Customer Loyalty has a Formula

10-09-2018 by Tyler Chisholm

(4 min read)

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

- Maya Angelou

As consumers, we want to feel good about the purchases we make and about the companies we support. We want to know that, when we connect with a brand, it’s about more than just a transaction; we are humans, and as such, we love when people actually care.

Sounds simple enough in theory, but there is a catch: you need a key ingredient — one that’s lacking in so many company-customer relationships. Namely, you need empathy.

Empathy is the act of putting yourself in another’s shoes and truly identifying with their situation. The simple act of doing this is not something a brand can own; it is a way of understanding what your customer really wants, and how you can help solve their challenges. Effectively, viewing your customer empathetically is the best way to show them that you care.

Years ago I lost my wallet — a cleary catastrophic event. And after what seemed like hours of searching and retracing my steps, I finally had to admit to myself that it was well and truly gone. The first call I made was to my primary day-to-day credit card — at the time a Visa. They expressed empathy, said they would cancel my existing card, and have a new one sent to me within five-to-seven business days. Really?! Five-to-seven days?


My next call was for my lesser-used American Express. A phone rep also said they were sorry to hear of the loss, and would cancel my card right away. But then a magical moment arrived: they asked me what address would be best to have my new card couriered to me within 24 hours!

For a moment I was speechless. “Did you say 24 hours,” I replied, unsure of what I’d just heard. “That’s right,” the customer service agent answered confidently, before assuring me that this was their standard practice — they knew how much their customers relied on them, and subsequently they wanted to minimize the time a customer would be without a credit card.

Reflecting back on both conversations I had with CSRs from Visa and American Express, the moment of truth came at the end of each call when I was asked two nearly identical questions: “Did we exceed your expectations today?”

Before I share my answer, it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge that there’s a slippery slope between notions of “meeting” and “exceeding.” For simplicity’s sake, let’s consider meeting to be what I think I need, and exceeding to be what I really need.

Now consider that I was dealing with two universally-known companies with access to FedEx or Purolator services. So why did one company care enough about my needs to ensure my replacement card arrived within 24 hours, while the other promised it within a window of five-to-seven business days? Without fly-on-the-wall access to the inner workings of both companies, I can only conclude that American Express cares about me more than Visa. In short, they were more empathetic to my situation than their competitor. What else am I left to think?

In the business world we can be crushed under the overwhelming weight of multiple decision makers, quarterly reports, shareholder value, and the need for data to support every decision. For all intents and purposes, I get it — in reality you have customers who couldn't care less about what goes on behind the scenes, who really just care about how you treat them. Often, the secret to treating them exceedingly well isn’t nearly as hard to discover as we make it out to be.

As more and more companies embark on a journey towards customer-centricity, I encourage you to look at your customers first and foremost as people; just as you want to be treated with respect, so do they. Just as you’d enjoy being surprised and delighted by interactions (daily, weekly, or even once in a blue moon — it’s all relevant) with a brand that cares, so do they.

This happens when you take the time to work with tried and tested methods, to learn as much as you can from the people who hold the keys to your kingdom: your customers.

Diving deeper, there are valuable methodologies that offer a more nuanced and complete understanding of what your customers experience when working with you.

Here are a few of the ways in which companies can engage with their customers, to uncover a deeper understanding of how those customers really feel about them.


Net Promoter Score (NPS) 
Net Promoter Score is a percentage measurement of your current customers, and whether or not they would recommend your company to their friends and family. In effect, this is an excellent way to gauge customer loyalty. NPS is also helpful at identifying existing challenges, prompting the need for further investigation to determine what the specific issues are.


Customer Effort Score (CES) 
Customer Effort Score is one of my favourites. It provides you with direct feedback from your customers concerning the amount of effort required of them to accomplish a task with your organization. This is a fantastic way to gain post-transaction insights immediately with a survey or a direct phone call.


Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) 
Customer Satisfaction is a 10-point scale gauging the level of satisfaction a customer had with your product or experience (with 1 representing the least satisfied, and 10 being the most satisfied). When I lost my wallet, Visa would have received an 8 — but only until I spoke with Amex, who would have received a 10. After which, I would have revised my Visa score to a 5. Never forget that your customer’s experiences don’t exist in a vacuum; your competitors are always waiting around the corner to pick up where you may have left off.


Beta Testing 
Beta Testing takes a slightly different, much deeper approach that goes beyond simple ratings and questionnaires. This testing evaluates customer satisfaction with your company's product or service by guiding targeted users through a digital experience over a period of weeks. Beta testers assess the entire customer experience with your product; when executed properly, it runs as a comprehensive program. Most importantly, it can uncover important truths about what is actually happening at the customer level, helping you understand how these customer experiences are adding or detracting from the end goal of the offering.


As leaders and managers, it’s too easy to sit in our ivory towers, convinced that we know what our customers feel about our companies or what they truly want. In reality, though, a small change like using a courier versus snail mail could be the make-or-break scenario that influences a customer to change their primary credit card provider (which for the record, it did in my case). Truly caring about your customers, in a way that compels you to learn as much about them as possible, is the first sure-fire step in knowing what they need before they do.


To learn more about Customer Centricity please check out Customer Centricity: Lessons from Mick & Keith