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Is Customer Experience the key to Customer Loyalty?

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Is Customer Experience the key to Customer Loyalty?
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If you pressed me for a quick definition of loyalty marketing. I’d probably tell you it’s about “recognizing and rewarding best customers”. Yet, this definition leaves out what I believe is the most important factor in gaining your customers’ loyalty and keeping it: the customer experience.

After all, you can give me a spiffy reward or recognize me with upgrades and fancy perks—but if I’m bumped from my flight or my hotel room stinks of cigarettes or I’m hit with an unexpected service fee, you risk ticking me off and losing me as a customer. This got me thinking about a statement my former Frequency Marketing colleague (now leading Knowledge Development at Aimia) Rick Ferguson once made:

“It’s not about transactions, it’s about interactions.”

While it can be easy to get caught up in the data aspect of loyalty, we should never forget the importance of the ”interaction” in which a brand or company has a touch point with a customer. This can occur during a phone call to customer service, a response to a customer complaint via Twitter and most importantly, during face-to-face encounters in which a customer interacts with your company or brand.

I was reminded just how important the customer experience is during a recent stay at The Muse hotel in New York City, a part of the Kimpton boutique hotel chain. I’m a member of their InTouch loyalty program and generally, my stay there was great. The Muse’s lobby, under construction the last time I was there, looked fantastic. I found the staff to be cheerful and accommodating. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine at a complimentary happy hour, a nice touch.

There was just one major issue: upon waking Sunday morning I discovered there was no hot water—meaning no shower. I called the front desk and was first informed a service man would be sent up. 30 minutes went by, nothing. A second call revealed that in fact the problem was throughout the hotel and the person on the phone blamed the issue on “the city”.

I was travelling with my 14-year old daughter and, as those of you with teenage daughters can imagine, this became a big issue. We waited for over an hour to see if hot water might again begin to flow, but ended up venturing out shower-less. The problem did appear to be fixed once we returned a few hours later, but by then it was time to check-out.

The day after my visit, I received a survey in my e-mail inbox from The Muse asking me about my stay. It was one of those automated, check-the-box questionnaires which I dutifully completed. I gave them high marks overall, but in my comments mentioned the hot water glitch. I expected my response would disappear into a cyber-file somewhere to be reviewed at a later date. But that’s not what happened.

Within 2-3 hours of completing the survey, Sarah Rosenberg, the Guest Service Manager at The Muse, reached out to me via e-mail. She apologized for the inconvenience. And after I gave her a few more details, she responded by giving me a credit toward my room rate plus a special rate on my next visit.

So what could have been a fair-to-middling customer experience, was turned into a positive one—all because someone was paying attention to those automated customer surveys. And for me, it’s the difference between maybe staying at The Muse during my next NYC visit, and definitely staying there.

How about you—have you had any great customer experiences, lately?


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