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Brand Loyalty: Why Retailers Have the Advantage in Consumer Appeal

I’d be interested to know how much time the CEOs of today’s most successful commercial enterprises spend thinking about the typical consumer’s attitude. I wonder how often they ask themselves, “Are we doing what’s best for the customer?” and “Are we fostering brand loyalty?”

Of course, the simple answer is most likely yes. Businesses that are perpetually in the public eye wouldn’t be worth a wooden nickel if they didn’t meticulously address such concerns. I’m only speculating in light of a recent study by a reputable consulting firm in which thousands of adult consumers were surveyed about their feelings toward 143 well-known companies.

The results of the survey? Well, let’s just say that certain ISPs, cable television providers, and health care insurers ranked lowest in customer appeal. On the other hand, retailers fared surprisingly well.

Here’s a list of the top ten brands that consumers are currently most loyal to:

1. Amazon.com
2. Kohl’s
3. Costco
4. Lowe’s
4. Sam’s Club
6. USAA (insurer)
7. BJ’s Wholesale Club
8. Target
9. JCPenney
10. Walgreens

A happy customer is a loyal customer.

Actually, now that I see them all in list form, maybe it’s not all that surprising for these retailers to be so highly regarded. People love to nitpick at a number of the companies listed, but when it comes down to brass tacks (or in this case, the customer’s experience with the brand), it’s all about whether or not businesses can make good on their promise to deliver. The exact product or service offered is almost irrelevant, so long as the consumer ends up satisfied. These brands are power-players because they’ve demonstrated their ability not only to deliver, but to do so with flying colors.

Seeing as how it’s virtually impossible to locate positive testimonials for either cable TV or internet service providers, it’s not exactly groundbreaking news that they rank low in customer loyalty. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that being contracted to such providers means foregoing much of what you’d expect in terms of timely and considerate service. To be fair, those companies aren’t necessarily obligated to do anything more than the bare minimum, but for many, that’s just not a good enough excuse.

Customer service should come with a smile--and an airplane.

According to the study, one of the managing partners of the firm that conducted the survey put it like this:

Executives don’t quite understand. Many…think of customer experience management as the icing on the cake of their business; believing they can slap on some good experience and everything will get better. But customer experience improvement requires broad cultural and operational changes as part of a multi-year journey.

In short, it takes a boatload of effort—something that even the smallest or most mediocre retail chain would likely know a thing or two about. Limited resources, budgetary constraints, and an oversized customer base are only acceptable excuses for so long. Eventually, subpar service is going to drive patrons elsewhere, and then the party’s over. For retailers, the incentive is always there to strive for better service, and that’s obviously a good thing.

Do you agree with this list? Which retailers or providers would you put at the top?



Joseph Giorgi

Joseph is the head of the Media Team at Quality Logo Products. He's a video specialist, blogger, perfectionist, and all-around likeable guy. When he's not busy focusing on the nitty-gritty details of his written and visual work, he's normally listening to bad 80s music and scouring the internet for useless information on useless subjects. You can also connect with Joe on Google+.

Comments

  1. cyberneticSAM

    I think this is an interesting blog in the sense that all these companies stay at the top because of 2 things: cost and location, location, location! It is hard not to shop at these places because of their accessibility. You can’t look at any street corner any more without seeing one of these places. When I need something, I don’t want to strenuously search for it so I go for what I know – what is quick and cheap, how I like my women. Ha! No j/k!

    If I had more variety in smaller businesses I would shop there. As for Amazon, well, nothing is easier than doing all of your shopping at the one-stop shop! All it takes is a mouse and a chair. Amazon knows how to appeal to everyone for everything. For me, I don’t think it is brand loyalty, but more convenience. Wouldn’t you agree? They got to the top not because of their outstanding services, but more their ability to be invasive and available.

    • cyberneticSAM

      It is pleasing to see that Wal-Mart did not make the 10 even though Sam’s Club did, small victory I think. Ugh…Walmart makes me feel dead inside.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      “[Amazon] got to the top not because of their outstanding services, but more their ability to be invasive and available.”

      I think it’s a bit of both. Amazon was one of the first major distributors online, and had their service not been stellar out of the gate, they wouldn’t be enjoying the brand loyalty that they currently do, and they certainly wouldn’t have the capacity and customer base to venture into new territories (like online grocery services and streaming movies and so on).

  2. JPorretto

    Nice work Joe! This is very interesting. I’d say the one thing most of these brands have in common are great value IN ADDITION to the great service. I think it all starts there. You can have the best customer service in the world, but if what you’re selling isn’t worth the dough, people just aren’t going to be happy. Just my $0.02.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      True. If these brands didn’t offer the kind of competitive value that consumers always have an eye for, they wouldn’t be where they’re at. Reliable service on top of that initial value just drives it home!

  3. Bret Bonnet

    “BJ’s Wholesale Club”?

    Is this a strip club in Vegas or something?!?!?

    … I think it’s only FITTING that Comcast was listed at the bottom of this list.. TWICE! :)

    Just last week I had a service appointment setup with them to fix our internet connection at home (it’s been dreadful lately; 1 MB UP/DOWN according to a speed test I ran), and they have been a NO call NO show two weeks straight now.

