With all the talk of data security as of late, it is important that we address another aspect of security – namely customer security. Loyalty is a concept marketers have spent considerable time and resources attempting to understand and master. This has been going on for as long as there has been competition. As a topic loyalty has been thoroughly researched by academics and practitioners alike. A few things that we know about loyal customers:
1. Sharing their experiences with family, friends and colleagues is not an issue
2. Once they find a vendor they like they will come back time and time again
3. They know what they like and are satisfied with their choice
On the point of satisfaction: loyalty and satisfaction are not the same construct. Customer satisfaction is a component of loyalty, but it is not the totality. As a customer you can be satisfied with a product or service, but chose not to continue the business relationship. Alternatively, you may make the conscious choice to share your wallet with someone else. It is completely likely that customers may have more than one provider in their consideration set and they may be satisfied with all of them.
Profitability, as far as loyal customers are concerned, is muddied as well. An in-depth analysis may lead you to the finding that a portion of your loyal customer base is not profitable. They “reward” you with their loyalty, but may very well be eating away at your bottom line. Identifying this group and creating efforts to move them up the profitability chain is a topic marketers should be discussing.
Bringing the discussion back to measuring loyalty we can turn our eyes to a process developed by the market research firm Burke, Inc. Researchers with Burke have developed an index they call the Secure Customer Index® or SCI for short. This index is survey driven and can easily be deployed in any customer satisfaction study. The SCI® uses three questions to comprise its index: overall satisfaction, percentage that would repeat purchase, and percentage that would recommend (also known as Net Promoter).
A secure customer is jointly: very satisfied, definitely would repurchase and definitely would recommend. Customers that fall outside of this nexus are more vulnerable to churn. Isolate all respondents that score in the top-two box for each of the three indicator questions and label them secure. Respondents that score 7 or 8, on an 11-point scale (0 – 10), could be considered loyal, but need something ‘extra’ to move them into the secure zone. Those that score less should be viewed as open to churn. If you can track profitability then you can tie a customer’s security score to their profitability and further assess loyalty’s impact to the bottom-line.
Getting to know your loyal customers is worth the time. They will exhibit those behaviors that keep a company growing even in less than stable times. Loyalty measurement is germane to both consumer and B2B marketing efforts and if it can be tied directly to profitability, or even indirectly via a proxy variable, then it provides a powerful guide to growing the business in a profitable direction.