On a recent visit to my gym, the manager had erected an inflatable air-dancer puppet by the front door along with a sign encouraging membership. Under the program, they waived the initial sign-up fee, as well as the first month’s membership fee. Added to this was two free sessions with a trainer and a t-shirt. Okay, fine, I get it, they want new members. What about those of us who have loyally paid their bills but didn’t receive any freebies? I paid all of the initial fees and have been a regular-paying member for three years now. What have I received? Zip.
I have seen this same phenomenon over the years, particularly with magazines. We used to regularly subscribe to a multitude of magazines, including news and sports. For many years we paid the full rate and received no “freebies.” Then, in the 1990’s, as printed magazines started to succumb to the Internet, they offered a myriad of gifts, such as clocks, radios, cameras, special edition publications, etc. Again, what did the long-term subscriber receive? Zip.
Credit cards typically allow you to earn points for such things as travel and gifts, but there is still no loyalty incentive. Not long ago, I had a minor problem I reported to one of my credit card companies. The agent I talked with on the phone pulled up my records on his computer and said, “Oh, Mr. Bryce, I see you’ve been a member of ours for over thirty years now; Wow!” His reaction led me to believe I had been a member longer than the agent had been alive.
I had called the company to make a simple correction to a payment I had made (something incredibly minor). The agent said he would have to have it reviewed with management before he could update the correct entry (even though he recognized I had been correct). When he said it would take a month or two to correct, I told them if they wanted to keep me for another thirty years, he better make the change in the next thirty seconds or I will cancel my membership. Instead of trying to correct the problem right then and there, he said there was nothing he could do. In other words, he called my bluff. Regrettably, I wasn’t bluffing and cancelled forthwith.
I was amazed they were willing to let a long-term customer go, but this is not the only time I have seen this occur. I have had to do similar actions with banks, trash collectors, phone companies, and cable companies (which I think are perhaps the worst). I have changed cable operators at least a dozen times over the years, going to a cable operator who was offering new members lower rates. I guess they count on the older customers to just grin and bear it. I do not.
Like I said, I understand the need for a “come-on” to engage new customers, but what is the benefit of remaining a loyal customer over a number of years? Zip. This is why it is becoming more common for people to quit a service, only to return to it later to get the new cheaper rates, and any “freebies” along the way. To me, this sounds like a “make work” scenario and is certainly not smart from a customer service and sales perspective.
There should be some sort of benefit for customer loyalty, maybe something simple at first, and something more pronounced later. As a company, imagine the cash flow from a loyal clientele, but people do not think long-term anymore, just “quick and dirty” (or is it “agile”?). I know this mindset disturbs managers and executives who hate to lose market share. Let me give you an example…
A few years ago, I had a manager from a cable company come to my neighborhood. He knocked on my door to ask why I had quit his company. I told him I recently saw an increase on my bill, and another cable company offering comparable service at a less-expensive rate. I talked with one of his company’s agents and asked if they could match the lower price. Of course, the agent said “No,” but perhaps worse, there was no concern for the possible loss of business. The manager shook his head in disbelief. “If I met the price right now, would you switch back to us?” he asked.
I told him, No, for two reasons; first, the installation of the new service had recently been completed and I was in no mood to change it again, and; second, I was offended by the disregard the company showed for their loyal customers. He thanked me for my time, but went away frustrated with his own company.
Interestingly, the same phenomenon happened with the new cable provider; rates increased progressively until I decided to go to a new cable provider. Again, the agent did nothing to retain my business.
If companies started to implement a true loyalty program based on length of service, fewer customers would drop service, meaning less maintenance costs, and improved profit-margin.
Then again, I am still a creature of the 20th century.
Keep the Faith!
P.S. – Don’t forget my new book, “Tim’s Senior Moments” now available in Printed and eBook form.
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
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Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.