Desk of Brad

Loyalty or Sales Strategy?

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

I have a favorite restaurant that I go to frequently; I’ll be honest… it’s the bar at a nice restaurant. I enjoy this place because the bartenders Jason and John make the experience so pleasant. Several months ago, the restaurant started a loyalty program. I know this because somewhere along the way I provided an email address and started receiving special menu offers. I get too many emails anyways, so I mostly ignore them; but on some level, their reward program was in the back of my mind. 
So, I am at the bar and Jason says, “We have a special offer tonight for rewards members – a new Wagyu burger and a fancy glass of wine for 25 bucks”. I think “ok cool”, however, debated for a few minutes, mostly because a burger is the last thing my mid-section needs. Just then, Jason points out that the wine is a Caymus Cabernet. For those of you who don’t know wine, all I can say is that this is a glass that you’d have on a special occasion. That tips the scale, so I order the special. I finish my meal and ask for a second glass of wine. Jason says, “Well, the wine is 23 dollars per glass, so you should just order the special again and I’ll put the second burger in a to-go box for you”. 
Let’s set aside the fact that the wine is $23 per glass; the original offer isn’t a reward, it’s a convoluted cross-sell upsell strategy. It did nothing to increase my loyalty or enhance my experience. There was no chance I was going to order a second burger or a 23 dollar glass of wine; if anything, I was just frustrated. To top it off, it has to be a total money loser for the company to structure their offer in this way. 
I decided to ask Jason more about the loyalty program and the benefits. He prints out a receipt that shows me how many points I have, and that when I get to 3,000 points I will be eligible to redeem my points for dinner for two… nice right? I looked through all my emails from this restaurant and it’s a steady stream of special offers, but nowhere do they include any information on the rewards program, how I earn points, my progress to date, or even a thank you for being a regular customer. In the end, I wouldn’t have known anything about the program if I had not taken the initiative to ask.   
All too often we see loyalty programs mixed with promotional programs. There is such a drive to sell something new that the marketing departments forget about the customer and the experience that drives our enjoyment. Promotions are important, increasing check averages too, but what drives companies is repeat business. Done properly, your customers are your advocates because they want to share their experiences with others.    
To me, a loyalty program is one that recognizes me as a valued customer in the way that I care about the most. There is a quote I use from time to time, “Interested is interesting”. When you take the time to know your customers and you take care of them, they return the favor. We believe in personalized experiences because we know it’s the best way to put a smile on someone’s face. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, just like the theme song from the TV show Cheers… “Sometimes you wanna go where everyone knows your name …and they’re always glad you came.” 
Let’s go be great!