Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Loyal Customers - true loyalists or just too lazy to change

Last week I attended a lovely event put on by Microsoft and the folks at Hotmail.  I found myself sitting in a room of 20 women or so and feeling embarrassed to say "My name is Tracey and I've had a Hotmail account since early 1997."  I was the only person in the room, who didn't work for Hotmail, that had kept their Hotmail account since the beginning.  I was proud of my dedication to hotmail, even through the rough spam heavy years (although truth be told nothing will ever beat the spam-fest that my Telus email account has become).  I stayed through the rise of gmail. In essence I stayed through the lean years when everyone else abandoned ship.

And that loyalty has paid off.  Hotmail began a real shift in the last few years.  They realize they took a lot of things for granted and dropped a few balls.  And increased functionality in their product has been great.  So over the past 2 years instead of choosing to open new accounts on other platforms I added to my existing hotmail world.  I did have a gmail account for my other blog for a while.  But it is now lives in my hotmail, along with my other 3 email accounts that all come into my hotmail hub.  So instead of having to come back to hotmail, I'm still there.  My loyalty has paid off with a better product.  And I right where I want to be.   Even if it makes me the only geek in the room.

But lets be honest.  Did I stay with Hotmail because of a strong sense of loyalty?  Did they give me fantastic customer service that I would never dream of leaving?  Did they offer me discounts or loyalty offers?  NO. 
I stayed because, really I didn't want to change my email account.  Yup, I was too lazy to change to something else. 

Apparently this is true in many aspects of my life. If it ain't broke I don't go out of my way to fix it.  I present the following as evidence:
  • Same bank since 1986.  Yes, I've added other banking products at other banks/credit unions. But my main account is still with the same bank.  Why? Well to me all the major banks come with their pros and cons. So why switch unless I really need to.  I always figured I'd change when I bought a house and had to figure out a mortgage (but I live in Vancouver and lets be frank a house isn't going to happen soon).
  • Same hairdresser since 1999.  Now I love my hairdresser and she continues to deliver a great product. She doesn't offer me price discounts.  But I feel she takes care of me.  I feel she appreciates my business and doesn't take me for granted.  So I'm loyal.  No cheating. Not even once in 12 years.
  • Same hotmail account since 1997.
  • Same car since 1999.
  • Same Internet provider since 2000.
  • Same cell phone provider since 2001.
I think you get the picture.  I'm a creature of habit.

So does this mean these brands can assume I'm a true brand loyalist?  No (except my hairdresser who I would recommend to anyone).  It just means I haven't been given a reason to leave for someone else.   

Unfortunately many brands read my loyalty as good points for them.  And then they leave me alone.  Well, except to perhaps offer me a discount to upgrade my service (and why is it I'm always suspect of their offer to help assess my products to make it better for me... always feel it is better for them). Yet, I see many of the same company's offering new customers a great bonus to lure them over.

Here is a novel idea.  What about spending a bit of time really nurturing your existing customers to ensure they become true brand loyalists.   Instead of just lazy customers.  Hotmail is certainly an example of a business working hard to keep my business.  They took a hard look at their product (and past mistakes), made some real customer focused improvements and are now reaching out to their loyal customers.


  1. There are very few brands I'd say I have any loyalty to and I find the number decreases all the time. The problem usually is the fact that indeed, they start to take you for granted.

    I've had a Rogers phone plan for eleven years now. I recently suddenly started getting a series of random phone calls at the worst times possible from them. My current contract is up in August. When finally I did manage to take their call, they wanted 'to make their prices better for me'. When I told them that while I wasn't necessarily planning on changing, but I wouldn't sign another three year contract... Suddenly they couldn't do anything for me. So then, not only have they alienated me by calling in the first place, they've shown me how little my business matters to them overall. Suddenly the bother of changing becomes a much more attractive option.

    I don't tend to go out of my way for change, but once a company starts reflecting itself badly for you... The end is nigh.

    It's sad once a business is too big to remember how they should treat their customers (or staff for that matter).

    As for hotmail... I do still have my account. I'm pretty sure only my aunt sends me email there, as she can't seem to adapt to my gmail address. It's been there since 1999... Hmm. They didn't invite me to the fiesta... DELETE. ;)

  2. Jon - I heard Telus is offering some great reasons to jump ship these days.

    And yeah, not sure how you didn't make the invist list to the party mom bloggers. :)

    But it seems to be just the beginning of their work to re-build their business. My hope is they work on their current and loyal users first and then rebuild trust with their dormant users. How is your aunt doing these days? Does she email often?

  3. It irks me - and I think many other people, too - when companies offer deep discounts to new customers, but not existing customers. A good example of that is when our TV died and we didn't replace it for two years. After cancelling our cable we got weekly calls and emails offering us the moon if we'd sign up again. It became quite irksome, actually, to receive the constant solicitations as we had no TV to hook this mythical cable up to, but they were working HARD to win us back.

    Now that we have cable again, we hear nothing. No offers, no deals, nada. Apparently, we're not worth as much now that we actually pay for their service. What's up with THAT?

  4. Laziness is almost the only reason I am loyal. You are totally right. Seriously people, long-time customers should be treated BETTER than new customers. Sidenote: I'm amused that you kept your hotmail account (confession: I have a yahoo account).