How NOT to Create Loyalty in Tough Times

Marketing’s mission is to somehow change a customer’s behavior.

We try many things to affect that behavior: advertising, email, search, events, webinars, and the list goes on and on.

And in tough economic times the opportunity to affect customer behavior is exceptionally acute, especially when it comes to existing loyal customers.

So check out this email I got from a major hotel chain about my loyalty card with them, it went something like this …

Dear Mr. Dunay

We miss you! We noticed there hasn’t been any activity on your Hotel Loyalty card for 9 months and in order to keep your Hotel Loyalty card you must maintain activity at least once in a 12 month period. If we don’t see any activity in the next 3 months we will cancel your card and you will forfeit your points.

Signed the SVP of Customer Loyalty

Wow! – what a heartfelt letter. I miss you too.

In a split second I felt just like Jeff Jarvis when he first got angry about Dell.

My actions – Immediately spent all my points on a gift for my son, called their hotline and cancelled my card and emailed the SVP of Customer Loyalty to tell him – I won’t be coming back even when the economic climate gets better.

The hotel permanently changed my behavior AGAINST them – way to go SVP of Customer Loyalty and thanks for the clock radio for my son!

9 comments to How NOT to Create Loyalty in Tough Times

  • Tracey

    Wow, I wonder who was responsible for that brilliant policy? I got a similar letter from Delta Airlines. So I used my points for magazine subscriptions and now I fly Southwest and United.

    But, to share a really good customer loyalty story, I’ll tell you about my experience with Amazon. I’m kind of hooked on Amazon because it’s so easy to keep track of things I want to buy and books I want to read (with the wishlist), and I can get nearly everything from one website. I was really ticked off, then, when I ordered a rebate item and didn’t get my rebate, then was told I wouldn’t be getting it for an additional 12 weeks. (Side note: I really have to stop buying rebate items). So I emailed the CEO (I just googled Jeff Bezos) and threatened to stop buying. I’m sure he doesn’t answer his own email, but somebody did, apologized the same day, and I got my refund right after. I was amazed that in such a big company, my one request was handled so quickly.

  • Kim Waldauer

    ‘Tis the season: I too received my ‘spend more or be cut off’ threat…er, loyalty letter…from an airline and a hotel chain this week! Paul, perhaps you can counsel these Customer Service Execs that “marketing” and “bullying” are not synonymous. Thanks for the great post!

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Tracey

    thanks for sharing the Good side of loyalty with us

    @ Kim

    yes it is that season and I just got another email from them giving me double points if I stay for a weekend there – YEAH RIGHT!

  • Paul Everett

    On the other hand, perhaps it’s all part of some brilliant ploy by government to boost the economy by releasing all the value locked away in unused points accounts? There must be millions waiting to be spent.

    If everyone receiving these letters is instantly going to spend their points, sounds like the cunning plan might be working – so maybe we should feel sorry for the VP of Loyalty fall guy, just doing what’s best for the economy.

    A good counter example: when we spoke to the ex CIO of retail bank Egg, he made the point that any supplier brave enough to come in and offer price savings without being asked would be top of his list for budget when the good times roll again.

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Paul – that is BRILLIANT – LOL
    thanks for commenting

  • Aaron

    Thanks for sharing, Paul. It’s amazing that companies aren’t using the tough times to empower their loyal customers. It would seem that a “Thanks for staying with us in the past year” would have been an appropriate communication — and some incentive to stay there in 2009. When marketing budgets are being cut, all you’ve got are your loyal customers. When you cut them too, there can’t be much left.

  • Hanan

    I love it…

    as marketeers we spend a life time to call for action and usually get no response- 1% conversions are not rare, no matter how easy we make the action (“click here for eternal bliss”…).
    But this hotel chain succeeded in pushing you to take action- way beyond any expectation… (going through the hassle of cashing the points, writing an email and a blog post…) way to go!

    I have found myself more than once in the same situation- spending valuable time listening to “waiting music” just so I could share my harsh feelings with a service provider (usually a large chain or manufacturer)… way more than I would spend on thanking them or even for acquiring their service. Not to mention survey’s… who has the time for that…
    I guess that we always have the time for a good fight! This is the new era of Fight Marketing.

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Hanah

    I love it – Fight Marketing – which was proceeded (in this case) by Push-Comes-to-Shove Marketing!

  • Hanan

    @Paul @Push-Comes-to-Shove Marketing (PCtS Marketing 🙂 ) @Fight Marketig

    – bloggers (and comedians)are sometimes like gangs of angry adolescents in search of a good fight.

    For some brands that’s the last thing they’d like to meet in a dark alley…

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