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Customer Loyalty Is Based on the Little Things

5 minute read
Henry Nakamura avatar

One of the perks to being a customer experience manager is that I am — like most people — also a customer to many brands in my day-to-day life. 

While this work-life synergy lets me deeply appreciate when a company is doing all the right things to earn my loyalty, it also provides a chance to be thoughtful when an experience isn’t all that it could be. Or should be.

When the Competition Fails to Compete

I fly regularly, logging more than 80,000 miles annually. For most of the past four years I’ve flown almost exclusively with American Airlines, where I maintain Platinum status in the brand’s loyalty program. 

However, many of the big airlines have “Status Match” programs that essentially match one another’s offers and perks. This, to me, is a good thing. Those loyalty programs aren’t the gilded cages they might otherwise be, and the companies still must put in some effort to earn their customers’ good will.

On a recent trip I found it most convenient to take a flight with United (and to take advantage of their status match program). I was curious what sort of experience they’d present to me as a winnable customer. I was basically a free agent, testing the waters of another suitor, and wondered whether I might be romanced a little. My personal and professional attitude was: “I’m here. Win me. What have you got?” 

But I booked the trip (weeks in advance), boarded the flight and ... nothing really special happened. 

There was no attempt to learn or utilize my specific preferences when flying, or to tailor the experience to me as an individual, or to treat me differently than anyone else who falls into the same general customer profile as me. And all I could think of was — knowing what I know about customer experience technology — in the very near future opportunities like this will not fall by the wayside.

Generic or Precise: Which Experience Would You Choose?

Customer experience is now entering an era that will be defined by Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs), smart business systems that can gather personal data from all available sources in real-time and present actionable information to customer service representatives no matter what platform they are interacting across. 

Whereas today brands interact with customers rather generically based on (often outdated) customer personas, DXPs are introducing a new precision to customer experiences.

Strategic customer interactions are now mostly based on the big things a brand can tell about the customer: age, gender and a general sense of what they’re interested in. A customer persona will say: “Henry, CX professional, flies a lot.” 

Yes, personas are valuable for working on the general satisfaction of user segments. But the limitation with solely using personas is that, like an airplane at cruising altitude, brands are viewing customers from 30,000 feet. Personas can’t get personal. 

Learning Opportunities

What brands need to understand, and where the real promise of DXPs lies, is that it’s not an understanding of the big things that leads to our loyalty. It’s the small things.

Digital Experience Platforms Keep Everyone on the Same Page

Take a customer who goes to her corner coffee shop most days. Let’s say it’s a Starbucks, where the level of individualism on display in the orders can get comedic. As far as loyalty is concerned, it doesn’t matter at all if the patron who walks in best matches the customer persona for “Wilma, the middle-aged, middle income saleswoman from the Midwest” or whatever. 

What does matter is when the person working the counter recognizes the customer and knows that she likes a tall half-caf two-sugar soy milk macchiato, a lightly toasted multigrain bagel and a copy of The Wall Street Journal. When a customer experiences a brand that knows the little things they need and makes sure they’re provided, that’s a reason (and often the deciding reason) to come back. That’s building loyalty.

Where DXPs come in is in gathering that specific loyalty-building information from sources as dispersed as personal information, public records, social media activity, preference settings, known relationships, etc. The DXP can then derive actionable information — “offer this customer their usual coffee, bagel and paper” — and share this information across all mediums of customer interaction. 

Whether the customer is dealing with a brand in person, talking to a phone representative, chatting online with a rep on their site or on social media, a DXP makes sure every worker who acts as the face of the brand has the same specific customer information at hand, updated in real time so even conversations across mediums are fluid.

Raising the Customer Experience Bar (Again)

This is what customers have to look forward to, and what will be the basis for yet a new level of raised customer expectations. 

If you’re a customer (and we all are), you’re not your age, you’re not your job. You’re an individual who likes the very specific things you like, whether it’s a specialty coffee drink, a blanket and extra pillows on an airplane, or any other quirk that makes you, you. 

The smartest brands will never miss an opportunity to deliver on these needs, will do so seamlessly, and make their strongest case to keep you coming back.

About the author

Henry Nakamura

​Four years ago, ​Henry Nakamura​ joined Liferay as their first Customer Experience Manager and got to work creating a role​ based on putting the customer's needs first​. Since then ​he's been tasked with building ​Liferay's​ Customer Experience Department.

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