Customer loyalty is one of those concepts that every business wants, but is hard to measure. Many businesses have a “buy nine sandwiches and get the tenth free” punch-card, but price usually overrules these loyalty programs. Some businesses inspire loyalty through the quality of their products or a unique brand promise, and are rewarded with customers who evangelize and advertise for them. And for a long time, the crown of customer loyalty has been worn by Apple.
Apple customers are more like “fans” than customers, and using Apple products means more than getting a new iPhone. Look at how the company markets itself. After its rebirth in 1997, Apple’s slogan was “Think Different” – this elevates the choice to buy a product into a statement of identity. This first product Apple released under this product was the iMac, which was both cutting edge (abandoning floppy drives for USB ports) and stood out from the competition with its colorful designs. Later, Apple used the “I’m a Mac” campaign to build on their success, making their product a declarative statement about who the customer is as a person. Apple is rightly lauded for one of the most loyal customer bases around because of the way it frames it products as statements of personal identity.
But here and now in 2018, Apple’s customer loyalty crown has been unequivocally stolen by Tesla. Tesla has done something so unbelievable it sounds fake: Tesla’s customers are volunteering their own personal time orienting new customers to their purchase. Please give the article a read, it’s simply shocking.
Tesla has made lots of headlines for its innovative electric cars, and CEO Elon Musk is an absolute master of building hype through social media. But as slow sales threaten the company’s solvency, happy customers are spending their weekends at Tesla’s service centers offering free labor. They don’t see themselves as just customers; they’re foot soldiers in a revolution. They are true believers, answering the call of duty to keep the movement alive. The language of fanaticism is not some kind of gimmick; it’s how these people see themselves.
This level of customer loyalty is certainly wonderful to see, but does it translate to business value? The answer is an emphatic yes. According to CNBC, Tesla quadrupled its expected vehicle delivery numbers in the third quarter of the year. It’s unlikely that current Tesla owners will continue their service as the holiday come and go, but this volunteer army has undeniably helped the company sustain itself through a turbulent period.
My point here is not just share this article, although I think it is certainly worthy enough.What I want to emphasize is that the scope of what’s possible for customer loyalty to mean has been dramatically expanded. If your customers are not forming themselves into fan clubs and offering free labor on the weekends, then your loyalty program has more work to do.