By Shep Hyken
In 1945 George Orwell published the literary classic, Animal Farm, which was required reading in my middle-school English class. I always remembered the line: All animals are created equal, just some animals are more equal than others. Someone recently referenced the book and this famous line, and it made me think about how customers are treated.
Are all customers equal? Loyalty programs promote perks, rewards, elite status and more, which might suggest that not all customers are equal. Now, I agree that loyal customers can receive some type of reward or discount for their loyalty. But, what about when it comes to customer service? What about how customers who spend more – or less – are treated? Should a frequent or loyal customer be given better customer service than a casual, once-in-a-while customer, or even a first-time customer?
The short answer is no. We're not talking about perks here. Just about the way a customer is treated. Here's what I recently observed. By the way, I'm sure this isn't any different behavior that has been going on for a long time, it's just lately I've been acutely aware of it. I was at a restaurant and noticed a guest was almost being ignored compared to another guest at the next table. I inquired about who that "special" person was getting the extra attention, and my server said, "He's in here all the time."
I notice the same type of behavior happens with airlines and hotels. It's easy to spot the frequent traveler by the way they are treated by airline and hotel employees.
So, it appears that frequency might warrant a better customer experience. The same might go for how much a customer spends.
Here's my take:
The way a customer is treated should have nothing to do with how much they spend or how often they buy. All customers should be all be treated with dignity, respect and the attention any human deserves. They should all be treated in a way that is consistent with your brand promise and the reputation you wish to be known for. Now, when it comes to the perks you might offer a loyal customer, you can differentiate. That's different than the way you treat them.
But, isn't it human nature to treat the regular and more profitable customers a little better? If that is what you believe, there is a solution. If you haven't already done so, create a minimal standard of customer service. This standard should be so good as to garner high praises regardless of how much – or how little – the customer spends. It's that simple.
So, remind everyone of the standards you want to be known for. Remind them that applies to all customers, not just the ones they see more frequently. Do that and you may start to see more casual customers become repeat customers. You see, all customers are equal, just some are more loyal than others.