Get Emotional to Create Loyal Customers

January 21, 2011

You have probably heard that most buying decisions are not based on a need but rather on an emotion. Most people can get to their destinations in a Chevrolet just as easily as they can in a Mercedes. They need transportation from Point A to Point B. But an emotion (pride, for example) would motivate a rising executive to purchase a Mercedes which might make a statement about her status in life. And, recognizing this, the Mercedes dealer dealership has policies and processes that focus on satisfying their customer’s need to satisfy that pride. This requires that they know the customer…understand her motivations…meet and surpass her expectations. But it also requires that the dealership management communicates that creating and maintaining an emotional connection is of high importance.

My associates and I recently completed a customer loyalty seminar in which we discussed the difference between customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. A loyal customer is more likely to:
o Return to your business without the need for incentives
o Refer your business via word of mouth
o Are willing to pay more for your product/service
o Are more forgiving of your company’s errors
A satisfied customer, on the other hand, will be more likely to change companies or products to take advantage of a sale, coupon, or some other incentive. A company has only met the expectations of its satisfied customers. In particular, the company/product/service has met the customer’s minimum requirements.

You might be satisfied flying ABC Airlines. Its flights served the markets that you wanted to travel between. ABC Airlines got you to your destination safely and on time. Your knees were sore from being pressed up against the back of the seat in front of you but then again, at 6’5” tall you have gotten used to that. ABC met your expectations. But for the mere price of more frequent flyer points or a free car rental you might choose XYZ Air for your next trip. What would be an emotional connection that would cause you to be loyal to ABC? Consider the story I recently saw from Time.com (http://bit.ly/ehyBhB). To summarize, a passenger trying to make a flight connection in order to attend the funeral of a family member was clearly running late. He was going to miss the connecting flight as a result of circumstances beyond his control. The pilot of that connecting flight learned of his situation and held the flight for him. The grieving passenger, expecting to miss the connector and thus the funeral, was obviously grateful. We can assume the pilot empathized with the passenger and that the stressed traveler had his expectations exceeded. I think it is also a fair bet that if that airline serves the routes this passenger travels in the future, he is going to fly with them. So the airline likely established an emotional connection with this customer during this interaction with the pilot who waited for him. An emotional connection was created.

The article uses the word hero to describe the empathetic pilot. It mentions the risk he took of angering waiting passengers or running afoul of airline performance standards. I do not think his risk was especially high though. And I don’t mean any disrespect in saying this. I believe that the airline has created an environment in which loyal employees feel empowered to create memorable customer interactions. They pay attention to the customers’ needs and emotions…and their own. And in the process they create emotional connections resulting in a reputation for high customer service and loyalty. They have institutionalized a set of values and a corporate vision that makes the pilots action less risky. The company set strategies designed to focus on meeting customer needs and exceeding expectations. At critical points of connection the airline’s customers experience memorable interactions. They have created a strategy designed to generate loyal customers.

If you are interested in learning more about how your organization might benefit from a customer loyalty strategy please contact us.

Ocie Irons / ocie@ironbridgedev.com / (248) 231-2210

Bill Griffith / billgriff9@att.net / (586) 431-9311

Jeff Johnston / jeff@goaladvantage.com / (248) 891-1560

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Where Do You Build Customer Loyalty?

October 22, 2010

Creating customer loyalty must be, at least in part, related to having a customer’s experience with and of your organization be a positive one.  What are those experiences and where do they happen for your customers?  Are your counter personnel highly motivated and educated to provide outstanding service that “wows” your new and existing customers?  Is your website easy to navigate?  Does your shipper deliver your product undamaged, on time, all of the time?  Each of these points-of-connection is an opportunity for your company to create a positive experience for your customers.  They are opportunities for you to create loyal customers…or customers for your competitors.

I recently had occasion to look at my own interactions with an organization that I do business with.  Someone asked if they should become a customer of this organization and, without hesitation, I said no.  Now understand, I am currently a customer, and probably will be for some time.  The organization’s business model dictates that unless I choose to throw money down the drain I will stick around.  So they haven’t lost me as a customer, but they didn’t gain the person that sought my opinion.  What did that cost the organization?  And how many more times am I likely to dissuade someone from becoming a customer?

I became a detractor as a result of a succession of less-than-positive experiences that combined to color my overall opinion of this company.  These experiences occurred at points-of-connection…the website, a phone call to the office, and reading the monthly invoice.  I have to admit that the severity of one of the experiences created a halo effect that had me look for less than expected results with other experiences with this company.  The website uses some pretty common navigation tools and methods but I found myself thinking there should really be a simpler way to get the information I wanted from the site.  So I contact the company, explain my problem, and describe what I believed to be a reasonable solution.  I was not thanked for being a customer or offering an improvement (regardless whether the suggestion is acted upon I think customer interaction of this type should be welcomed and acknowledged) and as far as I know nothing ever happened as a result of my call.

The delivery of service by this organization has been somewhat spotty.  I have placed an order and gotten no response.  No follow up.  No return phone call.  Nothing.  My order, for all intents and purposes, disappeared.  In addition to not having my order fulfilled, I spent valuable time seeking the service and placing the order.  To add insult to injury I received my monthly invoice that clearly spells out my monthly fee. 

The “final” straw occurred when I contacted the company to advise them of this experience.  Rather than speaking to a person I was routed into voicemail.  As there were no options to get to a live person, I left a message that has, as yet, not been acknowledged.  So I am still a customer (member) but if not for money already tied up with this organization, I would have taken my business elsewhere.  I am not what I would consider a loyal customer though I am and will continue to be a customer for some time.  And I am certainly not a satisfied customer.  Why?  A combination of less-than-satisfactory experiences have combined to have me advise prospects of this company to not become customers.  How many of your customers would refer their friends or acquaintances to your company?  How many little experiences with your company erode your customer’s support and willingness to give you more of their business?  Are you even conscious of the points-of-connection with your company…and the value they hold?

Any (and I do mean any) experience that your customers have that they associate with your company serve as points of connection.  These points of connection are your company’s opportunity to create loyal customers.  To the best of your ability you must know what those points of connection are and manage them so that customers have positive, referenceable experiences. Those experiences are critical to your creation of loyal customers and profits.

For information about how your organization or company can improve customer loyalty contact a Loyalty Solutions partner:

Bill Griffith / billgriff9@att.net / (586) 431-9311

Ocie Irons / ocie@ironbridgedev.com / (248) 231-2210

Jeff Johnston / jeff@goaladvantage.com / (248) 891-1560