business relationship

Loyalty business model

The loyalty business model is a business model used in strategic management in which company resources are employed so as to increase the loyalty of customers and other stakeholders in the expectation that corporate objectives will be met or surpassed. A typical example of this type of model is: quality of product or service leads to customer satisfaction, which leads to customer loyalty, which leads to profitability.

The service quality model

A model by Kay Storbacka, Tore Strandvik, and Christian Gronroos (1994), the service quality model, is more detailed than the basic loyalty business model but arrives at the same conclusion. In it, customer satisfaction is first based on a recent experience of the product or service. This assessment depends on prior expectations of overall quality compared to the actual performance received. If the recent experience exceeds prior expectations, customer satisfaction is likely to be high. Customer satisfaction can also be high even with mediocre performance quality if the customer's expectations are low, or if the performance provides value (that is, it is priced low to reflect the mediocre quality). Likewise, a customer can be dissatisfied with the service encounter and still perceive the overall quality to be good. This occurs when a quality service is priced very high and the transaction provides little value.

This model then looks at the strength of the business relationship; it proposes that this strength is determined by the level of satisfaction with recent experience, overall perceptions of quality, customer commitment to the relationship, and bonds between the parties. Customers are said to have a "zone of tolerance" corresponding to a range of service quality between "barely adequate" and "exceptional." A single disappointing experience may not significantly reduce the strength of the business relationship if the customer's overall perception of quality remains high, if switching costs are high, if there are few satisfactory alternatives, if they are committed to the relationship, and if there are bonds keeping them in the relationship. The existence of these bonds acts as an exit barrier. There are several types of bonds, including: legal bonds (contracts), technological bonds (shared technology), economic bonds (dependence), knowledge bonds, social bonds, cultural or ethnic bonds, ideological bonds, psychological bonds, geographical bonds, time bonds, and planning bonds.

This model then examines the link between relationship strength and customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is determined by three factors: relationship strength, perceived alternatives and critical episodes. The relationship can terminate if: 1) the customer moves away from the company's service area, 2) the customer no longer has a need for the company's products or services, 3) more suitable alternative providers become available, 4) the relationship strength has weakened, or 5) the company handles a critical episode poorly, 5) unexplainable change of price of the service provided.

The final link in the model is the effect of customer loyalty on profitability. The fundamental assumption of all the loyalty models is that keeping existing customers is less expensive than acquiring new ones. It is claimed by Reichheld and Sasser (1990) that a 5% improvement in customer retention can cause an increase in profitability between 25% and 85% (in terms of net present value) depending upon the industry. However, Carrol and Reichheld (1992) dispute these calculations, claiming that they result from faulty cross-sectional analysis.

According to Buchanan and Gilles (1990), the increased profitability associated with customer retention efforts occurs because:

  • The cost of acquisition occurs only at the beginning of a relationship: the longer the relationship, the lower the amortized cost.
  • Account maintenance costs decline as a percentage of total costs (or as a percentage of revenue).
  • Long term customers tend to be less inclined to switch and also tend to be less price sensitive. This can result in stable unit sales volume and increases in dollar-sales volume.
  • Long term customers may initiate free word of mouth promotions and referrals.
  • Long term customers are more likely to purchase ancillary products and high-margin supplemental products.
  • Long term customers tend to be satisfied with their relationship with the company and are less likely to switch to competitors, making market entry or competitors' market share gains difficult.
  • Regular customers tend to be less expensive to service because they are familiar with the processes involved, require less "education," and are consistent in their order placement.
  • Increased customer retention and loyalty makes the employees' jobs easier and more satisfying. In turn, happy employees feed back into higher customer satisfaction in a virtuous circle.

For this final link to hold, the relationship must be profitable. Striving to maintain the loyalty of unprofitable customers is not a viable business model. That is why it is important for marketers to assess the profitability of each of its clients (or types of clients), and terminate those relationships that are not profitable. In order to do this, each customer's "relationship costs" are compared to their "relationship revenue." A useful calculation for this is the patronage concentration ratio. This calculation is hindered by the difficulty in allocating costs to individual relationships and the ambiguity regarding relationship cost drivers.

