The Loyalty Gap: The Difference Between Repeat Customers and Loyal Customers


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Or, The Loyalty GapIn a recent Shepard Letter, I discussed the Trust Gap, which is the difference between an organization’s belief that their customers trust them and the percentage of customers who actually do. I’ve covered different gap concepts in the past, and it’s time to add yet another to the list, and that is the Loyalty Gap. 

By the way, this is a perfect time to mention International Customer Loyalty Month, which happens every year in April. It is a time to focus some extra care and attention on your loyal customers. You can learn more at  

So, back to the Loyalty Gap. This is the gap between the percentage of customers you think are loyal and customers who actually are loyal. If you’ve been following my work, you may remember that I preach there is a big difference between a repeat customer and a loyal customer. A customer that comes back again and again could be mistakenly labeled as a loyal customer. Before we can call someone a loyal customer, we must find out why they keep coming back and buying from us. And there are many reasons why customers might return that have nothing to do with being loyal. For example:  

The Price Is Lowest – Customers who buy based on low prices aren’t loyal to you. They are loyal to the price. The moment a competitor has a lower price, the customer disappears. And you thought they were loyal!  

The Location Is More Convenient – Does the customer buy from you because you are closer than your competition? You don’t know if you don’t ask. As soon as a competitor moves into the area, if their location happens to be more convenient, the customer moves on. Again, you thought they were loyal! 

The Customer Is Satisfied – This one is super important. There’s a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer. Satisfied customers are just … satisfied. The experience is good, but not great. It’s enough to get them to come back until they find another brand or organization that satisfies them just a bit more.  

A loyal customer not only comes back but also spends more than a typical customer and evangelizes your brand by sharing word-of-mouth referrals. This is because there is an emotional connection. Maybe it’s the way the customer is treated. Maybe there is an employee the customer loves to work with. Or, maybe it’s the confidence that’s created when a customer interacts with the brand. There are many reasons, but they all evoke an emotional connection.  

So, what’s the Loyalty Gap in your business? Do you understand your customers’ buying patterns? Do you know why they come back? In a perfect world, there shouldn’t be a gap. But that’s not reality. There will always be customers who don’t have the emotional connection needed to drive loyalty. There’s nothing you can do but keep trying. For the rest of your repeat customers, understand why they return, then keep delivering the experience that makes them want to return. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. As a customer service speaker and expert, Shep works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is a hall of fame speaker (National Speakers Association) and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.


  1. Sorry, “There ARE also…….” In addition, totally agree with your key premises that, whether B2B or B2C, it’s perceived personal value and longitudinal, positive emotional brand connection that drive desired customer behavior.


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