True loyalty requires passion. A customer who won’t switch brands for a better price has an emotional connection to the brand, not a rational one. Customers may rationalize their loyalty by basing their feelings of loyalty on your product quality and customer service, but loyalty ultimately comes down to feelings: feelings of trust engendered by the people with whom you’re doing business, and by the customer’s certainty that you will live up to your brand promise. Those feelings begin the moment the customer chooses to engage with your people, products and company. From that point on, every transaction and every engagement either nourishes or diminishes those feelings. In this article series, Hinda Incentives president Mike Donnelly explores one of the most critical touch points in the relationship-building process: the reward redemption.
By Mike Donnelly
Most loyalty program operators spend their energy communicating what they want members to do. Millions of direct mail pieces or emails are sent out reminding members of the benefits of buying more from the sponsor. Promotions run regularly offering bonus points when members take advantage of a short-term offer. Special member discounts are promoted to encourage active program participation. These communications are rational appeals offering the member greater value for purchasing from the sponsor.
Despite these efforts to leverage communications to change behavior, the lion’s share of loyalty program investment is still spent on individual rewards – and yet many sponsors forget the importance of the reward delivery experience. What does it say to someone who receives a generic order confirmation with no acknowledgement of their special status as a preferred customer when they redeem their points? What are you communicating when the item the customer saved for over a year to redeem arrives in a plain brown box with merely a shipping label and packing slip confirming what’s inside?
When it comes to reinforcing a customer’s emotional connection with your brand, the experience of receiving an award is as important as the award itself. A customer reward delivery experience must show appreciation for the customer’s patronage and help reinforce the brand promise. Delivering the award in a special box or packaging that includes a thank you card from an executive makes the delivery experience memorable. A follow-up call from customer service to verify delivery and their satisfaction with their award helps remind the customer why they like doing business with a company that cares while promoting their continued support.
Here’s an example: One of our clients, a global financial organization with over 7,000,000 active loyalty program members, leverages their reward delivery experience to make it a celebration and demonstrate appreciation each time a member redeems for an award. Their steps to success:
- Immediately after placing their order.
- Immediately after placing an order, members receive a special personalized confirmation email thanking them.
- Awards are shipped in a special box sized specifically for the item to reduce the likelihood of damage during shipment and wrapped in specially branded “thank you” tape.
- Each award is sent with a personalized “Thank You” notecard inside reminding the member of their importance to the sponsor, reinforcing the brand and maintaining the emotional tie by showing appreciation for the customer.
Reward delivery is all about making the member feel special. Ways to do so include personal touches such as special cards, thank you tape, and white glove service. Doing so also means actively managing and controlling the experience: warehousing items which require extended lead times to shorten the delivery time for your valued members, and working with drop-ship partners willing to provide those special personal touches to promote your brand and appreciate the customer.
Creating a no hassle reward delivery experience also means carefully thinking through your award options. While it might sound good to say you have millions of awards, a catalog filled with tens of thousands of different rug designs may not be very appealing to your participants, and worse yet could be very difficult to navigate. When choosing award options:
- Consider your members’ needs
- Use quality name brand awards you’d like associated with your own brand
- Offer a wide range of options, but not so many as to be overwhelming
- Set standards for shipments to have items delivered quickly
Your goal: Make your reward delivery experience an extension of your brand to demonstrate even greater value to your members. Loyalty practitioners are transforming programs from the old “buy this, earn points” approach into engagement and reinforcement engines. These revamped programs can help give sponsors a better idea of what most customers want and need as well as deepening their relationships with members. Success requires creating emotional bonds and evolving programs to reinforce and even anticipate member needs.
Customer loyalty is critical to the success of any company – but loyalty requires passion and emotional connections. To engender these feelings, we must make every program interaction an extension of the sponsor’s brand. Each program touchpoint, from the initial invitation to the delivery of a reward, must reflect the sponsor’s brand and reinforce their emotional value and bond with the customer. In a digital age with enormous data resources, program communications and offers must be relevant to your customers to show that you understand them, care for them, and think of them more as simply a revenue source.
Progressive loyalty marketers seek innovative ways to engage customers. We seek out every opportunity to enhance our customer relationships: we offer points for engagement activities like completing a survey, providing feedback, or for referring a friend. We create highly personalized and branded reward delivery experiences. We surprise and delight members with gifts from call center associates. We continually look for new ways to make emotional connections. By focusing on these cutting-edge techniques, we can transform customer interactions from simple transactions to meaningful and rich moments that create relationships meant to last a lifetime.
Mike Donnelly is president of Hinda Incentives. This content is sponsored by Hinda Loyalty Group.