As it appeared in the daily nation of March 31st 2015
How loyal are your customers? Do they believe that you are the best option? Do they only buy from you? Do they always come back for more? Do they bring others with them? Do you notice when they do not come back? Customers who are loyal favour one brand over all others. Their choice of one brand over another may be due to several reasons. It could be because they are satisfied with the product or service experience. It could also be because of convenience or simply familiarity with the brand. In the real world it is said that 100% loyal customers are rare. However every business must aim to make its customers as loyal as possible. Customer loyalty goes beyond simply establishing a loyalty program from which customers earn points or get rewards.
Several organizations such as malls, supermarkets, fast foods, car washes, petrol stations etc have introduced loyalty card programs in the Kenyan Market. That is, the more you spend with the company, the more rewards you earn. A neighbourhood car wash that I once visited had the 8th car wash within 3 months for free. They in addition mentioned that the free car wash would not happen on Sundays. I have never gone back; the free car wash was not a motivation to go back. I wish they had differentiated their service experience, why did they limit the free car wash to 3 months and to Monday through Saturday? The same applies to supermarket loyalty card programs. The fact that you will get one point for every 100 shillings spent at whatever supermarket does not differentiate one loyalty program from another neither does it make one hooked up to only one chain of supermarket. Most Kenyans have more than one supermarket loyalty card. There is more to loyalty than the points or rewards.
Retailers must recognize that customer loyalty is not achieved through awarding points or giving rewards. It is driven by having the customer at the core of the organization’s existence. It means choosing locations, designing process, selecting staff etc from the customers’ perspective. It means ensuring that every customer interaction makes the customer feel wanted, important and appreciated. It means making the customers want to keep coming back. Customer loyalty should therefore not be confused with repeat purchases that are based on price or on a relationship with a customer or on contractual arrangement. Loyalty means that a customer wants to do business with you despite the availability of choice. Even if there is a problem to be addressed such customers hang in there. Such customers also do not seek out competitors and when approached by competitors they are not interested. When customers make up their mind to only purchase a certain brand of product or to do business with only a certain service provider, they are said to be loyalist. These customers are almost always also advocates and they recommend others.
Every smart business must aim to have loyal customers. Customers who make purchases consistently, spend more and feel positive about their experience are good for business. At the core of customer loyalty is a culture of service excellence where great customer experiences are the norm.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy