What are specific marketing strategies and tactics that are vital to help build attitudinal loyalty in that business?
A. Understand the Concept of Attitudinal Loyalty
A requisite to the determination of marketing strategies, significant to the development of attitudinal loyalty, is for managers and employees to have a clear understanding of this concept in order to direct policies or actions towards the achievement of customer loyalty to the restaurant. Shankar et al. (2000) describe attitudinal loyalty as a long-term and higher form of commitment, of customers to the restaurant, which cannot be learned through the mere observation of repeat purchase behaviors. The business firm should implement loyalty measures that extend beyond frequent or repeat purchases. Liddy (2000) explains that attitudinal loyalty is an important measure because it reflects the propensity of customers to exhibit certain key behaviors such as future visits to the restaurant. Before focusing on the behaviors of customers, as the end result of marketing stimuli, the firm should first understand and influence customer attitudes to ensure the intended behavior, such as the return of the customer to the restaurant and more importantly the development of an emotional attachment of the customer to the service provide to ensure a continuous relationship.
B. Focus on Affective Commitment
Bowen and Shoemaker (1998) provide that the purpose of any relationship marketing is the development of customer loyalty with stronger basis other than the attributes of the product or service and other economic factors. Developing customer loyalty necessitates the business firm’s focus on affective commitment, which Garbarino and Johnson (1999) explain as a major ingredient in building a successful relationship with restaurant customers. It is also important to know exactly what commitment is and what its drivers are. Moorman, Zaltman and Deshpande (1999) provide a commonly accepted definition of commitment as the enduring desire of customers to maintain a value-based relationship with the firm. This means that affectively committed customers become emotionally attached (Fournier, 1998; Mattila, 2001) to the restaurant resulting to the propensity of investing on the relationship leading to long-term results. Emotional attachment is important because this constitutes a better predictor of future consumer decisions and behavior (Kumar, Hibbard, & Stern, 1994) compared to cognitive and other factors.
C. Meet the Determinants of Attitudinal Commitment
Geyskens et al. (1996) and Baloglu (2002) list the measures of attitudinal loyalty as: 1. commitment, 2. emotional attachment, 3. trust, and 4. switching cost. Achieving these measures involves investment in these key values.
Morgan and Hunt (1994) that ensuring attitudinal loyalty involves living up to the values of honesty or the ability to consistently meet promises. This means that of the restaurant promised to serve meals within 30 minutes then the restaurant should consistently do so within that 30 minutes or if the restaurant customized or personalized service, then it should always be able to meet even the weirdest orders. Of course fulfilling promises should be within the bounds of reason but the restaurant should never promise anything that it cannot always keep. By fulfilling promises, the restaurant fosters trust, affective commitment, emotional attachment, and even the cost of switching. When customers feel that the extent of the value accorded them by the restaurant they are likely to return this value.
Morgan and Hunt (1994) also cite competence as the means of developing attitudinal loyalty. This relates to the development of universal relationship to ensure customers loyalty. Heskett et al. (1994) explain that by ensuring employee loyalty, customer loyalty is also influenced because employees represent the firm to customers. Employee loyalty can be achieved through motivation, job satisfaction and organizational commitment through specific human resource development programs on knowledge and skills training. Knowledgeable and skilled employees not only feel good about their work that is in turn translated into positive outlook towards customer service and competent service delivery. When customers experience the type of customer service they expected or even beyond their expectations, they are likely to develop trust and commitment towards the restaurant.
Morgan and Hunt (1994) add that benevolence is one factor that ensures attitudinal loyalty. Benevolence pertains to the compassion, goodwill or kindness extended by the restaurant to its customers. This means addressing the human aspect of customer loyalty by satisfying basic conditions of human relationship. In restaurants, customers feel welcome when the employees are courteous. The impression of customers of the restaurant depends upon their initial encounter with restaurant employees to be reinforced with the consistency in dealings with employees. It is important that benevolence should be consistently practiced as a means of reaching out to customers and as the foundation of relationship building.
Morgan and Hunt (1994) further provide for reliability as a way of ensuring attitudinal loyalty. Reliability pertains to the dependability of the restaurant according to the perception of the customer. In restaurants, it is important for customers to feel that is restaurant is dependable. When the restaurant has announced its opening hours as 10 am and its closing hours as 10 pm, it should always open at 10 in the morning and close at 10 in the evening. A restaurant that cannot even meet its opening and closing hours is a major turn-off to customers relying on the restaurant for their culinary needs whether for themselves or for their friends, colleagues or even bosses. Reliable restaurants could have strong impacts on the emotional state of their consumers not only by being able to meet their personal expectations but also that of the customer’s friends, colleagues or bosses. Little things that the restaurant can do to enhance the emotional attachment of consumers can do so much for the development of a customer based and firm sustainability.
Lastly, Morgan and Hunt (1994) provide for customer orientation as a means of developing attitudinal loyalty. Narver and Slater (1990) explain that customer orientation means the direction of the firm to understand the current and changing needs of consumers to know the means of effectively and continuously creating value for them. Gatignon and Xuereb (1997) further explain that customer oriented firms have the capability to determine and understand the means of meeting customer needs. Information on target consumers can be made through customer surveys and employee observations. Restaurants need to make sure that everything about their restaurant is directed towards the demands and expectations of their target customers. The ambiance of the restaurant should set a positive mood for eating, relaxation and socialization and the arrangement of the seats and counters should be made in a manner that ensures convenient mobility and access to the key areas of the restaurant such as order counter, restrooms and means of ingress and egress. The menu should fit the taste of target consumers and offer a wide array of selection to ensure the probability of meeting the various food needs of individual customers. Employees should develop consciousness over the importance of their role in developing loyalty that should reflect in their interactions with customers.
