Why Messaging Is Great for Customer Loyalty Programs

Author: 
Tobias Goebel

Customer loyalty programs are a critical marketing tool for many businesses, and it’s clear to see why: they reward return customers, provide touchpoints to drive sales, and help provide insight into customer experience and behavior. But, despite these benefits, many businesses implementing loyalty programs fall behind when it comes to communication, resulting in missed opportunities to increase customer loyalty and drive sales. Then there’s the problem of “serial switching,” the changing of brands when benefits aren’t clearly communicated, a habit 67% of customers admit to.

So why aren’t more businesses embracing communication within their customer loyalty programs? Studies show 90 percent of loyalty program members are open to receiving communications, and the benefits of such are clear – with a study by COLLOQUY Research reporting customer satisfaction increases four-fold as a result of relevant communication. 

The real question: How can businesses best communicate with loyalty program members? 

Email is an easy avenue, but has its limitations, with only 24% of emails being opened. Phone calls are time-, cost- and labor-intensive, and because of the prominence of robocalls, are likely to be ignored. The next logical (and relatively untapped) avenue is messaging, the method more than 50% of consumers prefer for interacting with businesses . 

Over recent years, new messaging mediums have exploded onto the scene. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, text messaging (SMS) and its twin iMessage, Twitter Direct Message (DM) and more are regularly used by brands in communicating with their customers, but not without faults. Many customers are reporting frustrations with long wait times for live agents, disconnected sessions or programming faults with automated agents.

Asynchronous Messaging

Enter asynchronous messaging, the next step in the evolution of business to consumer messaging. Unlike traditional messaging methods, which require the customer to respond fast or get disconnected and end up with a new customer service agent thereafter, asynchronous messaging creates a perpetual conversation for both sides – one that does not end – and enables customers to communicate with a business at their own pace, whether it’s five minutes, five hours or five days later. 

So what does this mean for customer loyalty programs? To start, asynchronous messaging offers convenience for program members, enabling them to make contact, ask questions and check on their program status when it’s convenient for them. Before asynchronous messaging, customers would have to set aside time to ask questions about their loyalty program status and ensure they are present so their live chat doesn’t get disconnected, resulting in the customer having to start the process over again. With asynchronous messaging, loyalty program members can reach out at any time, receive timely answers, and have follow-up questions answered in one never-ending chat thread. Agents always see the full chat history as well. 

This perpetuity enables personalization like customers have never experienced before. Because conversations between the business and consumer never end, customers are able to feel as if they’re building a real and lasting relationship with a business. Science backs this up too, with studies showing that people don’t differentiate who they’re talking to on messaging channels, thus communicating as easily with businesses as they do with friends when interacting using messaging . 

Quick Response

A leading cause for serial switching is a lack of available customer loyalty program information. Customers simply don’t want to spend their time sifting through documents, web pages and reading the fine print to find answers to their questions. Asynchronous messaging solves this issue by enabling the easy transfer of information and delivery of updates. If a customer has a question regarding their program status, available rebates or balance of points, they simply have to send a message to their existing thread to get an answer. 

Further to this, because asynchronous messaging is two-way communication enabled, exclusive loyalty program deals, new features and updates can be communicated to a customer at any time through their thread, ensuring program members are informed about new benefits within the program. Because the thread is perpetual, customers can check these updates at their leisure and are much less intrusive than phone calls, reducing the incidence of stress for the customer and driving measurable success for the business.

Convincing customers to sign-up to a loyalty program is just the beginning for many businesses, and reward fulfillment is not the end. The goal is to earn lasting loyalty from customers at each stage of the loyalty journey, and the first step in this is relevant, convenient, stress-free, and personalized communication, which only asynchronous messaging can provide.

Tobias Goebel is vice president of product marketing at Sparkcentral, an innovative software and solutions company that turns messaging apps, SMS, chat and social media into customer service channels on one universal messaging customer service platform.