Can Loyalty Be a Program?
Jul 29, 2011
Motivating Employees. Creating Customer Loyalty.
Austin, Texas: I was involved in a discussion board thread the other day and someone asked if loyalty can be a program.
This got me thinking about the core of any basic customer loyalty incentive program.
Loyalty can only be achieved by your customers. It cannot be awarded or granted — it must be earned.
Is loyalty a hit or miss concept?
Sometimes the quality of the service or the myth about a business is so good that it can overcome poor customer service, as with the “Soup Nazi“ from Seinfeld.
However, usually loyalty is earned through consistent, positive experiences over a period of time.
Notice that I did not say “WOW” experiences, as that is not necessarily needed.
Positive experiences are all that is needed, but that is usually harder than it may at first appear.
If you are going to a fast food restaurant, dry cleaner, convenience store, drug store, budget hotels, etc., you will not likely be “WOW’ed”. Nor do you want to or expect to.
You do want a clean location, a consistent level of service and a pleasant customer contact ( a simple “thank you” still goes a long way).
However if any of these ingredients are missing, you will become disenchanted with the relationship.
Honestly, it is very hard to get a WOW reaction when I order a Big Mac and Fries. It is much easier to become disenchanted because of rude service, tables that have not been cleaned, trash piling up in the bins and a dirty restroom.
The WOW Factor
The WOW factor is more important on higher end transactions–fine dining, spas, 4-star hotels, etc. These employees must be better trained and vetted than those at entry level retail or restaurant jobs.
When hiring, you have a better chance at attracting more seasoned job candidates than a fast food restaurant does. This makes it much easier for you to pick and choose your employees who have job qualifications that meet or exceed your standards. WOW factors are mandatory at these institutions.
Can loyalty be taught?
Empathy is at the root of most positive customer interactions, and I am not sure that it can be taught.
Can it be encouraged? Sure. I think with proper encouragement and incentive, people can learn to interact more positively with customers, ask how their day is going, be more courteous, etc.
That might be enough for most interactions.
Can loyalty be a program?: Employee Motivation
If your goal is to encourage customers to come back time after time, then your entire team has to be on the same page. The weakest link can negatively affect the entire customer experience.
Team-based incentive programs are very effective in encouraging other employees to look after each other and encourage more consistent behaviors.
The goal is to give customers that level of service that they expect…and to do it consistently.
Let’s face it, most entry level jobs are viewed as temporary–both from the employee and employer sides. Perhaps if this mind set can be changed, or if these employees can be better motivated and better trained, this can change for the better.
But it is very difficult to deliver a consistent customer experience if your front line employees are not all on the same page.
This is where a program comes in.
Can loyalty be a program?: Customer Incentives
Anyone who has participated in a frequent customer program knows the simple rules: Come in so many times and get a free gift of some type.
No loyalty incentive program will be effective if the customer experience is not pleasant and consistent, as we had mentioned above.
But, because most experiences will be lacking in the WOW factor from the start, a loyalty program can be very effective in trying to bring a customer back in on a repeat basis until they become familiar with the business.
People are creatures of habit and will go to the same coffee shop or dry cleaner without much thinking, until that inertia has changed.
This is where a program comes in.
From experience, it is futile to run a customer incentive program without an employee incentive program at the same time. Your employees do not want additional customer transactions, nor do they want to go above and beyond–unless they have been better trained, managed and incentivized.
The synergy of having motivated employees and customers at the same time will yield results far better than you’d get from doing one without the other.
Loyalty needs to be a program–and thought about every single hour of every single day. If you cannot build a steady stream of loyal customers, your business will have a hard time achieving success.
What are you planning to do to better motivate your employees and your customers?
I look forward to hearing your replies.