How do you create exceptional brand loyalty?

I recently had a really poor customer experience as a result of hiring a storage unit. I hired it and arranged for access 24 hours per day specifically as I’d need to store some possessions outside of the core opening hours for the storage business. This was made clear to the manager of the unit.

Yet when the time came it was locked and unavailable. The all hours telephone ‘customer service’ unit were unsympathetic, unapologetic and plain helpful to the point of rudeness.

The feedback I gave the management team did yield some results but I won’t use them again, nor recommend their services. Having bought on cost, and having initially been happy with the storage company, I’m now a lost customer. A simple relationship spoilt.

Now storing stuff isn’t an exciting purchase but it is a necessary and often medium to long-term proposition for many of us.

And all this was a very different to an earlier customer experience that ended far more happily. This got me reflecting upon what it takes to create exceptional brand loyalty.

Just a couple of months before the events I’m about to relate I had spent a significant amount of money on a laptop. One morning, still slightly sleepy and, distracted by a needy young daughter, I managed to empty a pint of water onto the keyboard. My laptop immediately died. A maddening moment of self-reproach followed, then came the anguish and thoughts of considerable, needlessly incurred, expense.

I visited the Apple Store in Arndale Centre, Manchester where a genius bar member confirmed my worst fears and confirmed the list of components which needed to be replaced. The cost was approximately £750 – I’d specified the laptop highly. Ouch!

What happened next transformed my patronage of a brand whose products I like and advocate, into a position of absolute brand loyalty.

The employee told me that he’d looked at my customer record (i.e. products purchased from the company) and as a gesture of goodwill said that if I returned in 24 hours all the repairs would be completed. Free.

What a great goodwill gesture! Clearly I was both delighted and touched.

The employee really demonstrated how he cared about my dilemma from the start of our conversation and built rapport sharing with me a tale of how he’d once also damaged his laptop. His approach made me feel valued, special and an individual whose customer they genuinely appreciated.

The offer was a remarkable one on behalf of his company – it was done spontaneously and immediately. And without bureaucracy.

So what are the components of exceptional brand loyalty? Here are my thoughts about how you can create exceptional client loyalty to your brand in the higher end services and products arena. These are some key components:

  1. Great products – the initial attraction (emotion)
  2. Value perception – value not cost is the key to justify the purchase (logic)
  3. Image of the organization (emotion as much as logic in today’s marketing environment)
  4. People building relationships with your clients at every interaction
  5. Customer service – to reinforce the emotional / logical decision
  6. Exceptional personal / corporate efforts – it is a two way street in which the seller demonstrates loyalty to their customers
  7. A no-fuss attitude that transforms the customer’s day from a bad one to a good one with ease and grace

I’ve told this story to others many times. Partly because I believe both good and bad service should be fed back to the relevant parties. And partly as I still feel so good about the interaction with that Apple employee and the company as a whole.

So, what is your team doing to build your organisation’s reputation for exceptional service? In an era when the customer experience is a one of the key differentiators between successful and failing businesses this is critical.

How do you motivate your team to be brand advocates? And how does this transfer through the customer experience to your customers?