Customer loyalty is defined as a commitment to continue to do business with a company on an ongoing basis. The aim should be to seek to create committed customers.
For many companies, closing of the sale is seen as the culmination of the marketing process. However, under the relationship marketing process, the conversion of a ‘prospect’ to a ‘customer’ should be seen as just the start of a journey of building customer loyalty.
To elevate the customer to ‘client’ status, we must establish a pattern of repeat buying by making it easy for the customer to do business with us. Being a client does not necessarily signal a commitment, however. Banks, for example, have regular customers who might be termed clients. Yet many of those clients may well express high levels of dissatisfaction with the service they receive, and if it were possible for them to move accounts easily, they would not hesitate to switch to another bank. In order to obtain seriously committed clients we must develop a customer-orientated approach that persuades our clients to become our ‘supporters’ – meaning that they are pleased with the service they receive and happy to provide continued custom.
If they are really impressed with the quality of service and if the relationship exceeds their expectations, they may turn into ‘advocates’ – meaning that they tell others about their satisfaction with our offer. Given the power of word of mouth, this type of advocacy can be worth more than any amount of advertising.
The final rung on the ladder of loyalty sees the customer as ‘partner’. ‘Partnership’ is achieved where a mutually rewarding relationship exists, and neither party intends to leave the other. The concept of ‘partnership’ as a desirable goal of business relationships is fast gaining acceptance, particularly in industrial and business-to-business marketing.
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