One would always assume that the more loyal the customer, the better service they may expect to receive from the organisation they have been so loyal to. You would not be excused for thinking that many organisations would be delighted to look after their long-standing customers with a vigour, to ensure that they remain as loyal in the future as they have done in the past.

However, recent experiences that I have had, suggest that this might not always be the case. In fact, not only do I believe that organisations do not look after their loyal customers any differently to new ones, they are at risk of actually treating loyal customers BADLY.

Let me give you an example. I have been hiring cars from Avis for a few a months now. I have done so due to the convenience and affordability that they have been able to offer me. The service has been good (great front desk), and I have been treated well. As a customer (although some of you may not be able to believe this) I have been very accommodating. I am not really concerned what car they give me – or whether or not it has been cleaned to perfection. If it is not quite ready, I have never raised an eyebrow. As a result, the relationship between my local Avis office and my good self has been very good.

Now you would think that the lovely people at Avis, knowing that I am a regular customer; knowing that I am a friendly customer; and knowing that I am a flexible customer; would look after me just that little bit better than the ‘one off’ weekend customer who will be seen once, and never again. You would be wrong.

In the seven months I have been hiring cars (on a weekly basis), the state and quality of the cars they have been giving me have been getting steadily worse. The cars are never ready for me to collect. The cars are very rarely clean on the inside. The condition of the cars they give me gets worse each time I collect one. Just before I went on holiday, I hired a car for a week – I had a lot of driving to do. I sort of hoped that maybe, just maybe, the car would be OK. The car I was hustled in to was a disgrace. It stank of cigarette smoke. It was filthy inside. There were even a pair of false eyelashes (used) in the centre console. Avis had become guilty of taking a very good customer for granted. Do they think I will put up with service like this? They have pushed me a step too far. You could say I brought it upon myself. You could be right. But just because I have been accommodating, does not mean they can take me for granted.

It is a crying shame when a loyal customer looks on in envy when a new customer is rolled out the red carpet. It is very important to win new custom. BUT it is more important to focus on KEEPING your customers. I found this image about Avis on-line – I am their newest complainant – but it will not stop me from taking my business elsewhere – it is too late.

It is not just my experience with Avis that led me to blog on this subject. How many of you have a contract with a Satellite broadcaster like Sky in the UK? How many times have you seen offers being made to new customers that are not available to existing customers? What have us poor loyal customers done wrong eh? Once these companies have us, they think that they need to do nothing to keep us. They only attempt to do something when we phone up to cancel. In my opinion, this is just not good enough.

Customer retention is the key to the sustainability of a successful business. To retain customers you need to treat them well – not just on day 1 – but on week 2, month 3, year 4 and so on. Taking customers for granted is so easy to do – it is what will be losing your business top and bottom line benefits. It is all so obvious. What strategy does your organisation have in place?

Do you know of any similar stories? Do you know of any companies who treat their existing customers well? Please feel free to comment on any of my blogs.