What creates customer loyalty?

CBR001831Customer loyalty is the attitude of a customer when he purchases a particular product of a particular brand over another. The customer retains that brand loyalty and re-purchases or re-uses that product or service. In order to gain a customer’s loyalty, the brand has to be trusted and presented as trustworthy, competent, efficient, and intelligent.

Nowadays it is more than just running a business with creativity and skill, because customers want to know if the promised honesty and integrity is acting in a consumer’s best interest. We want favorable behaviors from companies. For instance, let’s take the example of the successful clothing company Patagonia. Their corporate social responsibility for people who work in the factories that make the clothing and what Patagonia has done to ensure the safety and fair humane practices of workers has made an impression on purchasers of their products. Patagonia offers their Footprint Chronicles which follows the impact of specific products from design through delivery. This kind of transparency allows customers to draw their own conclusions. Companies that are candid tend to balance the market and restore lost trust.

Many of us remember Kathy Lee Gifford’s clothing line came from a Honduran factory with children as young as twelve years old working in abysmal conditions. There were significant marketing efforts to turn the tide of public outrage, but in the end Gifford finally had to admit to sweatshop conditions and made some amends to revamp her tarnished reputation.

On a much larger scale, consider the ecological disaster created by BP. Had the company used the safety standards mandated, billions of dollars and thousands upon thousands of jobs, lives and wildlife would have been spared the suffering of such an egregious debacle. What happened here was denial, deflection, and the “spin” of marketing experts. The company lost all credibility when important information was withheld, and the company refused to answer truthfully. Will the company ever fully rebound? We have all seen the damage control commercials assuring the country that BP will be making everything right again. Still some experts questions what ever did happen to all of those oil plumes in the Gulf of Mexico?

And finally how about Starbucks? Look at their creativity and skill to garner customer loyalty. Their drinks are creative and original, and their customer service is remarkable and touches upon the human connection. Starbucks claim they want to be in “third place.” What do they mean by “third place?” First place is home, second place is work, and third place is Starbucks – a place to visit, sit, relax and enjoy the warmth of the experience. Their skills, their transparency, and their willingness to apologize when they have made a mistake goes a long way in a world full of Goldman Sachs, Toyota, and BP. Don’t you think?

photo credit: Spirit-Fire