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Customer Loyalty Programs – Real or Bull?


bull looking over a fence

Ever been in a relationship where you were extremely loyal to your partner, but your partner wasn’t even close to loyal to you? Then perhaps you know where I stand on customer loyalty programs.

Businesses all want perfectly loyal customers. And many, many spend a great deal of effort and money on so-called loyalty programs. Let’s see: “Make the customers buy a loyalty card, so they feel obligated to use it! Make the customers give us their personal information so we can target them! And sell customers more and more so they won’t need to go to the competition!”

To me, loyalty shouldn’t be bought, or pushed. It should be earned. Here’s what I mean:

1.  As a business, you can’t inspire loyalty when you’re trying to serve so many customers with so few employees that they never have the chance to get to know the customers. Loyalty begins with a relationship. You may think you can get a relationship between your customer (a human being) and your logo over the door, but actually, the relationship needs to be between your staff and your customers.

2. To get the relationship loyalty between your staff and your customers, that means you need to have steady, qualified and helpful staff. So that means you have to inspire your staff to be loyal to you as an employer first. Does that mean buying your staff with employee loyalty programs? No. It means treating them well, helping them succeed, and inspiring them to want to work for you.

3. Which brings me to the third aspect of loyalty. Do you as owners show a real commitment to your business? I don’t mean sacrificing your personal life for the sake of your business. I mean giving your business the mental enthusiasm it deserves: Thinking about it late at night. Dreaming of where it can go next. Bursting with new ideas. Because if the owners of the company aren’t loyal to the business, it’s pretty hard to get the staff, and in turn the customers, to be loyal.

The upshot is, don’t waste your money pushing loyalty programs on your customers, unless you are really giving them meaningful loyalty.  Focus on giving your loyalty – through making your business excellent, and through treating your staff like gold. So that like a good spouse, the customer could very well be yours for life.


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About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."