How long does it take the fastest person on the planet to run a mile? Until the mid-fifties, one had ever run a mile in under four minutes; some claimed it was not humanly possible. But in 1954, Roger Bannister broke that barrier forever altering the standards for racers for what was possible. John Walker in 1975 completed a mile in a record 3:50 minutes. Hicham El Guerrouj in 1999 took the record down to 3:43 minutes. Who knows who will be the first person to eclipse the 3:40 mark?
The standards for customer loyalty are a lot like the mile run. The bar gets continually raised on what is required for customers to demonstrate loyalty through their advocacy, repeat business and swiftness to forgive. Research shows customer expectations are 33% higher than a year ago. In other words, what got you a B on your customer’s report card last year will only get you a C this year. Expectations have been elevated by customers demanding greater value for their hard-earned funds. They get a myriad of social network customer reviews continually reshaping how they define value. And, the scary recession has made customers a lot more impatient with even the slightest hiccup.
The “tired and true” approaches for keeping customers loyal won’t work with today’s picky, fickle, vocal, and “all about me” customers. Winning customer loyalty takes service processes that are customer-centric and effortless; frontline employees who are empowered and smart; customer intelligence that is up-to-date and diverse; and, service delivery channels that fit exactly what customers prefer.
Runners did not break time barriers by simply running faster. It came through better training methods, healthier diets, better preparation, and smarter coaching. What can you do to change your approach to winning the race for customer loyalty?
Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do about it. They can be reached at www.wiredanddangerous.com