A word of warning: if you’re looking at technology to run a loyalty scheme, don’t let it take the place of good, basic retail service.
Technology has made it easy and affordable to run sophisticated loyalty programmes, even for retailers with only one or two stores.
But I have a tale to tell that shows how even smart technology cannot replace classic service principles in the battle for customer loyalty. So how do you use technology to support the real-world experience?
Through our One Store solution, we’re working with all retailers of all sizes who are getting it right.
They're using our printers and scanners to give customers durable, personalised loyalty cards. And they're capturing and analysing the data generated.
With the insight they get from the data, they’re creating personalised offers that help to bring customers back more often. They’re also extending that personalisation into the digital space, so customers get a great experience both in store and online. Nothing too complicated – just good, common-sense, customer-centric service.
It’s been fascinating to see our One Store solution in effective action. Which made it all the more ironic for me to experience what happens when it all goes wrong. Especially since the people involved had tried so hard to get it right.
My local curry house was the place in question. It’s excellent and I dine there regularly – more than once a month. Some of the staff know me by name.
A while ago, they introduced a loyalty card. For a small annual fee, it entitles me to a discount every time I order. I simply present the card and they match it with their database to confirm my discount.
Recently, I lost the card. Next time I went in, I told them I needed a new card and, to my surprise, they said that without it I could not be given my discount.
They found me on the database and they could see that I was a paid-up member of the scheme. More to the point, they recognised me and knew very well that I was a loyal customer. But still they would not give me the discount without the card.
Even if I had not paid for the card, I would have been annoyed. But this was more than a courtesy scheme – I’d backed my loyalty with hard cash.
I explained my feelings to them quietly and with great restraint. Well, almost. Let’s just say that after a bit of discussion, they offered me a free pint of beer, which I decided to accept with good grace.
As I said, the real problem here was that the restaurant staff focused on the system, and not on me. They also lost sight of why the scheme was there.
Loyalty is an elusive, irrational human trait. In retail, it may begin with a favourable price, but true loyalty is much more about personal recognition, and that sense of being valued as an individual.
My favourite curry house got caught up in the discount and forgot that the scheme is really there to acknowledge the special relationship between us – and to make me feel valued.
So by all means use technology to achieve the kind of personalisation that keeps customers loyal. But, as my curry house discovered just in time, the part that matters is the ‘personal’, not the ‘isation’.
Fancy a curry?
One last thing. I’d still strongly recommend my curry house (‘my curry house’ – THAT’s loyalty). I just didn’t want to name and shame them in public with this story. If you want their details, get in touch.