Loyalty marketers never want to hear the word “betrayal”


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There are no positive connotations when it comes to the word “betrayal.” Its definitions, which include “giving aid or information to the enemy,” “to be false or disloyal to,” and “to divulge in a breach of confidence,” just aren’t feel-good phrases — particularly when relating to a specific relationship a person is in.

While betrayal is certainly most serious when it relates to, say, your spouse, your family, your friends or your country, it can also unfortunately relate to your loyalty program membership. If a retailer or other brand makes its loyalty progam members feel betrayed, well, I can’t imagine that increased customer loyalty will follow.

One touchy point related to loyalty programs is always when those programs make changes to long-standing policies or program rules. It can be a tricky balance: If those changes aren’t communicated in the right way at the right time, customers can be left feeling, yes, betrayed, as though the two-way relationship between company and consumer wasn’t taken seriously.

A Wall Street Journal article sat squarely in the “betrayed” neck of the woods regarding this loyalty issue, blasting stores for changing their program rules. The specifics of the programs she mentioned are not the point of this post — but the general idea is. If your program members feel betrayed by changes, you either need to think very carefully about how you communicate such changes in the future, or you may need to consider those customers lost causes.

When it comes to loyalty marketing’s best practices, trust is an essential ingredient for any reward program’s recipe. Figuring out how to keep a trust-engendering dialogue going with customers when you decide to switch gears or shift priorities in your reward program can certainly be tough — but without it you might find yourself alienating your best customers instead of catering to them.


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