25 November 2010

Brits Have No Loyalty - Why Should They...?

People get all agitated that there is no loyalty online. But before we get critical of the behaviour perhaps we should consider why and if there is indeed anything that can/could be done about it.

There was an old adage in the UK Travel Trade that the "punter would cross the street for a quid". Translation for those of you who didn’t know was that a retail shop windows were the primary advertising vehicle and if a customer saw a headline price of say 199 and across the street was essentially the same package for one pound less - he would walk into that shop and buy in that outlet.

Tealeaf is a company that studies customer behavior and they have recently released a study on the UK market. You can get it here from etid: . The study is entitled “The ebooker: understanding how travel customers use the web. A whitepaper by Tealeaf and carries results from a pretty big spectrum of customers who responded to it. The study was conducted by Harris Poll UK and published on November 19th.

Tealeaf because they focus on the Customer (read user) Experience – UX – naturally focuses on the areas where web site experience can be improved. And the number of examples of effective practice are legion. It still amazes me that with all the money that some companies spend bringing punters to the front door of their website only to scrimp on the User Experience. And yes you know who you are!
All the money spent driving customers to the website and then the guy looks in the shop window and sees a poor experience and crap. There is little incentive on his side to stay with you – ie to close the sale...

I have written many times that the performance of the site’s User Experience is not easily gleaned from asking the users what they think. It has to be gathered from their behavior. Shock Horror! People lie! But frequently the surveys themselves are badly worded and the consumer cannot express himself adequately. Focus Groups also don’t do the trick. (Remind me to tell you one day about professional focus group participants!). More sophisticated testing and A/B type studies are needed. This is only wise. Hire companies like my consulting firm or a specialist group like Tealeaf to assess your User Experience. This is wise not just a plug for my business.

I would also like to dive into the other reasons for this lack of loyalty by the customer. The Brits are no worse than other markets. However they have a very short tolerance for screw ups. Probably more so than their brethren in other markets. And another possible reason – the UK websites are actually pretty bad and have done little to do a good job in the User Experience. Most Website managers are either copying the US models (which don’t always translate) or just don’t have time to focus on it. In my view the UK is populated by people running websites of circa 2000 vintage web 1.0 varieties. Localization is not changing words – it is deeper and more fundamental. There is very little appetite of the user to put up with this lack of attention. He/she punishes you by clicking away. And don’t forget that he wants a complete experience. One of the worst things is to tell him (as I know more than one UK site tells its users) “our customer service agents use the same information and don’t do better offline than online.” And then proceed to prove themselves as liars on the same call!!!

There is an interesting factor in the study – something Tealeaf calls “Social Acceptance”. This is a factor that few have so far grasped. However don’t interpret that to mean that the Social Acceptance can be assuaged by something in Facebook. No – again it is the whole package. Thomson UK still suffers a certain degree of social stigma from being the cheap brand. No studies I have seen address this issue. Further the lack of brand delivery against a promise is one of the consistent mistakes a Website makes. IE Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Brand Lies…. They fall into the same category. Consider the opposite end of the spectrum with Ryanair that does not give a thought for its brand and does everything based on price. While Marketeers may scoff – Ryanair delivers against its premise time and time again.

The effort of so many companies and brands now to get people to “like” them creates a false sense of brand loyalty. So we are clear – “like” does not equal “brand value.” The only reason they are clicking the like button is so you will give them a banana.

Finally let me remind you of something that most people forget. A customer is far more likely to distrust than to trust. Start there and work on proving him wrong.
More likely to distrust than trust

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