Testing, testing, 1,2,3…
I’m gobsmacked that the year is almost halfway over. For some bizarre reason, this rapid passing of time has got me thinking about Christmas (yes, I know, I must be crazy) and what a focal point it can be for many businesses. Of course, a company’s performance at any time of year can impact on their success and relationship with their customers but it must be extra trying over the holiday period, particularly for those in the retail sector.
Take Apple and Samsung as a case in point.
Both of these electronic brands have a devoted audience but, at the end of last year, they really tested customer loyalty to the limit when facing product shortages in the run up to Christmas.
I am frankly astounded that these brand giants found themselves in this position. But they did.
Apple was facing supply constraints on its iPhone 7 Plus and, with only 3 or 4 weeks to go, hadn’t released a key stocking stuffer; the wireless AirPods for the headphone jack-less phone.
Samsung, meanwhile, had been forced to pull one of its flagship phones from shelves as part of a global recall, and a new version of the product hadn’t been put on the market.
Between them, they were clearly running the risk of upsetting a lot of kids, tweens and teenagers on Christmas morning (one would hope the adults would take the disappointment on the chin).
On ‘panic Saturday’ (the name that the Saturday before Christmas is known by), UK consumers spent around £42 million on electronic goods. Ok, not all of those items would be the fated Samsung or Apple products, but what of those that were?
I never did manage to discover whether they managed to provide the inventory before it was too late for Christmas shoppers and even if they did, not everyone is willing to wait until the eleventh hour to finish their gift buying.
To which end, the companies could well have blown the opportunity with some customers. (Though research showed that there wasn’t any majorly negative impact in the long-term and some customers did wait. I guess that’s a perk that comes with being a brand giant).
However, according to a survey carried out by supply chain start-up Elementum, not everyone was willing to wait until shelves were stacked and recall issues were resolved;- seventeen percent of customers said they would seek out alternative products if their favourite electronics brand was faced with a shortage.
In light of Samsung’s recall, a further three-quarters of respondents told Elementum that they would temporarily lose trust in a brand if a product was recalled.
And these are brands with fierce loyalty: A Reuters study found that “91 percent of current Samsung users would likely purchase another Samsung smartphone, and 92 percent of current users would probably buy another Samsung product in general. Similarly, 92 percent of iPhone users would likely buy another iPhone and 89 percent would likely buy another Apple product.”
Those percentages signify serious brand commitment.
Of course, widening their search and choosing to change brand allegiance is a buyer’s prerogative.
The question is though, if really strong brands like these – that instill such a fierce loyalty in their users – aren’t immune to the possibility of customers having a change of heart and focusing their attentions on a rival brand, for whatever reason, where does that leave the rest of us mere mortals?
Communication is key…
Of course, in an ideal world nothing would ever go wrong.
Product recall or shortage? Pah, not in my business!
Too long a response time or less that perfect user experience feedback score? Don’t be daft!
Meanwhile, back here on planet earth…. We know that a business is only as good as its people and to err is human, so how do we ensure that we keep loyal customer losses to a minimum?
Obviously, it’s important to have contingency plans in place should you encounter such issues, particularly at key times of year when problems are more likely to arise (holidays and major sale periods for retail consumer goods, winter for heating and boiler repair firms etc. – you get the picture)?
But it’s also important to go beyond that.
Quite often – and I personally feel it’s likely to be the case in the world of Samsung and Apple too – customer loyalty may well be built on the comfort that comes from knowing something inside out (I, for one, felt like I’d had a limb removed when I eventually switched from Android to Iphone – it was temporarily the end of life as I knew it).
However, for true, unwavering loyalty, customers need to be comfortable with not just your content (your product or service offering) but your company’s character too: a relationship can’t simply be transactional, they have to appreciate your brand personality and values to make them choose you time and again.
And if things do go wrong make sure you can at least implement a plan for consistent communication and an expected service level.
Communication really is key in your relationship with customers. As one consumer reportedly told Apple last December: “Just give us a release date. I really bought in to the wireless vision you painted. Now I’m stuck waiting with my EarPods but can’t charge my 7 at the same time which I need to do at work. Let us know if it’s a month or 6 months, because then I’ll just buy some other wireless headphones.”
When staff go that extra mile and listen, respond or act and communicate effectively after something goes array, they are proving that your brand really does care that things are right for customers. That’s what helps to retain that loyalty despite a glitch in the user experience.
Get in touch with The Monachie Project today and let us go the extra mile in using our unique approach to help you build an army of customers that are fiercely loyal to your brand.