Monday, September 18, 2006

Rewarding your customers

My SO just made Platinum on Continental Airlines' Elite program. For the first 2/3 of the year, he was "commuting" from Houston to Paris, so the miles added up. For both of us - I didn't go as much as he did, but I did make four trips to France, and so I hit Gold (the middle level of their three elite tiers) a few weeks ago.

And it's funny - when you hit Silver, Gold, or Platinum, you get a package with your new frequent flyer card in the mail. The exact same package, no matter what level you're at.

When I hit Silver, I got a mailer that contained my new card, some drink tickets, two name stickers to put inside your luggage (in case it's lost and the tags are missing) and an explanation of all the Elite levels. When I hit Gold, I got the same package with a gold card. And he just got the very same thing with a Platinum card.

"Four drink tickets?" he said. "I've flown 75,0000 miles with them so far this year. I've squashed my butt into economy for all that time. They should at least have a note in there thanking me for spending so much goddamn money with them."

"For all those miles, you should get a free drink on every flight!" I said.

You do get different benefits at different levels. For example, when you Silver, you get a 50% bonus on your miles (fly 1,000 miles, get 1,500 deposited to your account.) At Gold that goes up to a 100% bonus, and he now gets 125% bonus as a Platinum flyer.

And then there's the best benefit - the first class upgrades. You wind up farther up the list to get bumped into first class as you advance through the tiers. If you fly a lot, that's not a small thing. I was in first class both ways on my last trip to DC, and let me tell you, it made me very happy. It's nice to get off a plane not feeling like you've been living the life of a veal calf for the last few hours.

Platinum flyers are their very best customers. These are people who, like my SO, are constantly hopping onto planes. And they send out a package that makes them feel like... nobody special. ("I've flown from Texas to the Middle East and all I got was a stupid drink ticket," the t-shirt could say.)

If you're going to reward your most loyal customers, make them feel rewarded. Otherwise, what's the point?

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