Remember “green stamps?” When I was young, my parents saved them in a booklet, carefully collecting them until they had enough to send away for some great housewares or knick-knacks. S&H Green Stamps were popular in the United States from the 1930s until about 30 years ago, and were distributed as part of a rewards program operated by the Sperry and Hutchinson company (S&H). In the 1960s, the rewards catalog was the largest publication in the United States! You could get the stamps at the checkout counter of supermarkets, department stores and gas stations, and many of us still have old relics from the catalog in our attics.

These days, we all have those punch cards good toward a free cup of coffee, or a “points” card good for coupons on electronics.  It’s the same customer loyalty idea that S&H had years ago when my parents’ generation saved the stamps. For decades, companies have been trying to figure out how to engage their customers and gage their loyalty.

Unfortunately, these reward programs can backfire. It takes a lot more than a punchcard to get your customers coming back for your goods and services.  If you want to read a great article on this, check out author and business strategist Carol Roth’s article titled, Leading a New Era of Customer Engagement with Customer Loyalty 3.0. Carol discusses three levels in customer engagement, and helps companies understand how both they and their brands can make spenders feel cared for and important by taking a holistic approach.

But because not all customers have the same wants or needs, we need to know who they are and we need to listen to their conversations to understand what is important to them. Like anything, it takes time and a lot of effort to do this, but I think it is time well spent to build solid, loyal relationships.

 

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