Where Does your Loyalty Really Stand?

Take a look in your wallet. How many loyalty cards do you have? Go on, count them. In my wallet, I have 12. Actually, I have one homemade card that lists every airline and hotel reward program number I have; so that is another 12. I am a member of 24 rewards programs (not counting the other cards I am sure are at home in a drawer). And in reality, only two of them actually have my true loyalty, where I will (1) pay a premium, (2) choose them every time over a competitor, and (3) recommend them to others. Two.

So why is this? Sure, I like earning points and turning them into a gift, cash, or a trip. But what drives my loyalty is the way the business and its associates treat me – the customer service I receive.

What Makes You Loyal?

So what sets the two brands that have my loyalty apart from the rest? It’s the amazing level of customer service I receive from them, every time, around the world. Regardless of location or employee (for the most part), I receive excellent service.

These two brands, Delta Air Lines and Hilton Worldwide, recognize my membership and thank me for my business each time I interact with them. Full disclosure – I am at the highest level of “elite” status with these two brands, so that doesn’t hurt.

Missed Opportunity

Of the other 22 brands I have a “loyalty membership” with, I’ve never had any associate treat me in any special way once I showed my loyalty card. To me, there are a lot of brands out there that are missing a key opportunity to show their customers the love.

According to the marketing firm Colloquy:

  • More than 2.1 billion Americans have signed up for an average of 18 loyalty programs.
  • Only 17% of respondents said that loyalty programs are “very influential” in their buying decisions.
  • Only 25% consumers feel “very loyal” to the brand with another 25% saying they have no loyalty at all.

So I’m not alone; people are not feeling the love from these companies and their loyalty programs. And companies are likely wasting a great deal of time and money on the programs with little or no true loyalty lift.

It’s All About Your Front Line

Where most companies are missing the mark is with their front line associates, who aren’t making meaningful connections or creating a great experience for customers.

So how can you change that? Based on our experience working with our clients, it’s really easy:

  • Your front line associates just need to take one extra minute with the program member and really focus on them. Just one minute. That’s all it takes to make an impact. Provide recognition of their continued patronage, a thank you for their business, and a smile.
  • That part isn’t rocket science. But recognizing and thanking customers with authenticity and sincerity can be challenging, as shown by the masses that are failing at it.

So, the bottom line (as the service profit chain tells us) is this:

  • An engaged and committed front line delivers a great customer experience…
  • Which in turns drives loyalty and business success.

Each customer has the potential to be your most loyal and to be a source of free marketing (and lots of additional spending) for you. And each front line associate has the potential to be the person who wins the customer over, where they go from spending across all competitors to only spending with you.

Stop and Ask Yourself a Few Questions

  • How much are you spending on the marketing of your loyalty program and your brand in general? How much are you spending on empowering and engaging your front line associates?
  • What has more potential to drive your customer loyalty – more program points or a consistently great experience?
  • What type of experience are your front line associates providing? Do your associates feel like owners and advocates of the brand? Or are they just “checking the box” with each customer?
June 14, 2012


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