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Turn Complaints Into Brand-Loyal Customers

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The ultimate goal of any marketing campaign is to create brand loyalty. You want customers to remain loyal to you no matter what price your competitors offer them, no matter what product substitutes they offer, no matter what services they offer.

Brand Loyalty

Create Brand Loyalty by eliminating two steps in the Buying Process:

  1. Problem recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Purchase
  5. Post-purchase satisfaction

Brand loyalty is the elimination of two steps in the Buying Process.

Once the prospect perceives a problem, a need is created. Without bothering to seek information about resolving that need, without evaluating alternative methods of resolving that need, the prospect simply buys from you.


Brand loyalty begins with the purchase. Until that first purchase, the customer simply had a need and perceived that you (or your product) could fill that need. With his purchase begins the opportunity for you to create brand loyalty.

That step is called post-purchase satisfaction.

When you buy a lawnmower, you have made a substantial investment that you hope will solve your problem: your grass needs cutting. You hope that lawnmower will cut the grass, and you hope it will do it evenly and cleanly. You hope the lawnmower will not require a great deal of maintenance or repair; but if it does, you hope the dealer will do it quickly and inexpensively. In short, you have certain expectations about the lawnmower and its performance.

If the lawnmower performs up to your expectations, you are pleased. You have post-purchase satisfaction. But, there are two parts to post-purchase satisfaction. Empirical evidence, how the product meets your expectations, is just one part.

The other part is how the product satisfies your need to be accepted and your approval by others. How does your neighbor feel about your purchase? "Wow! What a nice-looking new lawnmower, George. Pretty fancy. Wish I had one like that."

It makes you feel good to have peer approval. It favors your self-esteem, bolsters your ego, and engenders a sense of pride in your ability to make good purchase decisions. If your neighbor were to say, "Gee, George, that's an ugly-looking machine. I can't believe how much you paid for it. My brother-in-law could have gotten you a much better deal on a more dependable model," you might either smack your neighbor upside the head, or feel bad about your purchase decision. Or perhaps both.

Typically, the larger the purchase price, the more important the need is for post-purchase reinforcement.

Car companies know the importance of post-purchase satisfaction. Immediately after buying a new car, you will likely be inundated with calls from the dealer offering to answer any questions about the car's operation, or letters from the manufacturer congratulating you on your intelligent choice. All designed to create post-purchase satisfaction.

The psychological factor is so important (many people judge others by the car he or she drives), car companies build it right into their advertising campaigns. (e.g., "Honda, the smart choice.") Good promotions support beliefs and attitudes that help the customer feel good about his or her brand choice.

Creating positive feelings after the purchase requires a good product that meets or exceeds customer expectations as well as positive psychological reinforcement for the purchase choice.

The Three Rs

Post-purchase satisfaction also includes the resolution of any problems. People want their complaints addressed quickly and courteously. And they want to feel reassured that the problem will never happen again. Ideally, they would like to have some compensation for the trouble and inconvenience the problem caused them.

Time to resort to the three Rs: Recognition, Remedy, and Reinforcement.

Imagine for a moment that you are in a restaurant. You're dining with your spouse. It's your anniversary. The waiter delivers your meals and, after a few bites, you realize that your steak is fatty, tough, and overcooked. You complain.

If the restaurant has properly trained its wait staff, you will receive acknowledgement of the problem ("I'm terribly sorry"—Recognition), an offer of a solution ("Can I get you something else, instead?"—Remedy), and satisfaction that the problem will not happen again along with some form of reward for your trouble ("The cook assured me that your steak came from an inferior supplier we won't be using again. Here's a $20 gift certificate for your next visit here"—Reinforcement).

Would you visit that restaurant again? You bet. Why? Research shows that consumers prefer the known to the unknown. Given the choice between that restaurant and some other restaurant where you don't know whether they would solve your problem satisfactorily, you would likely choose the restaurant where you know that if you have a problem they will resolve it quickly.

So it is with customer service. Follow the three Rs—Recognition, Remedy, and Reinforcement—and you can create brand-loyal customers.

Note: This article is an excerpt from the book The 5 Kick-Ass Strategies Every Business Needs.


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Robert Grede is author of The 5 Kick-Ass Strategies Every Business Needs, a teacher, speaker, and consultant. Reach him via www.thegredecompany.com.

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