Photo: Hannah Busing
In the world of academia, mention of the word “tenure” conjures up equal measures of glee and terror, depending on who you’re talking to.
By Mike Giambattista, CLMP
With apologies for the broad-brush stroke I am applying, tenured professors can see themselves as somewhat untouchable and therefore can have a reputation for smugness and entitlement (apologies as well to my professor friends). How many stories of college professors gone astray happen to be tenured? Hard to say, but anecdotally, they seem to be in the news a lot. That’s the downside of tenure.
The upside of tenure should, in theory, provide a context for a rewarded and mutually beneficial relationship between the tenure dispenser and the tenure recipient. Let’s make this personal - think about any long-term relationship that you value. You will almost certainly recognize its imperfections, but you will almost certainly recognize its benefits. Relationships that last for a long time – whatever that period is – tend to have higher value for both parties.
Over the course of those relationships the nature of the “rewarding” behavior may change (it needs to) in order to accommodate changing levels of maturity and expectations. But in a healthy long-term relationship it would be hard to imagine that both sides aren’t seeing some significant benefit. “Tenure”, as it were, gets rewarded.
Shouldn’t that be the case in loyalty marketing?
If one of our stated goals is to maximize the lifetime value of a healthy relationship, doesn’t it make sense that longevity should be factored into the algorithm? You would think so.
There is a certain mobile carrier with whom I have had a long term “connection”. I won’t say who it is because decorum dictates otherwise, except to say that it rhymes with “Ay Tee & Tee”. Per the last few conversations with their customer service people, it would seem that I have been a valued customer for around 12 years. You don’t know me personally, but I can tell you that 12 years is like a lifetime in my book. We have come to know each other – our quirks and ticks, our preferences and our distastes. We became comfortable with each other. I knew they would keep up their end of the bargain and they knew I would do the same. We were good like that. There were certain expectations on both sides and, as far as I could tell, they were being met.
Until I asked one of their CSRs how I could reduce my bill. I was told, by a very friendly person that there really was no way to make any real reductions and that my best bet would be to keep the plan I was on. “Sorry, not much I can do”. The person was very pleasant and acknowledged again that they valued my business.
I did the napkin math: I pay a small fortune each month multiplied by 12 years. Granted, their service has improved over the years and they do a lot of things right, but they had effectively waived off close to $30,000 in LTV in one call because they were not equipped with the tools to maintain and enhance a mature relationship – a healthy mature relationship that showed every sign of long-term profitability.
Smart loyalty means first understanding your customer and then wrapping strategy around that understanding.
The organization in this case seems to have gotten stuck at acquisition and never developed segmentation that was rich enough to identify and reward someone like me.
Did they not see value in me? Did they not believe in the value of our relationship? Did they just never get around to my particular segment because they have more pressing / valuable strata to attend to? It seems to me there is a case for rewarding tenure.
Let’s face it, in the family hierarchy, acquisition always gets the bigger party. Nurturing those newly acquired relationships into maturity can be a boring, tedious and relatively thankless process. But done well, it can provide the means – the platform - for growing spend, profits – and genuine loyalty.
Postscript: I’m in a new (wireless) relationship now. We’re still in the honeymoon phase but I think we’re going to be together for a while – they seem to get me.
Mike Giambattista is Editor in Chief at The Wise Marketer and is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).