Jeffrey Gitomer

Chief Executive Salesman, Buy Gitomer

100% Pure Customer Loyalty — From Concentrate!

“If you have a points program and your service sucks… it doesn’t matter.”

— Jeffrey Gitomer

Recently, I had a phone conversation with the foremost authority on customer loyalty, Jeffrey Gitomer.  We had a friendly discussion about loyalty, and Gitomer reminded me of his view that there is a distinct difference between pure customer loyalty (such as having a live person answer your business line), and customer loyalty programs—otherwise known as rewards programs, or as Gitomer put it, a bribe.

Gitomer is right—one hundred percent right.  A loyalty program (rewards program), in my opinion, is a “sophisticated bribe” to earn repeat or increased business from a customer; however, it is only one small piece of the loyalty puzzle.  There are many things a company needs to do correct on the front end of their business—before attempting to infuse a rewards program as part of an overall loyalty strategy.

A rewards program is a next-generation tool to help identify customers.  It is a new-age tool to help track customer spending.  It is a modern-day tool to help motivate customer behavior.  It is a high-tech tool to reward performance.  And, it is a strategic tool to measure results about whether your customers (on an individual basis) are spending more dollars and visiting more often.  But remember, without pure loyalty as a daily practice, your rewards program is doomed.

Here are FIVE reasons why your business needs to embrace pure loyalty first before initiating a rewards program:

1. Without pure loyalty you'll attract nomadic customers.

2. Without pure loyalty your customers WILL shop price.

3. Without pure loyalty your business will not have long-term success.

4. Without pure loyalty your business is set up for failure.

5. Without pure loyalty your rewards program is meaningless.

As I meet with companies all across the country, there is an overwhelming disconnect about pure customer loyalty.  Most companies think they understand loyalty, and most companies think they understand how to position a rewards program as a tool to enhance their customer engagement.  In reality, most do not understand either. 

What I found is that if your company does not have a profound belief in treating your customers well, chances are your rewards program won't do much to truly change customer behavior, or your bottom line.  It may work short-term, but not over the long haul.  I’ve also found that companies who put their customers first don't ask how a rewards program will provide absolute ROI.  They understand that a rewards program builds upon the good it does everyday because pure loyalty is part of its fiber.

Gitomer added, “There’s a difference between ‘loyalty’ and ‘forced loyalty’… points programs, or any kind of a 2% back program… I don’t think that needs to have the word loyalty in it, I think that’s a promotion.”  He went on to say, “Am I loyal to US Airways?  No, I live in Charlotte.  Their mileage program… is that a loyalty program? No, it’s like a thank you for their business—that’s it.  If Fidel Castro Airlines moved into Charlotte and they would fly to NY for the same money, I’d fly them.  I’m not loyal to US Airways—at all.  They call it that (loyalty program) because it’s a corporate-buzz piece of BS.”

Gitomer summed up his position in this statement. “If you have a points program and your service sucks… it doesn’t matter.”

And he's right.  Don’t waste your time, and don’t waste your customer’s time with a rewards program if your company doesn’t put the customer first in every aspect of your business, every single time.  Service comes first—end of story.  Be grateful for your customers, offer them pure loyalty, and they will oblige with their pure loyalty in return.

 

Check out Other Industry Interviews

Michael Crotty

LOYALTY MARKETING IN ACTION What you can learn from Neiman Marcus' loyalty program   The key to successfully launching a loyalty program is to build something unique and superior, not "equivalent to" or "on par with&q ...Read More


Bruce Kerr

Upside and Challenges of a National Coalition How can loyalty marketers in the US learn from their neighbors when it comes to coalition-loyalty?  Let me count the ways. by Roger L. Brooks I’m referring specifically to our neighbor ...Read More