Apostles or Terrorists?

Pubished 2nd February 2021

Have you done enough to keep your customers loyal?

It’s an important, but difficult question to ask and most companies don’t understand that being good, sometimes being great, isn’t enough to keep your customers coming back for more.

It’s only when they are singing your praises from the rooftops and would give you a ‘nine out of ten’ score, that they would return regularly and tell their friends to do the same.

Blind loyalty, like sticking to the football team you were born with, doesn’t exist in the business world. Customers are not like fans, sometimes they get bored and wander off.

Let me explain:

I’m sure you’ve been to a restaurant where people have asked in person or you’ve reported on Trip Advisor later.

How was the food? – Great, thanks.

Did you like the wine list? It was spot on.

How was the service? – Excellent.

The manager is probably walking back to their office with a smile on their face and possibly, in some progressive companies, their bonus might be linked to customer satisfaction.

They hadn’t been able to ask the all-Important question “Have I done enough to keep you loyal?” To which the answer more often than not would be “No, we’d probably try somewhere else next time.” Do you see where I’m going with this?

It’s not just restaurants that have to work this hard to earn this level of loyalty, it’s the same in most businesses.

The trick is to empower people in lower ranks in the business to fix problems before they get out of hand. I once met a hotel manager in Singapore whose hotel had won the award that year for ‘Best luxury hotel in the world’ which was quite an achievement. He explained that he had initiated a culture where “Every staff member had to ask their manager’s permission to say “NO” to any guest request, however unusual or bizarre.

That simple but important alteration in their cultural DNA led to immediate changes in staff behavior at all levels, so that their default position was to be helpful at all times, in all situations.

At the other end of the scale, it doesn’t take much to go wrong to cause customers to get upset or worse, to embellish their experience and tell their friends and colleagues exaggerated, monstrous stories. They become TERRORISTS of your brand and often will spend time rubbishing your name or spending hours online writing about you. In some extreme cases, they will set up their own websites like Britishairwayssucks.org or pissedconsumer.com, to encourage others to complain too.

Airlines are good examples of how not to treat customers.

They pretend that they have wonderful air-mile loyalty schemes with promises of free flights to exotic destinations that are often difficult to book and elude you, then having written to you telling you how special you to them are quick to move you from “hero to zero” if you miss their criteria one year by a smidge.

I once went to Venice for a weekend with my wife and her luggage didn’t come off the conveyer belt at Marco Polo airport. Alitalia had lost it.

However, they located the case, phoned to say it was on its way, then delivered it by boat to our hotel and hauled it up the stairs to our room.

My wife is now an Advocate of that airline and will be for the rest of her life. They really can do no wrong in her eyes, because they fixed their error so beautifully.

Her loyalty to that airline lasted longer than our marriage did!

In a similar way, online companies quickly gain respect and garnish customer trust, because of the way they make it easy to return goods and refund money paid.

Now I’m not advocating that we should deliberately give our clients and customers a bad experience and then fix it beautifully but hmm, it does make you think.

Written by Gary Ashworth

2nd February 2021