Loyalty is a concept we’re all familiar with. It might even be a goal in our business plans. But to what extent is brand loyalty a reality or myth?
Someone I know who’s in the home maintenance industry once remarked: ‘There is no loyalty in the services I provide.’ What he meant was there was no loyalty to the service provider. Instead people make decisions based on opportunity and price. This of course positions that tradesman as both an opportunity and a threat. Depending on whether we’re talking about a new prospect or an existing customer.
Compare this to the world of home energy. There it seems we’re reluctant to change suppliers. That’s why the big 6 dominate. But is that proof of loyalty or is it in fact inertia? Or is it another L-word, laziness? I’ve seen a number of consumer affairs programmes over the years that talk about how changing energy suppliers just isn’t on the ‘to-do’ list for many of us. Despite the savings of several hundred pounds that can be made. One TV advert went as far as to state that all gas and electricity is basically the same. The ‘product’ is identical, and so in effect the change is only really who bills you. Despite this many of us just can’t be bothered. So it’s laziness, not loyalty that keeps us with our current supplier. If we can even remember who that is of course.
The world of retail banking is pretty much the same. A teenager given a bank account by their parents is likely to stick with the same bank well into middle age or even retirement. I suspect some of this is down to the fact that banks are, like insurance, seen as something you ‘have to have’. Not something that you ‘want to have’. This often makes it feel like there isn’t any real choice involved. Generally I’m quite good at switching my energy supplier. But I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to banking, despite some recent lacklustre service incidents:
When attempting to open a new account with my current bank they made three basic errors in as many weeks. The first I put down to bad luck. After the second they offered me some wine as an apology, which I declined since I just wanted the error corrected. But after the third screw up and a second offer of a couple of bottles of fine wine I finally accepted their gift. Thankfully all is now well. But it made me think long and hard about changing bank.
The trouble is that this is the bank that launched in the late 1980s. It also consistently comes top of any polls about best banks. So it raises the question if this is the best, how bad can the others be? (The sad thing is that having been evangelical in my praise for this bank over the years, I’m now reluctant to actually recommend them to anyone).
Maybe my experience is proof that our loyalty isn’t to a particular brand but to protect our time and stress levels.
Or perhaps we stay put with our existing suppliers not because we’re loyal and like what we get, but for the fear of how much worse things might be with someone else.
Call it what you will but it’s not loyalty is it?