At its core, customer loyalty programs are system of rewards that a business offers its loyal customers. Not only is it a nice ‘thank you’ for repeat customers, but it can also turn occasional customers into frequent customers. Another HUGE benefit is that these programs can provide your business with a lot of valuable information about your customers. And the more you know about your customers, the easier it is for you to make sure they are happy customers. It’s also important to remember that it costs more to get new customers than it does to get return customers, so using a customer loyalty program can help you retain your customers and increase your profits.
Types of Customer Loyalty Programs
While the most common type of client loyalty system is still a buy-10-get-1-free card, most restaurants that offer this simply give it away and stamp it each time a customer makes a purchase. In other words, restaurants can’t learn anything about their customers this way. Keep in mind that one goal of a customer loyalty program is to learn more about your customers. And there are several types of programs that can help you achieve that.
Swipe Card/Smartphone Program
A better system than a stamp/punch card is one that requires the customer to complete some kind of application in order to receive the card. And why use paper when you can offer a reusable swipe card (for customers who still prefer analog) or a smartphone option (which is even better since cards tend to disappear)?
It’s worth mentioning that many customers don’t want to wait several months to receive their first reward. In a tiered loyalty program, customers are rewarded based on their level of engagement. So customers receive different rewards at different times, which is a more customized approach.
These types of customer loyalty programs reward customers based on the amount they spend or the number of times they visit a location (physical or digital).
Points can be awarded for any kind of customer engagement (dining in, take out, reservations, check-ins on Foursquare, etc.), and different engagements are worth a varying number of points. A certain number of points can be exchanged for a reward or even several rewards.
This should only be one aspect of a customer loyalty program. While this type of program generally does not provide you with information about your customers, it will allow your customers to indicate their loyalty and spread the word to their friends.
If you haven’t already guessed it, you can mix and match the features above to create a customized customer loyalty program that best meets your needs and the needs of your customers.
The types of rewards you can offer your customers are limited only by your imagination. The buy-10-get-1-free route is rather conventional (though it still often works), but why not offer something that will get your customers excited to walk through your doors?
Think about all the different kinds of rewards you can offer your customers. The rewards should make them feel valued and special. Free meals, free drinks, free desserts are standard options, but try thinking outside the box. Consider priority seating, regular discounts and special pricing, exclusive meals or hours, VIP events, trainings with the chef, wine tastings… Get creative!! And you don’t always need to tell your customers in advance what they’ll receive as a reward. A surprise – if it’s a good one – can really brighten a customer’s day and create a special, memorable experience for them at your restaurant. Don’t underestimate the power of a positive feeling.