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Engagement Is the New Loyalty

Frank Underwood Serves Up Loyalty Lessons

One of my favorite television shows is House of Cards. I can’t get enough of Frank and Claire Underwood, played with perfection by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. Their relationship dynamic is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They are so shrewd and manipulative. I love it. 

In a recent episode, Frank declares to a staffer, “Loyalty? The only brand of that I accept is unconditional.” He expects complete loyalty from those around him while giving almost nothing in return. Needless to say, it doesn’t work out for him. 

And though he is a character on a television show, Frank’s statements represent a typical company’s approach to loyalty. They offer points programs or blind discounts, call them loyalty strategies, then wonder why customers aren’t completely loyalty to their brand.

As Frank soon finds out, real loyalty can’t be dictated. It is the outcome of a personalized, trust-based relationship where both parties are engaged with one another. They commit to each other with interactions based on respect and mutual benefit. Firms who invest in developing a customer-centric culture and tools to meet the needs of customers will see loyalty naturally emerge. Engagement is the goal, and loyalty is the outcome. 

This issue of the Customer Strategist explores this new world of customer engagement. Technology advances are supercharging interactions, and new strategies and tactics like gamification and real-time outreach are helping brands cut through the clutter to create long-lasting loyalty.  

Frank and Claire, ironically, represent what I mean by true engagement. They listen to one another. They change their plans to meet the needs of the other. They look at the other person’s point of view before making decisions. And their relationship is strong enough to stand whatever gets thrown at them. Shouldn’t all companies strive to be more like them in that way?  

* House of Cards photo courtesy of Media Rights Capital.