Article

Loyalty v. Fidelity

March 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Mauricio Espinosa - Also by this author

For some companies, loyalty means having a customer loyalty program. These programs are in abundance and go by many names; each of which will include one of these three words - miles, points or rewards. For the company, the pitfall of a loyalty program is the illusion of customer loyalty to the company. When we look behind the illusion, we find the reality is that the customer is not loyal to the company or to the company’s products and/or services. The truth is that the customer is loyal to the program because it gives the customer some benefit that he or she likes. If your competitor one-ups your program, that so-called loyal customer of yours will jump ship and become your competitor’s so-called loyal customer. The loyalty I speak of is something that can’t be bought.

Loyalty programs are a good thing. They provide benefits to customers, but they do not create or build loyalty. Loyalty comes from believing in someone or something and a mutual respect. Loyalty is built upon the customer feeling and believing that he or she is in the right place, being taken care of by the right people, and having all their needs met (including needs they didn’t even realize they had). That is the loyalty that retains current customer business and brings in new referrals, which grows your business.

In the Hispanic culture, loyalty is built through time and consistently being there for the family. In the Hispanic community the problem of one member becomes the problem of the family; the victory of one member becomes the victory of the family. Think of your customers as your family. Loyalty is gained through the formation of a strong relationship with the customer— not a simple miles or rewards program.

A question I pose to clients is this:  Do customers and prospects identify your company by your loyalty program, or do they identify your company by your Vision, Mission, Passion (VMPTM)? When your company has turned from your VMP to some program, you’ve lost your focus. Before reaching for loyalty and fidelity, you may need to revisit your company’s mission and regain focus.

When your customers become part of your business, when they are doing more than recommending you, when they are selling you, sending you qualified customers ready to buy, you have Loyalty. When your employees become part of your business - that’s Fidelity.

While loyalty is about looking outward (i.e. making your customers your family), fidelity - the top of the CSI Pyramid - is about looking inward; it’s built within with your employees. It comes from the behavior of your employees. Employees must feel that the company they work for is more than just work. They should identify that your business is the source of all that they have; the source of their financial means to realize goals and dreams.

When your employees gain a sense of ownership, then you’ll realize the power had in multiple individuals representing your company. The affect is so strong that the customers, vendors or anyone that comes near, wants to become a part of it. Welcome to the pinnacle of the CSI Pyramid.

You might be thinking to yourself that the talk about loyalty in the Hispanic culture, building a family and forging relationships is nice and all, but you ask yourself, “Can we really accomplish fidelity in an automobile dealership?”

When you work together as a family, employees and customers grow together and you become stronger and better, which leads to stability. As with any family, make sure you always thank them and celebrate success together. For example, sometimes management throws a little party for the staff to celebrate 25 years in business. What about the customers, shouldn’t you be celebrating with them? They are what kept you going for those 25 years. I say, think bigger; do more than a party. Have a carnival and invite the whole family. Celebrate not just your success, but the success of your employees and customers as well.

I must stress to you that loyalty and fidelity are not something you can do half-way, nor just decide to stop and quit. It is a challenging road that requires a daily commitment. I assure you the road leads to victory and it is well worth the adventure.

Hasta la vista.

Vol 5, Issue 1

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