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May 1, 2017
Dear media sales rep….
May 1, 2017

Loyalty vouchers – are they a good idea?

reputation matters

When loyalty schemes unravel

We’ve all come across customer loyalty schemes in shops. You get a stamp or some record per visit or transaction, which entitles you to money off/ or a free something-or-other. I used to like them. What could possibly go wrong? Imagine this. You own a shop. Your loyal customer, over about a decade accrues £30 loyalty vouchers. Yes, OK, this is all about me. I had accrued £30 of loyalty vouchers. What happened next is astonishing. These vouchers had an expiry date of December 2014, 6 months after they were issued. With one thing and another, Christmas, trips away, exams, life… we forgot about them, until mid January. So I called the shop. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “So sorry, I’ve got these vouchers, expired 23 days ago…[chat chat about reasons why]….. It’ll be ok to use them won’t it?”

Shop owner: “No. Sorry. I’m a small business. You wouldn’t go back to M&S would you to extend an expiry date.”

Me: “But you’re not M&S, which is the whole reason why I’ve been supporting your shop for years. It is totally your decision.”

I thanked her and hung up. And then I thought – wow, that’s really poor customer services. I’ll call her back. Which I did, and pretty much got the same response. She felt bad and I did too. So now there is a crazy situation. The shop I’ve been to for years (to which I would always have gone, even without a loyalty scheme) has lost a customer. I’d feel embarrassed to go in now, and I don’t like their inflexible attitude. But they probably didn’t really know who I was anyway, because retailers don’t ask your name. If you DO have a customer loyalty voucher, here are my recommendations:

  1. Be flexible on time – you’re still getting a customer through the door
  2. If you feel that you have to be stringent, use a sliding scale
  3. Always get your customer to come into the store before you negotiate
  4. This is all PR. PR is about reputation and whilst time will erase the details, people will always remember the way they felt they’d been treated.

And me? I’ll be looking for a new shop to be loyal to instead.

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