Polaris Marketing Research Group released a study last week which found that 72% of American consumers are more likely to be loyal to a group that treats them right. Not surprising at first read, however clearly indicative of a consumer-focused shift in the customer care industry, as more and more product and service alternatives become viable options. Hate your cable company? Switch! You’ll probably save some money and there’s a chance that they might treat you better, as well. Hate the new fees from Netflix? Switch to Hulu Plus! Everyone has their preferences and there’s no limit to options nowadays, so more consumers claim loyalty to the group that just plain treats them right.

So what does a company have to do to get consumers to believe that they’ve been treated correctly?

1. (Bearable/Decent/Average/Good/Phenomenal) Customer service:

To be honest, it depends on the industry that you’re in. If you’re a large customer service corporation, handling millions of calls/emails/tweets/chats per month in dozens of locations, having phenomenal customer service might not be possible. But you do have to make sure it’s better than your direct competitor’s. People will switch to a utility provider with bad customer service to avoid the abysmal customer service of their current provider. However, if you’re a mom-and-pop deli that just can’t keep your prices as low as Subway’s, yeah, you better have phenomenal customer service.

2. Personalization

Everyone likes to be recognized and appreciated. Makes us feel like less of a number. Nothing feels better than going in your favorite shop, whether it’s your lunch spot, coffee shop, or date night restaurant, and having someone know your name. In college, I worked as a server in an Italian restaurant, and I swear there was a direct correlation between knowing your customer’s name and your tips. However, it can apply on a corporate scale as well, and it goes beyond saying “How are you Mr. Fox” after the customer gives you his account number. And it goes far beyond “Mr. Fox, I recognize and associate with your problem” in a mundane, callous tone. The best CSRs are good actors – they will make their customers feel like someone really cares about their problems even if it’s the last thing the rep actually cares about.

3. Consistency

Consistency is the part of the equation that makes me a loyal consumer to my favorite brands. The one I’m most loyal to is a consumer electronics brand that hardly ever fails me, and when it does, there is a clear procedure to resolve my problem that always seems to do the trick. The products are always cutting edge and I never feel the urge to buy a competitor’s product, because this company always has a better alternative. I’m sure it’s really hard to tell who I’m talking about.

On a smaller scale, I get take-out from the same Thai restaurant time and time again because their food is delicious, their service is decent, and their pricing is appropriate. In order to drive loyalty, you need consistent delivery.

What else do you think drives loyalty? What brands are you loyal to – and why?