Amazon Earns Customer Loyalty With Integrity, Not Rewards

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I got an email a few days ago from Amazon, telling me the price of the book I’d ordered had dropped, so it was passing the savings on to me. I think it was all of $.16. But that small sum is why I’m a loyal customer.

I don’t buy a lot, and I’m not aware that I accrue any points or pages (or whatever) for what I purchase. I’ve not taken a problem to Twitter in order to get Amazon’s attention, and I’m not really interested in reading about those who have. Nobody has recommended the company to me. I don’t “like” it on Facebook

Amazon has sold books to me, mostly, though when I’ve asked, it has seamlessly retailed just about anything else (I just bought a chin-up bar, for instance). It offers me free shipping if I top-off my order, which seems utterly reasonable. It suggests things to me based on my past buying, which has regularly resulted in me buying (and liking) new things. I have no intention of changing my shopping habits anytime soon.

It all comes down to the price-drop thing.

No, it’s not the amount, but the gesture that matters. It’s transparently voluntary on its part, and it doesn’t require me to do anything that overtly benefits the company. It just screams honesty and integrity in one simple, little, inexpensive moment. Those qualities are what make me a loyal customer.

We never talk about customer loyalty in those terms, though.

Instead, we focus on the importance of fixing problems and offering perks. I know that business performance, especially customer satisfaction, is a baseline prerequisite for loyalty, but isn’t it backward-looking? It’s what you have to do to have made and kept the last sale. The next sale is always up for grabs, no matter how aggressively it’s recommended.

Maybe customer loyalty isn’t something that customers should have to earn, or something that companies can buy by doing what they’re supposed to do. Maybe loyalty comes from someplace deeper, perhaps from doing business in ways that can’t be promoted or coded into a technology platform, but just are.

That’s what the price-drop represents. It simply makes sense, yet I can’t name many companies that do the same. It has the effect of making Amazon’s pricing seem more fair. The company seems more truthful, and I want to do business with companies that respect me.

I don’t care if there’s wonderfully complex math behind every nanosecond of customer experience. If customer relationships are viewed only in terms of quid-pro-quo transactions, there’s always a catch that renders that engagement mercenary, at best, and exploitative, more likely. The time to create loyalty is when no action is overtly required, and to do so in ways that are unnecessary. Like charity, loyalty isn’t a reward or an incentive.

Consumers don’t need brands to go out of their way to do things for them…as much as to stop going out of their way to do things to them.

I wonder why companies spend billions annually in attempts to create loyalty, when the only way to achieve it is by running businesses honestly, fairly, and transparently. Amazon communicated all three qualities to me for $.16.

Everything else is just marketing.

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