I would definitely consider myself a loyal customer. I regularly visit the same retailers, merchants and even restaurants over and over again. And, for those I really love, I’m an ‘evangelist’, often raving or sharing socially about something they served, a special deal or a cool thing they did for me while I was there. So what keeps me coming back? When I think of loyalty, from the consumer viewpoint, I think of two things – experience and value.
With experience, it’s really about the products or selection offered, the engagement of the sales or wait staff and the overall quality of the engagement. There’s nothing worse than walking into a store and having no interaction with anyone that works there or, in the case of a restaurant, waiting several minutes before someone visits your table. Like any human interaction, people want to be engaged and treated well, whether we’re buying or browsing.
Recently I stayed in a ‘boutique’ (and I use that term lightly) hotel in FL. To say that my experience was horrible would be an understatement. I was prepared to check-out mid-trip and move to another hotel just so I could have a normal experience, but they would not budge on charging me the full amount of my stay. So, they simply moved me to another poor quality room with the same poor amenities, delivering a horrible customer experience. Not only will I never go back or refer the property, I also felt it was my responsibility to leave an online review to prevent others from making the same mistake. The hotel could have refunded my pre-paid nights and let me move on, or they could have upgraded me, or they simply could have apologized for my horrible experience. It’s typically the small (and obvious) stuff that makes a difference.
And then there’s the value part of the loyalty equation. What companies offer to keep me coming back - choosing them over their competitors on a regular and ongoing basis? With value, it’s sometimes as simple as a discount for every $100 spent or ‘free meal’ for every 10 purchased. Loyalty in this sense shouldn’t be complicated – for merchants or the customers. Mobile is great, because it’s easier, especially if the customer base is a tech-savvy group. If not, traditional plastic key fobs are a solid alternative. A great example is a local merchant I frequent in my hometown. This shop is family owned and offers a broad spectrum of merchandise from prepared foods and catering to snacks, fine cheeses and wines, and specialty gifts. They deliver an incredible experience and value, but they’re not the lowest cost. The value they deliver is in terms of their simple loyalty program that often surprises me when the cashier notes that I have a $10 credit to use. Yes, I spend a fair amount there, but between their incredible customer service and the loyalty program, they make me want to come back over and over again.
When you think about it, loyalty is really pretty basic and easy. It’s something every merchant should consider and most should implement, especially with the myriad of tools and technologies available today. I appreciate being valued as a customer on a daily basis from many merchants. From tier one sporting goods chains to local markets to online retailers, my favorite places to shop all have two key things in common – they deliver a great customer experience and they value my business with simple loyalty programs.