The two-way street named loyalty

When we think of the word loyalty, it has a noble sound. Knights were loyal to their king and people are loyal to their countries and their football teams. We offer our loyalty because we believe it makes us part of something bigger than ourselves.

The object of our loyalty, if doing things right, gives us status and other rewards, like the right to behave in crazy fashion when our team wins. Loyalty is essentially a contract and is affirmed through choices in the moment…loyalty events.

…which is why the business version of loyalty isn’t so different. We’re loyal to a brand for the prestige of being in an elite group, like Jaguar owners, or for tangible benefits like money back or free merchandise.

My doctor rewards my loyalty with his cell phone number and the ability to call or text outside office hours.

United Airlines rewards my loyalty by giving me an exclusive status and perks like better seats, upgrades, more points, and dedicated service reps. In exchange, United ‘locks down’ my business, increasing revenue and lower the cost of acquiring me as a customer each time I fly. Everyone wins.

Most places that reward my loyalty are still in the business of email offers and sending flyers to my home. It seems a shame that they’re trying to get my attention when I’m not in the market for their products. It certainly is an expensive way to get results when there are less expensive and more effective ways.

Tick tock

In an era of globalization and high-speed business, finding people at the right moment (when you have their attention), with the right message (that is personalized and relevant), when they’re ‘in the market’ is everything. Getting there takes a very high level of service, a very uniform brand experience and an ability to turn information into action. Keep in mind that every interaction with a customer is both opportunity and risk.

In front of the curve

Rather than waiting for a customer to complain, the new loyalty paradigm is to spot issues by actively monitoring the flow of information using software that ‘sees’ patterns that indicate problems. Airlines know when flights are delayed and baggage is lost. Stores know when a customer tries to buy an out-of-stock item online. Action taken before the bitter taste of disappointment sets in creates a lasting, positive impression and prevents the complaint to customer service or worse, the negative tweet to the world.

I know what you did last summer

We’re awash in data. We track past interactions, touch points and customer demographics and can with reasonable likelihood predict what people want. Matching and bringing together all of that information creates a customer ‘model’ that is enriched and refined with every interaction. Presented with a selling opportunity, this model combines with real-time information like inventory and allows a very contextual offer to cross sell or upsell goods and services. Only by having information ‘live’ and in motion, not buried in reports or after-the-fact analysis, can businesses seize the moment to increase revenue and promote loyalty.

Taking the pulse

Following up with instant surveys that enrich the customer model, improve interactions and help adjust the business more broadly are just as important as everything leading up to the transaction. Whether I fill out a United survey or not, I know that they’ll ask me about every flight and that I’ll have the opportunity to voice my concerns to the correct channel. The faster the follow up (like immediately, and on my mobile device), the more likely I’ll respond and remember the details of my likes and dislikes.

Loyalty is moving beyond retail and into every other aspect of business, even healthcare. Keeping a customer is so much cheaper than acquiring a new one. Technology makes it easy for enterprises that weren’t the traditional advertisers.

Loyalty is the new black. Done poorly, it feels like a ‘scam’ to promote return business. Done well, loyalty is a two-way street where each transaction brings value to everyone.

Categories: Data Analytics / Big Data, Healthcare, Loyalty, Real-time, Retail

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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