Where’s the loyalty?
by Andrianne Philippou - What does an in-store loyalty card mean to you? Personally I love them. I think they’re a great marketing/ promotional tool and more or less everywhere we shop in today’s consumer driven society, most high street merchants offer them.
As it happens, one of my favourite loyalty cards belongs to a popular Italian coffee shop.
This well loved, well established franchise is present in every town island-wide and from my point of view offers a particularly good latte, not to mention cool (free!) air con, wi-fi, friendly, pleasant staff and service, an all round positive experience; definitely a package that engenders my loyalty.
And last week I was pleased to discover my favourite cafe also has an outlet at one of our international airports (or so I thought). Waiting for my son’s arrival, his best friend and I decided to kill the half hour or so waiting time by enjoying a relaxed drink and snacks in the café. I offered up my card together with my cash to pay for our goodies. And was met with a blank stare. Wondering whether I’d handed the barista the wrong card, I checked again.
“Sorry, what’s this?” she asked.
“Er, my loyalty card, you know, your in-store promotion; I earn points for every euro I spend in your cafe”.
She didn’t know what I was talking about. I was not impressed. After paying up, I walked away feeling frustrated. Ostensibly this café operates in exactly the same way as the rest of the chain; it serves exactly the same refreshments, products and services, is identical in terms of branding and style; the only difference I could see is it charges higher prices (doesn’t every airport?). But I could see nothing that indicated my loyalty card, valid everywhere else in Cyprus, would not be accepted here. Misleading to say the least.
A chat to head office later confirmed that both airport ‘land and flight-side’ coffee shops are ‘sub-franchisees,’ therefore owned and run by the airport’s management so not in their control; consequently there is no obligation for them to honour the loyalty card scheme that’s in place across the island. Hmmm…. By quirky coincidence, the following day, I had a similar experience, but this time with a popular, franchised high street fast food burger chain. Numerous attempts to call their delivery service, which I have happily used dozens of times over the last few years, were met with what sounded like a disconnected phone line. Assuming the telephone lines were playing up, I had no option but to go to there personally (frustrating since I was running late that night which is why I was trying to order a delivery in the first place!).
It seemed very odd that the branch was in darkness (it was early evening, midweek). I asked a couple of young kids loitering in the car park why it was closed, they informed me the place had shut several days ago. Another ‘hmmm….’ So what about management informing customers? Would it be too difficult to post a banner or notice on the store front to announce the restaurant’s closure? Or what about a recorded message informing customers who might be trying to order via phone line? The database is already in place after all; every time I’ve called up to order a delivery in the past they’ve known exactly who I am, my address, contact details, etc…; how difficult would it have been to run an sms campaign for example?
Whether franchised or sub-franchised, a company’s success is determined by the loyalty it engenders in its clientele. As in all relationships, loyalty is borne from people feeling respected and valued, including customers. If this is the way business is being conducted by two of the biggest management groups on the island, it seems they really don’t understand or appreciate customer loyalty; or maybe they simply don’t care.
For me, both situations highlight examples of consummate indifference. Plus an obvious lack of attention to detail; it’s the little things that make or break a great customer experience. One would imagine, particularly in today’s fickle and risky business climate, a little more thought for the customer might be a sensible, in fact, fundamental part of any company’s marketing campaign and strategy? I’d like to remind certain ‘big boys’ on the high street that customer loyalty is earned. It seems to me you’ve just lost a few loyal punters.
© Andrianne Philippou