Could Loyalty Make a Comeback?

There's a whole other angle to this week's Spin. Check out the responses on the Spin Board. (Registration required) If you're a marketer like me, think about all the complaints you've heard from clients about customer loyalty, price sensitivity and churn. Heck, I know of several businesses where churn is the marketing guy's number one concern. And many businesses would have a much better business if they were able to hang on to customers for any significant length of time.

Take the automotive category, for instance. Lots of older folks I know are loyal to a particular brand of automobile, and are often loyal to a specific dealership, to the point where they'll tell their friends something to the effect of, "Go to George at Riverhead Dodge and he'll hook you up" when a friend is looking to buy a new car.

But for many, especially younger folks, that loyalty doesn't exist. All research for a new car purchase is done online, and the dealer that can offer the lowest price gets the business. This price sensitivity is putting pressure on many categories of consumer goods, particularly considered purchases like travel, consumer electronics, computers, and much, much more.

But would price be the determining factor in a purchase if companies actually listened?

Personally, I'm willing to pay a few hundred dollars extra on a car purchase if I know the dealership isn't going to jerk me around with regard to service or follow-up. If dialogue helps me get more familiar with a particular personality at a dealership, or if it puts me more at ease, I'm more likely to pay a premium for dealing with someone I know and trust.

So can meaningful participation in dialogue be the differentiator that helps markets from becoming commodities? Can customer loyalty make a comeback? What say you?