Customer Loyalty - My Take On Why It's Paramount

Everyone knows customer loyalty is important. It's valuable to the company for repeat business, word of mouth, and a strong customer base. Unfortunately though, it often goes unrecognized.

I personally have a very marked experience regarding loyalty, and a complete shunning by the "company" (for lack of a better term), that burned into me a stark and firm opinion that customer loyalty should, without question, be acknowledged.

Now, as a business owner, I clearly get the fact that profits keep you in business. Discounts and rewards for customers that seem to be a "slam dunk" is often what gets in the way of company programs for loyalty, and discounting too heavily in general tends to turn profit into break-even, or even loss margins. So, again, "I get it", when companies are cautious to offer loyalty programs.

That being said, if you're still reading, I'll take you on a trip down a personal "memory lane" and how I arrived at loyalty being - even in small recognitions - aboslutely mandatory.

So, being born and raised in sunny Arizona, which at the time, wasn't a highly populous state, I developed a love early on for my home state. Even further, since my parents moved here in the heart of Danny White and Frank Kush football at Arizona State University, I started in diapers with season tickets to Sun Devil football.

Needless to say, I grew up an avid and dedicated Sun Devil fan. For years we would tailgate for hours down the road from the stadium, play catch in the parking lots and park grass, just awaiting the games. Then, as gametime approached, we'd make the walk up to the stadium, wait in line to get in, wander up to our seats, watch the opening intros, and cheer the whole $%^#ing game!! 

We never left early. Close game, blowout, inclement weather, it didn't matter. We stayed put, cheering on our Devils. We were often some of the last to leave the stadium. 

I witnessed in person, some of the greatest games on ASU history. I was there to watch Pat Tillman and Jake Plummer take down the mighty Nebraska Cornhuskers 19-0. I was there at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena when we beat a very good Michigan Wolverines team. We were also there every game of every season of poor play and embarrasing losses. I saw many future hall of famers come to compete and play against our Suns Devils year-after-year.

For 40 years, my family had season tickets. spending hours in Tempe and the stadium, every home game. We filled the seats, kept them full, and cheered on each and every team, coach and player that graced Frank Kush field.

Now, mind you, they were the cheap seats. My parents were blue collar, middle class and in no way could afford the 50 yard line, or hell, even the yardlines or lower level. Nope, we were in the upper level end zone.

Nonetheless, we were there. We were loyal. We supported the team every step of the way.

Over the years, with the progress of the team and the enhancements of the stadium, they began a renovation effort that lasted years (about a decade or so ago). Each year, we were informed that a seat shuffle was required  because of stadium construction, and each year, we would enter a lottery for when we could select our new seats.

I thought to myself, "great"! We've been with the team for 40 years, full season tickets, the whole shebang. The lottery shouldn't be a problem.

Welp, turns out, our "cheap seats" didn't even qualify for their so-called loyalty tracking system.

That's right, 40 years of committed fanship, in the seats, cheering, buying concessions and merch, endlessly and loyally, meant absolutely nothing to them. Some other "fan", who for one year bought lower level seats, had a higher selection number than us. Hell, we didn't even register on the system!

They basically rewarded fairweather fans for their slightly more expensive 1-year seats, than 40 year die-hards.

There was even a mishap when we bought the year's season tickets, and selected to purchase tickets for a home conference championship game (should it occur), that DID occur, and they SOLD OUR SEATS! When they acknowledged that they mistakenly sold our rightful seats, guess what they offered us as consolidation... Corner stadium seats in the visitors section - at full price. Good lord!!!

So much for caring about your die-hard fans. All they acheived was finding the limits of when a die-hard fan would finally die.

Well, we died. It was a hard decision to make, but after 3 years of shuffling seats with no perceived loyalty, the debacle of the championship home game, and a don't care attitude from the reps, we cancelled our 40-year run of season tickets.

We haven't looked back either. Even when games aren't televised, and we can't watch at home, we made the conscious decision to not go back.

It hurt. We meant nothing to them. They meant the world to us, and it turned out the "we love our fans" was all complete bull#$%^!

Now, I do understand that bad management can come and go, and policies change, but we were done. Caput. No more. We had had it.

It was from that point on I said to myself, any company, brand, product, whatever, that I was involved in, HAD to have some sort of loyalty program. Whether that be small gestures, simple recognition, or whatever, it HAD to be there.

That brings us to today. A growing company with SO MANY AMAZING customers! It was time to start thinking about a loyalty program. It will certainly evolve over time, hopefully for the better, but we're at least starting with something!

Now again, I get the "dollar" loyalty that ASU chased. But they got it wrong. We spent far more money over the years, and more importantly, far more time and effort in support of the team, then any quick spender did.

It was important for us to both reward the hard-earned dollars (not just in single orders, but OVER TIME!!), as well as those cheering us on. Because vocal supporters are invaluable in so many ways!

Of course, there are certain things we absolutely cannot approach. We cannot approach a pay-for-good reviews type of rewards. Our reviews need to be authentic, and those speaking well about us need to be geniune. We can't discount so deep, that we start to lose the profit that helps us stay in business and grow. And we have to be careful that we don't over give, and find that out of necessity, we need to retract offers from the program.

Well, we've at the very least, established a starting point! From today on, we're offering our initial loyalty program for the first component of loyalty - hard earned dollars spent over time. We're still brainstorming loyalty for those that cheer us on - and boy THAT IS IMPORTANT TO US! We'll figure something out there as well. Hopefully sooner than later. We just need to tread carefully here.

At least for now, we have something that hopefully makes our loyal customers feel apart of the team. The Zaar 2k Club - VIP Loyalty Program

Thank you all for listening, and I hope this illustrates that you are all greatly appreciated and that we too, are listening to you!

- Zaar Guitars

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