Loyalty Cards, Loyalty schemes, loyalty benefits, loyal customers – the list goes on and on. For every business there is a sound bite that goes alongside it about loyalty. But so what? Is it just white noise or does it really mean anything.
One of my first jobs was working in a sports shop. Like many high street shops, they had a loyalty card. It gave customers money off and a voucher on their birthday. If we could encourage someone to sign up, we got a nice little bonus in our pay. We were selling loyalty and they were buying it if our pitch was good enough.
Even in today’s market, loyalty seems to be a commodity that companies sell and we buy. Every year when I renew my Sky package because the price has gone up, I hear the line ‘I see you’ve been a loyal customer so …’
This loyalty is false. It’s shallow and narrow and, when push comes to shove, means nothing. It pays lip service to loyalty without securing it. The reason? Loyalty requires investment. However, if you want deep loyalty, you need more than financial investment, as this is short lived and fickle. The situation we are in has shown examples of where companies and brands that pride themselves on loyalty have dropped this value when things have got tough.
If we look at where loyalty runs deeper, lasts longer and means more, the investment is emotional. Think family. The blog I never wrote for family was entitled You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. There is an almost implicit loyalty with your family that goes further than any others. We forgive and forget more with our families, and give each other far more leeway than we would even our closest friends. There is no incentives like the store cards or loyalty schemes – it is just there.
And that got me thinking about how we could move closest to this. Some businesses refer to themselves as or like a family. But as we know, saying it is one thing and doing or being it is something else.
I tried to reflect upon my school. I am loyal to them. I love working there, have a wonderful team and a community that are supportive and challenging. I also know that I have some incredibly loyal staff. They would do anything to support me and the school. The community we serve is also loyal, as we have undergone changes, they have stuck with us. So how did this come about? Was it always like this?
The key for me is trust. Through the years of developing trust, I feel loyalty to the school and to the cause has grown. There is an emotional investment in the journey and so people feel attached to what we are doing. Just like with the businesses, in this situation, teachers across the country will be evaluating how loyal they are to the cause the serve. Deciding to move on doesn’t make someone disloyal, but there needs to be a connection between the person and the cause for loyalty to be built. Similarly, where schools and leaders have shown no loyalty to their staff, they will undoubtedly suffer a similar fate to the companies who have quickly shown where their loyalties lie.
For me, my school and everyone connected to it are like a family. We have our disagreements but we stick together. An email from a parent a week ago really brought it home for me. It ended ‘We hope you can take some form of break from your post, but something tells me that nothing will stop you from supporting your other family.’