Let’s face it.
In order to inspire customer loyalty, your product or service has to be high-quality and competitively priced.
And it has to offer compelling value.
And it has to differentiate itself, in some way, some how, from a competing product or service.
But beyond the product or service itself, there are number of brand experiences that can affect customers’ continued and regular patronage of your business.
Here are some of them:
6 Brand Experiences that Affect Customer Loyalty
1. It’s extremely convenient to find, access, and enjoy your product or service
It makes sense for a traveler to fire up the Agoda app on her phone to book a room at a 3-star hotel in downtown SF, instead of choosing 5-star accommodations that require phone calls, a bank deposit, or all her credit card info just to have a booking confirmed.
Similarly, it’s easy to stay loyal to the auto shop that provides doorstep repair services when all alternative shops nearby require customers to schedule an appointment by phone or e-mail.
And would anyone frequent an online retail store that never has anything in stock? Of course not.
Sure enough, convenience affects customer loyalty. It’s unlikely that customers will return if they have to chase a business down just to get what they want.
2. Your customer service is consistently excellent
One of the biggest keys to generating loyalty is customer service: the way your brand stands behind your products and services, as well as the way your company responds to problems and issues with the customer experience.
Even if customers had a disappointing experience — there was a fly in the soup, the flight was delayed, the app update didn’t install correctly — there’s still a good chance your business can win them back and even stay loyal to you, particularly if you are able to swiftly resolve issues and demonstrate how you’ll do much better next time.
Remember: the most successful brands aren’t defined by their perfection, but by their ability to fix things when things go wrong.
3. You’re able to build a strong, authentic brand reputation
In the age of online reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor, your brand reputation precedes you. And it’s not always going to be a good one.
To inspire loyalty and develop meaningful long-term customer relationships, you must be able to build a strong, authentic brand reputation.
Sure, it’s unlikely you’ll have guaranteed 5-star ratings across the board — even if you do, customers will view that as too good to be true anyway — but make it a point to respond to 1-star reviews, critical social media comments, and negative customer feedback. How you respond to what people are saying will have a bigger impact on your brand reputation — and customer loyalty — than what is being said in the first place.
4. Your brand reflects goals and values that matter to the community
While it’s not immediately clear how employee volunteer programs, 3R campaigns, or disaster relief efforts can impact customer retention and loyalty, the set of goals and values that your brand reflects can, in fact, work wonders for your customer relationships.
- Behavioral science researchers discovered that consumers tend to reward companies or businesses with community outreach activities by being more loyal to them.
- Meanwhile, according to Cone Communications, 9 in 10 consumers say they would boycott a company if they learned of irresponsible behavior.
Simply put: brands that stand for goals and values that have little to do with their actual product — but which matter greatly to the community — are more likely to build a positive reputation and inspire customer loyalty. They have a social reason to become and remain loyal.
On the other end of the spectrum, customers will be so much harder to win back if they believe that your company did, or is doing, a Bad Thing. (Is it any wonder that Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s remarks about being “very much” against gay marriage were followed promptly by boycotts and protests?)
5. The brand experience facilitates meaningful personal connections
Sometimes, customers decide to become loyal without it having anything at all to do with the product.
They’re swayed, instead, by the way Stephanie at the Front Office remembers all the guests’ names from a previous stay; or how Josh, the super-friendly store clerk, explained the product setup in full detail; or the way Britney, the company’s social media manager, sent a follow-up tweet just to check if everything’s back in order now.
Make no mistake: your frontline employees are an integral part of the brand experience. Their ability to facilitate personal connections — whether they’re on the phone, behind the counter, walking the floor, or manning the live chat — is an important driver of customer loyalty.
6. There’s a specific benefit or reward component that’s tied to loyal behavior
It costs a business 5 to 10 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to sell to an existing one. This is one of the reasons why loyalty programs are so popular: you spend less on marketing and, at the same time, you position your business to increase customer lifetime value and share of wallet.
By offering rewards, loyalty points, savings, freebies, or other benefits tied to loyal behavior, you give customers a reason to continue doing business with you instead of with the competition. Rewards make people feel special, and can even nudge loyal customers into recommending your brand to their friends and family: the icing on the cake that makes a good situation even better.
Delivering a product or service that kicks butt is fundamental to inspiring customer loyalty. But to truly build a community of happy fans, patrons, and regulars, focus on crafting positive brand experiences that leave a lasting mark on your customers, and which encourage them to keep coming back for more.