The Moment of Truth for Loyalty Marketers

WM Circle Logo

By: Mike Capizzi, CLMP™ |

Posted on October 16, 2019

Marketers often talk about the “moment of truth” in their interactions with customers. For loyalty marketers that moment typically starts with the initial enrollment process and the overall experience associated with introduction to the program.

A brief story ...

My colleague and I were planning a celebration party for the team that had put together the Loyalty Academy Conference a few years back. We wanted to add some adult beverages to the menu, so we headed to our favorite liquor store near the office - a large, regional chain with huge inventory and broad selection of beer, wine and spirits, along with many party-like accouterments. Our order was a big one and well above the average ticket size by the time we reached the checkout counter.

“Would you like to join our loyalty program?” said the clerk.

“Maybe,” I said, “what do I have to do and what benefits do I get?”

The clerk handed me a trifold countertop brochure and replied, “Everything you need to know is explained here,” as if he didn’t really know the detailed program mechanics. “All I need is your name and e-mail address and you can sign up instantly and I’ll give you a key fob with a unique ID. I’ll scan the bar code and you can get credit for your order today, plus earn more rewards every time you use your key fob.”

“Sure,” I answered, even though I was still trying to decipher the brochure.  The clerk started fumbling under the counter, but he couldn’t find a key fob to enroll me. So, he shouted to an associate hoping to get an answer about where the key fobs were - only to discover that the store was out of inventory.

“Sorry,” he said, “next time just bring in your receipt from today and I’ll see what I can do.” 

I paid for the order and left with a puzzled look on my face. The moment of truth did not quite live up to my expectations.

There are several key learnings from this incident that are positive from a loyalty best practices perspective:

  • The clerk “offered” me enrollment, especially critical when the average order size is significant.
  • There was a program brochure available.
  • The clerk was friendly, even apologetic, even though he didn’t appear to accept any responsibility for explaining benefits or the eventual outcome.

But there are a host of learnings from this incident that had a chilling effect on me, the program, and the retailer:

  • Had the clerk received a more formalized training session, he could have easily explained the benefits to me and then used the trifold to reinforce the program. Better yet, if the clerk himself was a member of the program, his explanation would have been first person and much more enthusiastic.
  • While the key fob approach and instant enrollment with credit for first transaction were friction reducing elements that carried strong appeal, it all fell apart when the key fobs weren’t available. First, the program’s loyalty management system should have known they were not available; in fact, it should have sent re-supply as soon as the store’s available inventory had reached a re-order point based on the pace of prior enrollments. Second, the POS system required the bar code scan to tie the transaction to membership. No other entry mechanism was available. A mobile identification solution could have easily resolved the issue and eliminated the cost of all key fobs!

Okay, maybe I’m being picky. I did give the chain the benefit of the doubt and enrolled on my next visit, even though I couldn’t find the receipt from the prior trip. I liked the store and it was in a convenient location, so I ignored the lackluster customer experience and became a loyalty program member.

But I wonder how something so simple and so important can get so fouled up, inducing frustration for the customer. While it didn’t cost the chain future business with me, I’m sure other consumers in today’s “instant everything” environment would feel otherwise.

This is Real. Life. Loyalty. This story is mine and you have yours.

Share your stories via submissions@thewisemarketer.com and we’ll all benefit.

Mike Capizzi is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional™ and Dean of the Loyalty Academy. He is the most accomplished educational professional in the loyalty industry – over 1,000 students, in more than 15 countries, in-person and on-line, author, speaker, thought leader plus a member of the adjunct faculty in Marketing at five different US universities.