How do you Manage Customer Loyalty?

I received an email notice of an American Marketing Association (AMA) training series to be held in three cities in early 2007.

The advertised training is called “Managing Customer Loyalty”. The copy begins:

“Customer loyalty is one of the most powerful weapons an organization has in its strategic arsenal.”

Well, I question “where they’re coming from”.

It just hit me wrong that people were attempting to manage loyalty. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed the AMA was out of step with current trends in branding and in what we know about how and why customer loyalty really develops.

The AMA announcement then went on to explain what we’ll learn in this 2-day, intensive workshop. Content had to do with defining and measuring customer loyalty, and applying analytical tools to our database (data mining). This is really valuable – information about your customers and their buying habits and motivations can only help establish customer-related programs to strengthen relationships.
But the crux of the content is the promise that you’ll be able to classify your customer base by the intensity of their loyalties, and then perform certain actions that will benefit the company.

And the “benefit the company” orientation is what bothers me about their approach to customer loyalty.
The entire orientation is wrong in my opinion. Perhaps the series title should have been “Taking Advantage of Your Customer’s Loyalty”. It seems so one-sided.

I’ve been reading about – and experiencing – how passionate consumers are taking over the “ownership” of brands. There’s certainly a pride of ownership surrounding many brands that’s a lot stronger than just the “repeat buy” habit.

The companies sponsoring those customer-revered brands would not be studying ways to exploit their customers. Instead, they would devote their energies to finding new ways, or intensifying old ways, to deliver a higher state of satisfaction.

See the difference? This training, except for the purely analytical data capture and analysis, “…will provide you with the information and tools to fully utilize customer loyalty and increase bottom-line results.” Their words. The orientation is one-sided and sales-driven.

Now most savvy businesses these days will use a customer-view approach to loyalty programs and marketing activities. They will be saying, “what would my customers want” rather than “how can I get them to spend more money with me?”

Now I suppose the AMA had this copy fashioned in this way because a large proportion of their membership thinks with a company-out perspective.

But wouldn’t it have been better to sponsor a training series called: “Managing the Company to Delight Customers”?

Martin Jelsema

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