opinion

Beyond Billing: Creating Consumer Loyalty Starts With Trust

Q. Boyer

I’ll never forget the day that I opened my first checking account. It was an event that made me feel more mature and more like an adult than I ever had before (which isn’t saying much, I suppose, given that I was 10 years old at the time). What stands out most in my memory is the respect and courtesy the bank’s employees showered upon me, despite the fact that I couldn’t even open an account without my parents co-signing, creating an impression that I mattered to them, and that I represented more than just another account holder making an admittedly meager contribution to their massive holdings.

Unfortunately, I’ll also never forget the day that I closed that same account years later, which came as a result of some of the worst, most disrespectful customer service I’ve ever encountered from any manner of business.

When it comes to serving porn consumers, adult companies would be wise to remember that the first line of defense against customer attrition (and the corresponding revenue attrition that goes with it) is customer loyalty.

While I’m sure my individual departure as a customer was no cause of concern for the bank, I’m equally certain that their eventual demise as a financial institution was no coincidence, because I was far from the only account holder who had developed serious resentment of the bank’s nickel-and-dime-you-to-death fee schedules, their abandonment of personal service, and the general disdain the company evidently had developed for its customers.

When it comes to serving porn consumers, adult companies would be wise to remember that the first line of defense against customer attrition (and the corresponding revenue attrition that goes with it) is customer loyalty — and the core of customer loyalty is trust in your company, and trust in your brand.

I’m often asked by my clients to look over their sites, with a particular eye on their marketing approach. Typically, their first question is whether the claims made in their marketing and advertising are effective; typically, my first question in response is whether those same claims are true.

Make no mistake about it, a false claim that is compelling and alluring can help drive sales, but that same false claim will just as assuredly come back to haunt you when it comes to customer satisfaction, member retention, brand perception and word-of-mouth marketing.

When I make this point to people, they often respond with something like “well, no cancelling member has ever complained about our content not really being ‘exclusive,’ so we don’t think it matters whether we actually have exclusive content.”

This might seem like a reasonable assumption, but back when I closed out my account at my original bank, I didn’t explain my decision to them, either; I just emptied my account and opened one down the street with one of their competitors.

The truth is, whether the feedback would be good or bad, most consumers simply aren’t motivated enough to offer you feedback in the first place, either way, at least not directly and explicitly. What they do is take their money elsewhere, make a mental note to avoid your company like the plague and chalk up the whole experience as one more example of the wisdom of the old saying “Let the buyer beware.” If you’re lucky, your dissatisfied former customers won’t take to online consumer forums to detail the reasons for their dissatisfaction — but one shouldn’t interpret their silence as satisfaction, particularly if one’s membership retention numbers are trending in the wrong direction at the time.

The bottom line is that false claims erode trust and undermine the perceived and actual value of your brand — and once your brand is burned in the mind of your target market, it is virtually impossible to rebuild trust and salvage your relationship with your customer base.

Think about it; if you get burned by a content distributor, how likely would you be to ever purchase content from that distributor again? If your answer is anything other than “I would never buy from again from someone who ripped me off,” then you might be in the wrong business. (I’d suggest a job with the federal government, where they seem all too happy to do ongoing business with liars and thieves …. )

I don’t care how well optimized your tour is, how high quality your content, or how good your technical back-end; if you earn a reputation among consumers as a ripoff, or as a company that promises much and delivers little, your brand will be permanently handicapped. You might make money, but you will never know just how much you’ve left on the table.

Sadly, consumers don’t care about the sort of corporate misbehavior that bothers a lot of us within the industry, like content theft and copyright violation. As long as the sites guilty of those crimes treat the consumers themselves well, consumer perception of the site and brand generally will be positive. Tube major sites, for all their many issues and problems from a B2B perspective, often deliver exactly what they promise to consumers: a ton of content, a broad selection, and near-constant updates. Naturally, not charging consumers anything at all for access to all those videos doesn’t hurt their perception of the brands and sites in question, either, but you shouldn’t discount the positive impact of simply delivering on promises made to your customers.

So, as you read all the billing tips and strategic advice offered by the experts, bear in mind that the most important factor here might have nothing to do with being mobile-friendly, making effective use of cascading billing, or setting your price points in the right spots. As much as you might think it sounds good to advertise on your tour that the site has a million full-length videos that are updated daily, if the truth is that you have 100,000 videos that get updated more-or-less weekly, that alluring claim is likely doing more damage to your retention than can be justified by its benefit to your conversion ratios.

I’m sure this all sounds like common sense, but what I see far too often in the adult market today is common nonsense. To put it bluntly, porn surfers just aren’t as dumb as a lot of you appear to think they are. In a market that’s as shaky as the online adult sector is currently, underestimating the awareness and savvy of your potential customers is a misjudgment that your company simply cannot afford.

A 16-year veteran of the online adult entertainment industry and long-time XBIZ contributor, Q Boyer provides public relations, publicity, consulting and copywriting services to clients that range from adult website operators to mainstream brick and mortar businesses.

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