I have been a Windows user since Windows 3.1 was first commercially released in the early 1990s having faithful upgraded to almost all Microsoft operating systems including Windows 95, Window XP and Windows 7 (though not Vista!). With each upgrade, I was a willing spender for not only the operating system, but also the purchase of upgraded software that supposedly worked better with a new Windows version.
Unfortunately, my Windows personal computer is now using Windows 8.1. Very likely many people reading this post are now saying “Why!!”
As has been well documented around the Internet since Windows 8 (and then 8.1) was released, the latest version of Windows has been less than well received. While many users have complained about the removal of the much-ingrained Start button, there are certainly other issues. One of the biggest problems rests with Microsoft’s decision to develop Windows 8 with the primary intention of targeting users of mobile devices (e.g., tablets). Unfortunately, it now appears this decision was at the expense of existing personal computer users.
My experience with Windows 8 has been like many others – frustrating. My biggest complaint is that my computer constantly freezes or just shuts down for no obvious reason. This has resulted in lots of time spent restarting the computer and, worst of all, having to reenter information that was not automatically saved. The problems have been going on for a long time and software updates have done little to solve the problems.
So finally, after yelling at my Windows computer for the 1000th time I decided a change had to be made. So I switched to an Apple Mac. Now, bear in mind, making a change like this is not easy. Obviously there is a big expense in buying a new computer, but money also needs to be spent acquiring new software when one switches from Windows to Apple. And, of course, there is now the expense of my time in learning how to get around the Apple environment, such as learning new keyboard shortcuts and learning new software, as well as time spent converting files to being Mac acceptable.
So where did Microsoft fail me (and many others)? While I was willing to put up with some of the annoyances, eventually the supposed upgrades that came over the last six months or so never addressed the big problems. What is even worse, the online resources that discuss the problems were just too time-consuming to access, understand and implement. It made me wonder why a car company can often just plug a sensor into an automobile engine and figure out what the problem may be but a company selling the leading computer operating system cannot offer something similar.
So what does all this have to do with marketing? The lesson here is that brand loyal customers must not be overlooked. In fact, almost any customer classified as brand loyal should almost always be considered the most important customer for an organization. Now “almost any customer” does not mean every. Certainly for products that are clearly in the Product Life Cycle Decline stage and primarily being purchased by Laggards, treating these customers as your best customer does not make sense. But in most other situations, customers who are highly loyal should be at the top of the customer relationship list. Why? Because as we note in our Product Decision tutorial, one of the major benefits of brand loyal customers is their reluctance to try other products. Because of this, they tend to be a marketer’s most profitable customer because these buyers know what they are getting for their money and have little incentive to consider competitor’s products.
However, for a marketer who is losing their brand loyal customers, getting them to return may prove to be very difficult as these customers almost always are motivated to leave because they did not like the way they were being treated and not because they were attracted by another company’s product. For many brand loyal customers, switching is not so much about how it affects their wallet as it is about how it affects their mind (i.e., switching to a company that cares). By not addressing the needs of brand loyal customers, marketers allow the door to open to other options. And if that opening continues to get larger and larger, customers will eventually have no choice but to try other products.