Whatever happened to loyalty?

Bill Christopher
Posted

Loyalty seems to have gotten run over by a Mack truck over the years. What is loyalty anyway? It is a quality or state of being faithful to your country, a person, an institution, a belief, a cause, a business etc. There is an adherence to the person, institution, cause etc. in which you have faith and in which you believe.

Back in the day, major league baseball players were “loyal” to their team and their fans and usually played for a single team during their entire career. It wasn’t about the money. It was a relationship where both parties were treated fairly.

Shoppers use to be more strident in their loyalty to particular retail stores i.e. “I always shopped at May D&F” or “They have the best maintenance service at my car dealer.” The public used to be loyal to their bank, their school district, their car dealer, their television provider and you get the point.

What happened to this intangible “glue-like” relationship between two parties? I always thought as an employee that I should be loyal to my employer. My father-in-law was a banker in a small Midwest town. His family had a belief that they should shop and do business with those companies and retailers who had a business relationship with the bank. “Loyal customers” of a restaurant are those who eat there regularly and you see them there come rain or shine.

“Loyal followers” of a particular book author will read each book written by the author regardless of the reviews. I have a few favorite authors which include Nelson DeMille, John Grisham, Ken Follett and Daniel Silva. I read their books with some books being really good (from my perspective) while others were “just so-so.”\

Will I purchase or check out the next offering of these authors regardless of their last book? Yes, indeed I will. That is loyalty.

Today’s fickle shopper is not influenced by loyalty. They are looking for the best possible deal. Whether it is the price of gasoline, the best “bundle” deal on TV, Internet and telephone or getting a free electronic device for opening a new banking account, today’s shopper is motivated by the best deal and best price.

Then when the 12 months or minimum contract is fulfilled, they will jump ship and sign up with a competitor. Such a scenario is not a surprise with today’s thinking. Perhaps it is a generational thing. Us “seniors” tend to be loyal while Baby Boomers and younger folks probably are more about the deal. However, who gets the short end of the lollipop when you do practice loyalty? It’s the loyal long-time customer.

They don’t get the 12 month cut-rate pricing on the latest “bundle.” They don’t get the free electronics for being a customer of the bank for 20 years or more. Is that fair? No, what if everyone had the mindset of wanting the best offer, the lowest rate, and the free enticement? Let’s face it; businesses depend on a portion of their customers or clientele to remain with them “come rain or come shine.”

So, what is the punch line in this “Loyal Customer’s Lament”? It is simple. Retailers, service providers like financial institutions, professional service providers like accountants, doctors and dentists and restaurants etc. should be more cognizant of their loyal customers and give thought to some sort of a “loyalty program” to reward them.

Bring back something like the S&H stamp booklets or nine punches on the card, and your 10th frozen yogurt is free or re-structure the enticing offers to sign up brand new customers with a premium or two for your long-time “Steady Eddie” customers or clients. Or, drop the whole enticement strategy/lower initial rates for new customers and depend solely on good service and quality products. Nuf said!!