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Forbes Advisors Report: Key Drivers of Loyalty Are Customers Service, Reward Programs

Katherine HaanSurvey of 2,000 Americans attempts to pinpoint drivers of customer loyalty.

Highlights of Findings
Insights on AI

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Customer service and rewards programs, personal values alignment, and customer service are the primary drivers of loyalty, according to this recent study packed with believable insights published in Forbes Advisors and written by business coach Kathy Haun.
The findings are based on an online survey of 2,000 Americans commissioned by Forbes Advisor and conducted by market research company OnePoll in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct. Data was collected from Aug. 21 to Aug. 28, 2023, with an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.2 points with 95% confidence.
Customer service is the topic of an Enterprise Engagement Alliance YouTube Show “Why Customer Service Is Generally So Bad and What to Do About It?”, Tue., Nov. 14 at 11 am ET with five worldwide experts on customer experience willing to speak candidly about the sorry state of customer service. Panelists are Erin Armendinger, CEO for Compass Experience Labs; Graham Hill, Founder, Janus svp; Ramon Portilla Founder, HumanX Insight; Alex Mead Global Customer Service Experience Director, Alvarez & Marsal, and Allan Steinmetz, CEO, Inward Strategic Consulting.
Register here to attend the live session. A summary article and streaming version will be available in the following week.
According to the Forbes report, customer service and rewards programs are the “most influential factors for maintaining customer loyalty. Businesses should not underestimate the pull of exceptional service and the allure of tangible rewards.” As for personal values alignment, “A striking 61% of respondents indicate that their loyalty is affected when a company’s actions and ethics align with their own values.” In the case of customer service, it “is no longer just about solving problems; it’s a cornerstone for building long-term relationships. Likewise, rewards programs are not mere transactional gimmicks but foundational elements that encourage repeat business.”
When it comes to personal values, “it’s not just about environmental responsibility or ethical sourcing, but also about social and political stances. A significant portion of consumers are looking for more than a transaction; they seek a form of partnership where both parties stand for something bigger.”

Highlights of Findings

  • 53% of consumers indicate that the experience a company offers matters as much as the products or services it provides.
  • 48% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for quality customer service.
  • Almost half, 49%, state that the relationship a company nurtures with its customer base is as significant as its offerings.
  • Product quality: A commanding 70% of consumers are willing to leave their current brand if they find a higher-quality alternative.
  • Lifestyle and financial changes: A notable 16% of consumers indicate they would change brands to better fit shifts in their personal or financial situations, meaning that “brand loyalty isn't cast in stone. Changes in consumer circumstances—be it a new job, retirement, or family additions—can prompt a reevaluation of brand choices.”
  • As for quality, “it's not just about durability or aesthetic appeal but extends to attributes such as sustainability, energy efficiency or even brand reputation for quality. Businesses that discount the importance of these details do so at their peril.”
  • 55% of consumers value knowledgeable staff, suggesting that “businesses may need to revisit their training programs. This goes beyond product specifications to understanding customer needs and even the broader market conditions affecting consumer decisions.”
  • Fast response times are critical based on both speed and quality of the response.
  • 40% of consumers still prefer human interaction for resolving issues over chatbots and automated systems. This preference for human contact suggests that empathy and understanding, often difficult for AI to replicate, remain key components of effective customer service.
  • Personalization is not just a buzzword; it’s a concrete strategy that, when executed thoughtfully, can inspire additional purchases. The data clearly indicates that personalization efforts that go beyond the generic can make consumers feel seen and valued, opening the door to increased sales and long-term loyalty.
  • 50% of customers are willing to share personal information for a more personalized experience. "When it comes to data, trust is nonnegotiable.”
  • 46% of customers say they will buy more when given a personalized experience.
  • High on the list are offers and discounts, pointing to the enduring appeal of financial incentives.
  • Close behind are product recommendations; incorporating data such as user reviews and social proof could provide a more rounded, compelling recommendation, the survey finds.
  • Text message marketing, with 46% approval, taps into the immediacy and intimacy of a consumer’s daily life.
  • Although targeted ads and email marketing are generally considered more traditional forms of digital marketing, they still hold significant sway. This is likely because the mechanics of targeting have become more sophisticated, moving from demographic generalities to nuanced behaviors and preferences.
  • Personalized packaging makes a notable appearance on the list. A simple thank-you card included in a package can transform a routine transaction into a memorable experience.
  • The relatively low score for virtual cart reminders could indicate consumer irritation with being nagged, or perhaps it suggests that the feature doesn’t make a significant difference in prompting a purchase decision.
  • 50% of customers say they are willing to share personal information for a more personalized experience, but 10% are adamantly opposed.

Insights on AI

  •  86% of consumers say they approve of brands using artificial intelligence in 2023.
  • The report says that “product descriptions penned by AI, for instance, are clearly becoming part of the consumer status quo. This suggests a level of trust in AI’s ability to articulate product benefits and features accurately. Similarly, marketing content generated by AI enjoys a relatively high degree of consumer approval. The data begs the question: Has AI reached a level of sophistication where its content generation is indistinguishable from human efforts to the average consumer?”
  • “Yet, when it comes to more strategic functions, such as upselling or crafting marketing strategies, consumer trust in AI diminishes. Could this be an area where human intuition and strategic thinking are viewed as irreplaceable?” the author asks. 

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