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Loyalty Can Change in an Instant….

Karen ImbrognoAugust 06, 2015

If you read my last post Buckle Up, you know I refer to myself as the “insurance geek”.  After spending my entire career in this industry it’s a moniker I embrace.  In any case, today I want to share with you a personal experience I had with a car brand, and how loyalty can turn on a dime as a result of a poor customer experience.  Let me start by turning the odometer back 30,000 miles – 23 months ago – to the day my current lease term began.

For years I had dreamed of the day when I would drive off the lot in my first luxury vehicle.  I often wondered if the experience would be everything that I hoped it would be.  Would the sales person be knowledgeable and engaging?  Would he be transparent and explain everything about the lease?  Would the dealership be fair and equitable in the negotiation process?  And finally, would they deliver an elevated end-user experience consistent with their image and price point when I took delivery of the car?  Reflecting back, I have to say the day was all of that and more.  The sales representative had a high level of product knowledge.  He used other support resources (finance) to explain the parameters of the lease.  The actual negotiating of the deal was a snap.  And when I arrived to take delivery, the car was waiting for me in the showroom, draped in a gold cloth and adorned with a large bow.  The team graciously greeted me and thanked me for my business.  They donned white gloves, rolled back the cloth to present the car, and allowed me to drive it out of the showroom.  Based on my two prior decades of car shopping, it was a singular and defining experience.

Needless to say I quickly became their number one fan.  Oddly though, over the ensuing 23 months I never heard a word from them: I didn’t receive any follow-up emails gaging my satisfaction; no invitations for special offers; no tips to enhance my ownership experience.  In fact, it wasn’t until a month before my lease expired that I all of a sudden became important to them again.  Nevertheless I agreed to give them a second chance, primarily because they had a great product which I truly enjoyed driving.  But this time around I went to another dealership.

I have to say, the experience at the second dealership was nothing like the first.  They never acknowledged me as an existing customer or thanked me for my prior business.  When I asked about loyalty rewards they said it was on a per-dealer basis.  They couldn’t even answer questions regarding how key elements of the lease were calculated. After spending an hour going in circles I got up and walked out.  I told them to contact me when they could properly answer my question.  Days went on without a call.  It was at that point I realized how important my business was to them. I promptly shifted my strategy and purchased another make.

The second experience a customer has with your brand should be the same, if not better, than their first experience in order to win subsequent purchases.  This holds true whether you are dealing in the retail, travel, automotive or insurance space.  In the insurance/services space, we have to work extra hard because we are dealing with an intangible product.  The customer may or may not have a chance to cash in on their product benefit if they don’t submit a claim during their policy term.  So in a nutshell, building relationships post-sale and up to the point of the next renewal becomes that much more important for carriers as well as customers.

As Marketers, we need to ask ourselves if we are providing:

Consistent Experiences across channels

Acknowledgement of our customers and thanking them for their prior business

Rewards to customers, recognizing their loyalty

Transparency in all of our actions

Exceptional customer service and follow-up

In my opinion (and this is just my opinion), those that embrace CARTE will have a higher likelihood of retaining and growing their customer base.  Underpinning this personal assertion is the following quote I once read: “Loyalty is Rare and can Change in an Instant.”  Take home message: Don’t ever take your customers for granted.