Customer loyalty happens when a customer decides to keep purchasing a product regardless of the various situational factors and canvassing that goes around them. Psychological studies show that brand loyalty is something intrinsic to the nature of the human mind and it exists among customers depending on the experience they garner using various products.
Understanding brand loyalty
Ensuring continued brand loyalty is something that has always puzzled every organization. Top-level managers often try to improve brand loyalty tactics without understanding the psychology behind it.
It is essential to understand the psychology between the customer’s expectation and satisfaction to devise intelligent and long term relationships with customers.
The expectancy-confirmation model is key to understand the basic processes that lead to customer satisfaction. Look at the figure below. Imagine a customer who is planning to buy a new car. He is looking for an ordinary vehicle for travels. He enquires about the things to look for in a car and forms expectations about it.
Now, he will check out each model and match its expectation with the perceived performance of the car.
Finally, he buys a car, and all his expectations and the perception about it reaches a peak. Can you remember the feel of water, when you were so thirsty that your very life depended on it? How did the water taste then? It must have been the sweetest, satisfying experience ever.
A customer also reaches such a state when they begin to use the product. Confirmation is a stage when this thirst of expectation and perceived behavior is realized in the actual performance of the product. If it quenches their thirst, then a customer will purchase again. They feel that this brand can provide them with that joy of satisfaction. The more the comfort they feel, the more they form a bond with the brand.
Ultimately, brand loyalty develops for the time being. It’s because the customer expectations go on rising. The brand will have to look for new ways to satisfy them consistently. Hence, brand loyalty is an ongoing process. The expectancy-confirmation model defines brand loyalty as a consequence of a better customer experience.
Factors that influence brand-loyalty
Researchers on marketing have tried to look at brand-loyalty from various angles viz. gender, age, income, and education. They try to throw more light on the actual loyalty process. Four main factors influence brand-loyalty and marketing executives need to be aware of them. We describe the four elements and its influence on loyalty below:
Research on gender-based behaviour shows the differences in the male and female customer’s response to experience. Male customers are more aggressive, less anxious, and more assertive. While women are more likely to spend time and money on purchasing, so, an angry male customer can damage your brand name more than a female. So, anger management has to be the top priority in handling male customers. Once, their anger has subsided, you can address their grievances more peacefully. Women customers can be won through mutual trust and respect and can positively contribute to developing your brand.
The younger generation breathes some fresh air into the customer community, and they tend to try out new brands, products, and services than the older generations. However, the young tend to be more unstable in their decision to stick with a brand and prefer to toggle with a brand. Older generation expects quality and stability in service. A company can diversify its product mix and design products to suit various age groups.
It is an essential determinant of loyalty because higher income groups have a more significant opportunity to switch options and try newer services and brands. However, poor income groups tend to stick to economical solutions and hence, do not seek out new opportunities. Access to information is even higher in well-off customers, which make them more aware of prospects. So, reaching out to poor customers through direct marketing and economical products is useful.
Research on the influence of education on brand loyalty provides some meaningful insights. Educated clients spent more time thinking and pondering various options available to them before arriving at a particular choice. They are more aware of competing products as they have time and resources to search for information. The less educated customers go by popular opinions or their previous experiences, which is true, especially in the Asian countries where the divide is significant between the educated and uneducated population. So, it is essential to ensure that your brand is known online and offline.
Empowering Employees for better response
Theorizing customer experience is easy. The real challenge lies in building a vibrant organization in which every employee knows how to respond rightly. Even small acts of kindness can go a long way in creating compelling customer relationship. There are some easy ways to improve customer experience, but a long term strategy needs a well-responding workforce. A recent study shows that more than 60% of customers are ready to pay more for better customer experience.
Now let’s see some methods which aid the growth of customer experience in a company. We identified from the expectancy-confirmation model that impressive customer experience is the starting point for building brand loyalty. The methods we discuss here fall under two categories.
One is employee oriented. It cultivates a new quality of customer-centric behavior in them. It ensures that the responses that a customer gets at the first point of contact are always pleasant.
Secondly, we take an organization-wide approach. It nudges the top management and strategists to revamp their tactics by discerning consumer expectations.
Exercises for the employees
1. Role-Play Model - in the role play model, you divide your employee teams into customers and employees. The customer side brings up various scenarios, and the employee side has to respond to it. At the end of the play, the team leaders carry out a detailed analysis of the various scenarios. The preferable, not-so-preferable, and the “don'ts” are delineated by the team leaders or managers and employees go at it again with the insights from the discussion. Some of the scenarios you can try out are:
- A customer with challenging questions - it often comes up with customers who are suspicious of your brand and services. So, be very careful to handle this question well. Your brand loyalty depends a lot on it. If your employee at the receiving end is unable to answer a particular issue, it is better to buy some time by reporting it to higher levels of management and request for moderation time.
- Providing a good memorable service
- Selling quality products
- Being flexible and available for customers as long as possible
- Using positive language to ease customers during crisis
- Surprising them with enthralling offers and deals
2. Win customers by satisfying their needs
Once you have engaged your customers, it is essential to give them what they aspire from their favorite brands. As the DMA survey above shows, consumers expect to hear more from the brand. They want accessible deals that suit their lifestyle, job, location, etc. Loyalty is more of a continuous relationship. Here, like human relationships, a rapport is created between customers and the organization entity.
Customers are more expressive about their opinions today, and social media is the right platform to make themselves heard. You can leverage social listening to improve customer service and muster brand loyalty by continually engaging customers and their opinion.
The Way Forward
Today, marketing is a very dynamic field, especially in the world of smartphones advertising through Youtube, text messages, or mobile apps have made marketing a multi-dimensional exercise. However, understanding the above-discussed fundamentals of consumer psychology gives you an upper hand in forging a long-term relationship between the customer and your brand.