People want responsiveness in their business transactions. When a customer does business with someone they like and who likes them back, there is an exchange. The customer feels the businessperson is sincerely paying attention to them as a person and it makes them feel important. Responsiveness is a demonstration of importance. The customer feels the businessperson is being responsive to them because they as a customer are important.
Responsiveness is an activity between people. Objects and things are directive; only people are responsive. Customers are ultimately loyal to people, not products, because of this human response.
Since the mid-1980s, most businesses have been using automated telephone systems. "Hello. You have reached Acme Industries. If you know the extension of the person with whom you wish to speak, enter that extension at any time during this message." This is a more efficient method of directing a call. One messaging system can handle thousands of calls a day. Messaging systems are directive, not responsive. A caller can direct the system, but the system is not responsive to the caller. When the customer calls and knows the extension number of the party she is trying to reach, everything is fine. When that person is not in or she wants to reach someone else and doesn't know the extension number, things are not so fine. The telephone system is directive not responsive.
People are motivated by the desire to be important. Responsiveness from interactive activities assures customers they are important.
My wife, JoyAnn, works at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts. The Phil, as it is known, is a magnificent campus including an art museum and performing arts center. Hundreds of customers and patrons call The Phil's customer service center every day to order tickets, subscribe to performance series, and make donations.
The Phil is a state-of-the-art facility but on occasion things do go wrong. Customers don't get the seating or tickets they requested or exchanges need to be made. Sometimes a customer calls and says they have called once or twice before and they still haven't received their correct order. In these situations, JoyAnn informs the callers that they should remember her name. She says, "My name is JoyAnn. I want you to remember my name. I want you to ask for me if you have a problem and need to call back." Dissatisfied customers immediately recognize that JoyAnn is the solution. Instead of being irate or irritable, they become open and friendly. JoyAnn is responsive: Customers are no longer doing business with The Phil, they are doing business with JoyAnn.
Only people can be responsive to each other, and it is this responsiveness that creates loyalty, but there are a few apparent exceptions where a product enjoys a high level of loyalty. These exceptions can always be traced back to people being responsive to people.
Morton Salt and Philadelphia Cream Cheese are examples of products that enjoy tremendous customer loyalty. Buyers for these products would not consider buying any other brands.
If we look closely, we find that both of these products enjoy an incredibly high recommendation rate from parents and family members who teach children what products to buy and use. If you ask friends and neighbors, you will find it is very common to see handwritten recipes that specify the use of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The recommendation is so strong that no one wants to risk the success of their baked goods on any other brand. Approximately 75 percent of the salt buyers would never risk having their salt not pour when it rains. The popularity of and loyalty to these products are directly linked to personal recommendations. These products are exceptions: generally in the packaged consumer goods marketplace, loyalty is demonstrated for the seller not the product.
In 2001, General Motors announced that it was going to discontinue the Oldsmobile line of automobiles. Over the years, several other car companies have discontinued operations. Dealerships acquire new lines of automobiles to sell, and in many cases continue to maintain their loyal customer base. People might have been buying a Plymouth, but they were really doing business with the people at the dealership. Their loyalty was not with the product; it was with the people from whom they bought the product.
Remember, people do business with people. Brand-name marketing can create brand awareness, but it cannot capture the value of people doing business with people. Let the marketing department design the product and the production department build it, but it's the job of the people that meet with customers to build loyalty.
Because people do business with people and there are typically multiple sources for a given product, it is critical that you develop customers that are loyal to you, at the specific company where you are doing business. It is the job of General Motors, Coca-Cola, Northwest Mutual, and every other manufacturer to build brand-name awareness. As a business owner, entrepreneur, or front-line employee, it is your job to build customer loyalty.
Loyalty is a customer's response to being liked and liking the people they do business with. The human condition is such that everyone is most concerned about their own welfare. If you want someone to like you, the quickest path to that end is to genuinely like them and be concerned about them.