What are specific marketing strategies and tactics that are vital to help build behavioral loyalty in that business?
A. Understand the Concept of Behavioral Loyalty
Employing strategies that address the achievement of behavioral loyalty requires the business firm to understand the concept to know what are benefits and requirements. Schultz and Bailey (2000) define behavioral loyalty as the intention of customers to make repeat purchases, the willingness of clients to recommend the service organization to other people within their social network, and the decreased sensitivity of customers to price.
This definition coincides with the behavioral indicators of frequency, price consideration, recency, word of mouth, and retention. This also means that mere reliance on repeat purchases to understand customer behavior is not sufficient.
This concept is important because it centers on the value of customers to the service brand. As such, focusing on behavioral loyalty allows the firm to create value for customers as well as relate that value to the brand, with the results expressed through subsequent customer dealings with the firm, recommendations of the firm to other people, and repurchase of the service without considering price as the determining factor of purchasing decision.
B. Focus on Cognitive and Conative Commitment
Oliver (1999) describes behavioral loyalty as the preference of customers for the perceived attributes of the business firm. To achieve behavioral loyalty, the firm should focus on cognitive and conative commitment.
Cognitive commitment reflects the beliefs of consumers about the brand (Oliver, 1999) such as the restaurant offers great tasting food or the service crew is efficient. When distinguished from affective commitment, cognitive commitment involves the implementation of strategies that is able to appeal to the reasoning of customers especially in their decision to make repeat purchases, recommend the service provider, or go beyond price considerations instead of appealing to the emotions of customers. This means that restaurants should make their marketing strategies should develop beliefs or perceptions of customers on the attributes of the restaurant such excellent food, price that equates to value offerings, and great customer service. By influencing the beliefs of customers, restaurants should be able to ensure that their target clients place great weight on the attributes of the restaurant in deciding to eat at the restaurant again or bringing family, friends and colleagues to the restaurant during succeeding visits.
Oliver (1999) defines conative commitment covers the propensity of customers to not only to make another purchase but also recommend the brand. Reichheld (2003) explains that he likelihood of customers recommending the brand constitutes a strong indicator of behavioral loyalty because when customers refer the service brand, their actions express two things: first, that they received or experienced value from the firm; and second, that they are willing to risk their reputations in referring the service brand to their social networks. This reflects a strong belief over the brand attributes since the customer is willing to make a risk based on the belief that the service brand would also offer the same value to the people to whom recommendations were made in the same manner as experienced by the referring customer. Firms that have achieved conative commitment must have done something that effectively created this result.
C. Apply a Comparative Perspective
In considering the frequency and recency of purchases, the perspective should be comparative instead of unitary. Pritchard and Howard (1997) discuss that behavioral measures should involve the consideration of the frequency of visits with the recency of the visits instead of considering these measures singly. In restaurants, preferred customers are those who not only frequent the restaurant but eat at the restaurant in between short intervals and more so with customers that regularly bring other people to the restaurant. This makes its easier for the restaurant to experience the multiplier effect of behavioral loyalty.
Apart from this, firms should also consider its competitors. It can happen that even if customers frequent the restaurant at shorter intervals, they could also be eating at the restaurants comprising the close competitors of the firm during the interval period. Firms should assess the extent of behavioral loyalty of its customers based on this consideration.
D. Meet the Determinants of Behavioral Loyalty
Cooperation (Social Bonding & Structural Interaction)
Morgan and Hunt (1994) define cooperation as the process involving the firm cooperating with customers to fulfill common goals. Bowen and Shoemaker (1998) add that cooperation also refers to the willingness of customers to support the goals of the firm. This means that restaurants should apply ways of fostering cooperation.
Restaurants can foster cooperation by communicating with consumers. Communication could be explicit or implicit. Explicit communication pertaining to the expression of employees of the intention of the restaurant to ensure excellent service so that the restaurant wants to know how it can meet the demands of customers to ensure full satisfaction that creates a positive belief about the customer service attribute of the restaurant. Implicit communication pertains to the restaurant’s intention to provide the best service for consumers such as establishing a smoking and non-smoking, offering food ingredient preferences such as with or without peanut or peanut extracts or slight, moderate and very hot for taste preferences. Moreover, communication should be a two-way process by providing customers with the means to express issues or concerns regarding various aspects of the restaurant apart from the restaurant communicating attributes to customers.
Bowen and Shoemaker (1998) describe voluntary partnership to be the same as word of mouth referrals. Anderson and Narus (1990) add that voluntary partnership has the effect of promoting the firm, expressing positive allusions about the service brand, and making actual business referrals. This can be achieved by treating customers as stakeholders of the restaurant so that as parties in interest, their perspectives are considered in evaluating and changing policies and addressing areas for improvement. Customers become voluntary partners when the firm makes particular accommodations such as privacy and multiculturalism. Since privacy constitutes an inconvenience, restaurant employees should learn to read body language as a basis for decisions instead of directly asking customers that could create uneasiness and inconvenience. Restaurant employees should learn about customers within the limitations of privacy. Customers also become voluntary partners through multiculturalism. Whether a restaurant has a cultural theme or not, customers should always be given options and employees should be sensitive enough to provide information to customers not strongly familiar with the culture.
Value ? Price Equation (Financial Incentive)
Apart from price discounting to reward loyal customers, the value provided by the firm should always be equal or greater than the price that consumers pay for the service (Mooney, 2002). This is necessary to influence the sensitivity of consumers to price. Price sensitivity is when consumers primarily consider price in their decision to visit the restaurant again. By offering value that is equal or greater than the price, consumers develop a belief that the price is fair so that they now consider other deciding factors such as brand attributes. This situation supports behavioral loyalty more than with customers who are price sensitive.
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