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The Four Keys to Customer Loyalty: Key No. 4: Build a Culture of Service

Customers have choices. Churn rates for cable providers and cell phone carriers convincingly convey this, especially when consumers cite poor customer service as a reason for leaving. Retailers painfully testify to the motive of choice after the recently dismal holiday shopping season.  When every last dollar was crucial, some retailers had difficulty witnessing consumers spending their scarce discretionary income at some stores but not others.

Whether customers choose your business – and, ultimately, whether they develop loyalty toward your brand, product or service – depends largely on how the organization makes them feel. Rarely are products and services so vastly different or unique that an organization is immune to competitive pressures. What causes customers to select one product or service over another is the way they feel about the product and how they feel they are treated by the organization.

This four-part series, concluding with this installment, has presented four keys to help create customer loyalty. Previous articles in this series introduced with first three keys:

  • The first key, which deals with “defining moments,” those specific points in time when the customer has the opportunity to form an impression about the service provided. 
  • The second key, which focuses on the process of customers judging those defining moments based on specific service expectations. 
  • The third key, which examines how customers experience each defining moment in three dimensions of service. Obviously, the main reason a customer comes to an organization is to do business. But the customer experience carries much more complexity. Both the customer and the service provider have three kinds of needs (human, business and hidden) that must be anticipated in order to earn customer loyalty. 

All of those stages build toward the final, all-encompassing fourth key: Creating positive defining moments in every personal interaction will build a culture of service.

A defining moment is not a full transaction – it’s only one of many moments that all add up to one “customer experience.” A phone call, for instance, contains many defining moments. Among them could be the moment of hearing the phone menu, the experience of waiting on hold, or the moment when one receives an answer.

Each defining moment can be positive, negative or neutral. The goal is to make as many of the defining moments as possible positive so that the overall experience is high-quality and memorable. Neutral defining moments don’t register emotions at all. Negative defining moments can turn into strong feelings: dissatisfaction, disrespect or cheated. Positive defining moments leave the customer feeling happy, pleased or affirmed.
Organizations offer both services and service. Organizations use services to attract high-value customers through incentives like discounts and frequent-user benefits and are applied only to certain customer segments. 

The consistent delivery of stellar customer service to all customers (internal or external) is paramount.

Service transcends both the kind of customer (whether internal or external) and the type of interface (in-person, e-mail, telephone phone, online social network). Customers come to an organization for its promised services, a powerful and potentially differentiated attractant. Customers stay with an organization when it delivers top-quality service, which is building block of loyalty.

Building and retaining customer loyalty is paramount during the current economic cycle. There’s a truism proven time and again the business world: It’s a harder, costlier fight to attract new customers compared to keeping existing ones. A loyal, longtime customer is valuable at any time – but even more so through a downturn.

This is particularly evident in the current demand for stellar service and its impact on creating customer loyalty. Regardless of changes and multiple demands on an organization, one constant driver of maximizing sales and market share is the daily delivery of high-quality service that exceeds customers’ expectations.

Organizations that listen and respond to the ways customers feel will succeed and thrive, no matter the market condition. Ultimately, customer loyalty is influenced by those feelings.

Customers’ feelings are what help determine the extent to which they will positively or negatively affect an organization’s bottom line. Companies, businesses and groups may continue to refer to their customers in terms of statistics, market share and key demographics. But they never should forget that there is a person behind the terminology—a person with feelings. How do organizations connect with those feelings? By creating positive defining moments in every personal interaction. That creates a culture of service, a powerful inspiration for customer loyalty.

Sharon Danielsis President and CEO of AchieveGlobal.www.achieveglobal.com