What Customers Want from Their Frequent Flyer Program

CrankyFlier attended the ARAC Frequent Flyer Mega Event, asked for blog reader feedback on what he should tell the program folks, and then posted a wrapup of his presentation.

He said that offers don’t need to be simple and easy, but the value proposition needs to make sense to the customer.

[L]ast minute award bookings fees..may make sense in the context of revenue management, but from a pure customer perspective, they can’t really be justified. The disconnect is the problem there.

(Emphasis mine.)

Cranky suggested that customers want to feel valued, both for their current revenue contribution and for their lifetime value.

And he offered up honesty and integrity, that the airlines make the rules. Customers will work with whatever game is offered as long as the programs shoot straight and play fair. And in making the point he quoted extensively from a comment I made to his post, so I’ll quote it liberally here as well:

Honesty, Transparency, Integrity.

Those sound old fashioned, but I’m serious. Bear with me.

Don’t talk about ‘enhancements’ that are really devaluations. Your customers resent being lied to.

(Oh, and don’t ACTUALLY lie, either. Don’t promise something like the ability to redeem award seats on your partner airlines and then when a partner is offering an award seat don’t refuse to let your customer book it. And don’t tell your customer that the airline “isn’t offering the seat.” And don’t tell the customer that the partner airline doesn’t even fly the route on that day. I’m talking to you, United. 100% seriously.)

Offer a clear value proposition and STICK TO IT.

I disagree with @Chris who says no devaluations. Just be clear about what you are doing and give PLENTY of notice. So that there’s a clear connection between an offer, customer behavior, and a reward. When you offer benefits, customers fly to earn those benefits, and you change the rules of the game just as they’re about to experience those benefits… #FAIL … seriously. So declare by the end of February, 2010, say, what the 2011 program will look like. And stick to it.

In this same light, I agree with @Chris, though, that there is good online social media communication from a couple of companies like Starwood. Engage your customer, honestly and transparently. With a strong customer service presence and not a marketing, PR, or spin shop.

Tell the truth. Declare it openly, warts and all. And then deliver on your declarations. And your customers will love you for it.

He reports that the discussion focused on

examples of lying about something being done to “enhance the customer experience”

Indeed.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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