Have you ever thought about how customer experience intersects with customer loyalty? What… it’s just me!?
There are so many factors that make up a customer’s opinion of a brand, working in combination to determine how long they will remain loyal. With more options than ever before, these factors must be aligned to guarantee a positive customer experience, or a brand risks losing a customer… forever.
Customer Care Basics
The customer journey begins at the discovery phase and extends throughout the lifetime of a product or service. If a customer has encountered quality issues with that product or service, it’s imperative that their issue is resolved in a timely and appropriate manner. Never lose sight of the fact that past customers all have the potential to be future customers, and they must be treated exceptionally well to purchase again. A good experience can result in long-term brand loyalty, and a bad one can sever all existing ties.
I have two examples that will help give this discussion some context.
Not on my Watch!
There is an awesome, very large activity tracking company that has recently come onto the scene and won over many people due to their ‘cool’ factor. This example will demonstrate that even some of the most innovative brands in the world can still get customer experience wrong sometimes.
My wife purchased one of their tracking watches to monitor her sleeping habits, which served her well for a few months. Then, one day, the watch suddenly fell apart. There had been no water damage, extreme temperatures (unless you consider Winnipeg extreme temperatures, which okay, fair), or physical damage, leaving her at a loss for the product’s sudden demise.
So, my wife got in touch with the company to explain how her watch fell apart without warning or reason. Customer service reacted with little interest in her experience or product satisfaction, and simply offered her a 25% discount on her next purchase. Now, I may be cheap, but even I was looking for a little more love than a discount!
Customer service showed no empathy or concern for her experience and simply offered a band-aid solution to her problem. A quick social media search turned up customer after customer with the same situation; a dissatisfactory product and a 25% discount offered on their next purchase.
As a relatively new brand, there will always be learning curves to maintaining customer satisfaction, and my guess is that the company will change their customer service approach going forward. In this example, they may have undervalued the fact that they had a strong brand image in my wife’s mind (likely the minds of hundreds of thousands of customers) and they should have handled this product quality situation in a way that didn’t jeopardize that image along with a customer’s brand loyalty.
When a product is dissatisfactory, a brand can’t expect a customer to simply purchase another one. Repeat customers must be earned after a negative experience, and a discount just won’t cut it.
Which leads me to my next example…
Supportive Customer Support
I’m a rewards member with Hotels.com, a Gold Member in fact (yeah, I know that sounds like bragging). I love their program along with the prices and the simplicity it offers. Last year, I had a really bad situation with them, as (for some unknown reason) one of my bookings didn’t go through to the hotel. I contacted customer support and complained about the situation. They called me and said,
“We will do whatever it takes to make this right.”
Part of this response was just plain good customer service, but what really made for an exceptional experience was their rewards program.
Let me explain.
Since I had been a member with Hotels.com for years, they were able to collect years’ worth of data on me. They knew just how much money I had spent with them, what my loyalty meant financially and what it would take to regain my trust. They knew how to go above and beyond to make me happy. They were able to turn a bad situation into a good one, as I am still a Hotels.com advocate and I still use them for every travel booking I make.
The ‘Point’ of this Article
A rewards program can provide the information customer service needs to ‘save the day and positive customer experiences can help maintain customer loyalty. Together, a successful rewards program and good customer service can help to ensure each customer touchpoint is a positive one.
Long story short, even the best loyalty programs can’t make up for negative customer experiences, but loyalty programs can help turn negative experiences into positive ones.
Every interaction matters in the loyalty game.
I’m Director of Client Success at IC Group and a Loyalty Program Strategist.