John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

Insulate your VIP’s; what we can learn from the airlines

Protect and preserve your core Customers – “The cost of losing your core Customers and trying to get them backwill be much greater than the cost of investing in them and trying to keep them,” says Howard Schultz president of Starbucks Coffee.  Starbucks Gold card program is one of the best VIP/loyalty programs I have seen and it has had amazing results at Starbucks. Schultz explains, “They enhance the brand, becoming part of the Starbucks Experience via the actual Customer-barista transaction and, because the card lives in wallets, part of people’s lives. The cards also bring us closer to Customers.”


Love the benefits – The Customer gets many perks that can be used, like a free drink after every 12 purchases, and discounts or freebies on little amenities such as no extra cost for Soymilk. However, think what Starbucks gets. They get to build a database on their Customers, see who spends how much on what, have hard data on their top Customers all over the world, and they get prepaid millions of dollars.  People have to pre-load these cards to use them. I, for example, have my Starbucks Gold card set to automatically reload to $100 from my American Express, once my Gold card goes under $10.00.  This is brilliant! Many times they get their Customers’ money two or four weeks prior to redemption.  To receive rewards, a person registers online by providing his or her e-mail address. As a result, Starbucks builds a rich database that they can use to better understand their Customers’ behaviors and reward them accordingly. The database also allows them to reach out to Customers in meaningful, cost-effective ways.


CUSTOMER SERVICE TIPS FROM THE AIRLINES – I, like most, think the airlines are pretty lame at customer service.  However, I have found myself recognizing some pretty good systems they do provide that I have taken back to my businesses and implemented. Back in the early days of my speaking career, my main goal when making airline reservations was to find the cheapest and easiest.  However, since my hometown, Cleveland, is a hub for United Airlines, I naturally flew them a little more.  Then one day I got a letter from them saying that I became a Silver Elite Member.  Big deal, right?  Actually, as I read what Silver received, I became excited.  Not only did they show me the benefits that Silver received, they also explained Gold (the next level up) and Platinum (the highest level).  I became obsessed with not only re-qualifying the next year, but I also wanted to see if I could get to Platinum status. Now, instead of finding the cheapest and quickest, it had to be booked on United only.  It got worse. Every month I was checking my status online, seeing if I was on pace to make it before the year was over.  Think of the beauty of this. United made me become obsessed with spending more money with them, and only with them. 


That is when I thought to myself how we, the customers of John Robert’s Spa, could behave like that.  We rolled out our VIP program, where we sent our top 2,000 Customers(out of over 200,000) VIP cards. 80% were Silver, 15% were Gold, and 5% were Platinum.  We congratulated them on earning their status and gave them a print out of all the benefits each level received.  Immediately our phone started ringing with Customers asking questions like, did we take into consideration that they go to multiple John Robert’s locations, were we giving them credit for each, and do they get credit when they purchase gift cards, etc.  It was one of the best marketing and customer loyalty programs I had ever thought of.  Okay, I didn’t really think of it, but I did copy it really well.  There is a saying, “If you borrow one idea from someone, it is called plagiarism, if you borrow 25, it is called research.” So I guess that makes me a great researcher.


Action Plan – Stop and consider how loyal you have made your top customers to your brand.  Would they entertain better offers, discounts, or would they stop doing business with you if your company dropped the ball?  What would your competitors be willing to do to get them away from you? Have you insulated them from your competition? Have you made your customers obsessed with trying to spend more with your business and earn a higher status and more benefits?


John R. DiJulius III best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the President of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference.

Comments Off on Insulate your VIP’s; what we can learn from the airlines

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: