Every now and then I need a reminder of how powerful real customer loyalty really is.
I drove from my home to the pharmacy last week to pick up a prescription. It was the same pharmacy I’ve been going to for the last 30 years. As I pulled into the parking lot, it occurred to me that in the 25 minute drive to get there I had easily passed by a dozen other drug stores. Some were much closer to my home. Many were considerably larger and carried other stuff that I typically buy. A few had significantly discounted prices. My behavior seemed, by all accounts, quite irrational.
Why do I do this, I wondered? I was pretty sure it wasn’t just habit, or routine, or some deep-seated resistance to change. Those aren’t typically part of my character. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the only word to describe it was loyalty.
I Feel Like I Belong
The pharmacist who opened the store thirty years ago still works there, now accompanied by his sons and daughters. He recognizes me when I walk in and, no matter how busy they get, never fails to smile and call me by name. When it’s quiet he takes a moment to catch up with what I am doing. The entire staff are, as always, a reflection of the boss.
I feel like I belong there. I feel a relationship that goes beyond the transactions. It isn’t friendship or family, but I feel that I’m more than jut a wallet to them, and that they are more than just a supplier of drugs to me. (okay, that sounded bad…). They have always cared about me, I think, and because of this I have grown to care about them.
The Single, Simple Rule of Customer Loyalty
The whole experience reminded me (again) of the single, simple rule of customer loyalty – that real customer loyalty is about relationships, not transactions. And it’s about people, not stuff.
A company can give customers all the deals and bargains and perqs and points in the world, but none of those will create real customer loyalty. You can implement the best processes and the most sophisticated CRM systems but none of those will make customers feel like they belong. That takes consistent customer service being delivered by skilled people who genuinely care.