Peppers & Rodgers Inc. er en av de ledende innen kundelojalitet og lojalitetsprogrammer. I deres siste nyhetsbrev skriver de om noe jeg ikke hadde tenkt på: hva skjer når de lojale kundene stanger hodet i taket på bedriftens lojalitetsprogram? I det nedenstående har jeg gjengitt brevet i sin helhet. Vel verd å lese.
Customer Loyalty's Seven-Year Itch
February 2, 2012
By Benjamin Filaferro *)
Many companies offer loyalty programs, designed to reward the most loyal customers and make sure they build share of wallet. They have a progression path, tiers to be reached, and higher and higher privileges that members aspire to achieve. So what happens when a customer reaches the top of the pyramid? How do you keep the spark of the initial relationship going strong?
Some customers will reach a point where there are no more incentives left to give. They have so many miles that they can't use them all. You have upgraded them to the most expensive suites, the most expensive cars, and you have given them pricy privileges with your partners. How should you treat them as they continue to spend more?
Believe it or not, many customers at the highest levels of loyalty will at some point stop recognizing that you appreciate their business. The bond you've built with them and invested in over time will weaken. Some companies try to fix the problem by simply giving more rewards. However, in most cases that is not fiscally responsible.
Once a company has lowered its loyalty profit margin to minimum tolerated levels and fully optimized the customer experience, it seems like there's nothing that can be done for your most valuable, loyal customers. Think again. Two solutions exist:
• Surprise them
• Hire them
Surprise and delight
A surprise is an easy and effective way to keep loyal customers happy. It doesn't have to be something fancy. It is the simple act of offering a loyal customer something unexpected. It isn't mentioned in the program terms and conditions, and it's not something that you publicize to other customers or the public. It can be something simple, or something extravagant. The important thing is that it has an emotional impact with your loyal customer that isn't taken for granted.
The offer must be unexpected and ready-to-enjoy for it to have maximum emotional impact. And don't count out the importance of immediacy. A reward has more impact if it is something that can be enjoyed right on the spot. The reward must also give an incredible amount of value in a short time. For example, one around-the-world trip will have more impact than 10 first-class airline tickets. And a five-day Porsche rental is more special than 30 days with a mid-size car. Different financial and emotional values are also important to keep customers on their toes, as are rewards from outside your industry.
The element of surprise is crucial. If you don't know your customer's address, for example, don't blow your cover by asking for it out of the blue. Wait for the customer to contact you, then slyly incorporate it into the interaction.
Unfortunately sometimes surprises don't work out. Let's say you invited your customer to the best restaurant in town on a certain night, but he just informed you that he is not available. No problem. Offer that dinner to another customer, and prepare a totally different gift as a surprise for another time.
Surprise times should be random, but make sure they are not close to each other, to avoid the customer getting used to them. Don't make the rewards too far apart either. You want your customers to vividly remember how the previous surprise made them feel.
Another option is to create the ultimate emotional bond by hiring your most loyal customers...sort of. It's not necessary to create an actual position for them, but you can treat them as if they are knowledgeable employees that help drive decision-making.
It can work for both small and large companies. A small business owner could invite his three best customers to have dinner with him, then ask them for suggestions about improvements and growth. Meanwhile, large companies can offer their most loyal customers shares in the company, to give them a financial stake in the business.
Depending on your type of business, an invitation to internal meetings, workshops, or company planning session will also go a long way to strengthen the relationship, even after a long time. It's important to give them a voice.
But there can be no faking here. You actually have to listen to them, not treat them as a one-time visitor who will be ignored. Their decisions should be taken into consideration, and you must create a feedback loop to let them know if any of their ideas are implemented...or not. Inform them about progress as you would with your executives.
An airline, for example, can schedule time for the local manager to meet with customers one-on-one in the business lounge to discuss their customer experience. It can't be just idle chit-chat - the manager must take the time to talk and listen. Treat these customers as the insiders they are, as gurus who know your company better than you do.
Getting it done
Most companies have yet to develop a plan around their super loyals. But they should. And the types of uber-loyalty interaction we propose can't be automated based on impersonal business rules. To reward these exceptional customers you will need a tactical team that focuses on the individual, not process. The team must dig into the customer database, identify targets, check other sources like Facebook or Linkedin to identify their interests, and prioritize customers according to their value. It's only then that the team can interact with target customers in the most impressive way possible.
This team needs freedom to think of creative ways to interact with customers. The only constraint should be an annual budget, and they should be measured by customers' Net Promoter Scores, or something similar.
Before you get teams in place, check your loyalty program to see how many customers are already reaching the highest levels of your program, and understand what keeps them in the program over the long term. See if high-value customers defect or diminish once they reach the pinnacle of the program, or get close to it. If so, then action is necessary.
The goal is to get, keep, and grow customers. And there's always room to grow, even if you don't have a plane to name someone after.
*) Benjamin Filaferro is a senior consultant for Peppers & Rogers Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.