Marketers talk about their customer loyalty programs as though getting someone to raise their hand and join the loyal crowd is the moment that matters.
Frankly, gaining a customer’s trust through loyalty programs is no different than in “real life,” where it only takes a moment or a misstep to turn loyalty into disappointment. What’s worse is that an unhappy former customer can be a brand’s worse enemy.
Just knowing that no program or employee is perfect leaves the chance for losing a customer’s loyalty too high to ignore. Solving that problem involves taking steps to go above and beyond, often called “surprise and delight,” which help to insulate the brand from the effects of the slip-up. Is that being defensive? You bet. It’s a competitive world and your business adversary would love nothing more than to steal your customer’s loyalty in your moment of weakness.
Everyone Has a Program
Surprise and delight isn’t an ethereal notion…it’s a very real practice that you ignore at your own peril. Loyalty programs have become so widespread—almost ubiquitous, that it takes something special to make your program stand out from the crowd. Beyond that, if you’re not considering surprise and delight as a component of customer loyalty management, there’s a good chance a competitor is.
Beyond the competitive nature of loyalty programs, without surprise and delight, yours is likely very transactional in nature. Without cash back, points, or another tangible reward, your customer will just as likely walk away. Loyalty, in many cases, is only points deep.
Know Your Customer
The real challenge of surprise and delight is in knowing your customer well enough to do it right. Without a unified way to “see” the customer — incorporating past patterns and current context — there’s no way to deliver the right surprise in just the right moment that triggers a positive feeling about the brand.
An airline that delivers a nicely embossed leather luggage tag three days before an overseas trip, a children’s clothing retailer offering an unexpected matching bib free of charge at checkout, or a concert promoter throwing in the parking for the nth concert ticket purchased on a mobile device — these are all examples of surprise and delight that only matter when the timing and familiarity are just right.
Are you ready to start surprising and delighting your customers? It takes a platform approach that blends the right information, historical and current, to make it happen.
This article first appeared on the Loyalty Lab Blog and has been lightly edited.
Picture credit: Jeanne Roué Taylor