You have millions of customers. They spend billions of dollars on your goods/services every year. Collectively, these people are vital as they add up to the financial and market share reports you pore over every day. Individually, however they’re a pain in the neck.
Whenever they write, ring or, god forbid, visit us in person it’s invariably to complain about something. You have to pretend that you care that one of your 18 year old customer ‘service’ representatives was rude to them. But you really don’t.
Yes, social media has allowed individual customers to have a voice regarding what you sell but unless they post something very funny, clever or outrageous – and generally they don’t – it’s a faint cry in the wilderness. Facebook and the like worried you at first, but the chances of something going wrong are pretty slim.
Of course you value your customers. That’s why you created your Fly / Rewards / Advantage / Club loyalty program. Throw them a few points with a tiny bit of perceived value every time they buy something and bingo! Loyalty! Your clever program does the heavy lifting leaving you free to focus on the big picture. Thank goodness!
There’s something a little soulless about this scenario, isn’t there? Giving customers small ethical bribes to keep them using your service may work in the short-term but it does nothing for your brand. We don’t buy Nike running shoes because of the extra pair of laces they throw in for free. We buy Nike because of how they make us feel and how they can help us to become the athlete we emotionally want to be. Logically, we know this is nonsense but it’s Nike for goodness sake! I CAN do it.
No matter what you sell, being trapped in a transactional vortex is not where you want to be. Loyalty programs may keep the cash registers ringing but there’s only one problem; if that’s your main customer play you will always be vulnerable to someone who comes along with a bigger, better or shinier ethical bribe.
Invest in unique and unforgettable experiences. What’s your equivalent of a book-reading with tea and scones at your local bookshop? Invest in creating engaging and interactive relationships.
You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be human, and care.
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