Carnival Cruise Lines did a study several years ago indicating 80% of cruisers booked their second cruise with someone other than the travel professional with whom they booked their first. However, the clients must have been satisfied with the cruise experience, because they took a second cruise.
So how to explain this rather startling statistic?
Though most of us feel like we understand the essence of customer loyalty, our study first necessitates grasping a very simple concept: Even a satisfied client will go elsewhere when an opportunity arises the client perceives as objectively better than the one you offer. A loyal client, however, will not.
It is not enough to satisfy a client. The clients who booked their second cruise elsewhere were not necessarily unsatisfied, they simply were not loyal. The temptation, however, is to lay the blame for the lack of loyalty at the feet of the client. Many clients, some travel professionals will tell you, care about nothing except for price.
It’s important to understand why this is a wrong understanding of the concept of client loyalty.
We can probably all remember the days when our parents had one clothes store that was “their store.” Chances are, you typically go to the same hair dresser, barber, accountant, lawyer or car mechanic. Think about your loyalty to the various retailers in your home town. If you analyze your patronage carefully you may be surprised at the basis for customer loyalty.
Customer loyalty is not about satisfaction, it’s not about price. Customer loyalty is about an emotional connection with a business. Moreover, loyalty is initiated by the business, not by the client. In the context of a relationship, and the trust arising from the relationship, loyalty can take root. Take the time to form relationships.
Satisfied customers will be with your business until a better alternative shows up. It may be price, it may be simply a spur of the moment decision. A loyal customer, however, will stay with you, ask for your assistance, give you an opportunity to retain their business. Satisfied customers have no commitment to your business. Loyal customers feel the bonds and tug of a relationship.
Satisfaction is objective – did you meet expectations. Loyalty is emotional, subjective. A loyal client is more valuable to you than a satisfied customer and certainly more forgiving in the face of problems. The loyal customer perceives you as an adviser in the travel planning exercise while the satisfied customer views you as one of the possible retail outlets from which they can obtain a cruise.
Our job is to go way beyond satisfaction to loyalty.