What is Customer Loyalty? Part 2

July 12, 2012

what is customer loyalty

In Part 1, I discussed what customer loyalty is not. It isn’t repeated purchases, participation in a rewards program, nor customer satisfaction. But, that leaves us with the nagging question, “What is customer loyalty?”

The dictionary definitions of “loyalty” and “loyal” all refer back to the word “faithful” and faithful is defined as “steady in allegiance or affection.” So, then what is customer loyalty? A consumer who is steady in allegiance or affection to a product, brand or organization.

But what does that really look like in practical terms?

A few months ago, I began playing a game app with my six year old son. He loves the game. And he tends to feel deeply about things. At one point when showing his cousin how many coins he would make if he sold an item…he accidentally sold it. This wasn’t just any item. It was one that was only available once every four years. It was related to Leap Year and was now gone. Four years is an eternity at age six and he was devastated. There was no way to fix it and I had to just let him work through his grief. At one point he asked if we could email the game company and tell them it was a mistake and see if we could get it back. I started to explain that they wouldn’t be able to restore it…and I stopped and said of course. So, we sent the email. We got a response within 24 hours with an attitude of caring and respect for a six year old that stole my heart. While they couldn’t fix his problem, they offered to give him a gift in his account which turned out to be a good chunk of another of the game’s currency. He drew them a picture of the game and wrote a thank you note and we emailed it back.

I’m sure it was a simple, trivial and somewhat amusing incident to them (I hope the thank you image is tacked up on their wall somewhere), but within our family, it was a big deal. While my son was still sad about the incident, their kindness went a long way toward softening the blow. And, as a mom, I’m now a raving fan. They treated my son with promptness, respect and kindness. They eased his hurt. And I will buy their apps from now on. And so will my son. He’s mentioned several times since then how much he likes their company. Not the game…the company itself (he’s six for crying out loud!). The game, by the way is Dragonvale and the company, Backflip Studios. Highly recommended. Play it. Spend money with them.

I tell you that story because when I began the process of thinking about customer loyalty, I tried to come up with a list of the companies I’m very loyal to. Backflip came to mind immediately. And my physician. And maybe Chobani yogurt. I’m loyal to the non-profits Heifer International and She Dances.

I’m satisfied and I like many of the companies and brands I deal with. I’ve had no complaints about my Honda cars (actually, I love my Civic Si). Am I loyal? No. I’m considering other options for my next vehicle soon (so, if anyone’s in the market for a used Si, let me know). I like Bobbi Brown makeup. Am I loyal? No, I buy other brands as well. I love my RoadID and my Canon camera. I’ve made repeat purchases from all of these companies. I would and have recommend all of these products. Do I consider myself loyal? Not particularly.

Our definition of loyalty above said “steady in allegiance or affection.” Steadfastness and faithfulness to family, loved ones and organizations happens not only when we’re satisfied with their behavior or performance, but also when we’re not. We admire and appreciate a dog’s loyalty precisely because it’s present when we’re not looking, performing or feeling our best.

So, if I’m truly loyal to a product, a company or organization, I will still choose to identify with that product, company or organization when another option appears. When another equal or better option appears, I’ll be steady in my allegiance.

Why would anyone choose that? And does it really matter in practical terms? Come back, I’ll talk about about building customer loyalty in the next installment.

 

 

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