Why Some Loyalty Programs Work and Others Don’t?

Three week intensive course of CRM class uncovered the basics of customer loyalty aspect: loyal customers add more lifetime value (LTV) and we marketers should be focused on it and court them as they are less expensive (they are knowledgeable about your service and product and thus take less time and money to service, they might even educate your prospects and refer). Well, it all makes sense and this week we discovered the opposite! According to Werner Reinartz and V. Kumar article on “The Mismanagement of Customer Loyalty“, customer loyalty focus only can be a big mistake.

Studies show that loyal customers could be rather demanding and not willing to upgrade, buy more or pay a premium. How about the obvious resentment in some consumer industries that loyal customers experience when they are hogged or bombarded with upsell messages? I might buy the product more frequently, but why should I pay a premium or extra as I know exactly what the product value is. Why do I want to spend $70 a year just for 2 day free shipping if I can continue buying my books on Amazon in triplets to use a free shipping option of purchase order that exceeds $ 30? It works well, why change? Thus, loyal customers can be quite price-sensitive.

In business-to-business industries, loyal customers can be expensive to serve: as they buy in large volumes and dictate the terms. A closer look should be taken at the relationship between the loyalty and profitability. One of the solutions provided is time-driven activity-based costing. It allows to uncover the costs of business activities and all the time spent on them.

What about endorsement? Supposedly, loyal customers are your product evangelists. But, looking just at the purchase behavior is not enough. It is a combination of attitude and consumption that makes an average heavy user an endorser.

The bottom line is that the link between loyalty and lower costs = profitability is industry specific. Consistency in purchasing behavior and attitude/emotional connection to the product make the best referral agents from your customers. To choose an appropriate loyalty strategy, segment your customers by longevity and profitability.