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My Ford Edge Customer Loyalty Story, Part 1

Guest author Brad Shorr has agency, in-house, and entrepreneurial marketing experience. He writes frequently about social media, SEO, content strategy, and other business issues of interest to small and midsized companies. He lives in the Chicago area and has been blogging since 2005.

A Little TLC Goes a Long Way

Bradsford

Introduction

This story contains 12 lessons on customer loyalty: how hard it is to acquire, how easy it is to lose, and how simple it can be to regain — if you know what to do.

Chapter 1: Living on the Edge

For the last 15 years, I was a loyal Toyota customer, driving pretty much nothing other than white Toyota 4-door sedans. I’m a creature of habit. But in August 2011, I impulsively decided to do the opposite, ala George Costanza. So instead of buying a white Toyota sedan, I leased a burgundy Ford Edge crossover vehicle.

Going in, my prevailing emotions were skepticism and apprehension. And sure enough, no sooner than driving off the lot I began having trouble with Ford’s MyTouch system, the computer “brain” of the vehicle. Unbeknownst to me, MyTouch (a Microsoft/Ford collaboration) was a quality nightmare that had been vexing consumers to no end.

Although my Edge — christened Bradsford — was an otherwise wonderful car, MyTouch confirmed all of my doubts about abandoning Toyota quality. My issues with the computer system ranged from annoyances to genuine safety concerns. Result: a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

Customer Loyalty Lesson #1: Doing 9 out of 10 things right doesn’t cut it.

Chapter 2: Spoiling for a Fight

You Sure Look Pretty!

After settling in with my negative attitude, I became an active brand disloyalist. I found a way to view every car feature and every interaction with Ford in a negative light. I took every opportunity to share my complaints, talking to friends, posting bad reviews on automotive websites, making snarky comments on social media — all things which normally are quite out of character.

I complained to Ford corporate, becoming ever more vexed as I worked my way through its tangled phone and email bureaucracies. And even when I made contact with an actual person who provided useful assistance, I interpreted it in a negative light. No matter what the dealer did, no matter what Bradsford did — it would never be good enough. The dealer upgraded me to the second-generation system for free; I complained that I had to rent a car. My car was transporting me reliably and comfortably all over the Midwest; I went out of my way to find and complain about every slight design and performance flaw I could find. Am I proud of this? No, but my fundamental conviction was simply this: I was paying top dollar for an expensive vehicle that was only working at 80% efficiency. This was wrong and I was unhappy.

Customer Loyalty Lesson 2: Emotions determine loyalty, not facts.

Chapter 3: Abandonment and Despair

By January, anger had given way to melancholy. My plaintive appeals to Ford on Google+ went unnoticed. Corporate was still talking to me, but it felt like they were doing me a favor just picking up the phone. The dealership’s attitude seemed to be, “there’s nothing we can do.” I resigned myself to the fact I was stuck with a car I didn’t like. The much-touted MyTouch software update, which I was told would arrive in January, was now promised by the end of the first quarter, but I wasn’t holding my breath.

All I could do was count the days until my lease ended. And all I knew was my next vehicle would be anything other than a Ford.

Customer Loyalty Lesson #3: Building customer loyalty requires you to take an active role.
__________

To Be Continued …

OVER TO YOU

  • How have you responded to situations where a product you purchased let you down, or the service behind the product let you down?
  • If you were in Ford’s position in this situation, what would you do? (Stay tuned to see what they actually did.)

__________

Note: Brad Shorr works for Straight North, a Chicago Internet marketing company. They have many small B2C and B2B clients, including Newport Beach cosmetic dentists and a car lift repair company.

8 Responses to My Ford Edge Customer Loyalty Story, Part 1

  • Brad, I am so glad that you are sharing this story with us as there are many lessons to be learned here. I cannot wait for the remainder of the story. Your story shows that if you blow it in the beginning of a customer relationship, no matter what you do you may never win them back. It is critical to ensure that we meet our brand promise from Day 1 and realize that even if we correct a wrong, the consequence may be a lost customer.

    • Hi Karen, Thanks for reading & sharing your perspective! In this case I was definitely oversold — although shame on me for not doing my homework. A good motto to follow is “Under promise and over deliver.” Too many times we do the opposite and it really comes back to haunt us.

  • I am the worst type of customer, if you disappointment me the way you’ve described your disappointment above then I am not overly vocal to the organization in question – I just exit the relationship. I do take it personally and emotionally because I’ve placed my trust in someone or something that I shouldn’t have!

    Any organization over sells their products at their peril. People don’t like to be taken for fools. I hope that we are going to see a shining example of how to regain that customer trust in your next instalment!

    • Hi Kitty, I wouldn’t say you’re the worst type of customer, but your reaction is probably the most common when faced with disappointment. It IS personal. This is scary for sellers – because without complaints they don’t get the feedback they need to make changes (if they are inclined to do so). Not that my motives for complaining were all that noble: my purchase was simply too big to walk away from.

      Glad you are looking forward to part 2. We have quite the cliffhanger going, don’t we? :)

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • When do we get as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story”?

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