I go to the same two gas stations around my home and work. I know the cashiers, and they know me. The cashiers know I like Kona blend coffee, garlic-flavored Slim Jims and that I should not buy the 24-ounce energy drink.
Over the past year, both gas stations have rolled out “loyalty cards” so you can earn valuable points and prizes. I hate these programs with a passion. I am always stuck behind someone in line as they fumble around with a key chain full of loyalty barcode tags.
One morning, my usual cashier demanded that I present my loyalty card. This was not normal, as I have known this cashier for years. The place was slow, so I asked what the deal is with these things.
She told me that recently she had been reprimanded by the district manager because her average for scanned loyalty cards was below average. She was also criticized because she was not “meeting quota” on candy and gum sales placed next to the cash register.
This cashier is one of the nicest and most efficient cashiers I have ever seen. She is always pleasant, and it is never scripted. She is typically the first smiling face I see in the morning. If she suggests something, I will typically buy it.
Now some hotshot marketing executive wants to make our interaction nothing more than a hollow sales pitch and the scanning of a loyalty card. For what? So they can increase candy sales by 3% and collect “big data.”
What executives forget is that loyalty cards and scripted pitches do not drive sales. Giving an employee the chance to build a relationship with the customer and permitting them to tailor the service to the customer is what builds long-term growth. But, it takes time to grow an empowered employee, and it requires an investment in training.
One empowered employee is more effective then a thousand loyalty cards and a hundred employees stumbling through a scripted pitch. The same is true for independent shop owners. Just look through online reviews for some shops. Most reviews refer to the person at the front counter by first name, and they talk about how they arranged a ride to work, took care of an unexpected problem or just became a trusted friend. They never talk about a loyalty program that earned them a free oil change.