BUSINESS MARKETING: Customer loyalty is a myth

2013-01-19T10:50:00Z BUSINESS MARKETING: Customer loyalty is a mythLarry Galler Times Business Columnist
January 19, 2013 10:50 am  • 

A bedtime parable:

Once upon a time there was a little corner grocery. It was owned by a hard-working man who worked hard and knew most of his customers by name. He would often say, “I have the most loyal customers; they know I care for them and work hard to please them.” He actually believed that.

But things changed. Larger stores with far greater selection of products, better lighting, more convenient hours, lower prices and more services seduced his once-loyal customers away.

I wish there was a happy ending to this little story but there isn’t. With few exceptions, the corner grocer has become extinct and so have many small businesses, gobbled up by changes in demographics, increased customer mobility, economies of scale, and public perceptions. But somehow the myth of customer loyalty endures.

Seemingly loyal customers will leave when their current vendor ceases to satisfy their “needs and wants." Or maybe a competitor promises, by marketing and advertising, to give them greater satisfaction in some way – better value, more convenience, more prestige, higher quality, friendlier service, more amenities, etc.

We live in a dynamic business world where things change at an ever increasing rate. The only way a business can keep their customers returning is to turn the concept of “customer loyalty” inside-out by creating the concept of “loyalty to customers.”

If the business is exceedingly loyal to its customers by knowing their needs and wants and updating themselves, working to always being the customer’s vendor of choice, the company will be constantly updating the products and services they sell. The business will enticing its customers to return by being competitive in pricing and amenities and training staff in serving customers, then reinforcing that training so the level of service never falters.

Great businesses don’t believe the myth of customer loyalty. They know customers return only because they continue to be satisfied and will leave (appear to be disloyal?) when they are not satisfied or feel they can be better satisfied somewhere else.

Continue to increase customer satisfaction and it will appear you have loyal customers. Don’t believe that myth.


Opinions are solely the writer's. Larry Galler, of Larry Galler & Associates, is a marketing and management consultant for small and mid-size companies. Learn about Galler’s award-winning advanced marketing and management program, “One Year to Greatness,” on a free, live conference call Wednesday. For more info email put OYTG in the subject line.

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