Do we socialise our loyalty?
The power and influence of social media on brands
The concept of customer loyalty is becoming more and more fascinating not to say fickle as more and more, due to a number of factors which we’ll cover later, we become not only polarised in our buying behaviour but this in turn leads to a fundamental shift in something which all retail brands hope to garner: loyalty and advocacy of the brand.
So what does this mean for both retailers and consumers alike?
Customer service has and always will be paramount of course; it should be part of the DNA of any organisation that aspires to be customer focused, customer centric – in whatever terms they wish to articulate it. But how many when it really comes to it are actually focused on their customers and have their best interests at heart? I would contend that to be loyal to a brand we need not only to receive great customer service but to feel we trust the brand. Trust them not to take advantage of us, exploit the relationship with us or plain rip us off.
I recently moved house and along with running the usual gauntlet of contacting all the usual utility suspects, I of course needed to advise my car insurance company of the change of address. No names no pack drill naturally but the company I needed to contact advertise that just a single call will do it all for you. Premium’s are good, I’ll grant them that. However, what shocked and amazed me was the “administration” fee they wanted simply to change my address on the policy. Wait for it, £55…….yes, £55 just to change my address. So how did this experience make me feel about the service, loyalty, brand……and more importantly will I continue to support their brand into the future?
Not quite a rhetorical question but very nearly. And in this age of social media and the power of influence, what was one of the first things I took to in order to share my (on this occasion) negative experience with a brand? Yes, my twitter and facebook accounts were fired up and I shared the experience with 000’s of people. Equally, if the experience had been overly positive I was just as likely to share this with that same community.
So what can we take from all this? Well, for me there is no such thing as customer loyalty. It is ephemeral and transient and retailers would be well advised to realise that customer loyalty is like Parsifal – the Holy Grail; it is now a myth and ebbs and flows with the tide. Any actions no matter how seemingly trivial can affect this delicate balance and cause a customer to become either an advocate or a detractor. And of course as we all know the latter will tell far more of their friends about their experience than the former.
But rather than castigate a particular brand; the real point here is the impact in today’s world on the thoughts and feelings of the consumer. Choice has never been more abundant and coupled with that more and more of us are exercising that choice as never before. Whether it be car insurance or buying groceries, we are discriminating to a degree never previously witnessed and it is only set to continue.
Who deserves a share of our (hard earned) wallet? This is the question which I would venture we all ask ourselves even though this may be subconsciously but ask it we do. Austerity has brought with it many things but above all it has brought a new sense of responsibility and purpose and woe betide any brand who seeks to take advantage of us now.