I visited Athens a few weeks ago to work with my business associates there. I always enjoy visiting Greece. In spite of the many troubles the country is experiencing, the people I work with are always upbeat and looking forward to a better future. I'm keen to help them in any way I can and I always come away with something worthwhile that I've learned. It happened again during this latest visit because It was the thinking surrounding it that sparked my idea for this article.
Last year, one of the senior people I had worked with in the training department of the Greek telecommunication business, OTE Academy, had left and set up as a freelance consultant, specialising in customer service. He wanted to continue working with me, so he joined forces with my existing associates in Greece, the Optimal Group. They decided that December was the right time to launch their new improved range of services to help people make customer service make a worthwhile difference to business performance and results, and I was there to help them by speaking at the launch event. It was a great event, held in one of the local theatres, which they decided to call - All About Loyalty - which is also the title they have chosen for this new service.
That's a great name for the service. In fact I wish I'd thought of it. In just three words it explains exactly what we do.
I've now spent almost 20 years working in this area, and when I think about the core purpose of my work - discovering, refining and teaching the best ways to attract and keep profitable customers - I'm drawn to the conclusion that it has always been All About Loyalty. Even Fred Reichheld, one of the worlds most respected thinkers on the subject, in his book The Loyalty Effect, came to a similar conclusion when he explained how his years of work at Bain & Co had shown how three key element may be combined to create long term business success. Those three elements are Loyal Customers, Loyal Employees and Loyal Owners/Investors. He too therefore believes that it is All About Loyalty.
I mention this because there's a lot of focus currently on Customer Experience, and it's a good thing that there is. However I think we should always keep in mind that Customer experiences are not the end goal - it should be customer loyalty. But my work over the past few years has indicated that a focus on Customer Experiences alone is not enough to create enduring customer loyalty. I've learned that we also need to focus on Customer Expectations and Customer Memories. Customer Expectations are important because our perception of any experience is always greatly influenced by our expectation of what it will be like. And Customer Memories are also important because loyalty is a future event and the future decisions we make and the future behaviours we adopt are always greatly influenced by our memories of past, similar or related events. So if it is all about loyalty, then there is a need to focus equally on all three.
I was lucky to have met Dr. Stephen Covey, the author of the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People on several occasions. He was one of the wisest men I knew, and I learned a lot from him. One of his seven habits is to 'always begin with the end in mind.' That's a lesson that has served me well since I learned it, and it's one that I think should be applied to any work in customer service. That is to always begin by remembering that 'It's All About Loyalty', and if everything we do is focused on that, we will then be on the right track to success.