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October 2016

Tentative Loyalty with Stage Stores

We try to follow the hometown companies carefully, trying to be loyal to our own compatriots. Being, with Stage Stores, in Houston, a big old metropolis, we had to hear about the Stage loyalty program from a small-town newspaper in Jackson County, Ohio. In case you don't know, Stage Stores operates Goody's, Palais Royal, Beall's and several other department stores brands focused on small-town America. 

We're very fascinated by their Style Circle Community but joining doesn't create obvious benefits. We signed up, got a confirmation email, then everything seemed to get eery quiet. In the meantime, other retailers like Charming Charlies and Dressbarn sent a deluge of offers. 

We think the premise of this program is good, and we hope to find them being more visible, more handy. Go Stage!

Jackson County Times Journal: Stage Stores Unveils New Loyalty Program, 2016-Sep-27

[Get] Exclusive access to Style Circle Community, an online forum, where customers can learn about style trends, fashion tips and engage with other members.

Enrolling is free and easy — To enroll, Stage customers simply provide their name, phone number, email address and birthday at the register. Style Circle members will earn their first $5 Style Circle Reward at sign-up.

New Stage credit accounts will be automatically enrolled and receive a 15 percent first-day discount and a 10 percent first-day discount on cosmetics, in addition to their first $5 Style Circle Reward.

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How Salesforce models loyalty

Salesforce is a tremendous tool for enabling loyalty among our customers. The only challenge is figuring how to use the overwhelming amount of data and activities it provides. (We can help you with that.) 

Being a part of the Salesforce user base inspires loyalty in many different ways. When I quit my last job I seriously considered consulting for Microsoft Dynamics. (You can't pry me out of Outlook.) After participating in user groups for both, I found that getting more involved with Salesforce was easier, more fun, and more productive. Free training tools are everywhere. Salesforce the company is extremely loyal to both its customer and its partners. 

Dreamforce has not tempted me. I hate crowds, I prefer online learning tools to the classroom, and I'm not at home with cheerleaders. Out of the blue, I found this story from Salesforce user, yoga instructor and newsletter writer Kelly Barrett. And I found yet another reason to admire Salesforce the company. And maybe I'll buck the trend and go to next year's Dreamforce. But I wouldn't go for the beginning, where they have the free concerts and famous people giving keynotes. I would go for the last day when they share their values and aspirations. 

Om Weekly: What I Learned from a Monk at a Tech Conference, 2016-Oct-11 by Kelly Barrett

...the most inspiring moments came on the last day [of Dreamforce 2016], The Day of Compassion.

Settling into my seat for this final keynote (all are online if you want to watch), the energy was palpably different from the days prior. There was a gentleness, like the calm after a storm. Indeed, the room was nowhere near as full as other sessions, but there also was a sense of easeful engagement, human connectivity and warmth that I hadn't experienced up to that point. On stage came a series of incredible presentations and discussions among people whose life work has been around using compassion to transform people's lives, whether through medicine, mindfulness or humanitarian missions. 

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How Wyndham designs a loyalty program for the rest of us

When I travel, I don't look for luxury. I'll pay extra for a unique experience, but I'll also settle for clean and efficient, so I can get out and experience my destination. Wyndham Hotels, with its high percentage of budget and moderately-priced offerings, is looking to appeal to mainstream travelers like myself.

Their loyalty program reflects their customers’ values almost perfectly. They say their target market is the “everyday traveler.” Wyndham Rewards makes it easy to stretch your hotel dollar. In fact, their program came to my attention because they were recently recognized as the program providing the highest economic return for dollars spent. (See research from Switchfly and IdeaWorksCompany at the end of this post.)

Skift: Wyndham Rewards adds Experiences, 2016-May-12 by Deanna Ting

When Wyndham Rewards debuted in May 2015, it signaled a major shift in hotel loyalty program structures by adopting a straightforward, simple approach to earning and redeeming points: 15,000 points to stay at any one of the group’s 7,800 hotels around the world, with no blackout dates, at brands that include Wyndham, Ramada, Tryp by Wyndham, Days Inn, and Super 8.

That strategy appears to be working. Since May, 5 million new members have signed up for the program and there has been a 70-percent increase in property redemptions, according to Wyndham. Last year, just under 75 percent of all redemptions were for hotel stays. By comparison, in 2013, the same year when there was massive consumer backlash to program restructuring, only 55 percent of redemptions were for hotel stays. Today, Wyndham Rewards has more than 45 million members.

Wall Street Journal [paywall]: The Best and Worst Hotels for Cashing in Rewards Points, 2016-Oct-5 by Scott McCartney

Many Wyndham members used to cash in points for gift cards and gas cards. But now they’re booking the company’s most expensive properties in Orlando, Fla., New York, Chicago, Dubai and elsewhere, says Noah Brodsky, senior vice president for loyalty and engagement at Wyndham Hotel Group.

“We’ve made a commitment that we are going to provide an incredibly generous loyalty program. We believe, and the numbers are proving, that by having the best loyalty offering out there we will win people’s business,” Mr. Brodsky says.

The company says it made the change after research showed consumers felt loyalty programs had gotten way too complicated and had been devalued by lack of airline seats.