Expanded models

Virtuous Circle
Schlesinger and Heskett (1991) added employee loyalty to the basic customer loyalty model. They developed the concepts of "cycle of success" and "cycle of failure". In the cycle of success, an investment in your employees’ ability to provide superior service to customers can be seen as a virtuous circle. Effort spent in selecting and training employees and creating a corporate culture in which they are empowered can lead to increased employee satisfaction and employee competence. This will likely result in superior service delivery and customer satisfaction. This in turn will create customer loyalty, improved sales levels, and higher profit margins. Some of these profits can be reinvested in employee development thereby initiating another iteration of a virtuous cycle.

Fredrick Reichheld (1996) expanded the loyalty business model beyond customers and employees. He looked at the benefits of obtaining the loyalty of suppliers, employees, bankers, customers, distributors, shareholders, and the board of directors.

Data collection

Typically, loyalty data is being collected by multi-item measurement scales administered in questionnaires. However, other approaches sometimes seem more viable if managers want to know the extent of loyalty for an entire data warehouse. This approach is described in Buckinx, Verstraeten & Van den Poel (2006).

Another approach to building customer loyalty through data is described in Scoring points, a book about the Tesco clubcard. This was produced by a company called [Dunnhumby] who gathered the data on household purchases on an opt-in permission basis. Once they had this data they then allowed households to accumulate loyalty points which could be used for subsequent purchases. They subsequently added to the value of customer loyalty by sending out targeted offers from grocery producers to the people whose behaviour said they had a use for the offer. The data gathered in this way allowed customer loyalty to be assessed on both an individual and an aggregate basis.

Whilst less common than the questionaires, loyalty card data is more complete and does not suffer from the arpirational misreporting bias that is common to most forms of market research. It has been credited with the phenomenal success of the Tesco chain as well as with significant improvements by several other large retailers.

All historical trend for differetn segemtnations and their standard of living may also be very helpful in developing customer retention strategy. Lifestyle is also a very powerful tool, can be used for better custmer retention and to know his/her needs in better way. Abdul Mannan HOD

Loyalty and Egoism

The loyalty business model assumes the philosophical validity of pursuit of self-interest. However, much work in ethics assumes the validity of altruism (seeking the best interest of others). "Clearing Up the Egoist Difficulty with Loyalty" (Stieb 2006), attempts to show that when interests are shared there becomes no difference between seeking one's interest and that of others. This is also called the "Aristotelian" model based on Aristotle's related analysis of friendship in his Nicomachean Ethics.

See also


  • Buchanan, R. and Gilles, C. (1990) "Value managed relationship: The key to customer retention and profitability", European Management Journal, vol 8, no 4, 1990.
  • Buckinx W., Geert Verstraeten, and Dirk Van den Poel (2007), " Predicting customer loyalty using the internal transactional database," Expert Systems with Applications, 32 (1).
  • Carrol, P. and Reichheld, F. (1992) "The fallacy of customer retention", Journal of Retail Banking, vol 13, no 4, 1992.
  • Dawkins, P. and Reichheld, F. (1990) "Customer retention as a competitive weapon", Directors and Boards, vol 14, no 4, 1990.
  • Fornell, C. and Wernerfet, B. (1987) "Defensive marketing strategy by customer complaint management : a theoretical analysis", Journal of Marketing
  • Moloney, Chris X. (2006) "Winning Your Customer’s Loyalty: The Best Tools, Techniques and Practices" AMA Workshop Event(s). Misc. materials distributed related to event(s). San Diego, 2006. Chris X. Moloney
  • Reichheld, F. (1996) The Loyalty Effect, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1996.
  • Reichheld, F. and Sasser, W. (1990)"Zero defects: quality comes to services", Harvard Business Review, Sept-Oct, 1990, pp 105-111.
  • Schlesinger, L. and Heskett, J. (1991) "Breaking the cycle of failure in service", Sloan Management Review, spring, 1991, pp. 17-28.
  • Stieb, James A. (2006) "Clearing Up the Egoist Difficulty with Loyalty", Journal of Business Ethics, vol 63, no 1.
  • Storbacka, K. Strandvik, T. and Gronroos, C. (1994) "Managing customer relationships for profit", International Journal of Service Industry Management, vol 5, no 5, 1994, pp 21-28.

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