Automotive Blog

Loyalty doesn't mean the same thing to everyone

Gareth Dog

Many people see customer loyalty as being a one-dimensional concept – customers are loyal if, and only if, they buy my product again. But this is a simplistic way of looking at customer loyalty, and only takes into account one aspect of loyalty – behavioural loyalty. In addition to behavioural loyalty, there is also attitudinal loyalty – the recommendations of existing customers to prospective customers – and this is just as important in the long run. In fact behavioural and attitudinal loyalty can be completely separated for some customers, which means that you may end up with behaviourally loyal customers who are not remotely attitudinally loyal (some may even be negatively attitudinally loyal, bad-mouthing your brand to prospective customers) and others who may be strong advocates for your brand despite not currently owning it.

To conceptualise this, think about the following two examples:

  1. A customer may buy your brand (or use your dealership or garage) because of a specific requirement that they may have – whether this is the ability to park end-on in an on street parking space or fit 5 children in a car with sliding doors, or they are limited by alternative servicing locations in the middle of nowhere – and you offer the only product or service that fits these requirements. Despite this, the customer may have a very bad experience of your product or service, and as such may continue to be behaviourally loyal due to a lack of alternatives, yet be attitudinally disloyal and actively try and steer prospective customers away from your business to what they perceive is a better quality product or service.
  2. At the other end of the spectrum, you may have a customer who has bought your brand (or used your dealership or garage), 20 years ago, and has no more recent experience (maybe they moved out of the local area, or their product requirements changed), but because of the excellent service they received they are strong advocates to this day, telling anyone who will listen that they should buy your brand or visit your workshop.

Yes, these examples are rather extreme (and a little silly), but they represent the idea that customers can sit at two extremes on the spectrum of loyalty, and that these extremes aren’t just centred around repeat purchase.

The task, therefore, is to ensure that all types of customer benefit your business in the most comprehensive way possible – which may mean adjusting business practices to turn non-loyal customers into loyal ones, or simply giving attitudinally loyal and vocal customers a platform to advocate from.


Written by Gareth Arnould

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