Customer disloyalty happens. When we fail to meet customer requirements after we initially attract and win their business. When customers become disenchanted, their loyalty is jeopardized. The next step is customer defection.
Far too often, businesses of all sizes leave the customer’s loyalty in the hands of front-line employees. These gallant individuals deal with disgruntled – perhaps even irate – customers, attempting to calm things down. Usually by offering profuse apologies about product and service delivery dissatisfaction.
Frequently, the stage for customer disloyalty is set because front-line employees have no control over leadership and management decisions.
Decisions about the structure of the customer loyalty program, and its perceived relevance and value to each customer. Also, decisions about systems, software, quality, and the loyalty Apps each customer uses when doing business with that organization.
As a result, leadership and management remain blissfully unaware that customer disloyalty is brewing. Until there is a drop in revenue. Will they take corrective action by increasing product and service pricing? Or will they ask those front-line individuals about the real root causes of decreased sales revenue?
We have four major grocery chains here in Ann Arbor MI. Each with their own, branded customer loyalty program.
First, each brand’s loyalty program requires downloading a specific App. And then, the fun begins. Why? Because, for starters, ease of use of the App is a customer’s first indication of whether management and leadership appreciates them.
In Ann Arbor, choice of stores often depends on travel routes, and which side of the street we are on when we need groceries. As a result, customer loyalty not only is a function of product offerings. A major factor influencing repeat purchase is convenience relative to store location.
Yesterday, as I returned home from a client’s, I stopped by the grocery store located off the highway, in the direction I was traveling.
That one decision catalyzed the conclusion of my customer disloyalty journey with this store and brand.
At check out, I opened their store App. I normally access through permission from Facebook. Nothing. Nada. Regardless of whether I connected to wi-fi. Not unexpected, either. This scenario happened a few times before, and my account was hacked twice.
Of course, the checkout folks apologized. They explained they did not know how to override the backend system. Then, the customer service manager offered to sign me up for a new account, with a new password. Which meant that my old account, and loyalty points, probably would be lost in the transition.
At that point, I realized that this grocery store chain never really did appreciate me (or anyone else) as a customer. I simply was a revenue source, because:
- The loyalty App’s user interface was faulty as well as insecure.
- The only coupons offered were for items I normally did not purchase, rather than coupons customized to my purchase habits.
- The store only offered me a dollars-off coupon after I spent $500 with them. Really?
- Unlike other stores in Ann Arbor, no discount was applied for bulk purchase of items like wine and yogurt.
- The store did not offer a bag credit, if I brought in my own grocery bags.
- There were no additional opportunities for me to give back to the community, by donating bag credits or a percent of cost of items purchased, to local charities and schools.
In other words, this loyalty program was all about me spending money at their store. And making their company money. Period. They do not appreciate my business, at all. And they offer me no value, and no reason, to remain loyal to them.
Which, most likely, is the reason why management decided to raise prices on many of their items. Because they were losing disloyal customers, rather than creating experiences focused on retaining existing, loyal ones. And, obviously, management was not interested in finding out why revenue decreased because these customers were defecting.
Customer disloyalty does not have to happen, if all employees – including leadership – keep a hands-on, front-line connection with customers.
Regardless of whether your organization has a customer loyalty App, or that “human” App actually is you, do you create memorable customer experiences? The type of experiences that reinforce customer success and customer retention? Or, is each interaction with your organization risky and inconsistent?
- First, does the customer loyalty program App provide a hassle-free, seamless user experience?
- Next, does the App offer immediate, one-click access to customer information, including purchase patterns and accrued loyalty points?
- Or, does the customer loyalty program App function sporadically and erratically, in the presence or absence of in-store wi-fi?
- If the App offers customers the choice of password-based access, or connection through Facebook, does login function consistently?
- Is the loyalty program App secure? Or are customer accounts easily hacked, lost, reset?
- Are the freebies and coupons offered by the loyalty program personalized, relevant, popular and valuable to customers?
- Or, does the loyalty program simply pay lip-service to the concept of customer loyalty? Without showcasing how important customers are to everyone in the organization?
Customer loyalty programs communicate the attitudes of organizations towards their customers. It is not up to front-line staff to prevent customer defection due to faulty technology and disengaged, disinterested leadership. Is your customer loyalty program in need of a major overhaul?
This article first appeared in the October 8, 2018 issue of Top Sales World magazine and is reproduced by this author’s permission.
Babette Ten Haken’s One Millimeter Mindset™ speaking programs showcase how profitable collaboration catalyzes purposeful, innovative personal development, leadership communication and business growth. Her professional speaker profile appears on the espeakers platform. She is a member of SME, ASQ, SHRM and the National Speakers Association. Babette’s Playbook of collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.
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