Loyalty is an endless quest that is built carefully and with perseverance
Often placed on the pedestal of virtue, loyalty is a fairly relative value in which professions of faith and reality exhibit variable geometry. In fact, loyalty is on the decline in the automotive world. Much more so than some would like to admit.
The customers enjoy and seize more and more opportunities to change, for a better or different car, or to discover and experiment further, etc. Commitment to a make has eroded with the ability to exercise freedom of choice, the limits of which are continuously being pushed back by the competition principle.
While disloyalty does not necessarily penalise dissatisfaction (it is sometimes only the result of a whim or the need to try something else) – loyalty does reward satisfaction. Clearly, one is more inclined to show constancy in the choice of makes, products or services that satisfy us and manage to gain and cultivate our trust. We are loyal to who and what we trust. We are loyal to those who keep their promises of quality and reliability regarding their products and services. To those who communicate regularly and accurately. To those who deserve it. After all, faithfulness and confidence have the same root, fides, meaning faith.
And to be deserved, loyalty must be cultivated at each stage of the car consumption cycle: before, during and after the buy. Keeping abreast permanently with repeat buyers’ expectations and requirements is the task ahead of all the automotive professions, from the makes to the distributors: designers, engineers, marketers, communicators, salespeople, etc. From the design stage to arrival on the market, everyone has to be playing the same score, on beat and in tune with each other.
The makes and the distributors still need to make progress in this area. For instance, why don’t loyalty incentives exist in the car market, as they do in other sectors? If we compare it to the air travel, luxury goods or fashion sectors – all major expense items – it becomes clear that the automotive sector hardly rewards loyalty. From the economic standpoint, while the air travel and luxury goods sectors offer discounts approximating 10% of the annual budget, the automotive sector hardly offers 1%: clearly not enough to motivate and retain a customer.
While disloyalty is standard consumer behaviour, loyalty is a value. To achieve it, loyalty needs to become a philosophy rather than a mere marketing or commercial policy.