We are well into the COVID-19 outbreak and at this point, most companies should [hopefully] have a reasonable plan to protect their businesses, and in some cases their livelihoods, during this time. But after solidifying the short-term financial decisions to defend against insolvency, this is a perfect time to reaffirm your customers' commitment through the power of your loyalty program.
Barry Kirk of Martiz Motivation has put together an excellent short paper — with research and behavioral science as the foundation — that gives guidance to loyalty program managers during this time. Barry reminds us that "brands with effective loyalty strategies are best positioned to offer customers relief and assistance through this trying time." He describes well established loyalty programs as "like a rainy-day fund, with stored equity being the goodwill and brand commitment they've built with their most engaged customers." He continues to describe this "pandemic loyalty playbook" sufficiently and succinctly through the following four topics.
1) Acknowledge the human condition
Recognize that most of your customers are experiencing unprecedented disruptions to their normal lives. Their daily lives are drastically different than it was two months ago. Put your customer in your own shoes: your disruptions are probably similar to what your customers are experiencing.
All this changes means that for the next few months, your known customer life cycle is out the window. We're in the life cycle of the pandemic now, and we have to respond accordingly. Barry leans on research from the 2019 Loyalty Landscape Study and turns to insights from behavioral science to further his guidance: loss aversion, the endowment effect, and temporal discounting.
2) Make Loyalty Your Customer Lifeline
Now is the time for reciprocal loyalty. This is the time to flip the script and show your company's commitment to your customers and their needs during this challenging time. Ask the question: "What can our loyalty program do today to help our members?".
Barry uses the Maritz Motivation Multi-Loyalty Framework as a guide as he describes opportunities to show loyalty to your customers. He encourages focusing the quadrants True Loyalty and Cult Loyalty i.e. optimize the experience and optimize the tribe. Now is not the time for Inertia Loyalty and Mercenary Loyalty i.e. optimize the barrier to exist and optimize the incentive. If you're not familiar with the framework, then this may sound foreign to you, so we point you to the playbook as Barry describes the framework in detail there.
3) Use your program to activate the human drive to bond
The playbook recommends two ways that you can demonstrate your commitment to customers by leveraging your loyalty platform to support the world and their communities:
- Allow members to donate points or funds to national or local charities that support medical needs during the pandemic.
- Feature campaigns that allow your customers to join together to provide relief to friends, families, or first responders in need.
Barry gives specific examples of ways to execute these ideas in the playbook.
4) Be open to transparency beyond your loyalty program
Customers support value-driven businesses — obvious, right? — but how many companies actually act on that and prove it to their customers? Now is the perfect opportunity to show that commitment by committing to your employees.
A recent survey from Maritz Motivation shows that more than 60% of consumers say that the way a company handles their employees in this crisis will have a significant impact on their future buying decision with those brands. If you treat your employees well, your customers will return the favor.
This was just a synopsis of some of the recommendations from this playbook. We encourage you to fill out the form below to read the full 10 page report from Barry and his team titled Recognizing the Power of Your Loyalty Program to Reaffirm Customer Commitment.
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