Here is a question that everyone who owns a business in the service industry should be asking. “How do we inspire loyalty to our brand/products?”
Until the “Future Shop Model” came along, the way to inspire loyalty to your products was with the best service experience possible. “Huh? Service! What’s that?” Employees had to buy into this and perform consistently. The good ones were rewarded with higher salaries, those not so, well…they looked for other jobs. What ever happened to that? Now, most employees in service industries, even the best employees, are treated like cheap appliances, miss-use them, then get a new one.
But I digress… What was the “Future Shop Model” you ask? In a nutshell it was, “We don’t care if you like us, or if the service sucks, you will buy from us again and again because we have the cheapest prices”. It worked for a while but you know, customers are a fickle bunch. When other businesses followed suit, there was no brand loyalty for Future Shop. And, you don’t see them around anymore. Now Amazon amply fills that promise on-line.
So how do you inspire loyalty to your brand with the constant barrage of tricks from both new and existing competition, with on-line or physical storefronts? Two things, one that’s tough to achieve and one that’s much easier:
- First: Manage expectations – this is the tough one.
- Second: Provide an experience – this is much easier.
One caveat: If you are trying to compete with Amazon, your days may be numbered. But remember, there is no brand loyalty to Amazon, just good prices. If someone can do better, well, good luck to Amazon.
Why is managing expectations so tough? To start with, everyone has expectations and to complicate things everyone’s expectations can be slightly different. Human beings are funny this way. Some may want personal service and some, to be left alone. Some want a good price and others don’t care. Therefore, no matter what you do, some will be satisfied, some will not. It’s that simple.
How do you manage your client’s expectations? It has to happen before they enter your establishment, or as soon as they walk in the door. Some stores do the latter quite well, by greeting every customer at the door to let them know what’s going on in the store at that moment. Whatever expectations your client walked in with are now refocused on new information. Now the hard part, you need to meet or do better than the new expectations you just established. This, more often than not is where failure occurs, leaving your customer with dissatisfaction. They may never come back. Your employees and guidance from you, the owner, are most important.
How to manage expectations before your clients arrive? This unfortunately takes a long time. Think of Walt Disney, where everything they did “Was for the whole family” or “Welcome to the happiest place on earth”. Disney delivered consistently, not always with the very best product but that didn’t matter. Expectations were consistently met or exceeded.
Why are people so loyal to Apple products? Steve Jobs was a genius at bridging both managing expectations and providing an experience. Apple products were consistently sold as an experience. Look at all their advertising. You are having a memorable experience when using their products. What Apple is missing more and more today is what Steven Jobs provided, passion, vision and the cool factor, a.k.a. “managing expectations”. If you never had an experience with an Apple product, how can you resist someone who is passionate, cool without trying, and has a vision of connecting everything they build? He singlehandedly, managed client expectations, much like Walt Disney. But, we all don’t have a Steven Jobs or a Walt Disney in us or in our store to inspire us.
Let’s take the easier path and look at providing an experience, especially for industries that don’t have an Amazon creeping in on the price side. I often reflect back to my experience at Vancouver, BC’s first street pizza joints. It was small hole in the wall downtown on Robson Street called Pizza Ricos. When you walked through the door you were greeted, expectations were established, and for the next five minutes while your slice of pizza was baking, you were entertained either as an active or passive participant, your choice. The owner and staff carried on a humorous banter, always oh-so close to going over the line, but never quite. When you left and bit into that slice of pizza, you tasted not only the ingredients but that experience. The two paired together is why Pizza Ricos was voted Vancouver’s best pizza 10 years in a row. It was eventually sold to another couple, who still serve the same recipes but sadly miss on the experience factor. It’s now merely one of many street pizzas to choose from.
If you are a winery or a brewery, what do you do when a new competitor moves in next door, makes better products, or offers similar products for a better price? If you don’t have brand loyalty, you may not survive.
If you are puzzled about how to provide “an experience” find any winery who provides tours or tastings by appointment only. Book an appointment and spend the 1-2 hours they are more than pleased to share with you. You will often be served by the owner, winemaker or head of promotions. Whoever it is, they will share their passion for the products they make. They will also make you feel as if you are THE most important customer they have at that moment in time. You will taste the wine, learn their philosophy on winemaking and exchange stories of your experiences. When you open a bottle later, even years later, you aren’t just enjoying the flavor of the wine, you are reliving that experience all over again. Given a choice, I will always purchase a product where I remember a positive experience, even if I have to pay more. In fact, it makes it taste better too!
Most businesses don’t have the luxury of greeting clients by appointment only and instead rely on volume of walk-ins. How do you ensure those customers leave with some loyalty to your brand? Be sure you provide them with an experience while you have their captive attention. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Make it count, it’s as important as the quality of the product you provide. It’s worth your brand loyalty to provide both equally. Once they have your product at home or at a friend’s, it will always taste better than your competition.