The primary purpose of a loyalty award program is to encourage customers to continue to shop at or use the services of businesses associated with each program. I’m surprised that when most associates are handed a loyalty card it’s as if the customer is giving them a widget. Golden opportunity missed! Rarely are associates trained on how to supplement the loyalty rewards points by reinforcing customer loyalty.
According to Bond Brand Loyalty, which conducts Reward Program Loyalty research, consumers belong to an average of 13.4 loyalty programs, but are active in only 6.7. Loyalty programs are considered by most corporations an important incentive for consumers to purchase from the same brand or company. A good example, I think, are airline reward programs; definitely have a significant influence over which airline I choose. However, in most other industries, while the incentive exists, it is lacking and there lies the opportunity to leverage the human connection.
Loyalty programs can be easily replicated. As we all know, competition is fierce. The most competitive combative weapon and differentiator is the human-to-human connection. Many consumers shop based on location and price – the closest drug chain or food store. But there are always choices and a rewards program can make a difference. I’m a member of CVS’s Extra Care Savings and Rewards Program, which offers me savings almost every other day. I receive emails, coupons, and texts. Some of the coupon reimbursements are quite substantial. However, when I shop at CVS, it doesn’t appear that the associates behind the counter are trained to associate the connection between the reward program and the customer. There is rarely an acknowledgement or a thank you extended to a loyal customer. I leave the store with my purchases but nothing else.
These are my suggestions for correcting “Loyalty Rewards Program Disconnect.”
- When a customer hands the associate their loyalty card or number to an associate or the enters their card number into the terminal, the associate should always say, “thanks for being such a loyal customer.”
- If the customer mentions this is their first transaction or the associate has access to that information, the associate should make the customer feel especially welcome. Ask the customer if they have any questions about how they program works. Ensure that associates are trained on the most common questions and appropriate responses.
- Have the associates highlight the savings at the end of the transaction; it helps to reinforce the value of the loyalty rewards program. If there are no savings calculated, the associates should explain why.
- At the conclusion of the transaction, have the associate state their name even if they are wearing a nametag. It helps personalize the transaction.
- When handing the bag back to the customer, say, “Mr. Smith, have a wonderful day and it would be great to see you the next time you are in the store”. Have the associates tell the customer their normal working hours. That will also convey to the customer of feeling of being wanted.
- For those consumers that aren’t members of the company’s program, have the associate ask them if they would be interested in joining. Tell them it’s an easy process that could save them money, but equally as important, you (the associate) values their business.
Loyalty programs are a benefit to customers. Ensure all of your company’s associates are trained to make each customer feel welcomed, important and valued whether their company participates in a loyalty rewards program customer or not. When the neighborhood stores were the only game in town, local merchants didn’t need incentives to get repeat customers. They used personal connections. Again, competition is intense. An effective fire-wall a company has is to educate staff on the value of building human connections.
What other suggestions do you have to make Loyalty Reward Programs more effective by leveraging the human connection?