Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How Loyal Are You?

Wanna play a game? It won't take long, I promise. Just run through this list of brand names and see which ones you prefer. 

Target or Walmart?
Coke or Pepsi?
AMC or Regal Cinema?
Hershey or Nestle?
United or JetBlue?
Home Depot or Lowe's?
McDonald's or Burger King?
How quickly were you able to do this? I'm guessing pretty fast because like most people, you know what brands or products you prefer. But have you ever thought about why you like one over another?

Brand loyalty is what marketers strive for. So they try fancy packaging, prettier colors, prettier faces, flashier graphics, etc. That might work for a little while, but what really determines customer loyalty is the emotional connection they make.

I was lucky enough to work at Walt Disney World for many years. And I've got many lessons I could share with you. But really, the one big lesson that I and every other cast member was taught is if you're not providing exceptional guest service, you're not doing your job.

I was a tour guide at Disney. First at the Backstage Studio Tour in those long, red shuttles. And then in Guest Relations, at what was then known as Disney-MGM Studios. I loved working for Disney and I loved my job. 

But in the bigger picture, my job title was kind of irrelevant. Why? Because everyone at Disney has the same job: to provide exceptional guest service. Not just really good guest service, but exceptional guest service. 

Granted, it doesn't always happen. Disney is a company run by humans. Humans who make mistakes sometimes and don't always handle things well. But Disney has a term for that, too: "Service Recovery." It's basically fixing what went wrong as best as you possibly can. 

The Disney movies and songs trigger good feelings and smiles in people, for sure. And that's all part of the brand, too. 

But I believe that the reason people visit Walt Disney World, Disneyland or any other Disney property not just once but over and over again throughout their lives is because of the emotional component. 

People enjoy being greeted by the smiling gentleman who's been welcoming guests at the entrance of the Grand Floridian for years. They love visiting a family "brick" on the pathway near the Polynesian Resort. And they marvel at how Snow White or the Fairy Godmother remembers meeting their child earlier in the day...and then waves and calls their child by name from the parade float hours later (true story).

It all boils down to exceptional customer service. Successful brands or companies or small businesses are ones that consistently exceed expectations and leave an indelible imprint on their customers. They make their customers - or guests - feel welcomed, appreciated and most important, they make them feel valued. 

Chances are, the brands you chose at the beginning of this post make you feel the same way, too.

So what brands did I miss? Which ones are you most loyal to and why? What is it about them that makes you loyal to their products?

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