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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The kind of physical evidence you hide.

An important but oft-overlooked aspect of experiences is the role the physical elements of the service environment play in facilitating the experience, setting expectations and providing cues as to quality, while sometimes serving as a post-experience reminder of the recent service.

Lamar’s, a popular donut chain in my hometown, has a loyalty program called the “Lamar’s Lovers for Life”. Like most frequent purchaser programs, they register repeat customers with a program number, and give them a card or key chain tag to swipe with every visit, so that customers can conveniently accumulate rewards based on purchase frequency.

A significant problem in using this common execution of the purchase card concept is the negative perception created in many users minds by owning & displaying a key tag with a giant icing & sprinkle-covered donut on it, scribed with “Lover for Life”.

Now, the good people of Lamar’s have a passion for their craft, and they make terrific donuts. But if I'm conscious of the message I send others via the brands I wear & carry with me, “Power Consumer of Donuts” is not likely one that I’m going to choose, regardless of the truth that may or may not lie behind it. As a loyalty program, Lamars’ may be the greatest on earth, (And it is pretty good) but if I’m embarrassed to have the tag, I’m not going to have it on my keychain, and so not going to use it.

Something to consider when developing loyalty programs for services with potentially negative associations is how they should be executed through the recognition, physical evidence and redemption encounters.

In this case, I would consider using a more subtle recognition mechanism. The "Lovers for Life" name should be changed, and the physical evidence downplayed or eliminated, so that we “donut lovers” don’t have to be so declarative every time our keys come out of our pockets.

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