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@Rachel - it does seems simple. In the industrial age, when companies started getting busy with scale, we sort of lost touch with dialogue and taking a personal interest in people. In looking over the examples provided here today, including my own, it's clear that we favor those companies that manage to remember about us, what we value, how they can help.

@Susan - interesting as Casudi also provided Chevron as an example of doing it right (or used to). I never even saw a Chevron station where I am. Now I feel I missed out.

@Adam - thank you for adding the thoughtful dimension of employee engagement/empowerment. That's exactly right in that not everyone will want the same treatment and customer interaction is very situational.

@Ricardo - my Apple experiences have been memorable. Even in the cases when they missed the mark, the way they fixed it was better than how most companies handle you well.

@Ugur - you had me in stitches. That was a perfect example! In the service industry especially, the customer *is* the product.

@Justin - thank you for the link. I'll check it out.

@Casudi - I feel the same way about my local Toyota dealer. Granted, I don't drive a luxury car, but they go out of their way to accommodate my needs and schedule. Once they stayed open later so I could have the car serviced. We have so lost that sense of community you describe in the story about James! The businesses that are able to create one, will win in the long run. When businesses think of customers and employees in terms of cash flow and assets, that's when they start the decline as they in turn will be viewed as commodity.

I consider my business partner James to fit the profile of a "loyal customer", so when I read your post I decided to ask him.

1 He's been a loyal Chevron customer for 35 years, and would choose to fill up his car at a Chevron dealer even if the next station was a couple of cents lower. But several months ago he stopped using Chevron. Here is why: his usual choice of dealers (3) closed, with no warning or suggestion where he might go instead. Then they sent him a new card (ugly design, and he's a design snob) but instructed him he could not use it until a certain date. So he continued using the old card until one day on an out of the country trip, it no longer worked. END of a 35 year relationship.....

2 He's been a Nordstrom customer for 25 years, and still shops there. Why? first, he likes their selection of merchandise better than than any competitors, and most importantly, he likes their customer service. "The sales people always go above & beyond to get me what I want, finding the right size/color at another store, mailing it to me on the island, showing me an alternative selection that beats my original choice, etc." STILL shopping at Nordstrom.

3 He patronizes 'Penguin Coffee' (our local independent coffee house entrepreneur; and Penguin does have a loyalty card), but James says he'd go there anyway, the incentive is incidental. He enjoys the personal contact with the owner, with a shared interest in classic cars & trucks, and the proprietor Aaron is also a creative person, so that's another reason to patronize Penguin. Second, James says he appreciates the 'community of locals", who occupy the most comfortable chairs 5 days a week for an hour in the early morning, because he admires the atmosphere that allowed the community to develop. (I think it's the "truck talk" with Aaron).

4 James has been using Apple computer products since 1979. That's customer loyalty.

So, where are my loyalties?

1 I've been driving Audi's for 22 years, and purchased my last two from Zoltan at the Audi dealer in Seattle. Would I follow Zoltan to another brand of car? Probably not, though that's not totally impossible, depending on the brand. Would I follow Zoltan to another Audi dealer? Absolutely. Zoltan is available on his BB 24/7, even on holiday. Every time I've emailed or called him he has responded within less than 2 hours. He calls or emails me checking to see how I am, and how the cars are running. When I go in for service, a loaner car is waiting. But that's not all! He set it up for me to drive an R8 sports car on the racetrack as part of Audi's R8 intro, creating a loyal customer for life!

Agree very much with the arguments above. We are building a platform that will allow consumers to manage their cards but also allow retailers to connect and hold conversations with consumers in a community setting. Check out http://www.perkler.com/

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