Gotchas! Dos and Don’ts Behind the Industry’s Best Rewards Programs

November 3, 2016 CO-OP Financial Services

54118668 - reward loyal customers: set of mixed gift cards, shopping carts, coupons and vouchers

Launching and managing a loyalty program can be a complex undertaking, especially when a credit union’s resources are already stretched.

However, the benefits of a successful program are well worth the investments involved. Follow our list of Dos and Don’ts, compiled by industry experts, to ensure smooth sailing with your rewards program and a member experience that is second to none.

Do – Get C-Suite Buy-In Up Front

“If management is not on board from the beginning, you have more selling to do internally before you flip the switch,” said Andrew Gates, CEO of Azigo, Inc. “Your loyalty program is vitally important to the success of your card products – and your entire organization. It should be viewed that way.”

Do – Enroll Your Employees

“This is my number one rule,” said Jennifer Kerry, Vice President, Credit Card Services, for CO-OP Financial Services. “Everybody that has a member-facing position in the credit union should carry your rewards card. They are your best program ambassadors, and nothing is more impactful with your members than the enthusiasm your employees have for the program.”

Don’t – Manage by Committee

Gates adds, “There should be one person within the organization that owns the loyalty initiative and that is responsible for giving your rewards program the time and attention it requires. Otherwise the program can very easily get lost in your day-to-day shuffle.”

Do – Select a Provider That Can Support You Technologically

“Understand how your various providers work together from a technological standpoint,” said Kerry. “You want tight integration between your rewards application and your mobile and online banking apps, and if there are special requirements that are not standard for your provider, they should be written into the agreement. Be very precise about your expectations. If you require a new function, or a new integration point for the processor, include it in the contract.”

Do – Offer a Mobile App

“Mobile is evolving in front of our very eyes right now, and it is the hot news in this area,” said Gates. “So you need to offer a mobile rewards app – period. But you also need to educate yourself about what is going on in mobile loyalty. You should make yourself aware of what is going on in other industries – retailers and airlines are at the forefront of mobile in this space, so be sure to check out what they are offering.”

Do – Check Your Provider’s Redemption Item Mark-Up Policies

“You can do a disservice to your membership by not understanding your provider’s mark-up on redemption items,” said Kerry. “Make sure your members are not overpaying for items in points – you will quickly lose the perceived value brought by the program.

Don’t – Have Separate Programs for Credit and Debit

“This is confusing to the member,” said Gates. “Make sure householding is enabled as well. The more comprehensive your program is, the faster members will accumulate points – and the more they will enjoy the program and engage in your brand.”

Don’t – Make Rewards Difficult for Members to Access

“Implement single sign-on from your online and mobile banking apps,” said Gates. “Otherwise, you make it hard for members to access the program and realize its benefits.”

Do – Offer Relationship Rewards

“Reward members for any behaviors you value,” said Kerry. “From taking out an auto loan to signing up for e-statements and paying bills using the credit union’s online bill pay product, use your rewards program to grow the member relationship any way you can.”

Do – Remind Members About Their Benefits

“Congratulate them by text or email whenever they qualify for a new reward,” Kerry added. “Give members the ability to set up ‘wish lists,’ and then update them on their progress toward these goals.”

Don’t – Over-communicate Your Plans to Switch Programs 

“If you have a program in place, and you are transitioning to a new program, it’s best to keep it under the radar,” said Gates. “Members may be concerned that they are losing their points or that the program is going away. And they are used to Facebook making changes all the time. The only time you should announce changes to members is when you are offering direct enhancements to program, such as new redemption options.”

Don’t – Eliminate Benefits

“You need to be very certain initially about the benefits you want the program to give members,” said Kerry. “Once you get into the program, and you offer a benefit, taking it away can very negatively impact member relationships. You can always increase their benefits down the road.”

Do – Personalize Your Program

“When the industry talks about personalization, they are really talking about optimizing big data,” said Gates. “Personalization is important, but it doesn’t have to mean one-to-one marketing. Holding an event with a local merchant, for example, is automatically relevant to a lot of your members.”

Do – Encourage Redemption

“There are some great ideas around this, including giving members more points simply for redeeming them,” said Kerry. “And if a member is approaching a points expiration date, you can offer to extend that date if they redeem a certain number or percentage of their points.”

Don’t – Get Swept Up In “Brand-New Shiny Objects”

“When e-commerce first hit the headlines, bricks-and-mortar retailers were supposed to go away,” said Gates. “That hasn’t happened yet, nor will it. Don’t fret if your mobile app isn’t state of the art yet, or if you are still testing the waters with marketing strategies. Other aspects of your business will drive the ROI. Always make sure that the program is working smoothly for members and then enhance and evolve it over time.”

Find out how to turn up member satisfaction this holiday season.

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