Written by: Rajib Chowdhury
About the author: Business Head – Consumer Durable Service & Revenue
I had a colleague who was a die-hard fan of Thums-up. We used to travel together a lot. But I never saw him coming out of a Dhaba or roadside restaurant in disappointment since there were no Thums-up available. He was happy to settle for the next best alternatives as per him.
I used to look at him and often think if he is a loyal fan of Thums-up? I knew his love for the product but I also knew he would settle for other alternatives in the case of non-availability.
I reflected the same thought to the customers of my domain of Home Appliances. All these years, we, the service professional were being convinced by the organizations that we should strive all out to win customer loyalty. We spent so much time in meetings, seminars, and training programs discussing how to win customer loyalty. Never realized if “customer loyalty” was actually existed there to be won!!
When I sold off my first house within seven years of purchase and went for a new one, my father-in-law was so surprised. Every expression of dis-believe could be seen on his face. Because for him, things like a house, cars, furniture are attached with family emotions and those are meant for a lifetime only. How can a person sell off his house in just seven years?
Though I couldn’t able to convince him but during the conversion process, I got my answer for the “customer loyalty” I was searching for so long.
From where the “customer loyalty” comes – it comes from a BIG “fear” and thru a process of finding out a tried and tested way to subside the fear. When a customer knows that he is going to invest only once in his lifetime for a product, there is a fear factor in his mind about the correctness of his choice. What if his decision goes wrong? He then looks for answers within the family or close friends, finding out what they did to counter the fear factor. If the answer comes from within the family or within his own experience, he put all his “trust” on the brand and become a “loyal customer”.
Now look around you and try to find out one product which you will purchase only once in your lifetime…. A very difficult task?
Today the shelf life of Mobile is 15 months, LED TV is 3-5 years, Car is 5-7 years. So when you know at the time of purchase itself that you are going to invest again in the same product in 3 or 5 years, there is no “fear factor” in your mind about being wrong in choosing. Because the risk horizon is very narrow. Rather you want to experiment more with new features, new gadgets, and new lifestyle. You don’t want to be loyal then. The technology, look, social brand value become a thing of priority. I have seen people very satisfied with his existing Maruti Car, still went for a newly launched MNC brand.
So, today customer doesn’t want to be loyal. So the companies also should not bang their head on customer loyalty. The priority of a successful brand and their services is to be there in customer mind in as many ways possible, in as many forms. Understanding the customers’ changing requirements, being in constant touch with the customers by adding value to their knowledge and communicating your core value are the major keys.
The customer service department is best positioned to do it for any organization. Because only they have customer touchpoints on multiple occasions. They also enjoy the natural “trust” with the customer. All new launches, new technologies, new services have to be communicated regularly, directly to the customers thru this personalized channel. Use the technical know-how of your service engineers to explain the customer on how the new product line will make their life more comfortable. Use your service to reach effectively and innovatively to be in constant touch with your customers.
Holding on to existing customers and gaining share in their repeat purchase is the cheapest and best way to sustain the business. Idea is to occupy the mindshare of the customer. So that whenever they are out in the market for a replacement, they give a look at their existing brand also.
Don’t lose heart over Customer Loyalty. Because it is not there. Put your energy to communicate to the customer on how your product is better suited to meet his/her new/enhanced requirements, be present with all your product range in the market
And have respect for customer’s wisdom…