Image courtesy of Pixabay

Today I’m pleased to share another guest post by Micah Solomon.

In my years as a customer service consultant, I’ve yet to hear a customer blurt out anything that sounds like this:

I just love that gorgeous blue Citibank ATM at Prospect and 8th.  I’d follow it anywhere–if that machine ever pulls up roots and moves across town, I’m going with it.”

Of course not.  Loyalty to an ATM, no matter how efficient the machine may be, is a ludicrous concept.

I’d be the first to agree that customers do want efficient, ATM-like advances in the businesses they frequent. (It’s what I call “offloading the transactional,” and it’s central to building customer experiences that won’t drive away Millennials and other digitally-informed customers.)

The problem is if you end up with your priorities screwed on backwards and try to get the efficiency tail to wag the loyalty dog.

Customer loyalty can almost never be based solely on efficiency and convenience, rather than on extraordinary customer service. (It doesn’t work to say “We won’t bother creating a remarkable customer experience. We’ll just make sure they can have it fast and error-free.”)

Convenience may make a customer settle for you, but it won’t make a customer love you.  S/he may see you as Mr. Right-Now, but s/he’s not going to take you home to meet the parents.

I know Amazon and you’re no Amazon.
Amazon, of course, is the giant exception to this rule.  Amazon is a juggernaut built on extraordinary efficiency and convenience: the ease with which its customers can research, buy, and, when necessary, return its products. The unrelenting efficiency of the Amazon machine is unprecedented. And it’s a strong enough advantage–when deployed on an Amazonian scale–to build customer loyalty.

But is your business, seriously, anything like Amazon?  Are you (let’s be candid here) about to build The Great Amazon Killer?

Didn’t think so.

Build customer loyalty like you build a great movie.
More likely, you’re going to build customer loyalty the way a great movie does. By being great.  (Not by making your tickets easier to buy than the tickets for other movies.)

Being able to purchase tickets on Fandango with your smartphone, print them out at home, find all nearby movies and showtimes and where films are showing in 3-D vs 2-D is all great.  Movie theaters, like other businesses, need to be offering their customers these conveniences, and they’re putting themselves at a ridiculous disadvantage if they don’t. (There’s probably no more reliable way, in fact, to kill your business than by burdening your customers with inefficient processes and outdated procedures.)

But let’s listen in on the friends who’ve lately been haranguing me to see “Blue Jasmine,” the new Woody Allen film.  Not once have they completed their recommendation with, “You know, ‘Blue Jasmine’ is the movie to see–because you can order the tickets online and print them out at home, paying with your Amex card so you never have to wait in line!

Instead, they tell me they enjoyed Woody Allen being in top form as a director, how awesome Cate Blanchett was, and that it was a rollicking good tale.  Yeah, they appreciated being able to research and buy the tickets online, but it’s not what they’re going to talk about.  Or what brings them back to see it again, this time with their friends.

Remember, customers could have gone to see “Lone Ranger” as easily as they flocked to the hit Iron Man sequel. They just didn’t. Not because Fandango functionality was down for the Armie Hammer/Johnny Depp megaflop, or because their friends told them the tickets were any harder to buy than those to another movie.

They avoided “Lone Ranger’ because their friends told them it blew chunks.

Building customer loyalty is about moving customers.  Making them enjoy the experience.  Spinning a mighty good tale.

And, of course, not sucking.

This post was originally published by Micah on Forbes and is reprinted here with his permission.

Micah Solomon, author of “High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service,” is the business keynote speaker, author, and customer service consultant termed by the Financial Post “a new guru of customer service excellence.” Solomon offers speaking and consulting on customer service issues, the customer experience, and company culture – and how they fit into today’s marketing and technology landscape. An entrepreneur and business leader, he previously coauthored the bestselling “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit.”