I recently received a mail from my favourite airline Jet Airways, that I have been downgraded! I am a member of their loyalty program for years now! And this is not the first time this has happened to me. It also happened in 2001 and 2002 too.
The letter read - "...since you have not had enough flights with us, you will be downagraded. Our Dynamic Tier Review (DTR) formula, unique to Jet Airways - DTR is an award winning, multi-period and multi-criteria-based tier review. It has no precedent anywhere in the world. With DTR, upgrade to the higher tier is quicker and tier renewal is easier. The DTR evaluates a member's tier based on Tier Points and Tier JPMiles earned....."
I was disappointed. As a customer, it did not matter to me if the DTR was award winning for Jet Airways! It surely did not work for me ( the downgrade letter was templated too with such high sound words and sentences!).
It made me think about the structure of current loyalty programs across the world and their relevance when loyal customers like me are click away from the next best offer!
Here are some questions that came to my mind:
- In a year of recession and tough 2 years for business, I was suprised how the DTR did not take care of this business environment. I did'nt fly so much as Jet would have wanted. So, Jet's view of my loyalty is transcational - fly more( at full price or premium prices and get rewarded more!). I too will behave the same way in the future, I presume. Question #1: Can't loyalty programs be flexible, adapt to new environment, and why reward only transactional loyalty?
- Given the unsettling business environment that it was over the last 2 years, why would me even as a "fiercely" loyal customer, travel in Jet if the fares were not competitive. Finally, if there is no value, loyalty cannot be bought with points. Question # 2: When there is a challenge of intrinsic value in the product, will loyalty progams deliver - No. It is better to focus on the product rather than upset customers. Companies must know, customers will move on in such circumstances!
- I have been surprised with their loyalty program not paying attention to customer experience, in spite of being a Citibank-Jet Platinum card member. Every time redeeming their upgrade vouchers was a pain. The little travel that I did in these 2 years, whenever I presented the voucher, I was told it was applicable only on full price tickets! Funny, not sure what world they were living in. Question # 3: Do companies that run loyalty programs pay attention to such little details that affect customer experience? They took trouble a few years back to invite me to their co-branded card, but forgot to look at my spends and credits to give me waivers at such tough recessionary period.The bank has no clue, whatsover.
Loyalty programs are still in their 1.0 version. Imagine a product that has not changed for 25 years! They still are in an old world order - "spend with us to earn rewards". Sometimes they have to recognize the value that customers get when they are out shopping for options, may not justfiy the reward they earn everytime if they have to stay within these products/brands. They need to transform given the new environment and options in front of customers.
Customer seek value and surely are willing to pay premium for loyalty but recognition, surprises and instant gratification will need to be weaved into these programs - on the assumption value needs to be earned in the customer's mind & wallet.
Rest assured, this is not a rant but earnestly these are thoughts that I had in my mind and coming out of experiences I have had with such programs over time.