cannot build up enough points to make it worth your while. With that said, I’m sure we all have our frequent flyer cards and hotel points programs, but does that make us any more loyal to the brands? My guess is that most of us go to various travel websites and find the best rate available for the destination of our choice. As for airlines, unless we’ve had a horrible experience with an airline in the past, we are probably looking for the best ticket price and the least amount of layovers. My point is that these programs don’t create loyalty over the long haul. Your business may see an immediate increase in sales and new customers, but your retention over time may wane.
True loyalty and differentiate comes in the form of service for most brands. We’ve all read the stories of Disney, Nordstrom, and the Ritz Carlton as the benchmarks for exceptional customer service and experience. Notice I didn’t say “good” or “great” customer service. Today’s market and consumer demand a level of service that is unparalleled. Good and Great service just don’t get the job done anymore when it comes to brand loyalty. Doing what is expected and delivering on promises does little more than achieve the expectations of the consumer. If you want to build brand loyalty, you must deliver a level of service that exceeds expectations, not just once, but on a consistent basis.
Building brand loyalty is not something that happens by accident. Companies that have built loyalty through exceptional service do so by creating a Client Service Process. They leave nothing to chance (or as little as possible) by documenting every step in the sales cycle. Before you start your next marketing strategy to build your brand, start by building a Client Service Process (or service plan) for delivering exceptional service, and then train all of your staff on the process. Everyone must believe and have confidence in your plan. Once everyone is on board, you’ll be on your way to creating brand loyalty and truly differentiating yourself from the competition.