All Fired Up About Customer Loyalty Programs

I recently went to lunch at Firehouse Subs in my little city of Hickory, NC. I’ve been carrying around a customer loyalty card for at least 2 years now, which says if I buy 7 meal combos, I get the 8th one for free. I knew I was getting close to my freebie and after I ordered my meal, I presented the bent and wallet-worn card to the cashier for her to give me my final stamp. But to my dismay, she says, “we don’t take those anymore, nor do we give out any more stamps.” What !?! How do you not stamp my customer loyalty card? I’ve been coming here steadily for the past couple of years, doesn’t that make me loyal!?!The manager was standing right there as well and said, “yeah, corporate says we can’t take those anymore.” And to add insult to injury, the cashier said, “you must have gotten that at another location.” Well, I’ve never been to another location—ever!

I have been going to this eatery every once and a while for the past few years. Granted, I don’t go there just to have my card stamped, and they do have some pretty darn good food. And sometimes I didn’t have my card or forgot to get it punched. But the loyalty is the icing on the cake—the allure to keep me coming back—which is exactly why companies have programs like this set up in the first place. They encourage customers to keep coming back, and reward them for being loyal to their brand. It may sound silly, but that one cup of free coffee (for example) after getting 10 hole punches feels fantastic! Even though it’s not even worth the fuss, it really feels like a reward and that the company cares enough about me as a loyal patron to reward me with a little something every once in a while.

So for Firehouse to say to a loyal customer, “sorry, we don’t take those any more,” in my opinion sounds just like, “sorry, we just don’t value you as a customer enough to keep our word.” If I hung on to the loyalty card for any length of time—let alone 2+ years—I think I value this program. The fact I kept it through a wallet update says I’m still interested in coming back.

While I’m on the opinion train, let me switch it up and share a restaurant I feel has an excellent customer loyalty program—Salsarita’s. They have a credit card-like system where you can look up your “points” on line and they provide rewards at reachable increments. Yes, I do go there a lot, so I am rewarded for this. Would I go so much if they didn’t have a reward program? Probably yes. But it sure does sweeten the deal to get a meal for free every now and again, and I know I’m working toward this every time I make a purchase there.

In conclusion, having a customer loyalty program can be either a huge plus to your business, or a bad negative if you don’t carry it through. You can stop giving out the loyalty cards, but don’t quit stamping them and by all means don’t stop taking them! You never know when a loyal customer will put you in the negative spotlight.

Have you had a bad experience with a customer loyalty program? Or perhaps you have an example of how a company is doing it well? Leave a comment below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *