What politicians can learn from loyalty best practice

Anamaria Chiuzan, senior marketing manager at loyalty specialist The Logic Group, discusses the parallels between party political loyalty and loyalty best practices in the retail sector.

Anamaria Chiuzan
Anamaria Chiuzan

The General Election 2010 has been unique in many ways. It was the election that gave us the first ever live televised debates; social media, and more specifically Twitter, has also had a significant role; and of course the Liberal Democrats emerging as real contenders, following Nick Clegg’s compelling performances in the debates.

But what of the role that good old-fashioned loyalty has had to play? Will a loyal electorate be an essential requirement for gaining a majority? And if so, are politicians doing the right things to build loyalty amongst their supporters?

In the retail world loyalty is paramount to maintaining and encouraging spend amongst consumers. And there have been some interesting parallels in best practice approaches to loyalty in the retail sector and the approach adopted by the parties to encouraging the electorate to vote for them.

For example, when designing a loyalty programme it is essential that loyalty messages are relevant and simple. Clear messages together with appropriate offers and rewards ensure customers become engaged, with rewards that are relevant to the individual consistently gaining the approval of shoppers.

This is something that the three leaders all focussed on during the live debates, speaking in simple terms and avoiding political jargon in the hope of connecting with the ’common person’. Personalisation is also a vital component of any successful loyalty scheme, and again the three would-be Prime Ministers made frequent attempts to make a connection with people in the audience, with many heralding Nick Clegg as having the most genuine approach, remembering as he did the names of individuals that posed questions and taking the opportunity to use them frequently.

Another central tenet of a good loyalty programme is to know your most loyal customers; understanding this is paramount in personalising the customer experience and exceeding expectations. As businesses continue to implement retention strategies the data they collect becomes a key asset in managing the relationship with valuable and less valuable customers. The dramatic impact this can have was evidenced in the most dramatic moment of the campaign following Gordon Brown’s ’bigotgate’ blunder.

Here Brown encountered someone that had voted Labour all of her life; as had her immediate family. By failing to treat a loyal supporter that had an arguably valid issue with respect, Gordon Brown found himself at the centre of one of the most controversial and damaging moments in the campaign, losing the support of not just a voter, but also her family and plenty of others besides.

The learning here, especially when applied to engendering loyalty in the retail sector, is that if you have a loyal customer and fail to prioritise them it can very easily ensure that they switch from your brand to a competitor in an instant; whether they have favoured your brand for a lifetime or not.

A loyalty programme must also be integral to customer service and retailers should ensure that customer-facing staff are aligned with the goals of the loyalty programme. A loyalty programme is most successful when its benefits and core messages are successfully promoted to members across each customer service touch point. There are parallels in the election campaigns in evidence here too, most notably in ensuring that messages are consistent.

The Conservative campaign had only been up and running for three days when London Mayor Boris Johnson publicly contradicted David Cameron during a visit to the Chelsea Pensioners in west London, suggesting it should be compulsory, rather than voluntary, for teenagers to conduct national service. Although not fundamentally damaging to the Conservative campaign this was not a welcome intervention and served to undermine the united front that Cameron was attempting to present.

Another quality that politicians historically have not been readily associated with is an ability to listen. Just as politicians are generally seen to fall short in this area, using customer opinion to calibrate progress and optimise your loyalty model can reap significant rewards. It is information that can become a valuable asset that informs business decisions; as long as the information is actively employed in defining your loyalty model.

It is possible then that the party which has done the best job of actively listening and developing the greatest sense of loyalty amongst its supporters (a tough task given the constant fluctuations in sentiment played out in the polls) could well be the party that finds itself setting up shop in 10 Downing Street on May 6th.

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