The Workings of a Customer Loyalty Account
A few years ago it occurred to me that there is something that customers hold in their memories that could be called a Loyalty Account. It operates like a Bank Account, so positive experiences make deposits and negative experiences create debits. One affect is that a negative experience, when the account was in credit, may not cause the loss of a customer. But also a lot of little negative experiences could eventually tip the account so far into debit that the customer is lost. I recently had some experiences that proved how this works.
The work I do requires me to travel a lot. This is mainly around the UK but I also usually have a number of visits abroad every year. I also own an apartment in Southern Spain which I visit about 5 or 6 times a year. This all means that I hire a car somewhere in the world in most months.
About 16 years ago I worked on a customer service project with one of the world’s major car hire brands. As a thank you for the work I had done, the then European Vice President awarded me a Presidents Club Card which he told me would be for life. It's a great card which gets me both upgrades and discounts. Following that initial project, I did more work with the European Customer Service Director and I have been a loyal customer of that brand ever since.
A year or so ago I received a letter telling me that, because I had not been making enough use of it, (I just use it about 8 to 10 times a year) my card was being downgraded to a lower level. I wrote to explain that when I was awarded the card I was told that it would be mine for life. But both the Vice President who awarded me it and the Customer Service Director who knew about it had by then either retired or moved on, and It seemed that what had been promised in the past meant nothing to the new regime, so my card was duly downgraded. But in spite of this, they had already built up a large credit in my loyalty account, so I remained a loyal customer.
I was visiting my apartment in Spain a few week ago and had an experience that caused me to question whether what they used to pride themselves on, 'trying harder' than their competitors to please customers, was still important to them, or at least whether it was in Spain.
As I have now done for about 15 years, I arrived at Malaga airport on an early flight from the UK. The card I now have does still get me some privileges so I rarely have to queue and the car is usually upgraded and ready for me. As I was driving from the airport to my apartment, (which is about 1 hours’ drive away), I discovered that the button that you use to adjust the electric door mirrors was broken (first negative experience). I therefore could not adjust them to see clearly what was either side of the car. I felt this was unsafe, so I called into the nearest of their offices on the way to my apartment. They told me they did not have a car they could let me have (second negative experience) and that they would contact the airport branch to arrange a replacement and that they would call me to let me know when it would arrive.
Two days later I had heard nothing (third negative experience), so I tried to call the airport office myself. I could not get a reply there (fourth negative experience) so I called customer services. They said they could do nothing about a replacement but did agree to call the airport office to get them to call me. This they did and I eventually spoke to an agent at the airport office. His suggestion was that I should return the car to the airport (fifth negative experience). I explained that it would be at least a 2 hour round trip and I was not prepared to lose a half day of my holiday returning their faulty car. I suggested he should "try harder” so he said he would speak to the manager. A short while later he called to say they were sending a replacement car out to me, which they did. It had no radio aerial. (sixth negative experience).
When I returned home I was sent the usual feedback request so I related this story. I was then sent a written apology from the station manager who asked me to let him know when I was next visiting. I will, so it will be interesting to experience what happens then.
So what is the point of this story? I think it shows how a loyalty account works over time. One bad experience may not turn the account to debit. But if the bad experiences keep happening (I am regularly irritated by the missing radio ariels on the cars I hire from Malaga airport), there comes a point where it does tip into debit. I'm now at that point so, it will be interesting to experience if they know how to practice recovery and so rebuild my loyalty account. I'll let you know in a future blog.
© Copyright Chris Daffy
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