Loyalty programs have really taken off since 2008 and are widely used, particularly in consumer industries such as travel and retail. Initially, loyalty programs were all about rewarding return purchases with points. These points are then traded in for additional merchandise, or sometimes discounts. The technology to support these programs is so wide-spread they are no longer unusual. Check your purse or wallet. How many cards do you have that you regularly use? More importantly, how many did you forget you had? The truth is that these loyalty programs no longer create loyal consumers. In fact, positive customer experience will more likely create loyalty than any punch card or point system.
Recent research by Forrester proves that customer experience outweighs most loyalty programs. For example, in the banking industry the research showed that customer experience accounts for 55 percent of loyalty, and in retailer accounts for 46.5 percent. Perceived value, whether it’s bonuses given by the bank or loyalty programs in retail, only increased loyalty by a small percentage in each case – 56 percent and 47 percent respectively.
If the perceived value of loyalty programs seems to be on the decline, then it begs the question why bother? Because they can work well with the appropriate strategy and right execution. However, given that customer experience ranks so high, there is obviously a balance of rewards and experience that must be struck in order to reap the benefits.
It starts with the people
The majority of loyalty programs are managed by technology, unless there is a problem or question, at which time a customer will want answers. While the repetitive questions can be placed online, handling those difficult consumer questions requires a person – and a savvy one at that. When you put customer experience and customer loyalty together, the formula is not complete without the right type of agent.
That is where the virtualpreneur™ really shines.
Virtualpreneurs have the right mindset and emotional intelligence to instinctively know how to create great customer experiences. This is inherent in their DNA, not taught or developed over time. Of course, there is a need to have an understanding of what your customer expects; otherwise you really cannot create a good experience. Then you simply release the reins and let those top-notch agents handle the situation.
This seems simple and yet millions of dollars are being spent annually on developing loyalty programs without thinking about the customer experience. And customer experience has become a widely sough-after metric without considering how it is handled internally, and by whom. The ability to understand when and where customers interact with people inside your organization is critical to having the overall ability to build positive customer experiences. That is why we invest our time, energy and effort in finding the top tier talent we call virtualpreneurs. They understand quality and will ensure that it is delivered. Add that to the already successful customer loyalty program, sprinkled with a healthy understanding of what a positive customer experience is within your own organization, and you have a formula for customer experience success.