I’ve noticed recently that Loyalty schemes are making a come back. Following the recession, companies have discovered that coupons and points schemes are a good way to entice struggling customers back to their shops. The trend of developing a points based system that “rewards” customers on a mass level for purchases they make, started back in the late 1980′s and a number of very large and successful point based loyalty schemes have been created. The airline industry led this charge and it wasn’t long before customers, now with a minimum of three different loyalty cards, became familiar and then jaded with all the points that were being thrown at them.
I’m not a fan of loyalty schemes. They have their place and can get desired results, which is increased sales, but they do not result in loyalty. Loyalty requires a more meaningful and emotional connection with the customer. This is something that takes time and effort, but the results are more long lasting too. With this renewed effort and focus on loyalty schemes it won’t be long before customers become jaded again. The problem is not the loyalty schemes per se’ but rather that too many companies rely on their customer loyalty schemes to hide behind poor customer service and experiences. Rather than spearheading the customer relationship, loyalty schemes should only support great customer experiences. My suggestion to companies considering a loyalty scheme is focus on delivering a great customer experience first and then back this up, if needed, with a loyalty scheme or club.
Costa Coffee is one of the latest companies to jump onto loyalty bandwagon. I love coffee plus I’m always up for a freebie so I joined up and collected yet another loyalty card to fill up my wallet. The third time I had the opportunity to use the card I was confronted by this sign.
This led to a disappointing customer experience as I’d bought into all of the marketing hype around the loyalty card and yet I couldn’t use it, because of an internal company policy. Why should it matter to me the customer if the shop is franchised or not. If they can’t get their loyalty scheme to operate seamlessly across all stores, then maybe they should have been spending time and effort on improving the customer experience and not raising expectations of loyalty.