Loyalty Is So Simple -- It's A Wonder How 'Smart' Brands Get It So Wrong

I've been doing a lot of research around loyalty in the past couple of weeks. There have been some interesting research studies to go through that tell the reader pretty much what they suspect. To summarise, people are OK with loyalty cards and points, but they rarely understand what they are collecting and what their balance means.

In fact, from what I can see and the research I've pored through, it seems a pretty obvious set of conclusions behind what is engendering loyalty in the modern age. Of course, no piece of research would be complete without reference customer service. With loyalty, however, it's pretty much the be-all and end-all of what keeps people coming back. Whether it's a great recommendation and easy checkout online or a great customer services assistant pointing you in the right direction, being served well with great products and services is self-evidently a great way to improve customer loyalty. 

This makes me wonder aloud all the more how brands can be so stupid. Let me qualify that. How can brands spend so much money on artificial intelligence and Big Data systems that tell them who's likely to churn? Why do they invest in all these bundles of research? Why do they bother to look externally for the factors that could peeve customers and cause them to be disloyal? Why do this when the answer is staring them in the face.

What is that answer? Only the simplest one ever. Stop putting a tax on the stupid or the lazy. Stop punishing loyalty if it's loyalty you're after.

OK -- a case in point. I realised by the way I was being targeted I was probably out of my lock-in with O2 for my mobile phone contact. This realisation came at the same time that they were charging me a ridiculous amount of money for using additional data over my small monthly allowance. It turned out, as a complete coincidence, that every other rival would quintuple my allowance for less money.  So you guessed it -- I take up an offer and then need my "PAC" code to leave O2.

Guess what happened when I called for my exit code? Yes, that's right, O2 more than matched it. My argument with them was why charge me a completely uncompetitive rate and only do something about it when I want to leave? It's the same with any utility. The only reason I can't ditch BT Broadband is because they'll make the mobile accounts linked to my broadband and telephone number leap. They'll also do the same for BT Sport. In short, I'm trapped. I thought offers were given for being a loyal customer. I had no idea that although I was locked in for a year, they were not, and could raise the price so severely at a moment's notice. It's also the same with AA membership. If you want everyone in the family to be safely awaiting a mechanic at the side of the road, if the car strangely ives up, you'll find that each year's rate soars. The answer. Phone them up and tell them you're quitting. It will save you a fortune.

Now, the question I would ask these brands is -- I have been with them now for years. But am I loyal? Let me answer that. I am not. I have renewed for simplicity's sake, but there is a lot of resentment there. I am trapped in my telephone, television, mobile and broadband contacts and I will take great delight in addressing that at a future point when the stars align and I can break away at the end of my main contract and set myself free.

Which brings us to the ultimate question again. How can these brand sbe so stupid? What part of their bullying and coercion do they think makes me loyal? Why can't they see is all they have is an unhappy captive? 

And it all comes down to this. All the utilities do it, and banks, in particular, are past masters. Don't punish otherwise loyal customers by letting them sleep walk in to being punished with some hugely uncompetitive price or rate. Don't send them the offers you're making to new customers but be very much aware that competitors are. And how about the three mobile networks which have been called out for charging customers for phones that have already been paid off. 

If you want loyal customers, do the decent thing by them. Treat them right, don't hike prices when they're not looking and don't punish them with knock-on charges for other services if they choose to stick up for themselves.

Cross promotion was supposed to breed loyalty, all it has done is turn potentially good customers into captives. I, for one, contract end dates now in my diary so I can free myself from brands who have fooled themselves into thinking I'm loyal.

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