The loyalty-program designer’s co-pilot

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People who know me understand my passion for the contributions front-line employees make to a loyalty program’s success—at every stage of the program’s existence. For example, as I watched a trial launch of a program on a recent client engagement, I realized once again that if a test launch is a pilot, your front-liners are the co-pilots.

Engaging your employees in a pilot not only helps you eliminate a program’s operational bugs, but also opens the possibility to gather new ideas that can make your broader launch a big success.

Here are some key reasons for deeply involving front-liners in a pilot.

1. A pilot is your chance to make mistakes early. You’re going to make mistakes. But making a 10-store mistake is much different than a 1,000-store mistake. Use the pilot to figure out what’s working and what isn’t—and let the front-liners do a lot of that figuring. Make sure everyone on the team knows mistakes are OK. Even more important, encourage and reward front-liners who report mistakes, even their own. Their view is the clearest—and one of the most critical.

2. A pilot is a great chance for your front-line employees to innovate. In addition to giving your front-line employees permission to make mistakes, give them enough rope to come up with new ideas. It’s a great way to engage them in the program and will result in 2-3 big ideas that would never come out of a conference room at HQ. Let the pilot markets run with it a little bit and create a strong dialogue loop between the team at Corporate and the team out in the field.

3. Pilot results can get stakeholders on board—especially the holdouts. A pilot store manager touting the success of the program—and store managers in other markets begging for the program in their stores—can quickly quiet any nay-sayers at Corporate. Use your pilot to get the data and get the sound bites to create positive momentum toward your national rollout. Your front-liners can gather such sound bites from customers, but they can also be the source of insider sound bites with in-the-trenches clarity. Use their enthusiasm and insights not only to fire up people in the home office, but also to set the stage for front-liner buy-in, engagement and execution at other locations as you extend the pilot or roll out the final launch.

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