How loyal are you to the brands you use? Whether as a businessperson or consumer, I’ll bet there isn’t a company you wouldn't consider switching from if you could find a better product or service elsewhere.
In part, this is because our collective tolerance for mistakes has decreased, while at the same time our expectations for service, selection, price, access, quality, and more have radically increased.
As a result, customer loyalty as it existed even 10 years ago is largely gone. The majority of customers rarely stay loyal to any one company anymore, regardless of the circumstances.
For example, we conducted a customer experience assessment for a midsize regional bank, known for—and proud of—its stellar customer service and respected brand. Its loyalty scores and core customer experience metrics are among the best for banks in its market. So imagine how it felt when we discovered each of its customers had relationships with an average of 2.9 other banks—and that it was considered the “primary bank” by less than 60 percent of its customers.
Last time the bank checked, which was several years ago, it was the only bank for the vast majority of its customers. What gives? Unsurprisingly, it turns out that an awesome cross-platform digital experience is really important. Customers aren’t looking for “trusted advisers” as much as they desire error-free, brain-dead-simple transactions and account management tools.
In a trend we see play out with some regularity, customers’ needs have dramatically changed in recent years, and many are getting what they need elsewhere. And why not? Alternates are easy to switch to, and even easier to find and assess.
Barriers to access have fallen in most every industry, including many that have historically considered themselves immune. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can sign up to buy green power from an upstart called Marin Clean Energy, which delivers “green” electricity at a lower cost through the dominant regional utility’s (PG&E) power lines—its direct competitor.
My point is this: No matter what industry you’re in, you can count on it being easier than ever for your customers to switch. Traditional definitions of loyalty are quickly becoming irrelevant. Blind brand loyalty and trust are things of the past, and “trapped” customers (of utilities, cable providers, health insurers, etc.) won’t be trapped much longer.
That’s why you need to prove yourself worthy of customer loyalty—over and over, again and again. And you do so by anticipating customer needs, giving them exactly what they want, when and how they want it—while at the same time consistently delivering a superior customer experience across every channel, interaction, and touchpoint.
Getting this right means your customers will be more willing to consider your new product and service offerings (and more of those you already have), and they may even go so far as to recommend your brand. And while this sounds an awful lot like loyalty, they’ll continue to do so . . . until the moment something better or easier to use comes along, and/or you fail to deliver on the experiences they expect and demand.
The truth is, it's a qualified, fairly unforgiving loyalty.
The good news is the road map to gaining it is crystal clear: consistently meet or exceed expectations by delivering awesome experiences, and give customers the products and services they want and need. How hard is that? Well, it does presuppose you know what these wants, needs, and expectations are. And, of course, you do. Right?
Put another way, your customers may still love you—but they are far from monogamous. Maybe it’s not the relationship you wish you had, but it’s not so bad, once you get used to it. You’ll see. Because you’ll have no choice.