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Ask the Experts:  Surprise & Delight Campaigns

          We Ask Betsy Vavrin, SMC Marketing


Q: We’d like to build on surprise & delight offerings to improve the customer experience and engender loyalty, without the commitment and liability of a points (or miles) based program.  How do I best approach this type of program structure?


A: Our culture is so accustomed to points-driven loyalty programs, we may bypass other types of rewards and recognition.  It is important to consider that customer loyalty can be developed and enhanced by other activities.  Providing other types of rewards can actually differentiate a program and make it more memorable.


What makes non-point-driven programs stand out is that they can be more effective in reaching your customers on an emotional level.  This is an important consideration.  People relate personally to your brand, and an emotional connection nurtures continued loyalty.  Including surprise and delight elements in your customer loyalty program does not require your customers to opt-in, to carry a special membership card or to consider point values as they finalize their purchase decision.  It is simple to implement and can have significant long-term value.


Even a small surprise and delight gift can be memorable.  A component of one of our customer loyalty programs included a certificate for a one-pound box of See's Candies, a very popular candy store in the western United States.  The certificate had no expiration, and could be used at any See's Candies location.  The customer loyalty program had kicked off one-month prior, and the certificate was mailed just before Thanksgiving.


Years later, several of these customers were included in a customer satisfaction survey.  When asked whether they had any particular instance in which they could recall being recognized for their loyalty, many of them cited the "free candy."  It was clear this small, unexpected gift had significantly affected them.  It was memorable.


In addition to surprise and delight elements, your loyalty program can include other important elements that further distinguish your program.  These have no monetary value to your customer, but can be successfully tied to your brand or product:


          Access:  Provide program participants with special toll-free phone number or URL for customer service or ordering.

          Preference:  Give your customers early access to sales.  Provide special reports or updates.

          Social Events:  Showcase special speakers, celebrities, resources.

          Recognition:  Include your most profitable customers in feedback panels, or develop special clubs.


Point-based customer loyalty programs are a part of our culture, and provide us with significant rewards.  Surprise and delight offerings can add a special element of recognition and appreciation—they can be a memorable component of your customer loyalty program.


Betsy VavrinFounder & President, SMC Marketing, Redondo Beach, California

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