The business world has figured out that if you spend a buck with them, it's cheaper to earn the next buck from you than another first buck from someone else. It's the concept of loyalty, which we all know too well. The idea of the loyalty program has grown so much lately that a lot of businesses are getting into the concept.
In fact, there are even loyalty programs for consumers who engage in transactions they didn't exactly volunteer themselves for. Read on.
Let's say you're a coed softball superstar. You show up two nights a week and play your heart out just in case that scout from the Yankees is watching, but he never shows up so you at least try to grab the attention of the cute gal playing left field on your team. One night, despite having sweet arm bands and major league-caliber spikes, you snap your ankle in half trying to beat out a throw from the shortstop. Ouch!
An ambulance arrives and takes you to the local hospital, where your shattered bones are reset and a cast is created for healing. After some rest you go home. Sometime in the process you may hear this shocking line:
"Thanks for selecting Regional Hospital for your health care needs and we hope you'll keep us in mind during your next personal medical crisis. Enjoy your membership in our exclusive discount program!"
Most people don't think of a hospital stay as a customer/service provider transaction, mainly because we don't often go there by choice, the "service" is hit-and-miss, and insurance picks up most of the tab. It is indeed a customer/service provider transaction, and a very profitable one for the hospital. Like so many other businesses today, hospitals have learned that trying to earn a sliver of customer loyalty is a more profitable tactic than simply focusing on converting new customers.
A recent Washington Post article covered how hospitals are using tools such as loyalty cards, free parking, field trips to casinos, and the symphony, health seminars and discounts at their gift shops. Some hospitals don't even require you to be a patient; they just want to engage with you in hopes that you'll select them next time you have a need (or emergency.)
Those of us in the loyalty programs industry have long known the benefits of earning customer engagement, so it's no surprise to see other industries catching up. We've already seen a lot of loyalty program growth and interest from services people use only occasionally such as accountants and plumbers, not to mention other emergency services such as bail bondsmen and DUI lawyers. Even vending machines are coming with loyalty program functions built in.
Ever had a business try to earn your loyalty that you surprised you? We'd love to hear about it in the comments.
(I personally have a punch card from my mechanic. It has one punch from 2009 but is STILL in my wallet. No shame.)
Brandon is a former writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @bscarter