Jennie Marshall | 14 February 2013
I’m sure you’ve heard the term used by the marketing departments so frequently that it often seems tired and outdated. In fairness, it expresses what all brands strive for but don’t all get: genuine customer loyalty.
There are times, however, when this message is re-affirmed in a
very meaningful way. It is these personal experiences that frame
all experiences, and make them stand out in our minds. Being
acknowledged as a special customer and being noticed and valued or
being treated like a real VIP, even for a short period of time, is
all it takes to truly understand what makes customer loyalty such a
For me, it took many years of banking, a simple letter of personal thanks and a fabulous gift to highlight what consumers have been saying for years - when someone feels valued they respond in kind, with loyalty and with respect.
Truly understanding the power of driving loyalty by making consumers feel special, significant and (most importantly) noticed, is the difference between having a group of people who buy from you and an army of people who would go to some lengths to ensure they buy from you - that is the difference.
No matter the mechanism, the goal of loyalty programmes needs to make consumers feel as if they are appreciated - empty points-based schemes and 'rewards' are irrelevant if the consumer doesn't feel valued. We shouldn't be asking, 'What scheme?', but rather, 'What needs to be done to make our customers feel special, important and valued?'. We should also be honest with ourselves, and find those issues that make people feel 'un-valued' and unimportant, and we should rectify them.
Creating customer loyalty can seem a stretch too far for some brands. It is easy to succumb to the belief that the competition makes it hard to stand out, let alone ensuring customers seek you out, time and again. Somehow we mistake money off coupons and promotions as drivers of loyalty - though it can help, they are more often drivers of volume sales, but not necessarily loyalty.
The emotional mind-set that occurs when a customer is genuinely loyal is so powerful that cost and competition often make little difference. A truly loyal customer will walk all the way down to the other end of the shopping aisle to find their preferred brand, rather than pick-up the item that is on the end-of-shelf promotional display. They will ask for help if they can't find it, true loyalists will even drive to another store if need be.
If you question a genuinely loyal consumer about why they love their favourite brand, it is often because of the way that brand makes them feel (valued, loved, listened-to, appreciated). Any brand can get in that close, it is all a matter of listening and reaching out, and cherishing the consumer. It is the personal touch too, which is harder to achieve for a soap brand than a bank - yet does it need to be? With a little creativity, even a soap brand can show it has heart - just look at Dove and the Campaign for Real Beauty.
I can say one thing, I now plan to give NatWest my continued loyalty in the coming years - something makes me realise, now more than before, that it is a bank deserving of my faithfulness. I think I may even make it a point to open my next ISA with them.
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