Frequency Rocks!

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.

-Walt Disney                                                                                       

The Puck Stops Here

Atlanta, Georgia (my home town) has accomplished something no other US city has done – lost two NHL professional hockey teams to Canada!  Several US teams came from Canada to more money and fans down South.  But we just sent the Thrashers to Winnipeg, after sending the Flames to Calgary in 1980.  Why? 

The team’s fan base although loyal, didn’t frequent them enough.

In fact, the day of the rally in downtown Atlanta to keep the Thrashers in town, hundreds of loyal fans showed up.


That same week, over 4,000 fans bought tickets in Manitoba for a team that hadn’t been named yet or even dropped the first puck in their new arena.

Don’t get me wrong, Atlanta has had a “loyal” fan base for hockey for years…they just don’t show up frequently enough to watch the team play. The Thrashers came in near the bottom of NHL attendance for most of the 11 years they were a franchise in town. Now they are gone…along with what little revenue they brought in.

Were their fans satisfied?  Well, sort of…if they liked mediocre teams.  Were they loyal?  Yes, the few who showed up were.  But the city craved more that the team didn’t give them. 

As a customer/member service expert, I taught customer satisfaction for years.  “Give your people what they want and they will be satisfied with you.”  But your competitor can give it to them better, faster, with less hassle (or clicks online) and with more value added and you will go out of business.  You can bet on that one.

I have learned that people will be “satisfied” and still not do business with you.  I am satisfied with the service department at my automobile dealership, but they are too far from my house so I don’t drive the
distance when I need service.   I am satisfied with a local restaurant, but get tired of the same old thing week after week so we don’t eat there as often. 

We can get “satisfaction” just about anywhere.  The question is: Can they get you and me?

Most of the time, they can’t with just “satisfactory” service.  We like to be catered to.  We like to be treated
like we are important.  Don’t you?

I quit teaching the importance of customer “satisfaction” because I think it is bogus. 

Let’s face it, on most questionnaires, satisfactory is only one grade above “poor.”  Right? 

 Who wants to receive service just one step beyond poor?  We deserve better…but we seldom get it.

The Loyal Treatment
Think it’s all about customer loyalty?  Not quite. Sure, you will hear the “experts” tell you to strive for loyal customers.  Build your base. Strengthen the ties. But will people in a recession open their wallets for just that?  I don’t think so. 

For example, many people are loyal to their political persuasion.   But they didn’t vote in the last election.  How many of you are loyal to your favourite professional team but have never attended a game or spent much on a pro jersey to wear?  Why not?

We spend too much time building “loyalty” instead of frequency.

I have heard it said that customer satisfaction is nothing and customer loyalty is everything.  I think that is a bit far-fetched.  So what if people are loyal?  It doesn’t mean they will open their wallets and spend money for you.  You can create a status program of customers (Silver Elite, Gold, Platinum, Diamond), sponsors
and priority members but it doesn’t mean you will necessarily make them buy from you more frequently. 

I wonder if the people who develop these programs actually spend time asking their top customers who
ELSE’S programs they belong to in addition to theirs?  Who, other than them, are they spending time
and money on?  Do they know whether their loyal base is doing business with them, and only them? 

Do you?

What’s the Frequency?

I am not against these status-based loyalty programs.  I use them.  The Kroger grocery store chain has
one of the best loyalty cards in the business.  You can get cheaper gasoline (a great perk with rising costs), save on items in the store and numerous other benefits.  But that doesn’t mean I also don’t shop at
Publix, Fred Meyer, Trader Joe’s, Costco and many, many more stores, too.

Companies spend tons of money on loyalty programs.  But don’t they realise that their “loyal” participants are also shopping elsewhere?  As a member of the Marriott Rewards program, I get points every time I stay in a Marriott chain hotel.  After accumulating lots (and I mean lots) of points, I get free stays and special upgrades. 

That is great.  It really doesn’t cost them that much if I stay with them enough to pay for it in the first place.  But I am also a member of Hilton honours, Starwood Preferred Guest, Priority Club, etc.  I get points from those franchises and I stay with them all over the world.  I use their points, too. 

Now if Marriott could figure out a way to make me want to stay exclusively with them, they would make more money. But their “loyalty” program is almost identical to everyone else’s. I like Marriott. But I stay in other hotels. I am loyal, but not exclusive in that loyalty. It isn’t about customer loyalty alone. 

Give me frequency over satisfaction or loyalty and I will beat you any time.

While arriving at a Canadian airport last month, I noticed a very long line near the security checkpoint.  I asked the gate agent how long the wait was that morning to get through screening.  She laughed and said, “That’s not the security line; that’s the line for Tim Horton’s Coffee!”  There was no line at the generic coffee shop and I doubt there ever will be.

Customer frequency is what business is all about.  If Dillard’s could get me to shop with them more frequently, they would run Macy’s and the rest of the competition out of the business.  It’s that simple.

Netflix did it to Blockbuster.  Barnes and Noble did it to Borders.  Best Buy did it to Circuit City.  Wal-Mart did it to “Main Street.”  You can do it, too.  It’s about customer frequency.  

The Closer You Get
Your loyal base is important, I agree.   But it doesn’t end with loyalty.  It only starts there. 

Customer satisfaction is nice; customer loyalty is better; customer frequency determines whether you stay in business tomorrow or not.  It begins and ends with frequency.  You need to find out what makes your loyal customers and members work with you more often. 

To do that, you have to get closer to them in every possible way.  Find out their habits.  Find out what they want that no one else is giving them.  The reason they are members of your association or organisation is that they found value in you they couldn’t find anywhere else.  Now, are they receiving the value you
deliver?  The reason they shop everyone else is because they are getting something somewhere else that they aren’t getting from you anymore.

The closer you get to your customers, the more of them you will have.

The closer you get to your “loyal” existing customers and find out why they like your product or service;
why they like being a member of your organisation; why they like YOU, it will tap into what would make them frequently buy from you more; be more active in your organisation; get closer to you and what you do. They will also reveal what they WISH you were doing for them…that you aren’t right now (and probably
no one else is, either).

What would make you buy from one supplier; volunteer for an organisation; use the service of only one company in an industry?  What would make you “frequent” them?

This may seem radical, but why don’t you just start asking them?  Why don’t you start targeting the people who frequently work with you and stop wasting time on the ones who don’t?  It’s a healthy choice.

Are your fans, customers, members, clients loyal, or frequent?  They can be the most loyal in the world, but frequency will determine whether you stay in business (and where).

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