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Bernie’s Management / Leadership Tips

Customer Loyalty vs. Customer Satisfaction

croninBy Bernie Cronin

Is it satisfied customers you’re after? NO!

I’m sick of customer satisfaction. The worst companies in the world tout the fact that they won some satisfaction award. It’s not just a bad joke. It’s pathetic statement.

Every company is hoping that their customer will reorder. They’re hoping that their customers will spread the word about how great their products are, and about how great their people are. And they’re hoping to proactively encourage others to place an order or do business with them.

That is NOT customer satisfaction.

That is customer LOYALTY.

Every company must have loyalty as its mission, not satisfaction.

Every company must have loyalty as its imperative, not satisfaction.

Corporate Mission Statements talk about exceeding customer’s expectations, talk about being number one in the world, talk about shareholder value, and say NOTHING about the one word that makes all of these things happen: LOYALTY.

The reason that companies, especially big companies, don’t stress loyalty is because it’s much more difficult to achieve, and requires both an investment, and a commitment on the part of senior management to instill.

Customer loyalty is a hallow statement unless it is preceded by mission. REALITY: The Company and its executives must be loyal to its employees, loyal to its product quality, and loyal to its service excellence. This means they must both invest in and support a loyalty imperative.

HERE’S THE SECRET: Loyalty must be given before it is received. No company can ensure customer loyalty until they have secured employee loyalty. It amazes me that big companies will layoff thousands of people in the name of profit or shareholder value, and think nothing of what it does to internal morale, or the impact that it has on the reduction of service to its customers – even a reduction in the quality of it product.

Loyalty is both an action and a process.

Look at the best companies in the world. They have great employees. They have great products. They give great service. And they’re easy to do business with. This makes them attractive. And theses are the elements that create loyalty.

The one element that is most important is great service, Memorable Service, Loyalty-based service. And that flies in the face of satisfaction (the lowest level of acceptable service).

In my seminars, I teach the 5,000-year-old ancient Chinese proverb, “To serve is to rule.” Giving great service is an integral part of the loyalty process and it’s a fundamental part of “giving loyalty before loyalty is received.”

Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your company’s loyalty imperative:

  1. List all reasons that customers call you for service. There are probably less than 25.
  2. List all barriers that you place in front of a customer connecting with you. There are probably less than 10. (Automated attendant, voicemail, lack of 24-hour availability, inadequate website.)
  3. Once you have all the opportunities and all the barriers listed, have a weekend retreat with senior management and front-line people to determine best practices, generate new ideas for serving, and making it easier to do business with your company. Document (record) everything.
  4. Put the ideas and the best practices into action. Create a training program for best practices, and invest whatever is necessary for making your company “barrier-to-place-an-order” free
  5. Rather than announce all of these changes in the form of a bragging advertisement, or internal hoopla, let your customers have an opportunity to react and respond to your new and better way of doing business. Let the referral part of your business begin organically. Let it be earned, not asked for.
  6. All members of senior management must support this process both verbally and visually. If you’re going to evolve from satisfaction to loyalty, it has to be “hands on,” not just “words on”.

I wish more companies would add to their mission statement that they’ll be loyal to their employees – so that their employees would be loyal to their customer – so that their customers would be loyal to the company.

That is a loyalty chain. And it doesn’t start with satisfied customers. It starts with senior management understanding that loyalty is a way of life, not just a word. That loyalty starts at home, not at a customer’s place of business. That loyalty is earned by a process, not by a wave of a wand, or even by product excellence.

And loyalty is easily measured. Just look at your repeat business.

Satisfaction is also easily measured. Just look at the customers you lost.

Bernie Cronin is a nationally prominent sales and sales management consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the Managing Director Bernie Cronin International at 1000 West McNab Road in Pompano Beach, Florida. His cell  phone number is (954) 295-9202. His website is and email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .