Customer loyalty is perhaps the most sought after - and elusive – achievement in business. In today’s world of Google searches and global business, customers have access to companies, products and services at their fingertips. So, how do we create relationships that stand the test of time?
Oftentimes people cite “meeting expectations” as a key to customer loyalty. But isn’t that the exchange you’ve agreed upon? Your company delivers a good or service as expected and the customer pays for that good or service in return? Certainly there are other businesses that could meet expectations as well. Loyalty, in business or in personal relationships, is created by consistently exceeding expectations. Going above and beyond what is “expected” to provide a client experience that is unparalleled. There’s a great analogy most of us can relate to in our personal lives, or at least the women among us. When my husband buys me flowers for my birthday, I appreciate it but I expect it. When he buys me flowers just because it’s Tuesday, it has a greater impact.
There are a number of examples of companies who understand, and execute, this philosophy:
- Disney – “Cast Members” are expected to deliver a great experience every time. Understanding how to turn the mundane into the magical involves a keen attention to detail at every touchpoint along the way, from websites and rollercoasters to pancakes and parades. Cast members are cross-trained and understand that if a family wants to know when and where the fireworks start, they don’t want to have to ask multiple people. And in order to create “the happiest place on earth,” employees have to project a positive attitude in all that they do.
- Ritz Carlton – Their motto is “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen,” a powerfully concise statement about who their clients are and how they expect their employees to behave. Their standard for this is the “anticipation and fulfillment of each guest's needs.” Note the specific language. It’s not enough to fulfill guests’ needs, they need to anticipate those needs. Understanding their client and having the authority and responsibility to provide an exceptional guest experience is what creates Ritz Carlton customers for life.
- Apple – Simple, beautiful technology provides a great foundation for Apple’s success. Taking it a step further, Apple stores, populated with Apple “Geniuses,” work with each customer to identify their needs, solve their problems, and establish trust.
While the products – entertainment, hotel rooms, technology – vary greatly, the approach to creating loyalty begins and ends with people. A service mentality that emphasizes detail, anticipates needs and solves problems will go a long way in creating customer loyalty and a successful business.