A Lesson in Customer Loyalty

Loyalty is not about the perks; loyalty is an emotional feeling you get from those who care about you as a person.

As a Training account manager for Signature Worldwide, I often speak to hotel associates about the importance of creating and maintaining customer loyalty.

The majority of the clients in my portfolio are branded hotels and offer Loyalty Rewards Programs for their frequent guests. I am a member of these rewards programs and I appreciate the perks (airline miles, hotel points, dedicated space at the arrivals/departures counter, complimentary upgrades, etc.), but what I have come to appreciate the most is the way in which I am treated—not as a “number” or “level,” but as a frequent customer who is loyal to the brand.

For many years, I have been renting cars in San Diego using Signature Worldwide’s preferred car rental company, and, like any other frequent traveler, I am part of their Loyalty Rewards Program. This past year, I ended up renting a car with Alamo, which was not Signature’s preferred car rental company. I was not a happy camper, but decided to just go with the flow.

Once I arrived in San Diego, I was pleasantly surprised by how often the Alamo shuttle buses passed through the arrivals terminal at the airport, how easy it was to get to the rental car location, and how well I was taken care of at the rental car office.

The rental car itself was also a delightful surprise. The vehicle had less than 10,000 miles on it, which I cannot say was always the case with that other “preferred” company. In fact, there were several times the cars from the other agency were old, beaten up, and didn’t always smell so nice!

Later that week I returned the car and, once again, was pleasantly surprised that there was a shuttle bus ready and waiting to take me back to the airport. Once in the shuttle, the driver received a radio massage from the rental car office asking if I was still on the bus. The driver confirmed that I was, and then he was told that I had left my cell phone in my returned rental car and that it was on its way to the airport on another bus. I was given the bus number and told to wait at the drop-off location. My wait time for the second bus was less than five minutes, and the driver hopped out of his seat to hand me my cell phone. Wow! I was impressed!

I retrieved my phone, headed through security, boarded my plane, and settled in for my flight home. As I sat there waiting to take off, I remembered a time I had left my cell phone with the “preferred” rental car agency. I did not realize I had left my phone behind until after I was on the plane. Once I arrived home, I called them and got a voicemail for lost and found. It took two days for them to return my call, and when they did, they informed me that it would cost me $45 to have the phone mailed to me the next day, and they “reminded” me that I should always check for my personal belongings before I returned my car. Wow! I felt like a little kid who had just been spanked for my mistake!

As I share this story with my clients, the differences between the two companies continue to make an impact on me. The following week I flew to Los Angeles and as I waited for the shuttle bus for the “preferred” rental car agency, I saw three Alamo buses drive by.

I questioned my loyalty to the “preferred” car rental company and realized that for the few perks I received with it, the overall experiences I have with it may not be worth my time or business. I since have switched my business to Alamo and the company continues to make me feel as if my business is important to it.

Through my personal experiences, my perception of customer loyalty has changed.

Loyalty is not about the perks; loyalty is an emotional feeling you get from those who care about you as a person.

Rafael Otero Perez is a Training account manager at Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.

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