Most situations have an upside if you look hard enough, and with coronavirus/Covid-19, it is the enforced time to think that makes my list, writes Annich McIntosh
Cancelled travel, perhaps self-isolation, home working and postponed projects mean most of us have the very unusual opportunity to review. While this could well take the form of personal development and changes, this is outside of the remit of this article! But there is much that can be achieved in the work setting.
Whether you are involved in the running of a loyalty programme or work for a provider of services, there are bound to be areas of your responsibility that could be improved, or which you would love the time to develop. Well now you have that time.
At Loyalty Magazine, we recently closed for entries to our annual Loyalty Magazine Awards which each year seek to find and celebrate the best examples of customer loyalty management from around the world. As editor, I don’t take part in the judging, apart from sitting in on the deliberations, but I do read all the entries. These provide a fascinating insight into the thought processes, creativity and developmental path of the loyalty sector.
As we will be highlighting in the next printed edition of Loyalty Magazine (subscribers can also download an online version from this website), customer loyalty is a melding of scient and art. The workings, the analytics, and the technology behind the programme are definitely left of brain, but every programme needs creativity, emotional connection and art. This is what makes customer loyalty so fascinating for all of those involved.
So while we sit out the current Coronavirus emergency, hoping the scientists are correct with their predictions that the majority of us will survive it, there is a precious opportunity to ask what can be done better. To help your deliberations, here are some stand-outs from my reading of the 2020 entries and a browse through recent research published here at www.loyaltymagazine.com.
Courage to make changes, and admit the results could be better
I was struck by the comments in one entry – a serial past winner – that their offering “wasn’t cutting it” with customers. So the team in charge reviewed and altered the proposition, with impressive results. This illustrates that:
- They noticed rather than ignoring poor results, and blaming outside factors
- They had the technology to monitor and analyse the data and the experience to interpret that data
- They cared enough to react quickly
- The problem was far from static, and was able to evolve with changing customer needs and behaviour
Traditional models still work, with adjustments
Recent research conducted for Mando by YouGov in the UK and other findings from Bond Brand Loyalty confirm that people continue to like being rewarde. Points, miles, gifts and special services such as airport lounges, priority check out and legroom still gain our loyalty. In retail, don’t discount the importance of short term campaigns, for collectibles and children’s toys. They are very powerful.
A loyalty programme is so much more than a sales incentivisation or a customer bribe. Done properly, it is an emotional connection.
Sustainability matters to customers
We really care about the amount of packaging on our purchases, the use of plastic, harm to the environment and global warning. We received a very large response to the new Eco-loyalty Initiative of the Year with many thoughtful and impressive entries that will give the judges a tough task in finding the winner.
18-24 year olds are difficult
They used to be called the Millennials, but these have grown up, and now they are Generation Z and they are different. But then haven’t people always been contrary at this age? So it is no surprise that they are not particularly engaged by loyalty programmes or points, unless it is something they really care about. So they will probably belong to a training app, like Nike, they will subscribe to all music streaming service and they will use social media – a lot. But it might be Instagram or Tik-tok rather than twitter and Facebook. So have a conversation with your intern, and work out what are today’s preferred channels. They won’t hear you if you are tuned to the wrong one.
2020 – Sensitive communications with customers
A big question in 2020 is how or even IF a loyalty programme has a role to play in a health crisis. I was extremely encouraged to receive an email today from Seb James, MD of Boots UK and ROI. It was sensitively written, informative and useful. I received it as a member of the Boots Advantage loyalty programme. It referred to website and social media channels that would be updated with information, and it reassured about prescription medicines and the supply of hand sanitiser and cold and flu relief. It was reassuring for both customers and staff.
Is there a role for other loyalty programmes to adopt a similar approach? Food stores for example, could suggest easy menus using store cupboard food for those self-isolating. A telco could suggest a different game each day for bored children if the schools close. Sky did this a couple of years ago during wet Easter holidays. It offered loyalty programme members colouring sheets to download. The response was massive.
Online will be crucial
People may become confined to their homes, but they will still need occupying, so perhaps this is an opportunity to provide entertainment within your programme. A pianist in Germany is posting a different performance each day via Twitter for those starved of culture while the concert venues are closed. Gamification could be used of course, but maybe this is a time to be more adventurous. It is an opportunity for the creative and the innovative.
Streaming services will be one of the few winners over the next few months, but with most sporting fixtures being cancelled, occupying all members of a family will be extremely challenging. For a loyalty programme it will be about being useful and appropriate. Relevance will be key.
Hotels, holiday companies, the restaurant sector and airlines will already be taking a massive hit and it will be a long period before there is recovery. As they all sit out the blanket restrictions, is now a good time to ask if a loyalty programme can do more than just bribe customers will points and miles? Shouldn’t there be more communication? Should you be sharing the measures being taken by your organisation to clean and sterilize, and keep customers and staff as safe as possible?
Coronavirus/Covid-19 will subside eventually. We will get through this. How strong will you and your company be to accelerate back up when it is all over?
If your team use this downtime to work on plans, ideas and creatives for improvement, then this period of enforced reflexion will not be wasted. Even better, demonstrate through customer communications that you are working to be useful and helpful, in whatever way is appropriate.
Look out for the publication of the Loyalty Magazine Awards shortlist next week. There are some fascinating programmes in the list.
Also SUBSCRIBE to make sure you don’t miss any of the 2019 winner case studies and other content we will be publishing over the next few weeks. Just as I am suggesting for your Loyalty Programme, Loyalty Magazine plans to engage with the best minds in the business to provide content to keep you engaged and occupied over the next few difficult weeks.
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