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Building Customer Loyalty beyond Rewards

Topics: Customer Experience
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Customer centricity is one of the biggest movements in the financial industry today. Following the financial crisis consumers made it clear that their expectations were higher when it came to their banking relationships. Card Forum and Expo 2012 had a track specifically designated to address loyalty and the customer experience. The focus of many of the presentations in this track was on rewards cards and programs. Specifically, how to drive deeper customer engagement and loyalty through the use of credit/debit cards with some type of point system attached. But, customers want more than just rewards and banks and retailers must work together to understand what drives their customers to be loyal to their brand/cobrand.

What we learned from World’s Foremost Bank and Citi Retail Services is that rewards and loyalty programs are not one in the same. The rewards program is about earning points, but loyalty is about an experience. Citi expressed that retailers have a lot to offer when it comes to knowing their customer and responding to their needs. The core of retail services is to ensure a great customer experience that brings them back time and time again. Retailers define loyalty through their in-store experience, delivering the highest quality products and service. Relationships with customers are grounded in trust through the entire value chain from the moment they step into the store all the way through to seamless returns. Here are a few examples of building customer loyalty beyond the rewards.

Cabela’s is a great example of a retailer knowing their customers. The core value of Cabela’s brand is to provide quality, innovative products with outstanding customer service. They listen to their customers’ feedback and strive to create exclusive, legendary customer experiences. Cabela’s has enhanced their loyalty program to give customers something they can’t get anywhere else. They have a bonus point network that allows card holders to earn points at other merchants and provides promotional offers to earn up to 10 times the points, 0% interest and other benefits. Cabela’s also offers signature outdoor adventures and family events that their customers pay for, but all the work involved with planning is done for them by the retailer. All the customer needs to do is show up and have a great time. Cabela’s sells fun and knows its clientele are passionate about their hobbies and lifestyle. Going the extra mile for customers is much easier when you understand what matters to them.

Hertz has also rewritten the customer experience with their rewards program. Now customers can receive their rental car information on their cell phones. When their plane lands they receive a welcome message notifying them which stall their car is in. No waiting in line, just get off the plane, head to your car and drive away. This is a huge benefit to the consumer at no extra cost to Hertz. The rental company is also piloting a valet service for returning cars. Instead of checking your car in and then lugging your bags on the shuttle or tram to your gate, a Hertz representative drops you off in the same car you are returning. Hertz is maximizing their supply chain to serve their customers in more efficient ways.

Eliminating customer friction points enhances the customer experience. Understanding what is important to customers makes the rewards programs worthwhile but more importantly drives loyalty to the brand. Retailers and issuers that see eye to eye on customer engagement strategies will find the most success in today’s competitive credit card market.

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Karen Gordon

About Karen Gordon

Karen Gordon has worked in the marketing group at Zoot Enterprises for the past 8 years and has more than 20 years of experience in management and public relations. While earning her master’s degree she learned the importance of promoting an organization’s image and creating a positive buzz about its offerings. In her role at Zoot, Karen leads the company’s public relations program. When she’s not chasing down technology reporters you can find her on the nearest tennis court chasing fuzzy, yellow balls. Follow Karen on LinkedIn, or Twitter @karenrgordon.

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