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
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
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.)