According to Jeffrey Gitomer author of Customer Satisfaction is Worthless: Customer Loyalty is Priceless, the answer is very clear. “Satisfaction is no longer an acceptable measurement of customer service success.
The standard and measure of success in this millennium are loyal customers.” The Gallop Organization’s research also concludes that no matter how satisfied an organization thinks its customers are, if they haven’t made an emotional connection with their customers to develop a long-term relationship, satisfaction will ultimately be worthless. Satisfaction alone does not build a strong loyal customer relationship.
It is difficult to focus on loyalty when, as standard practice, most organizations seem to settle for satisfied customers. Satisfaction is a measurement of mediocrity. When a customer indicates, “I am satisfied”, it can usually be translated to mean the service experience wasn’t bad, however, it also was not exceptional. Satisfied customers are certainly better than disgruntled customers, but, building a loyal relationship is a must for long-term success. The key difference between loyalty and satisfaction is that customer satisfaction scores fail to predict how customers will actually behave relative to future purchases of your product or service. They may or may not return. On the other hand, loyal customers will consistently buy from you. By definition, loyal customers always come back to purchase repeatedly, which in turn produces a much longer and stronger income stream. The larger the loyal customer base, the greater your organization’s long- term success.
Economically, the best strategy for your organization is to pursue the creation and retention of loyal customers. This strategic initiative can and will separate your organization from the competition. Let’s face it, service today is mediocre in most organizations. Your organization can achieve a competitive distinction by developing a strategy of creating loyal customers. It has been proven that organizations with high levels of loyal customers typically grow revenues at twice the rate of their competition. However, the strategy of developing loyal customers must become a part of the organization’s culture and ingrained throughout. Since the culture of an organization will always drive the behavior of the people who work within the organization, people will behave differently if the culture is entirely profit driven. In this culture, people will do whatever they have to in order to produce profit, often times at the expense of the customer. This short-term thinking is an organizational disaster waiting to happen.
If the culture and strategy of the organization is to develop and retain loyal customers, then the contributors within the organization will focus on what they need to do to create loyal customers. Needless to say, in a culture that promotes customer loyalty, the entire organization must be devoted to valuing both customers and fellow employees who are often referred to as internal customers. Bill Marriott Sr. was noted for saying, “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat the guest.”
When implementing a competitive strategy that deals with loyalty also take note that the customer experience needs to be aligned with organizational promises. When the customer’s experience is not reflective of what has been advertised, promised, or expected, the customer’s trust in the organization is undermined resulting in many lost revenue opportunities. Therefore, there is an urgent need to create strong relationships through frequent points of connection, and deliver unique service experiences as expected and promised by the organization’s marketing and advertising. The immediate impact of delivering an exceptional experience based on what is promised is a winning combination and a powerful weapon against your competition.
Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC has specialized in helping businesses achieve high levels of excellence and success by adopting customer loyalty strategies as a critical success factor of organizational success. Learn how at www.resourceassociatescorp.com or contact RAC directly at 800.799.6227.