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Brands Are Seeking Customer Loyalty, Advocacy, and Deep Emotional Connections

Brands are constantly trying to build deeper relationships with their customers that lead to heightened engagement, loyalty, and advocacy.

These aspects of the brand/customer relationship were examined during Tuesday’s Loyalty360 webinar titled, “CMO Challenge Report: The Defining Characteristics of Contemporary Customer Loyalty.”

Loyalty360 CEO and CMO Mark Johnson discussed the compelling report, which includes 35 brand responses (between December 2016 and March 2017) to the following question: “Can you define customer loyalty for us? Or, what does customer loyalty mean to you or to your organization?”

“Brands are looking to create and build relationships with customers at every touch point they have,” Johnson explained. “They realize customer loyalty is the biggest reason they’re in business. They are looking at it to create lifetime relationships.”

Johnson offered a sample of responses, which came under various headings:

Holistic Engagement

Thom Kozik, VP of Global Loyalty, Marriott International: “Before you even get to share of wallet, you first have to get to share of mindset. The way I define success is when the guest wants to be engaged with your program even when they do not have any travel planned. When you are relevant to them, even when travel is not part of their daily dialogue, then you have won. That gets to loyalty beyond just points for dollars.”

Kozik added: “Think about the last 30 days of your life, and try to think about a time when you spent dollars and did not get points in exchange? The only thing that I probably don’t get points for is my utility bills, but I pay those with my points-based credit card. You really have to work to not get points today. So, it is not about rewarding people for their dollars, or even their night’s stay. It’s rewarding them for their time and attention, things that are far more valuable than just money. Time and attention are not the same things.”

Megan West, Director of Consumer Marketing, Seattle Sounders FC: “We’re fortunate enough to have the largest season ticket holder base in MLS. We don’t take that statistic lightly, and the retention of that group is one of our highest priorities. We understand that these fans are really the drivers of our stadium atmosphere, so we’re sure to engage them not only at the stadium but through other channels as well.”

“The Sounders are making sure they can engage with their fans as best as they can at all times,” Johnson said.

Relationship building

“There seems to be a dichotomy on how customer loyalty is defined and socialized internally,” Johnson said. “There is a big challenge around measurement. We’re seeing more and more dissonance in how these solutions providers are selling to their audiences.”

William Schimikowski, VP of Customer Experience, Fidelity Investments: “Customer loyalty is quite honestly the reason that we are in business. I always joke about how we bring people to the Disney Institute because Disney and Fidelity are two very different businesses. They are very different but they are also similar in the sense that they are very complex and we both want lifetime relationships. I want to help people get started with their first 401(k) when they come out of college or even debt management, but you want them to start that 401(k) early so that later on in life they are prepared for retirement. Or, if they are just making a job change, that they will know their options. The hope is that down the road when they decide to have investments outside of just their 401(k), that they consider the retail part of the organization. Loyalty is huge. If we don’t do a good job managing those expectations and satisfying those needs, then we are not going to be considered when it comes time for them to do other investments.”

Lee Twarling, Senior Vice President & Customer Relations: “This business is about providing entertainment and about providing memorable experiences for the customers, and it is not going to happen without the fans supporting your team and your product. In my opinion, we have the best fans in the NFL and they are everything to us. What they give back to us is much more than what we can ever give to them. It is that relationship that takes this experience to a whole new level.”

Loyalty Reflected
Christopher Karpenko, Director of Brand Marketing, United States Postal Service: “When we look at customer loyalty from the postal end, we want to make sure that we show how we are loyal to our customers. We deliver to every delivery address every day. It is 150 some-odd million delivery points, so want to make sure that we are there, that we are delivering timely, that we are delivering it right, not only today but every day. We are committed to our customers both in a consumer perspective and from a commercial perspective, which includes those businesses that are trying to market their materials or deliver correspondence or send out invoices and payments. So, there is a commitment on our end that we want to make sure that we are fulfilling.”

Karpenko added: “We most certainly want to be loyal in that world, and it is the whole cycle back where we look at the customers that come in. We have customers that receive mail or packages every day. They go to their mailbox. They get it delivered through their mail slots. They get it through a parcel locker. They come through a post office and they also go online. For us, loyalty is about how we get people to be happy with the postal service and to enjoy that experience. We need to make sure we offer that experience, or journey, in a way that provides a great experience when we deliver to you when you come into a postal facility, or through online channels. We want our customers to have consistent branded experiences that allow us to make them feel that, whatever their interaction may be, that they are having a positive service experience.”

Brand Advocacy and Emotional Connection
Rich Mohr, Vice President Rental & Global Product Manager, Ryder: “Customer loyalty all comes down to being a preferred brand. There are other companies that offer what Ryder offers, but when we set our sights on converting a customer to a loyal customer, we are looking to be the only answer for their renting needs. Customer loyalty means everything to Ryder as an organization. It means that we have hit the level of service we strive to provide. It means that our offerings are competitive to the market. It means that we fulfill not only a need but also a preference. It means that we are achieving what we have worked extremely hard for over the past 80 years.”

Johnson added: “At the end of the day, brands are looking for brand advocacy and a deeper emotional connection.”

The CMO Challenge Webinar Series received an overwhelmingly positive response to its first installment, which examined the impact of social media on customer engagement and can be streamed on-demand on the newly renovated Loyalty360.org. Future CMO Challenge webinars will cover topics including data analytics (Sept. 19) & brand alignment (Oct. 3).

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