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How Hard Should Your Customers Work for Loyalty Rewards?
By: Elaine Reed
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There was a time when I worried that if I lost my wallet, I would lose all of my credit cards. These days, I only ever carry my debit card with me unless I know I will need my credit card. However, the idea that I will lose all of my loyalty cards does irk me. It has taken time to rack up all of the points or rewards on each of those cards. If I lost my wallet, would I be able to easily replace those cards?

It turns out that yes, I would be easy to replace the cards, but the process would be similar to having to cancel all of my credit cards. This means that only the cards I use the most often would be replaced. (Shoes, deli, music…) This realization came to me when I got an email from the Michaels loyalty program. They are changing their program, and in my opinion, not for the better.

In fact, even though I rarely used it, my Michael’s loyalty card was one of my favorites. It was very easy. Whenever my son had a school project, or we needed to make a Halloween costume, I would whip out the card at the register, and voila: an extra discount was applied, or a new coupon was printed, or I was told how close I was to the next reward. It was fantastic.

Now Michaels has changed the program. When you’ve earned a reward or discount, they email you. You have to print the message and bring it with you to the store. Not only is this a very 1990s way of doing things, it says to me that their program was either too successful, or that they no longer care about their loyalty program.  

If their program was too successful, there are easier ways to remedy that than to force people to their email. (Reduce the discount volume, or amounts, offer trial products that are supplied by manufacturers, offer free craft classes in lieu of discounts — just to name a few.) If they no longer care about their loyalty program, and therefore their customer service to a certain extent, then better to shut down the program all together. Offer loyalty members a final discount or service and be done with it.

Since they have moved their program to email certificates, one can only hope that Michaels will allow people to redeem their rewards using by showing the email on their smartphones. If not, Michaels has not only taken a step back 20 years, they have sent a strong message to their customers: We care about your money, but not so much about you. Unless you’re willing to work for it.

Every good relationship requires some effort from both parties, but in the age of a tight economy and infinite competition, do you really want to make it harder for your biggest fans to do even more business with you?

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About the Author
Elaine Reed is a marketing professional with heavy emphasis on e-commerce and Internet marketing. She blogs regularly on her website and tweets often.
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