Home > business, marketing, Technology, Thomas Verschueren > Do you know who your loyal customers are? And do you treat them accordingly?

Do you know who your loyal customers are? And do you treat them accordingly?

Loyal customers expect a loyal business in return

Customer loyalty is a 2-way street, did you know that? Maybe you think customers return to you time after time because you assume you have the best product range, but actually customer loyalty is a strange animal that often has less to do with the latest normal purchase but more with the unwritten promise, or expectation of what you’ll do in the future when the next purchase comes around.

Obviously customers return because they do like your products or services, but being a returning customer also creates the, often unspoken, expectation that when something goes wrong, or when you as a company have to make some kind of Solomon judgment about customer A or customer B, you’ll come through for the loyal customer…

This assumption or expectation is far from illogical, after all, I have given you my business and trust time after time. This loyalty needs to be reciprocated, this is not a deliberate or economical thing, this is just an emotional feeling of what is right. This can be as simple as being among the select few to receive an invitation to a private sale in your favorite shop, but it also matters when your 50th online delivery doesn’t arrive, or your go-to hotel has only suites left when you arrive and it turns out they accidentally overbooked all the standard rooms  of which you reserved one.

In those cases, as a loyal customer you expect them to reciprocate your repeated trust by trusting you and doing the right thing by you and give you that last suite at the rate of your standard room, or by resending your order without fuss or extra costs, after all if the previous 49 deliveries went without trouble, you deserve that benefit of the doubt this time. When we consider ourselves to be loyal customers, nothing delivers a more negative experience than being treated as a liar, cheater, or just a walking, talking wallet good for nothing besides dispensing money. Nothing makes us drop brands or companies faster than coming to the realization that we don’t matter at all to them.

Do all your employees know who these loyal customers are?

The only question, if you care about going that extra mile for your loyal customers, do you know who they are? And in this case “you” means everybody in your business or company that has a customer facing job, from the shop attendants to the reception desk staff to the call center people…? And assuming and hoping you have more customers than everybody can memorize, do you have systems in place to make sure that everybody can easily find out or be warned that they are dealing with a loyal customer?

Trust as a business driver

As a business you can only establish trust by doing the right thing for, at the very least, your loyal customer. This in no way means that you need to be gullible or naïve, but just that all things being equal, cutting your loyal customer some slack or choosing him over a one-time customer makes a lot of economic sense. After all, in real life, we cannot simply assume the good intentions of all the people we deal with. We look for relationships we can trust, and so a preference for dealing repeatedly with people who have reputations to lose by ill-treating us seems far from irrational – in fact, it is the very basis on which almost all inter-personal dealings rest.

So there’s a moral lession in this to not only look at the economy of doing business but also to value the relationship aspect of doing business. And make sure that your internal Customer Engagement Management systems and processes allow the identification and acknowledgment of this relationship company or business wide.

  1. June 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    “When you as a company have to make some kind of Solomon judgment about customer A or customer B, you’ll come through for the loyal customer…”

    As you probably know, I’m in the product business, more specifically in the open source software business. My company sells a software component that is introduced to customers by many software integrators. Some of these integrators pretend that open source equals free as in free beer. That’s a misconception, but when we confront the integrator, we get two different types of replies:

    Some say: “It’s not our problem if our customer doesn’t buy a license of your product. Feel free to sell your product to our customers; we won’t do any effort.”
    Others say: “We’d like to make sure our customer doesn’t run into any trouble. Can we be a reseller of your product? That way everybody wins: you sell a license, we get a percentage on the license price, and most important: our customer uses the software correctly.”

    It goes without saying that we go the extra mile for the latter. We even consult with such integrators when drawing our technical roadmap, and we give them the technological advantage to experiment with new features and functionalities.
    As for the former, we are honest to whoever asks us for our opinion. We say: “We know they are using our product, but they are not a customer, nor do they generate any sales for us.”

    In other words: we have a positive approach towards loyal integrators, and a negative approach towards free-riders. These free-riders often reject our attitude, saying “that’s no way to make new customers.” Maybe it isn’t, but on the other hand: their attitude is no way to treat/keep their existing customers.

    When we as a company have to make some kind of Solomon judgment about integrator A or integrator B, we’ll make sure the integrator that works with us comes through. As for the other integrator, we often doubt his good intentions, and it’s in our interest to route customers away from him towards more cooperative integrators.

    In short: I could relate to your blog post, but it should be about far more than the vendor / customer relationship. One shouldn’t forget that there are other players in the eco-system we call our business; it’s very easy to underestimate their importance.

    • June 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks for your reaction. You are of course right to point out that the eco-system in which customers and suppliers/brands/companies interact, however you want to call them, is often complex. B2B is most of the time already a different way of doing business compared to B2C, throw in companies that also work through channels, and the playing field becomes even a bit more muddled, especially in those cases where big vendors sometimes work through a channel, sometimes directly. I guess the sentiment in all those cases should remain the same, know who your customers are, and know who the loyal ones are and do everything you can to cement the relationship you have with them. And, even though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is a zero-sum game, this often results in by choosing to do more for one, you’re going to have to do less for another…

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