Loyalty Programs: Take a Look in Your Wallet
CONTRIBUTOR: Sue Sommers
As consumers, we are all looking for a little something extra that makes us feel rewarded for a purchase. When I look in my wallet, I see several handfuls of loyalty program cards - Starbucks, Subway, drugstores, grocery stores, airlines, hotels and more - all promising freebies. I'll bet there aren't many of us who haven't participated in at least a few of these. Why wouldn't we?
Companies use loyalty programs for a variety of reasons, and they have been around for ages. Remember S&H Green Stamps? It was one of the pioneers of loyalty programs started in 1896. You received stamps for purchases at select stores, which you could redeem for products. You only had to collect about 4 million stamps to purchase a blender!
While some may argue loyalty programs are only for the gain of the company, the costs of such a program can be expensive. But, the benefits to customers are great, too.
Our own Atlantic Awards program has evolved over the years. But the constant that never changes is that it allows us to build on long-term relationships with our customers. And anyone that knows me knows I believe the secret to Atlantic's success is those relationships.
Our program is unique because participants who meet the requirements receive a prepaid, reloadable American Express card to use however they want. It has been incredibly successful over the years and our customers are passionate about it. So passionate, that when they don't enter the awards on time or they expire, we hear some pretty funny stories. A few of my favorites include:
• "My horse ate my awards."
• "My dog died and I was grieving and didn't have time to enter my awards."
• "I cut off my fingers chopping wood and couldn't enter my awards" (True story)
• A customer asked us to call his wife and tell her that he couldn't take her to dinner and it was Atlantic's fault because he didn't have enough coupons to receive funding.
Since there is no limit to how customers can use the funds, we also hear about some very interesting ways to use them.
• A participant called frantically asking us to rush the pending funds. He was at The Home Depot, needed to get shutters for his windows because they were on sale that day only, and a hurricane was heading his way.
• Several flight departments that use the funds for Christmas parties or to donate to Angel Network or other charitable causes.
• Customers who pay for roofs and electricity bills.
• A gentleman who was going to buy a gun for his wife, but found out she was divorcing him so he got a set of golf clubs instead.
It's fun and exciting to hear these stories and connect with our customers. Stay tuned as we continue to make enhancements to the popular Atlantic Awards program.
(By the way, if you are still in possession of S&H Green Stamps, you can trade them in for virtual GreenPoints. It's never too late to get that blender!)