What’s Stopping Your Customers from Switching Brands: Loyalty or Lack of Choice?

50% of the customers say that they switch to a different brand if their needs aren’t met1

On the contrary, customers wouldn’t change their mobile network operator over a single incident of bad connectivity issue. Similarly, even when a customer has to struggle for months to get a wrongly debited payment from their account, they are less likely to stop doing business with that bank.

While increased expectations have led customers to frequently switch brands, there are certain industries like real estate, banking, and telecom where customers stay loyal by default.

Why?

Well, they can’t keep moving to another network operator or bank as easy as shifting multiple tabs on their PC. Such shifts cost them money and time not to mention the tedious process behind it. As a result, customers choose to deal with bad connectivity or payment processing glitches rather than having to make the change.

So, does this mean these customers will stay loyal no matter what, and the brands can get away with such bad customer experiences?

Actually, it depends on these factors:

– One’s own saturation point
– Level of easiness involved in shifting to another brand

This article discusses the above two factors with instances, their influence on the customer’s decision making, how they affect businesses and what they need to succeed in the long run. If you belong to an industry like banking, real estate, telecommunications or wherever the customer lifetime value is high by default, it’s time you became aware of the shift of power to consumers.

#1 One’s Own Saturation Point

Let’s say John buys an apartment from a real estate company. He moves in with his family and within a few months, starts encountering some issues. The walls develop cracks and the ceiling develops dampness during the winter season. He repeatedly asks the real estate company to take responsibility and rectify those issues but the real estate company turns a deaf ear.

Despite being frustrated, John has only two choices – either sell the apartment or go on an endless loop of fixing these issues incurring additional costs. But, the harsh reality is he has already invested so much on this apartment and if he tries selling it off, no one’s ready to buy except for a really low price. He’s caught in a mess with no choice but to keep spending money on additional repairs. And, the worst part is he accepts it even after knowing that the real estate company has been unfair to him.

How Long Before the Brands Begin to Take their Customers’ Issues Seriously

The general view that customer loyalty depends on post-sales experience does not apply to every sector. In industries like real estate, manufacturing, financial services, etc, the purchase is left to the owner’s risk which is why most businesses turn a blind eye post-sale.

In the above example, it’s clear that the real estate company has an upper hand. It might even appear like the customer has no power over them. Yet, something which such brands forget is the bad reputation they are accumulating. While brands were able to survive without heeding to customer issues in the past, technology has amplified the impact of negative word of mouth bringing about their downfall. Customer feedback and their long term satisfaction are taking the forefront. And, let’s not forget the fact that 90% of consumers read online reviews2 before making purchasing decisions.

Here’s where you can turn the tables by making the first move. If there’s something wrong, apologize and own up to your mistakes. Work with your customers in resolving their issues. This will definitely garner your brand lots of positive word of mouth. Over time, this will gain your business a distinct advantage. Before you know, each one of your loyal customers would have turned brand ambassadors, making way for new customers.

#2 Level of Easiness Involved in Switching to Another Brand

Let’s take a 10-year challenge. Had it been the late 2000s when Mary experienced problems with her mobile network, things would have been unfavorable for her. Not many people had smartphones let alone mobile internet access. She would’ve had a basic mobile and switching to another brand would’ve been a mammoth task. If she had switched to another brand that offered affordable plans, it meant she would’ve to buy a new number. This process would have taken a few days. And, she would’ve lost her current number which was known to all of her contacts. Unthinkable, right?

If you fast forward to now, Mary’s situation is entirely different. She has a smartphone with internet access. If she feels her mobile internet is lacking speed, all she has to do is buy another brand’s SIM and insert it into her phone’s dual SIM slot. This way, she can still use her old number to make calls while using the new SIM to access the internet. Even if she wants to make a complete switch, she has the option of number portability that lets her retain the same number despite switching to another brand.

As you see, with advancing technology and options to switch brands, customers can’t be forced to stay loyal. But, even after the ball being in the customers’ court, why do they stick to certain brands despite receiving a subpar experience? Here’s where another scenario comes in.

When Brands Take Advantage of Customers’ Loyalty

In some industries, brands don’t have a distinct advantage over another. That’s when they stop offering benefits because customers don’t have a choice to leave. But, when new players enter the market with better deals, customers don’t hesitate to make the switch.

For example, when Jio entered the Indian telecom industry with low priced data plans, it crossed 50 million subscribers within 83 days, taking the position of a formidable opponent to the current players in the market. The user base of competitors like Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea started to shrink and they experienced major revenue losses within the same quarter. As a result, they were forced to lower their prices and offer better plans to retain their customers. And, here’s what Sunil Sood, then CEO of Vodafone India had to say on this matter:

“We welcome the competition and it has always made us strive that much better for the customers’ benefit. So once again I see consumers benefiting from all that is happening because you have to remodel what you are doing to make it more effective, remove the wastage and be more efficient. Therefore that remodeling of your company helps you to give better offers to your consumers at more appropriate prices and other offers.”

So, before you take pride in your large customer base, get to the roots and see what’s holding them from switching brands. Don’t stop with conducting customer surveys as they reveal only half the truth. Carry out a detailed competitive analysis to find out where you stand amidst other players. If you are at parity with all your competitors, remember that one blow from the competition or a new entrant is all it takes to shatter your customer loyalty. On the other hand, planning ahead and improving all aspects of your brand right from the product to customer service can work wonders. Come what may – a new technology or competition – your customers would want to stay with you.

Conclusion

Customer expectations have skyrocketed in recent years. Yet in certain industries, customers choose to stay, not out of loyalty but lack of choice. This unfair trend is slowly dissolving with customers getting the chance to switch brands and influence the brand’s long term success.

Be it any industry, every organization has to be receptive to their customer needs to gain their loyalty. It takes years to be on their credible list and the only way any brand can achieve this is by truly championing the needs of customers.

Source:
1 – https://freshdesk.com/customer-support/customer-support-statistics-infographic-blog/
2 – http://mytestimonialengine.com/how-reviews-affect-purchasing-decisions-and-seo/

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