Customer loyalty: sweet success or a bitter taste?

Image courtesy of Stoonn at

I’ve been reflecting recently on three service experiences, and how they’ve affected my perception of the brands. The first, unfortunately, involves an embarrassing admission on my part. Having vaunted the benefits of mindfulness and being in the present moment, I have to put my hand up and admit my mind went AWOL.

Yes, we have no bananas

A couple of weekends ago, I was doing my weekly supermarket shop online, and I ordered the usual pack of eight bananas. Or at least I thought I did. It was only a few days later, when the order arrived that I realised I’d absent-mindedly put ‘8’ in the quantity box before clicking add. So that’s 8 x 8, a sum total of 64 bananas. Now I’m as fond of bananas as the next person, but there is a limit. The delivery man looked on with a bemused smile as I lifted bag after bag of bananas out of the crate. Just as well I’d discovered the power of mindful breathing, as it was the only thing at that moment between me and a sense of panic. Only just, though. But you know what? It was fine. The supermarket not only takes back substitutions that you don’t like. They also take back things you’ve ordered in error, or quantities you’ve got wrong. “Don’t worry,” said the chirpy delivery chap. “Mistakes happen. I’ll just scan them back in, and we’ll refund you.” Two days later, the refund still hadn’t come in, so I phoned the helpline. “No problem,” said the oh-so-accommodating call-centre woman. “We’ll refund you.” And so she did. In vain did I tell her that the delivery guy had scanned the excess bananas, and that it was just possible that he hadn’t yet done a data upload from his handheld device. “That’s all done,” she said brightly. “Anything else I can help you with?” There wasn’t, so I thanked her and hung up. The next day I checked my account online. And there was not just one, but two refunds, for the same amount. There had been a delay in the data upload. I’ve thought many times about changing supermarkets, but it’s little don’t worry moments like this that keep me loyal. Well, that and the double refunds. I considered calling them up and explaining that I’d got more than my just deserts (yes, pun intended) but I just know what the response will be. Don’t worry. So I won’t.

Who you gonna call?

If you’ve followed this blog along the highways and byways over the years, you’ll know that when it comes being seduced by operators, I’m a serial offender. I’ve changed partners five times in eight years. The most recent change was a few weeks ago, when I discovered that my personalised voice-mail message had disappeared for the third time in 18 months. Instead, it reverted to the default message, which features a blokey Geordie who says things like ‘Nice one!’ when you press a button to make a choice. Now I have nothing against Geordies, but the blokey thing did grate. But it wasn’t just that. It was also the fact that I finally saw how I’d been manipulated by the marketing people – and for the marketer, that’s reason enough to up sticks and go. It’s a pay-as-you-go operator who played a very clever slowly-slowly-catchey-monkey game. First, free unlimited internet. Then, limited internet. And finally, a price hike in calls. Which made their rolling 30-day contracts seem more and more attractive. Bait and switch, I hear you say? My thoughts exactly. The final straw came when they were undercut by one of their rivals – by a good 70% on the call-per-minute rate – and simply dropped them from their price-comparison table. So I felt manipulated and deceived. It was time to get a PAC code.

You want coffee with that?

My last service experience mirrors my first one. It’s my favourite cafe, where the coffee is piping hot and the welcome is always warm. Recently, the tills have been randomly printing out ‘Free drink’ on the top of the receipts, inviting you to fill in a customer-service survey online and claim your prize. So I did, and got a free coffee on my next visit. The receipt after that also offered me a free drink if I completed the survey. So I did, again. And the pattern has been repeating itself for three months. I’ve been paying for only one coffee in two. Now the service is great and the coffee tastes good – especially when it’s free. But I’m sure they can’t want to hear my admittedly valuable opinion quite so much. When I mentioned the surveys to one of the staff, I was told that you could only complete one a month from the same IP address. But that’s not true, as my weekly feedback shows. I didn’t have the heart to tell her. And here’s the thing: I’ve actually stopped doing the surveys now, as I feel so positive about them I actually want to pay for my coffee. It doesn’t feel right not to. Yes, it’s a marketing tactic, but unlike my mobile experience, it doesn’t leave me feeling manipulated. It’s not Starbucks, by the way. They’re off my Christmas card list after they downgraded my rewards card at the beginning of the year. But that’s another story, which I’ll tell you another day. Over a coffee, perhaps.