To work, they need to give as much as they get

loyalty cards

I’ve just opened up my wallet and emptied all my loyalty cards onto the table. And I’m horrified. Am I that loyal? Not really. Consider the two cards above. Caffé Nero is a chain of coffee shops in the UK. And here’s how their card works: every time I buy a coffee, they stamp my card. When I have nine stamps, my tenth coffee is free. So that’s a 10% discount. But there’s something that niggles me: the name. A loyalty card suggests that I have to give them something (my loyalty). And I don’t like that. Book chain Blackwell’s sees things differently. They want to give me something: rewards. I like that. Rewards are good. Here’s the thing, though: they only give me £5 back for every £100 I spend. So my discount is just 5% – half of Caffé Nero’s. But my instinct is to feel more positively about them, simply because they’re seeing it from my point of view (rewards) rather than theirs (loyalty).

Card sharp

Loyalty cards (or whatever you call them) need to give as much as they get if they’re to work. In fact, they need to give more than they get. And more importantly, it has to be less hassle having one than not having one. Take Starbucks’ card, for instance. Here’s how it works:
  • You take it home.
  • You register it online, and charge it up with money.
  • You use it in the shop if you have enough credit. If not, you have to use cash.
You see the problem, don’t you? The onus is on you to remember to charge the card. So that’s yet another thing to add to your burgeoning to-do list. And if you charge the card and don’t use it, then the company has your money. In its bank account. Earning interest.

Take it or leave it

Whether they’re loyalty or reward cards, staff need to understand them and actively promote them. Without that, you’re sunk. A while back, I went into another coffee shop (I know, I’m addicted – but it is decaf). And guess what they had on the menu? That’s right – a loyalty card. I picked it up, twiddled it round, and asked the barista what the advantage was of using it. What goodies did I get? “Nuzzing,” she said. “Personally, I can’t see ze point of it.” She flapped her dishcloth to ward off a hovering fly. “In France,” she said, warming to her subject, “you ‘ave not got all zese cards…” And she was off. Credit cards, store cards, easy credit, the pointlessness of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ consumer society. On and on she went, as she whipped up my frothy cappuccino. I didn’t take a card. And I haven’t been back.

Double or quits

Meanwhile, down the road, one of the Caffé Nero baristas has discovered how to instil real loyalty in clients. It’s a simple technique, which involves ‘accidentally’ stamping the card twice when I have one coffee.

The top two rows are her work: three coffees, six stamps.

I like her thinking. Don’t you?