Building brand loyalty

Every business has a brand, whether they realize it or not. Having a brand is an inescapable consequence of being in business. A positive brand creates brand loyalty. If managed properly, brand loyalty is a powerful source of sustained profitability. Yet very few business leaders understand how to maintain brand loyalty with their customers. They direct their attention to the “look and feel” of the brand, the marketing and advertising aspects of brand identification. They live by a unique and recognizable “look”, like the McDonald’s arches or the Nike swoosh. The emphasis is on the appearance of the brand, not how the brand looks in action.

However, neither the advertising nor the appearance created a moment of brand loyalty. The main factor influencing brand loyalty is how employees respond to customer expectations. Regardless of the business, all customers are buying the same thing: “A satisfying emotional experience.” Whether the company delivers a cake or a car, a house or a horse, it must provide a Satisfying Emotional Experience to build brand loyalty among customers!

It is the enthusiastic effort of the fully committed employee to understand and exceed customer expectations that creates the customer’s satisfying emotional experience. Such experiences form a habit; they generate feelings of trustworthiness and trust in the integrity of the brand. A satisfying emotional experience builds a positive relationship with your client. The importance of this relationship is especially true when things go wrong.

When something goes wrong, committed employees have the greatest opportunity to create “loyal apostles.” Open brand loyalty is created when disappointed customer expectations are quickly recognized and met. Like apostles, these clients spread “the good word” that multiplies and attracts more clients to the Brand.

On the contrary, when employees don’t really care about the customer, when they are indifferent to exceeding customer expectations, it is easy for the customer to go elsewhere next time. These employees mechanically perform their tasks and say “have a nice day” as the customer passively completes the transaction and leaves. Both the employee and the customer are indifferent to the possibility of doing business together again.

When something goes wrong, these disengaged employees are indifferent and reluctant to meet customer expectations. Either they politely state that it is simply not possible to meet customer expectations, or worse, they refuse to answer phone calls, letters, or emails in response to the problem. When a company’s employees resist or ignore a customer’s expectations, a “terrorist” is often created. Typically, an angry customer spreads “the bad word” to more than 20 people. This negative reputation multiplies rapidly. No advertising budget can begin to offset this brand damage.

Such damage is easily avoided. There is a direct connection between the way management treats its front-line employees and the way employees treat customers. When employees feel recognized and appreciated, your customers also feel recognized and appreciated. When employees believe what their managers and supervisors tell them, customers will believe what employees tell them. When employees develop long-term emotional loyalty, customers also develop long-term brand loyalty.

In an attempt to increase brand loyalty by improving the customer experience, many companies invest in customer service training. Often times, this money is totally wasted because management expects employees to treat customers with greater courtesy and consideration than management shows employees.

The principles of relationship and leadership state that “all leadership is example, anything else is coercion.” This means that if management wants customers to be treated “well”, then they must treat employees “well”. Building sustained brand loyalty is not rocket science or brain surgery! It’s about treating employees in ways that want to create an emotionally satisfying customer experience.

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