In today’s world, consumers expect more and brand loyalty is up for grabs

This week, I want to start this column wearing my consumer hat.  

Last week, I had the rare occasion to call my credit card company for help with two different issues. I hate to name company names, but for those looking for a hint, think “don’t leave home without it.”

The first time I called, it was to confirm that the company would still double the warranty of anything I bought and paid for using their credit card.

After being on hold for almost five minutes, I got a representative who, after checking my account, informed me that my card no longer qualified for that benefit. It seems that one had to have a higher-level card now.

Not only was I upset about losing a perk that I had valued, I was also miffed that the company never informed me that I no longer qualified for that benefit.

Adding insult to injury, the company’s rep concluded the call by thanking me for being a valued member for close to 30 years.

Yeah, right.

Later that same week, I asked my credit card guys to help me resolve an issue with an item I had purchased online (and paid for, of course, with my credit card) that was defective.

I explained to the credit card rep who was going to help me that despite my entering in my order number on the retailer’s site, the website kept telling me it had no record of that order.

The rep assured me he understood and would reach out to the online retailer. A week later, I got a note from the credit card company saying the online retailer’s records showed I had not reached out to return the item, so the credit card company honored the charge, end of story.

Well, as it turns out, this is not the end of the story. The card company is going to hear from me one last time. This time, after 30 years as a customer, I am cancelling the card.

The moral for the story, at least for me, is that as a consumer, I have choices. 

While I tend to be loyal to the companies and services I use, if I feel that they couldn’t care less about me when I go to them for a question or to help resolve a problem, I find myself caring less about remaining loyal to them.

However, I also found myself wondering if I was turning into a prima donna, so I took off the consumer hat and put on a reporter’s hat and did some digging.

I came across a recent survey called the PwC Customer Loyalty Survey, a study conducted last year with more than 4,000 consumers in the U.S.

The survey had some pretty interesting findings. For openers, more than one-fourth of survey respondents said they stopped using or buying from a business in the past year, and bad experiences — with products or services and/or customer service — were the overwhelming reasons why.

That percentage was higher — in some cases much higher — for many types of businesses, including airlines, restaurants, banks and hotels. Also, worth noting, the study concluded that the younger the consumer, the greater chance he or she left a brand behind.

Another study looking at brand loyalty, this one from McKinsey & Co., found that since the pandemic, consumer loyalty is pretty much up for grabs.

One of the key findings from McKinsey’s survey focused on the shattering of brand loyalty.

Specifically, the study reported that, “The pandemic ushered in an unprecedented level of channel switching and brand loyalty disruption. A whopping 75% of consumers tried new shopping behaviors, with many of them citing convenience and value. Fully 39% of them, mainly Gen Z and millennials, deserted trusted brands for new ones. That restlessness is reflected in the fact that many younger consumers say that they are still searching for brands that reflect their values.”

I could go on, but I need to call the credit card company that I’ve been loyal to for decades and tell them that it’s time for me to find a new credit card company. 

And once I make that call, I guess I can leave home without them.

At a time when every sale and every customer is important, we need to make sure every customer feels valued.

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