I travel a great deal and have earned a decent level of status on the airline that I’m loyal to. Today, unfortunately, I had to travel on a different airline. My flight experience made me realize what I love most about my airline loyalty program. What I truly value are the extras I get just for earning my frequent flier status. Those extras are getting on the plane first, having access to “premium” seats and getting priority when it comes to changing flights or standby. Notice none of them have to do with earning free trips. What those three things have in common is that they are each a free “thank you” from the airline for my patronage. They make me feel special. The airline is not charging me for these benefits. I have demonstrated a commitment to them and they are treating me with a certain level of respect and gratitude. Sadly most loyalty programs don’t provide those “thank yous” just for being a loyal customer. Whether you are a new or die-hard member of a loyalty program, the only thing you get for free is an account that keeps track of your points and an onslaught of marketing messages. Anything of real value comes with a price…be it miles, points or bucks. That doesn’t make me feel very special. Programs like that aren’t saying “thank you” but instead continuing to bombard me with the message of “buy more”. It’s almost as if I’m as valuable to them as my most recent purchase. Loyalty programs are about building a relationship and in any relationship – personal, business or consumer – people want to feel special. People want to be thanked just because you demonstrated commitment to the relationship. I may have inadvertently strayed from my committed airline relationship but I will definitely go back to the one that I’m loyal to…the one that makes me feel special.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007