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5 Things Your Loyalty Program Should NOT Do

I’ve been a Verizon Wireless customer for quite a few years now – and truth be told, I’ve been considering switching as it seems the once powerful signal giant now leaves me with more-than-my-fair-share of dropped calls. Lo and behold, yesterday I got an email from the Big V announcing their new rewards program. How timely, I thought – and when the email told me I already have 26,000 points, I decided to check it out. After all, that sounds like a lot of points.

Unfortunately, the rewards program leaves a lot to be desired and actually turns me off, which is a shame, because I’ve seen first-hand how much these programs can cost brands. Here are the issues with Verizon’s program – things brands should be sure to avoid with their loyalty programs:

  1. Don’t Make Customers Sign Up for Email Offerings. In order to sign up for my free rewards program to see what my 26,000 can do, I was required to sign up for “Verizon Select” – allowing the brand’s advertising partners to add me to their email lists. In a time when people’s hatred for spam is at an all-time high, forcing customers to opt-in in order to see what’s behind door number two is a gigantic no-no.
  2. Don’t Make Things Complicated. It took me a good 30 minutes to figure out how Verizon’s loyalty program actually works – and the ROI on my efforts was definitely not worth it. Basically, you don’t actually get things for free – you get to use your points towards discounts at different retailers…but you have to purchase things (like gift cards) from the retailers in advance in order to obtain a discount that you may or may not use. Not worth it.
  3. Don’t Offer Rewards That May Have To Be Returned. Really Verizon? You think maybe I want to try my sizing and fit luck with you and get a dress from your rewards program? A dress that I have to pay for since your cruddy rewards basically just give me a discount on it – just like I can get on my own at any retailer who has a sale, accepts coupons, or both (which is almost every retailer), only there I can actually try on many sizes and styles and get just what I want? It’s almost as if Verizon is taking all the bad parts of various retail loyalty programs and putting them together here.
  4. Don’t Leave Customers Wondering If Rewards Will Actually Work. I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but several times I have tried to use a legitimate reward via my iPhone and have encountered retail employees who had no idea what the reward was or how to process it. It leads to frustration on both sides and a negative taste in the consumer’s mouth, as he or she (or I) end up having to argue and prove that the reward is real in order to get it. Take a look at what happens I you tried to download a $5 off coupon for my local pizzeria – a warning comes up telling me the reward will be live for only 10 minutes. That means A) I can’t do it now, I have to remember to download it the next time I’m at the restaurant, and B) I have to believe the cashier will know all about this convoluted reward and honor it immediately before it expires. Yikes.
  5. Don’t Pretend To Be Something You’re Not. Is this really a rewards program? Take a look at the very bottom of the image above. Upon trying to redeem my shady $5 off “reward,” the screen revealed that this program is “powered by entertainment.” For those of you who don’t know, Entertainment Books are big books of coupons that you pay $25 for (some or all of that fee goes to charity) and you are able to pull coupons to use all year long at many local and some national retailers. Aha! This is just a glorified coupon program disguised as a loyalty program – but at least when one buys the Entertainment Book, one doesn’t have to opt-in for spam from all of the retailers who have coupons inside. This may be the most egregious of all the issues within Verizon’s unrewarding program.

I’ll never get back the 30 minutes I spent being disappointed by Verizon’s weak new offering, but hopefully this post will help branders who are considering crafting or reconfiguring a program that actually will engender true customer loyalty. At the very least, maybe it will save someone else from going down a Verizon Rewards wormhole.

~ Denise Blasevick (@AdvertGirl), CEO, The S3 Agency


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