Don't Forget the Human Touch When You Automate Customer Loyalty Programs

By Patrick Thean

dateWed, Sep 25, 2013 @ 09:44 AM

I got up on my birthday and took my daughter to our optician early in the morning. It's a normal day for Think-Plan-Do_Black_w_Green_Circleseveryone except for me. For me it's a special day… it's my birthday. No one wished me happy birthday at my optician (I have been with them for over 20 years). But I did not mind… I did not expect it anyway. When I got to my office and turned on my email, there was a "Happy Birthday" email from my optician, wishing me a very happy birthday. Surprisingly, instead of feeling happy that they sent me birthday wishes, I was actually annoyed. 

I was just there 10 minutes ago and no one cared that it was my birthday. And now I receive an automated greeting! It felt fake. Because it was fake. Their CRM system knew it was my birthday and sent me a greeting. But apparently nobody at the company knew. This would have worked in most cases. It just worked against them this time because I was actually there. Instead of making me feel like they cared, the email made me feel like they did not care. I am sure this was not their intention. My optician provides eye care and takes good care of me.

Mistakes like this can happen when we depend too much on process automation and forget about the human touch. Process automation and systems are great, as long as they deliver the right result all the time. This is an example of process automation delivering the right result most of the time.

Here are 3 tips to help you think about your customer loyalty programs:

1. Provide the right human touch: There are so many systems available now that provide process automation. And with so many ways to touch customers electronically, it is easy for us to have zero human touches. Plan a personal touch at key points in your process to show your customers that you care. Here are 2 examples: (1) My financial advisor calls and wishes his clients happy birthday every year. It's a personal touch on your special day that shows you he cares. (2) calls you to thank you for buying a domain with them. That is a high touch call from a low cost domain provider. Calling your customers at the right time can really help you to stand out as most companies are reducing personal touches in order to reduce costs.

2. Think through exceptions: Exceptions happen. With any process automation, think through what exceptions may happen and how to deal with it. Showing up at my optician's office on my birthday is an exception. If they had programmed for that exception and greeted me with a "happy birthday," their automated email greeting would have been perfect.

3. Get your team engaged: ImageFIRST™( is the largest and fastest growing provider of linen and garment rental and laundry services to medical practices throughout the continental United States. When they launched their customer loyalty program six years ago, they got their delivery personnel involved and engaged in their customer loyalty program. They equipped their associates with training and education. They took the time to help each associate understand the purpose and goals of the customer loyalty program and how they can get engaged in the program and help move the needle on customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Remember that your goal is to show customers you care and service them better. It's not just about automating customer service processes.


Learn to build focus, alignment and accountability; read Execute Without Drama by Patrick Thean

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