Are You Achieving True Customer Loyalty? Spoiler Alert: Probably Not

What most think of as customer loyalty is likely just a predisposition toward a particular company. Here’s how true customer loyalty is achieved.

Tom LeBlanc Leave a Comment
Are You Achieving True Customer Loyalty? Spoiler Alert: Probably Not

Speaking at NSCA's 19th annual Business & Leadership Conference, behavioral scientist James Kane challenges the perceived meaning of a loyal customer.

It was a lot like watching 300 people simultaneously punched in the gut. Behavioral scientist James Kane dismantled conventional perception of customer loyalty for the company owners and executives sitting in the audience of NSCA’s 19th annual Business & Leadership Conference.

Most probably felt as if their customers appreciate their excellent service and would stand by their trusted technology partner. It didn’t take long for Kane, however, to logically and surgically make them realize how ridiculous that expectation is in most cases.

“Service providers tend to think that the customer should love them for how hard they worked, but that’s not how it works,” Kane said. “They think that’s what they paid you for.”

In most cases, the best integration firms that provide the best solutions and service has customers that are “predisposed” to continue to do business with them.

By slowing down it allows integration firms to collect better information from customers, another step that leads to more satisfying projects.

That’s a lot less impressive than “loyal.”

A customer that is “predisposed” basically likes you well enough, Kane said. “I don’t love you, but I’m not looking for another company,” he says, putting himself in the shoes of the customer. “I’m happy as long as the game doesn’t change, prices don’t’ go up, the team I work with doesn’t change.”

Kane challenged the integration firm executives in the audience on whether or not their prices have ever changed, if their personnel have ever been reallocated or their general approach has ever changed in any way whatsoever.

Well, yes, yes and yes are the answers.

Achieving loyalty is “the only safe place,” Kane said, but means something different than what most people think of it as meaning.

Loyalty is generally thought of as a virtue, he pointed out. “But it’s not. It’s an emotion wired into our heads. It’s not about brand.”

The way to achieve that loyalty with customers is to make their lives easier.

Simply put.

Not simple to achieve.

Achieving Customer Loyalty in the Integration Industry

“All you ever hear people say is that loyalty is dead and I don’t really believe that,” says Chris Bianchet, President of Herman Integration Services.

Kane doesn’t say loyalty is dead, either. His point is that companies need to figure out what that thing is that customers need, that they can’t easily find elsewhere, that makes their lives easier and that you can provide profitably.

“Do you make my life safer, easier, better?” He calls those the three questions that lead to loyalty.

Customers “look for you to make their lives easier,” he said. “If you’re going to make it more complicated and more difficult then we have an issue and a problem.”

In Bianchet’s case, it’s easy to see how his company Herman Integration Services can fit into the make life easier role. As a third-party provider of integration labor that’s employed with benefits by Herman, it’s able to solve all-too-common manpower challenges that integration firms have.

It’s not always that easy to figure how out to make customers’ lives easier, says Jeffrey Wolf, executive VP of distributor Herman, parent of Herman Integration Services. For a distributor such as Herman and for integration firms it’s essential to “get to know your customer,” he emphasizes “Who are they? What do they want? What’s important to them?”

Wolf describes a sales manager who has instilled that philosophy in the Herman culture. When visiting a territory, for instance, the former approach was to visit as many customers as time permits. A new approach is to visit fewer customers but spend more time with each.

It’s difficult for a company to greenlight that philosophy, Wolf acknowledges, but he says he’s seen clear results and that the longer visits have transformed the way Herman works together with those customers.

“On the integrator side they’re probably not taking the time to really get to know the people that are important to their business,” Wolf says.

That’s understandable.  “When working at break neck speed it’s hard to get a customer to sit down and talk for two hours,” Bianchet says.

“That’s another part of this whole building trust and building loyalty thing. I think we all just have to slow down a little bit.”

By slowing down it allows integration firms to collect better information from customers, another step that leads to more satisfying projects. “Even though we’re all busy, take the time to follow the process to make it happen,” Bianchet says.

“So many large companies live in this bubble focused on pushing their people faster and faster. They’re missing the big thing which is that you’ve got to also prepare customers and set the right expectations.”

Think about it. It’s unlikely that pushing that accelerating the speed of the project will result in unlocking that element that will make the customers’ lives easier. It is likely that slowing down and gathering as much information as possible will.

Remember, as Kane points out, every customer is constantly evaluating you versus your competitors.

Are you confident enough that you’ll fare well in that comparison?

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