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Customer loyalty is easier to get if you do something unusual

What can we do for our customers they can't find someplace else? Maybe it's just the way we do it that makes the difference. 

NY Times: The Neighborhood Bookstore’s Unlikely Ally? The Internet, 2016-Oct-5 by Amy Haimerl

[Independent book store] owners like Mr. Makin are finding ways to gain customer loyalty with the aid of technology. He knew he could not compete with Amazon on price, but he believed that online buyers would flock to Brilliant Books if they experienced the same customer service that shoppers in his physical store do.

“I say, ‘We are your long-distance local bookstore,’” Mr. Makin said.

He began offering free shipping anywhere in the United States and hired a full-time social media manager, who promotes the store and has used Twitter and Facebook to talk to readers who would never find themselves near Traverse City.

One of his most successful ways of getting repeat business is his store’s version of a book-of-the-month program, which makes personalized recommendations for each of its nearly 2,000 subscribers every 30 days. Rather than use an online form to track preferences, Brilliant sends each new subscriber a customer card to fill out by hand and mail back.

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Meet a Loyalty Game Changer at Electronic Arts

Have you seen a program on CBS called Game Changers? We see the tail end of it every Sunday morning before our favorite news program. We noticed its sponsorship by EA Sports and suspected it was a promotion for electronic games. Then we realized the show is about pro athletes serving their communities. So we wondered how EA Sports got involved. Whose idea was it?

A little research revealed several interesting stories about Game Changers and EA (Electronic Arts). 

  1. The Game Changers TV show was developed by an independent production company. Local stations use it to meet the FCC rule to provide children's programming. It's targeted to teenagers, and it's much better than many programs they used to air. We should support it, as EA Sports does. 

  2. The phrase 'game changers' occurs all the time in EA marketing and news. EA recognizes and supports innovation. 

  3. The EA Sports division has had a few different programs going by the name Game Changers. They all support customer involvement, loyalty and community. 

Our research revealed how Electronic Arts has improved its handling of customers over the last few years. So this really is a story about CRM! Changes at EA may have been accelerated by EA's winning Consumerist's Worst Company poll in 2012 and 2013. Yet we saw evidence that employees were already working on new processes before that happened. 

Some people credit the change in top leadership, but listen to this guy who manages their IT systems, who arrived at EA in February 2011. 

Jeff Bradburn of EA (Electronic Arts) as interviewed by Lucian Tucker in blog post Breaking Into the Industry, 2012-Apr-9:

We are always focused on making every single interaction with our customers count. It's another core objective of ours: "Exceed expectations by delighting our customers, the same way our games do." So we want to know as much about our customers as we can and match them with the right agent for their problem.

Most people are familiar with the typical phone experience, where you dial a number and press 1 for X, 2 for Y, etc. We want to take that a step further. If we know our customers – what they own, what they've called about in the past, and (if they allow us to) what they like – we can find an agent that can connect with them based on their need, or even their interests. We are also very interested in the concept of allowing customers to choose their own agent. We've got some really interesting things brewing there.

Another interesting project is around community support. EA is very lucky in that we have very passionate customers that love to participate in forums. We think that there's something really special there for support needs. We want to let customers help other customers and in the process get something uniquely "EA" out of the experience. I can't disclose all of the details, but I think we've really got something special up our sleeves.

And we aren't just focused on our customers. We want to make sure we have the best Customer Advisors (agents) in the world, and we want them to have the best tools in the world. We are investing heavily this year in creating a single unified tool that streamlines the Advisor experience, which ultimately creates a vastly improved experience for our customers.

Jeff Bradburn had a business background from Apple customer support. His team selected Salesforce products and customized it to support EA customers, who are called 'players.'

From the EA success story on Salesforce web site:

EA’s Worldwide Customer Experience team created immersive, interactive websites to help customers quickly access up-to-the-minute status updates, engage with EA game advisors, and discuss hot topics with other members of the community. Most importantly, gamers can immerse themselves in the EA brand. With Salesforce, EA was able to grow its advisor staff from 400 to 1,600 in only 6 weeks. And, EA’s Worldwide Customer Experience websites were able to manage millions of hits per week during peak launch periods.

“Salesforce helped us execute on our transformation at a faster pace than anyone thought would be possible,” says Bradburn. “The close relationships we’re building with customers are a real game changer.” [Emphasis added.]

 Here's why we're very impressed with everything Bradburn and his team at EA have accomplished:

  • 'Players' are recognized as individual people who are connected to other people and often play more than one EA game. 

  • Strong relationships between players and EA employees are nurtured. While this story focuses on the customer support, we also found many stories about strong relationships between players and game developers at EA. 

  • EA invests in training and technology so EA employees can support the players. 

  • Interactions across many different platforms are integrated so the company can operate in the 'omnichannel' style which is so highly prized in customer experience. 

When customers are frustrated and loyalty is dying, employees up and down the organization have to take ownership of the problem and demonstrate they care more about the customer than corporate profits. The CEO is often the worst person to assist because he spends too much time talking to investors, but if he empowers the people who spend all day talking with customers--amazing things can happen. 

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