Having celebrated the Service Excellence Awards 2015 this week (http://se-awards.com/) organised by The Institute of Customer Service in Kenya to recognize and celebrate exemplary customer service, many insights emerged.

The SE Awards are purely an expression of service delight conveyed directly by customers about their service providers. The awards are based on the Net Promoter Score that solely incorporates the voice of the customer and their willingness to act as brand ambassador for the corporate of choice, vide their inspiration to make recommendations to their family, colleagues and friends.

This year’s awards had some surprising results in the banking, insurance, petrol station and supermarket categories that saw traditional service power houses unseated by their competitors, much to their surprise and disappointment. This then begs the question – what would cause an organization that traditionally provides excellent customer service and has in place customer centric initiatives to be outvoted in a customer service survey?

The one and only answer to this question is CUSTOMER LOYALTY. The net promoter score question is a clear measure of customer loyalty. In their excellent book Customer Loyalty Guaranteed, Chip Bell and John Patterson pronounce firmly that “Loyal customers act as a volunteer sales force, championing brands to others at work, at home, in social circles and even around the glove via recommendations on blogs and online sites.” The net promoter score question therefore is indeed a customer loyalty question. It prompts respondents to declare their willingness to ‘sell’ the brand.

That being the case, the immediate call to action for brands is to examine if they are pushing customer satisfaction or customer loyalty. With the customer being the central focus of business, and with enhanced customer engagement directly contributing to increased revenues, the subject of customer loyalty needs to take center stage in every boardroom and should be the bane of every CEO’s existence should it not be measuring up.

It is not enough to have satisfied customers, it is not enough to provide exemplary customer service and it is not enough to have customer contact activities. Brands that are driven to create customer loyalty must create emotional connections with customers, must ensure customers feel really really listened to, and must strive to be dedicatedly consistent at it.

Customers remain loyal when they know their feedback, views and ideas are welcome, received and considered; that they are important and are a part of the brand’s family; and that they are seen as individuals and not masses. There must be a specific drive to continuously consult with the customer, actively seek feedback and create new products, services and solutions based on this feedback.

As Philemon Kiprop from the country’s leading Mobile Operator commented in his acceptance speech while receiving the winning Service Excellence Award on behalf of Safaricom Ltd “Whenever we have meetings, we leave an empty seat in our meeting rooms. This is the customer’s seat. The customer is an ever present presence in our meetings and we ask ourselves with every proposal, decision or invention – WWCD – What Would the Customer Do?” It is therefore not surprising that the customer loyalty for this brand through thick and thin remains at an all-time high.

Ask yourselves in your customer strategy meeting with your teams today – are we promoting customer service or customer loyalty? And let that be the beacon shining light into your customer focused activities going forward.