    Yes, I understand the weather HAS been nice outside lately, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to service my internet connection when asked. Don’t be surprised when I pay my next bill late this month Comcast because… YOU SUCK and sometimes I wish whoever is in charge of your customer service department/experience over there has their knees smashed in with a baseball bat! :(

    • Juliette

      Don’t hold back, Bret. Tell us how you really feel. ;)

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Well put!

      I’ve had nothing but trouble with that particular ISP, but since they’ll no doubt be a “necessary evil” for quite some time, I try not to let them bother me to that extent.

    • Jana Quinn

      Bret, I sense inspiration for a blog post of your own…

  4. Jill Tooley

    Great read, Joe. You know all about my loyalty to Amazon, so I guess I don’t really need to go into detail about that here. I’m loyal to them because they’re efficient, their Prime account is genius, and of course because they have the best prices around. Amazon delivers on their promises and that makes me one satisfied customer! Kohl’s is another good one and it’s fitting to see them in the top 10. I love getting rewards just for having a card with them, and they send me coupons for my birthday every year! :) (Yeah, I guess I’m easy to please!)

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I’m not too keen on Kohl’s (their selection doesn’t normally mesh with my style, or lack thereof), but I understand why consumers tend to love them as a brand. They’re affordable, reliable, and always offer fair customer service.

  5. Juliette

    Thanks for the great post, Joe! I ended up getting all curious and checking out the rest of the list. I’m with Jill on my complete loyalty to Amazon. I can’t think of a single time I’ve had a problem with them. I would have put Netflix up toward the top as well simply for their amazing customer service.

    I’m not surprised to see the well known ISPs down toward the bottom….right along with my health insurance company. I contact AT&T as little as possible to avoid getting migraines. I figure as long as my internet speed doesn’t lag too much then I won’t both them and they won’t frustrate me. Isn’t that a depressing thing to know? That you will suffer the small frustrations in silence because you don’t want to deal with non-existent customer service?

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks, Juliette!

      You’re right, it’s a shame that the average customer is made to feel that his or her concerns are of lesser importance for ISPs and insurance companies than their bottom line—contracting the customer in the first place. Once they rope you in, it usually makes for an unsatisfactory experience overall.

      Good call on Netflix. I’m always taken aback by the level of control that they provide for their customers. Being able to change the details and pricing of their service at will is practically unprecedented. They’re setting a new standard—that’s for sure.

  6. Jana Quinn

    This part stood out to me:

    “To be fair, those companies aren’t necessarily obligated to do anything more than the bare minimum, but for many, that’s just not a good enough excuse.”

    NO company is obligated to do anything more than the bare minimum. I think the contract you mentioned is the real heart of the issue: many of those companies may have great introductory offers or solid customer service as they woo clients because as soon as the clients are locked in, they’re locked in for a whole year (generally). And since the entire industry (cable, for example) is a pain to deal with, customers may figure they might as well stay with the devil they know versus the devil they don’t when it comes to contract renewal time.

    Nice commentary on the patterns you’ve seen emerge from this best of/worst of list.

    P.S. Brass TACKS. ;)

    • Jill Tooley

      Ahh! I think that’s the first typo I’ve missed! I’m fixing it now. :)

    • Joseph Giorgi

      “P.S. Brass TACKS.”

      Cut a guy some slack once in a while. ;)

      I was planning on talking a little more about the whole contract issue, but figured readers might bring it up in the comments anyway. So thanks! And yeah, the devil is in the details with certain ISPs and cable providers. The saddest part about it is that they can easily afford to boost their customer service initiatives but refuse to do so at almost every turn.

      • Jana Quinn

        THERE IS NO SLACK UNDER MY IMAGINARY REGIME!

        It would be interesting to see some kind of industry regulation would allow for breaking a contract early without penalty if certain requirements aren’t met (e.g., giving 12+ hours notice if a technician cannot make an appointment, failure to respond to service issues within X days).

        • Joseph Giorgi

          “Imaginary Regime.” Love it!

          That’s a really good point. In a perfect world, such regulation would be standard. Hopefully we’ll get there some day.

  7. Amanda Sneed

    Great post Joe! I agree with what you are all saying. I think these places are at the top because of their great service, price, location, etc. too. I shop at most of the places on this list, and am really satisfied. I have never once been let down with Kohls…they have wonderful customer service! I have shopped with Amazon a few times, for books, and have been really happy. But most of the time, when I shop online it’s with QVC.com….they keep me 120% satisfied! =)

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks! Yeah, Amazon and Kohl’s always seem to go above and beyond when it comes to service. I forgot about QVC though—since I don’t have cable, I’m not all that familiar with them.

  8. LGroce

    One brand I’m surprised that wasn’t on there is Nike. I didn’t notice it until I read the article and thought of what brands that I’m loyal to. I not only have owned everything from Nike football, basketball, baseball and tennis shoes, but also tons of gear and apparel. Nike is everywhere and makes everything including sporting equipment.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I think that when they conducted the survey, they had a specific list of companies that people were asked to rank accordingly. Nike may not have been on the list. But they’re definitely one of those brands with a devoted customer base, and it’s easy to see why. They always offer something new and reliable.

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