Creating Effective Loyalty Programs

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into one of my favorite restaurants. I was greeted at the door, had a good experience with my server and enjoyed my meal. At the end of the meal, our server asked if I’d like to be part of their “Special VIP” club.  My first thought, of course, went to how much this “Special VIP” program was going to cost me. When the server explained that there was no cost to the program and that I would be receiving special email offers, I signed up and gave my information without giving it another thought.
A funny thing happened when I went back to the restaurant the next couple times.  The waiter called me by name and brought me samples of different wines he knew I would like based on what I had ordered previously. I also started getting special coupons in my email with free appetizers and holiday promotions. I admit it. I’m now a fan.  But earning true loyalty goes beyond just satisfying me as a customer. Whenever friends ask where they should go for dinner, I usually recommend the restaurant with raving reviews.  Obviously offering a great product or service is the starting point to building customer loyalty.  However, great businesses, including this restaurant, build loyalty programs into the fabric of the customer experience and use them to create something priceless to any business…word-of-mouth marketing.
When building a customer loyalty program, it’s important to integrate it into the culture of your business to fit the customers that walk in your door.  An incentive for a free meal after purchasing X number of lunches may work for a quick casual environment, but in a fine dining environment guests may be more incented by preferred seating areas, secured reservations or complimentary valet parking. It’s also important to make the program easy to understand for your customers as well as your store-level employees that will be delivering the message. No one wants to pull out a complex diagram just to explain the value of the program.  Successful loyalty plans are promoted at all levels of the business. Having contests for new member sign-ups is a great way to encourage your employees to successfully promote your programs initially.  Just remember, the goal isn’t solely to get customers to sign up for your program…it’s to get them to come back again and again through a combination of easy-to-understand loyalty programs and a great guest experience.   Your Aloha system offers an add-on called Loyalty that may be your tool to a successful loyalty partnership with your customers.
From the Radiant Systems Blog

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