Return on Behavior Magazine
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May 21st, 2010

How to Build Customer Loyalty – Make and Keep Credible Promises

It is no wonder that very few companies enjoy customer loyalty nowadays. Consumers are skeptical of company promises.

A “new” product is not really “new.” A great-looking item on an info-commercial works much differently than demonstrated. The beautifully designed hotel room pictured on the website leaves a lot to be desired.

This is why in my new book, “Strategy Activation: How to Turn Your Vision into Marketplace Success,” I show how your organization can build customer loyalty by delivering what is expected.

Why Making Promises Is Not Enough Anymore

The Loyalty Engagement Index by Brand Keys, a New York marketing consultancy, shows that consumer expectations climbed for a decade—up 28 percent. Yet, brands only kept up 7 percent of the time. The result: Customers were perpetually disappointed.

In 2007, this changed drastically.

Consumer expectations leveled off.

“Consumers are more realistic,” said Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff. “Their desires are now based on experience rather than expectation. Consumers who’ve been disappointed for so long seem to have surrendered.”

In other words, consumers now expect imperfect results from companies. They have become cynical and assume that certain things will likely not go their way. But don’t confuse expectation with acceptance. When the inevitable letdown occurs, they search elsewhere for a new product or service provider.  Not a good situation.

Companies need to turn around these negative expectations. Making a promise is not enough to get people flocking to your door.  You have to give them a credible promise and a reason to believe that your promise is not another empty one.

For example:

  • You promise me speed?  Why should I believe that you could actually deliver speed?
  • You promise me luxury?  How are you going to deliver luxury?
  • You promise me safety and security?  Can you really keep me safe?

How to Let Consumers Know Exactly How You Will Fulfill Your Promises

You have to communicate the “What” and the “How” to your prospects and customers. The promise is “What” you say you’re doing.  The reason to believe is “How” you do it.   For example:

  • We will deliver speed by flying your packages overnight to your destination rather than truck them. (Fed Ex)
  • We will deliver luxury by giving you the Heavenly Bed. (Westin Hotels)
  • We will safeguard you with our Roll Over Protection System. (Volvo XC90)

Marketers call these the pillars of the promise.  They give customers the additional details they need to make an informed decision.

For example, Marriott Hotel promises “Achievement Guests” (those driven to perform and who thrive on personal excellence) an environment that inspires their performance.  That’s quite a promise.  To back it up, Marriott developed three pillars to build credibility:

  1. Achieve. The hotel’s professional, performance-driven side offers well-lit, ergonomic work desks that easily move. This way guests can create the best work environment.
  2. Revive. The luxury offerings include aromatherapy bath products, 300-thread-count sheets, and high-definition TVs that guests can connect to personal devices such as iPods.
  3. Culture. The emphasis is on warm, friendly, sincere service built on their pledge to provide a refreshingly human touch in today’s hectic world.

How to Create a Compelling Brand Promise Supported by Convincing Evidence

Large hotel chains are not the only organizations developing strategic pillars to support their marketplace promises. Dunlop Tires promises performance. Here are the five credible reasons why you can believe that they deliver high-performance tires:

Reason #1: Innovative New Products. “New” to Dunlop consists of developing a different product: They don’t just make a small change to an existing product and call it “new.”

Reason #2: Linkage to the world’s most prestigious auto brands. Dunlop can point to prestigious automobile companies that use its tires, which builds credibility.

Reason #3: European heritage. This third reason to believe was based on its reputation as a performance leader in the fields of European automobiles and racing that played to the customers’ emotional connection with their cars.

Reason #4: Link to the racing circuits. Dunlop has a strong reputation in auto and motorcycle racing circuits in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan.

Reason #5: Cutting-edge website. The site dares to be different and continually changes to cater to automotive enthusiasts and their lifestyles.

This is why Dunlop Tires has superior customer loyalty.

How to Find the Right Marketplace Promise to Specifically Target Customers—Then Continually Deliver on It

Not all promises are created equal.  Each organization carries its unique marketplace permissions and organizational competencies. Your best customer promise depends on several important factors:

  • Is your promise compelling to customers, and does it distinguish you from competitors?
  • What permissions and limits have customers placed on you? The marketplace has to believe in your ability to keep your promise.
  • Do you have credible reasons for the customer to believe your promise? What assurances can you provide that your promise will be delivered in the marketplace?
  • Can you consistently deliver on your promise?
  • What current or new capabilities can support marketplace implementation?

Finding the right promise that resonates best with your target customers is the critical first step.  But making empty promises is a futile and unprofitable exercise.  Keeping promises made to the customer is the only way you will build customer loyalty. This is the new paradigm for success!

About the Author

Scott Glatstein

With a real passion for implementation, Scott Glatstein has been helping 

companies keep their promises to the marketplace for over 25 years. Whether 

creating new businesses, transforming companies or opening new channels he 

helps his clients align their marketplace offerings, people and infrastructure to 

their chosen marketplace strategy. His simple, focused approach to strategy 

development and execution has helped both established and emerging 

companies leverage their resources and build sustainable sales and profit growth.

Prior to founding IMPERATIVES, Scott’s successful corporate career spanned 

both large and small companies including consumer marketing leaders General 

Mills, Pillsbury and ConAgra. His diverse career path includes senior 

management positions in product marketing, trade marketing, field sales and 

general management. A posting as CEO of Pillsbury Brands Africa in 

Johannesburg, South Africa added international business development to his 

broad skill base.






Recognized as a pioneer of disciplined strategy implementation, Scott brings a 

holistic approach to business execution. With Strategy Activation® Scott has 

created a bold, new, technique linking strategic planning and marketplace 

implementation. This straightforward model has helped companies large and 

small, here and abroad, turn strategic intent into satisfied customers.

Scott received a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing and Finance 

from Indiana University. He received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from 

Michigan State University.







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