No Pedicures, thanks. I’m walking!

These days it seems most businesses have some kind of loyalty program in place. From craft shops to hotels, they’re supposed to reinforce the brand and encourage repeat purchases.

Yet sometimes, due to costs, logistical challenges, mismanagement, or partnership issues, these programs get canceled.

Having raised customer expectations for rewards they’ve earned, ending that loyalty program requires a delicate touch. Handle it clumsily and you risk incurring customer wrath.

Consider my bride, who loves getting pedicures. The shop she’s patronized for years started a “Buy 10 pedicures, get one free” program. Good news, right?

At her 10th visit she eagerly anticipated the next freebie…only to hear “We don’t do that anymore.”

There had been no sign or emailed notice. There was no apology, either.

My bride is one of those “I gave my word, I keep my promises” types. From her perspective, the salon made a contract with a loyal customer, then abruptly reneged.

Meaning the salon made their sales, but lost a customer. They forget the amount of competition, and that they need Mrs. Marketing more than she needs them.

Loyalty programs are a good way to help any business stand out of the crowd; especially if you have substantial competition.

In fact, this may be the tie-breaker between buying from you and someone else.

Which shouldn’t suggest that loyalty programs, once started, can’t be ended. But when it’s time to pull the plug, give customers time to adjust to the idea.

After all, one of the benefits of this effort is the database of contact information you’ve collected from participants. Sending out a note saying “We’re sorry, but this program is ending on this date. Be sure to cash in before that,” will go a LONG way towards softening the blow.

At the least, post a sign on your website and at Point of Sale a few months ahead announcing the change.

Your effort will maintain customer goodwill. You may even make extra sales as folks rush to cash in before the deadline.

Successful businesses build relationships with their customers, and don’t just make them feel like numbers on a balance sheet. That means you need to make extra efforts to communicate with people, and NEVER pull the rug out from under them.

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.

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