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November 30, 2008

Daniel Tschudy:Is there any client loyalty?

I must have been misunderstanding what client loyalty means.

I did think that, for example, a corporate client ‘owes’ a certain loyalty to a supplier agency, once they have been working together for years.

My assumption was that working successfully together creates automatically relationship, then respect, then trust and then commitment. And commitment would automatically lead to loyalty.

Loyalty would, therefore, mean that both parties not only respect each other, but also protect each other: each other’s being, each other’s interest and each other’s objectives.

Therefore, the concept of loyalty would be an important part of ethics, to which Plato once said "only a man who is just can be loyal, and that loyalty is a condition of genuine philosophy".

All down to money and speed
The reality, however, is that loyalty often only works in our industry, if the supplier continues to serve fastest, cheapest and always at a level beyond of what competitors offer. The reality is that often, purchasing departments know little about emotional intelligence, little about refined quality services and certainly not much about loyalty – or any other longer-term value for that matter.

So, why do we still seek or hope for loyalty? Why do we expect some and why should we provide any of it?

Is loyalty only a matter of convenience, or, if I turn that around, would convenience plus lowest rates automatically produce loyalty?

It is not an easy question. However I now know that one-way loyalty does not exist. Because it would either be based on the above-mentioned needs of “convenience plus cheapest rates” or simply on (I dare to say) bribe: “Give me the fastest service and the lowest rates … and I will be loyal to you."

Beyond a price
My findings tell me now tha true loyalty is only based on an inter-active respectful joint-working relationship in order to build – together – a successful business, for that both parties can make a good deal, an acceptable earning, an outstanding performance.

The client must, therefore, truly respect the supplier’s abilities, proceedings and needs, and vice versa. Or else, the word loyalty should not be used anymore and instead of, the objective would simply be: just obtain the best possible deal … for this time. And next time again, and then again.

I wish though, that this is not going to happen, and that our industry continues to value performance, commitment and loyalty beyond just “a price”. This to the benefit of both the client and the supplier – and thus to the benefit of a successful meetings industry.

Daniel Tschudy is a meeting consultant, journalist and speaker

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