I currently have a World Perks membership (with Northwest Airlines) a World Clubs Membership (also with NWA), a Hilton Honors Card, a Barnes and Noble Card, a speedy rewards Speedway membership card, an American Eagle All-Access Pass, a Max Perks card (Office Max), a Family Christian Bookstore Pastor's Perks card, a Kroger "Plus" Card, and probably several other cards I don't even know I have.
All of these are designed in some way to reward me for doing business with their company. In some ways they do: I save a little here, get free bonuses there - but it's fairly minor. I am "rewarded" by spending money with certain businesses. Sometimes I also get "offers" that don't pertain to me at all, but the company seems to think it's a good way to spend their marketing money. I don't mind these programs - I wouldn't have signed up if I did - but it seems a bit backwards to me.
All of these basically say to a consumer "if you are faithful to our company for a period of time that we determine, with a certain level of activity that we deem acceptable - then we'll provide you with a small reward." The company takes the position that they are on the fence about you until you've "proven" yourself.
Companies take the position that they want you to continue to do business with them, so they figure they will dangle some proverbial carrot in front of your face for a long time until you reach some magical status when you can cash in some "points." My problem with this is that is basically says "we will appreciate you when you've spent $xxx.xx with us." Until then, thanks for shopping.
What if instead, a company rewarded every customer with something unexpected, just for being their customer right then. Wouldn't that have the effect of creating a much greater sense of loyalty over the long run?
It says to a customer - "we know you have a choice to go anywhere, and next time you might choose to do so, but we're so glad you've chosen to do business with us today! Please think of us next time!" What would happen if the next time you went to the airport you got bumped to first class for no reason. Or the next time you went grocery shopping, the clerk told you that they had taken 10% off your purchases just "because." Or what if you're cell phone company said "here's $15 off your bill this month - we appreciate you."
What if the credit card company said "we noticed you paid your bill late this month. Normally we would charge you $29, but this month we're not going to."
Most companies do everything they can to "lock" consumer's in because they are afraid of losing them. Cell phone companies are notorious for this. They force you into contracts, charge ridiculous rates for extras, disable features on certain phones so you have to pay more money to them, stick you with huge fees if you decide you no longer want to do business with them, and penalize existing customers who want to do things as simple as change a rate plan, or upgrade a phone.
What if the cell phone company just randomly sent you a brand new, top of the line phone after say, nine months. Just to thank you for doing business with them.
What would happen? Companies would build customer loyalty they couldn't even imagine with "reward programs," or "lock-in" tactics.