Something is wrong when your promotions alienate your best customers

Delta recently offered both redeemable and qualifying miles for activity with Rewards Network (which I usually still insist on calling iDine).

The promo was offered towards the end of the year, the miles took awhile to post (although not more time than specified in the original offer), and it was never clear in which year the qualifying miles would be applied.

A Delta Gold Medallion member, on the cusp of making Platinum, writes:

As the year was ending I was about 2500 miles short of [Platinum Medallion] status and was thinking about doing a mileage run. The 1000 MQMs [elite qualifying miles] from the dining program would’ve made it only 1500, a pretty manageable trip at the end of the year. But as the year wound down, it didn’t look like they were going to post the dining MQMs until 2008 so I decided not to do the run. And sure enough 2008 comes along and they’re not there. So I think “ok–they’ll help me make status in 2008.” Finally they post the 1000 MQMs on 1/03/08. But get this…they’re counting toward 2007 not 2008. See beaucratic answer below. So the bottom line is I added a worthless 1000 MQMs to 2007 and could’ve used them to make PM (with the help of a mileage run) if I’d known.

Now, if it were me and I was unsure whether the miles would post, I would have made a larger mileage run. Close enough to top tier elite status that it would have been worth it for sure.

And what this reader didn’t realize is that they were even closer than they had imagined, I understand that anyone within 1000 miles of an elite level is being given the higher level this year by Delta. (Though I haven’t paied particularly close attention to this issue.)

Finally, the way these promotions usually work is that points take a defined period of time to post (one hopes!) but that they post with a date signifying when the miles were earned. So naturally the promotion ended in November, the miles posted with a November date.

Still, there was apparently a great deal of confusion on this issue, as it’s being discussed in excruciating detail over on Flyertalk. Several unhappy campers who feel completely befuddled by the promo.

Personally I would have handled things differently than this member. But they were on the cusp of achieving Delta’s next elite level – something Delta loves to see – but they didn’t because of confusion over a Delta promotion. Hoping for a consolation prize, they at least figured they’d get a small 1000 qualifying mile head start on 2008, they would apparently have been happy with that. But no dice.

So a promotion’s rules have instead soured an elite customer — the promotion was offered, the member participated, and they wind up essentially with nothing but a bad taste in their mouth.

Message to all marketing managers out there: this is the opposite of the result you’re looking for. And when such a member writes in to your customer relations department, that the message seriously. A measly 1000 qualifying miles for 2008 would probably do the trick here, instead of just explaining tha tthe member gets nothing.

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, 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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