Are We There Yet?
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
At the NACCM in November, one of the presenters from Whirlpool said she’s been getting the question recently: “Are we there yet?” In other words, her internal constituents think the customer loyalty initiative has been going on for long enough, thank you, and when will it be complete? This is an interesting perspective worth examining—and debunking!
To understand this better, all we have to do is look at the corporate environment. Most our colleagues have projects or initiatives that start at the beginning of the year and are complete by year’s end. Some projects go on longer, but not most. Then the cycle repeats the following year.
But loyalty is different for a few reasons. First, it’s not an ‘initiative’; it’s a strategy that drives our other corporate strategies. We need to educate our colleagues and help them understand that earning and retaining loyalty is a core business function—it’s as integral to business operations as sales, billing, and collections!
Second, loyalty programs themselves create the need for ongoing work. Each time we surprise our customers with great products or serves we raise the bar. We set the new norm. Therefore, if we want to do it again, we have to move beyond where we just were. It sort-of a continual improvement process aimed at driving loyalty.
My advice? Head off the question entirely by being proactive. Set expectations. If you have a loyalty ‘initiative’ or ‘project,’ rename it to a ‘program.’ Make is sound like any other program that’s here to stay. And make sure you’ve got a budgeted line item for it. After all, if it looks like an ongoing strategic program and quacks like the same, chances are likely people will treat it as they do any other ongoing strategic program—with expectations of longevity—and respect!
Steven Nicks, VP Steven.Nicks@phelongroup.com