Thanks to Chris Garrity, director of customer experience at Astute Solutions for the following:
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s a culture!
While that headline is a play on the classic TV series “Superman” the analogy is intended to put a spotlight on the topic of customer loyalty.
April is International Customer Loyalty month. While it’s quite a noble notion to devote an entire month to customer loyalty, it should not be viewed as a point-in-time event.
Similarly, when many people think of customer loyalty, their first reaction is to envision the department that manages the organization’s customer loyalty initiatives. Customer loyalty should also not be viewed as simply a department.
Rather, customer loyalty needs to be viewed much more holistically. Customer loyalty should be an enterprise-wide culture.
Companies who have successfully initiated a company-wide culture of customer loyalty – that goes beyond a catchy company slogan – are the ones who reap the best business results. Whether you work in the manufacturing plant, the corporate office or on the customer-facing front lines, building customer loyalty must be viewed as every single employee’s primary job responsibility.
Creating loyalty is a collaborative and continuous process that builds consumer confidence and creates not just satisfied customers, but true brand advocates. Brand advocates not only are true company loyalists, but brand advocates help the company influence other buyers through “social marketing” and positive word-of-mouth testimonials. Consider the facts:
- Recommendations from family and friends trumps all other consumer touch points when it comes to influencing purchases[i]
- People are making 500 billion influence impressions on one another about products and services every year[ii]
- 46% of people feel that they can be brutally honest on the Internet; 38% of them aim to influence others when they express their preferences online[iii]
- Word of mouth is the “primary factor” behind a much as 50% of purchases[iv]
- 74% of those who received advise from family and friends found it to be influential in their decisions[v]
- Word of mouth companies are 16% more profitable than those generated by conventional advertising[vi]
- 77% of American consumers say they are more likely to purchase a product or service recommended by someone they know[vii]
- 75% of people do not believe that companies tell the truth in advertisements[viii]
Product quality and value are the first steps — and foundational elements — to successfully enter the marketplace. Once these are achieved, the most successful companies further enhance their products with exemplary service. You won’t keep customers if you can’t support what you sell with great service.
Customer service is a never-ending role. A company’s reputation is only as good as their consumers’ last experience with the brand. Delivering great service once isn’t too hard. Doing it all the time is far more challenging. And, it is the consistency of great service that builds customer confidence in your organization, which in turn will eventually create loyalty.
Creating truly loyal customers and brand advocates is not an event. Nor is it a department. It is a clearly defined strategy and culture within the organization.
How well do companies understand and execute on the magic formula of product quality + exemplary service = brand advocacy? Well, according to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), not as many as you would think.
According to the ACSI most recent report, customer satisfaction at the national level achieved a score of 75.8% for the fourth quarter of 2011. This quarterly score is based on an evaluation of 44 companies located within eight industries: supermarkets; department and discount stores; specialty retail stores; health and personal care (drug) stores; gasoline service stations; and Internet retail, brokerage and travel.
Congratulations to Astute Solutions’ customer Publix Super Markets, Inc. who leads the pack in the super markets vertical with a customer satisfaction score of 84%! Publix Super Markets, Inc. clearly has embodied the culture of customer loyalty as they have led their vertical with the highest customer satisfaction scores since 1994!
For more information on the American Customer Satisfaction Index, visit www.theacsi.org.
Regardless of what vertical you serve, executing a consistent and thoughtful customer loyalty culture throughout the organization will yield “super human” results!
[i] ZenithOptimedia, as reported in AdAge, April 2008
[ii] Forrester, April 2010
[iii] Harris Poll, April 2010
[iv] McKinsey, April 2010
[v] Econsultancy, July 2010
[vi] Wharton University, July 2010
[vii] Wharton University, July 2010
[viii] Yankelovich, January 2010