Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chapter 1/3

Another study by the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) Council in 2007-2008 titled, "Losing Loyalty: The Consumer Defection Dilemma," tracked 34 million shoppers and 685 grocery and pharmacy brands at 24,000 retail stores. The news is not good.

In that study, one third of those considered "brand loyal" actually switched to another brand during the study. About half that many again began switching to other brands from time to time, perhaps because of special promotions but, in any event, were no longer completely brand loyal. Combining these two groups, 52% of those thought to be loyal to the brand they were using at the beginning of the study had begun using another brand either exclusively or from time to time.

While this study was among consumer packaged goods brands, we see this trend in virtually every industry. And small business owners may want to think about their own customers as they interpret this secondary research and consider the implications for their own customer base.

Is customer loyalty dead? Not by a long shot. There are still plenty of businesses that have strong customer loyalty.

In fact, Bob Hill recently provided us with PeopleMetric's Annual Customer Engagement Study that named the ten companies that customers are most loyal to. Who are they?
1. Ritz-Carlton
2. Google
3. The Four Seasons
4. Netflix
5. Cartier
6. Armani
8. Wegman's Food Market
9. Coach
10. Costco

Now I have done business with seven of these companies and I can agree that my experiences with them would lay the foundation for loyalty on my part. But that is just one guy talking.

More importantly, Mr. Hill offers some insights into why people are loyal to these organizations/brands. What can small businesses learn from these organizations?

Mr. Hill observed that each of these organizations has something in common with all of the others and that, he maintains, is the crux of the brand loyalty that each of these companies experiences.

First, all ten of these companies treat their employees very well. These companies recognize employee contributions with bonuses and other incentives for those who go above and beyond the norm to demonstrate that they and their companies value customers' business. When employees feel valued, they will most assuredly pass that attitude on to their customers.

How valued do each of your employees feel? Well, that is about how valued some of your customers feel!

Second, when problems arise with either products or service, the companies resolve the issue immediately. There is not time for the customer to even wonder if they will be treated fairly. Or doubt their importance to the organization. Employees in these companies have authority to handle most issues to customers' satisfaction. As part of this, there is a strong "life-time value of the customer" philosophy operating to ensure that little problems do not become big problems for either the company or the customer. In addition, these companies are continually verifying that each encounter with the organization is a positive one for that customer.

How empowered are your employees to handle complex customer problems? If the problem has to go to the owner of the small business to be resolved, it has gone way to far in the customer's opinion.

When your employees feel valued, they will most assuredly pass that attitude on to your customers.

Don't for a second think that just because these organizations are large entities that their job is easier. No, in truth, the larger the organization, the harder it is to garner brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. With the addition of each new employee, any organization increases the risk of a bad customer experience. It is actually much more difficult to achieve the level of customer loyalty these larger companies have attained. Small businesses should find it much, much easier to build customer loyalty. But, do they?

Please post a comment to what you read. Thanks for checking in.

More to come!

1 comment:

  1. I am a fan of google's products but despise the lack of customer service. most products direct you to FAQ's and forums for third party advice. I have posted questions to google forums and never received answers. I am curious to see if over time the lack of human touch will hurt their more robust software products like gmail and google maps. Anyway, great stuff Brad.