By Robert H. Bloom
“Customer loyalty,” long in decline, has virtually disappeared. Here are just two startling examples of this fundamental alteration in customer behavior:
- In 2009, only 20% of car buyers were brand loyal, compared to 80% in the 1980s, according to CNW Marketing Research.
- In 2009, only 36% of business travelers claimed that they were brand loyal, compared to 42% in 2007, according to Forrester Research.
Today’s customers no longer care where or from whom they buy—they are a new generation of aggressive, internet-empowered customers—they are the “new experts.”
As you experience all-too-often, today’s prospects and customers seek and often demand price concessions, freebies, and other benefits they need or just want. These “new experts” are confident and determined because they are equipped with purchasing firepower unavailable to any previous generation. They employ three lethal weapons to get their way:
- Instant, comprehensive information from the internet about all products and services sold—online and offline
- Immense choice in every segment of commerce—a wide variety of options and prices in every local community and from every corner of the world
- Real-time price comparison at the moment and location of purchase on smarter-and-smarter technology and newer-and-newer apps on their now-ubiquitous mobile devices
Moreover, social media constantly informs and influences these intensely self-centered customers. They share and compare their online and offline purchase experiences—favorable and unfavorable. They communicate their real or perceived attitudes about sellers immediately to millions of people around the globe on Facebook and Twitter. Social media lays bare every seller!
Today’s “new experts” are not just dorky teenagers; they are your spouse, your grandmother, your next-door neighbor, and they are you, when you are the aggressive potential buyer.
This era of “new experts” will endure and become a more potent force in the future because the generations of customers that follow will have more effective, more agile technology, and they will be more adept at using it for their benefit—not yours.
When buyers no longer care where they buy, “Customer Preference” is the only differentiator—the only way to be your customers’ First Choice
Customer Preference, from the customer’s perspective, is deliberately making a choice --deciding from whom or where to purchase in order to obtain a valued benefit. Here is how a customer might explain his or her way of selecting a vendor: “My preference is based on how good you are at meeting my wants, needs, and aspirations and reducing my apprehensions, concerns, and fears. I have many choices, and I will decide where to buy after looking at all of my options. Given all of my options and all of the factors in my purchase decision, I prefer you.”
Think of Customer Preference in terms of the specific advantages it offers you:
- The buyer will go a little out of his or her way to buy from you.
- The buyer will pay just a bit more for your firm’s products or services.
- The buyer will consider buying from your firm without forcing you to bid every time.
- The buyer will buy from you without always demanding a discount.
- The buyer will buy from your firm more frequently.
- The buyer will be slightly more tolerant when your staff fouls up.
Individually, these benefits may not make or break you, but collectively they will be the fundamental difference between growing and declining in today’s fiercely competitive world.
“I Prefer You!” These three words will give you a potent advantage over competitors—they will make your firm 1st Choice
Embracing Customer Preference does not require a wholesale rethink of your business plan nor does it require investment in infrastructure or advertising. You can create Customer Preference with big ideas and small ideas.
Don’t you want your company to be First Choice?
To achieve this ambitious but attainable goal, you must align your entire organization behind the mission of creating Customer Preference at the Four Decisive Moments in every purchasing progression:
- The Now-or-Never Moment—first brief contact
- The Make-or-Break Moment—lengthy transaction process
- The Keep-or Lose Moment—customer’s continued usage
- The Multiplier Moment—highly profitable repeat purchase, advocacy, referral
Firms in every business category must forget about building their brand. “Brand-Building” is yesterday’s mantra. It is costly and seldom works, because in today’s sea of brands, mind-numbing slogans, and time-constrained customers’ brands mean far less and often nothing to the “new experts.” Alternatively, concentrate all your human and financial resources on delivering Customer Preference every time and all of the time.
Do not confuse this transformative concept of Customer Preference with a pep talk to your sales associates. Customer Preference requires that every staff member in your firm, from sales to the back office, to the shipping department, be energetically committed to making your company your customers’ First Choice.
Creating Customer Preference is the fastest, least expensive, and surest way to win today’s newly empowered customers
About the Author(s)
Robert H. Bloom is the author of The New Experts: Win Today’s Newly Empowered Customers at Their 4 Decisive Moments (Greenleaf). For more information, visit: ww.thenewexperts.com.