Kudos to you, Alyson, for writing such an exquisite article! I believe you captured the essence of customer loyalty. The companies that excel at creating customer loyalty are the ones that make us feel good doing business with them.
Customer loyalty, in the customer service sense of the word, can be many things. It’s a devoted attachment to a company, product or brand. It’s an emotional state of being. It’s something I grant to you or reward you with because of how you make me feel doing business with you. When you feel exceptionally good about doing business with a company, you want to experience that feeling again – that is the essence of customer loyalty.
I especially enjoyed your interpretation of the letter Clinique sent to you. Too often companies send out form letters or emails and expect us to take their words at face value. As consumers, however, that’s not what we do. We read between the lines, and rarely is it possible to find a sincere expression of appreciation for our business between those lines.
I hope many companies see and take the time to read your article. It contains a lesson that so many companies struggling with their customer service outcomes need to learn.
Original Assistly Blog Post Below:
Lasting Loyalty and Loyalty Lost: A Customer’s Perspective By Alyson
Editor’s Note: Customer loyalty. Always a trending topic. Lots of expert opinions, and a lot of guesswork. I started to tease out the reasons I have for personal loyalty to companies—both retail and e-commerce.
Here’s my list of reasons for remaining loyal, along with the story of why I abandoned a favorite brand.
I try (tried) to be loyal to local businesses. I used to believe it was my duty to shop locally as a default position, but I abandoned this idea after the second time the appliance store in my town didn’t keep their delivery appointment. I don’t care where I get the things I want any more. I just want the company to keep their promises and honor what they say. My cable company does not do this. Amazon does this. Amazon doesn’t want a personal relationship with me, but man, do they deliver what they promise 100% of the time? Yes.
“The loyalty cycle starts with a purchase, and ends with repurchase.” – John Ragsdale
I’m loyal to companies I know will “make it right” if something has gone wrong. Like Zappo’s. They sent me an extra pair of shoes a few weeks ago. I called up and they arranged a pickup—and oh, by the way, they gave me a $25 coupon.
Or BlueStuff. My order (and this stuff is expensive) never arrived, and they just sent a replacement. I didn’t hear, “I’ll start the tracking process and we’ll get back to you,” no “I’m suspicious you’re a big, fat liar.” No pain at all. Just cool BlueStuff relief for my sore muscles.
I’m loyal to companies who are consistent in their quality and their care. This is the LLBean, Eddie Bauer, Tiffany’s, Williams-Sonoma group. When I order specialty bread from Julian Bakery in California, I’m confident that I’m going to receive good bread every single time. Not like the Nameless Restaurant downtown, where you eat at your own peril on a Wednesday, when the substitute “chef” is working.
I’m loyal to companies that surprise me with a treat. Microbusinesses on Artfire and Etsy always put in a treat. Sephora always puts in a treat. Who doesn’t love a treat? A little gift magnifies itself in my mind over time. When we were staying at the Arizona Inn in Tucson, they sent ice cream to the room for my children one night. We still talk about that—20 years later. What a great customer service idea that was.
I’m loyal to companies that remember the things that are important to me. My eldest daughter just had a baby. An Etsy seller included a cute little paper garland for my granddaughter in an order. Do you think I’ll remember her and order again? Oh, yeah.
“Loyalty is not the opposite of dissatisfaction. To create loyalty, organizations must identify the drivers of loyalty across channels.” – Bruce Temkin
I’m loyal to companies that know me and relate to me in a human way. For these companies, it’s not about the lowest price. I admit, it’s insane to pay more for the exact same printer from one mail-order company over another, but car repair is a different story. Why? Because my history with Roy’s Garage is built on many years of Roy and his team giving me good advice, and keeping me and my family safe. If I comparison shopped for a muffler or something, and Roy’s estimate was higher, I would still go to Roy. He has demonstrated his respect for me over and over, and I know he wants to retain my business (and now my children’s business!). When times were tough a few years ago, Roy gave us a break on repairs.We have a human relationship. Some history. That has led to loyalty.
I’m loyal to companies that make things easier for me—and don’t put up artificial barriers that aggravate me. Here’s the thing. One of our cats has irritable bowel syndrome. I know, but we love him. The vet suggested a prescription cat food, available only through veterinary offices. But the vet wanted the office visit to go with the prescription renewal, so every few months, we had to pay a office visit fee in order to get the food renewed. We also had to buy the food there, at a premium. I just knew I was getting taken for a ride. Now we go there very rarely, and only for scheduled visits or emergencies. With a lot of help from a pet food guru at PetSource (locally!) we now get a comparable, less expensive alternative to the prescription food. By last count, I had steered 1247 people to her. Okay, maybe 23. But still. She’s got my continuing business because she enlightened me and cared enough to spend some time making my life easier.
It’s easier to justify spending more with companies who are known for ethical behavior.
I don’t mind paying a premium at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or Starbucks, because of the way they treat their employees and the planet. I like that they have a mission.
The Brand That Lost My Trust: How Clinque Handled a Customer Service Issue
I’ve been a Clinique cosmetics user for years. Last year, I bought a tube of body cream and had an unsatisfactory experience with it. Every time I used the cream, water sprayed out ahead of the cream. For expensive cream, I thought it was worth a letter, so I sent one to the company, telling them exactly what was happening. I heard nothing back. Weeks later, I wrote a tweet to Clinique about the lack of a response. Two weeks later, this is the letter I received:
Dear Mrs. Stone,
Thank you for your interest in Clinque. We apologize for the delay in responding to your concerns.
We regret to learn of the difficult you have experienced with your Turnaround Body Smoothing Cream. As background information, in the developmental stages of new products, formulations are subject to rigorous testing for many properties, including efficacy, aesthetic appeal, and longevity. Formulations are not approved for manufacture unless they meet our high performance standards. Our testing does not indicate any separation associated with this product.
Nevertheless, in the interest of consumer satisfaction, we are pleased to forward a replacement which we are confident you will find to be completely satisfactory. Please allow two weeks for delivery.
Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns. We hope you will look to Clinique for all your skin care and beauty needs.
Global Consumer Communications
And this is the translation of the letter in my mind:
Dear Ms. Stone,
We don’t care about your issue, and we wouldn’t be writing to you if you hadn’t left a public tweet after you figured out we weren’t going to respond to your issue.
We think you’re just trying to get something for free, because it’s impossible that our product could have a quality issue. You’re just making it up.
Because you’re obviously a troublemaker and we want to shut you up, we’ll send you a replacement, but hear this: We’re not going to replace it if you have trouble with it, so don’t even think of writing us again. Just be glad you got anything at all out of us.
I would like to say sarcastically that we really appreciate the time you took to send us your letter, and we hope it is now clear to you that we don’t give a flying fig about your happiness with our products.
Global Consumer Communications
In due time (way longer than 2 weeks!), I got a replacement for the cream. It was a factory second, with a lid that has to be pried up with a metal crochet hook every time I use the cream—a constant reminder of the fallen position of a favorite brand.
What makes you loyal? What brings you back to one company again and again? What drives you away?