In business, loyalty can be a tough subject to discuss. That’s because the word is often misinterpreted, or sometimes misconstrued, as a marketing term versus an actual human-centric practice. And yes, there is a big difference.
Used merely as a marketing term, “loyalty” represents a function that addresses some flavor of rewards programming, designed to entice customers to further engage with the business. But since this definition is clinical and devoid of human emotion, let’s put this description on the back burner and get to the real idea behind loyalty, which is the human side.
The best way to describe loyalty is the rush of positive emotions that a patron feels when rewarded in a personal manner.
Consider this example, where you’re a restaurant customer. Have you ever been rewarded for being a great customer? And I mean REALLY rewarded. For example, has your waiter ever just comped you a drink or dessert for no real reason, other than that you’re an amazing customer? You’re the person who is always there, who consistently orders the same dishes, buys drinks, tips well, and is always friendly to the staff. So, due to your warm and engaging nature, the staff of the restaurant reciprocate and occasionally buy you rounds of drinks, desserts or extras. The item is of little to no consequence, but the feeling you get is fantastic—am I right?
The emotion you feel at that moment is in fact the best investment that the restaurant could make. Aside from being literally the cheapest and best marketing tactic possible, that establishment has now won your heart. As such, the downstream effects begin to accumulate.
For one, you brag to your friends and colleagues about how amazing the restaurant is, how nice the staff is, and how great the overall vibe is because they truly seem to care about you as a person—not just some vague segment in a marketing ploy.
But that’s not all. Suddenly, your demeanor with the staff is even better. You smile more, you order more, you tip even more—and that makes the servers’ jobs easier. That unto itself begins to be paid forward—when servers are happy, they give better service, and that impresses even more customers. And like you, those customers also order more, tip more, and return to the restaurant more.
Then of course there is the new business. All that word-of-mouth bragging from you and those like you—people who love the service, the food, the atmosphere—all tell friends and colleagues to go experience the best restaurant in the city. The cycle continues, and the business grows to new heights.
This is an example of what just one good highly personalized experience can do. Now, imagine hundreds. This is where true loyalty is built, and the magic is experienced from all sides.
The question now remains: is this “magic” repeatable? Certainly, larger restaurant chains might have a harder time breaking through the barriers of “locals only” patronage. But there is a way.
For any restaurant to build true loyalty, they simply need to get to know the customer—know what they like to eat, drink, when they like to visit, and so forth. These attributes are data points that can be captured and leveraged to extend personalized interactions regardless of customer or location. The key lies within the systems put in place—systems that easily capture the desired data, and that are also easily accessed by staff at any location.
Here’s an example. Take everything previously mentioned about getting a free dessert at a restaurant. Why did you get that freebie? Because the staff knew who you were, what you were like, and how often you came to the restaurant. Picture all of that information as a data file that is shared between all restaurant locations—regardless of whether you’re in Toronto or Los Angeles, your experience could be exactly the same.
Suddenly, the vibe that is present at the nearest location is the very same across all locations. Every customer is known, given special offers, discounts, or something as simple as a greeting and knowing what drink they like—little personalized rewards that deliver the magic that is loyalty.
In the end, people simply want to be appreciated and known as individuals. Making that happen is easier than you might think. One step forward in the right direction, and the magic begins to appear. Are you ready to deliver magic? Your customers are ready to receive it.