There are short three-hour drives, and there are long three-hour drives. The drive from Memphis to Nashville is a long three hours.
Fortunately, there’s radio. Not satellite radio, just regular radio.
â€œIn my day,â€ I’ll tell my kids one day, â€œradio stations were local, not national. You had to be near a tower to get a signal.â€
â€œReally? Tell us more!â€ they’ll scream excitedly, hanging on every word.
Anyway, it’s a long three hours, and once you get out of range of Memphis, you have a long stretch with three options:
- Talk radio
- Country music
So I normally bounce back and forth between hysterical tirades over the imminent collapse of our great nation, and warbled lyrics about drinkin’ beers and kissin’ girls.
But this past Sunday, when I started station-hopping, something was different. No drinkin’ beers. No kissin’ girls. Instead, I caught the beginning of a song that went â€œwell I wish I had some shoes on my two bare feetâ€¦â€
It seems that a couple of young women got fed up enough with country music’s objectification of women that they wrote a song (and a catchy one at that) with quotables like â€œall we’re good for is looking good for you and your friendsâ€ and â€œcan I put on some real clothes now?â€ (If you haven’t heard Maddie and Tae’s â€œGirl in a Country Songâ€, it’s worth a listen).
(Click to view on YouTube)
By the time I reached Nashville, station-hopping as I went, I’d heard that song no less than ten times. Weird. It’s not a new song (it was released several months ago), so I’m not sure why it was flooding the airwaves, but after hearing it so many times, I started to think about how we objectify people. Not in our personal lives, but in the business world.
With loyalty programs.
Loyalty programs have the best of intentions. They are designed to make loyal customers feel special, to reward them, to thank them. That’s all well and good, but oftentimes it leads to a singular focus on a dollar amount.
Like Best Buy offering its Elite Plus customers early access to Black Friday deals. What makes you Elite Plus? Spending $3500 or more at Best Buy.
Or take Delta. In the past, to be an elite Medallion level (Silver, Gold, etc.) flyer, you simply flew the required number of miles or segments. Last year they added a minimum â€œdollars spentâ€ threshold for each elite level, so that you couldn’t qualify by flying only cheap flights. And starting next year, the amount you spend on your ticket will determine how many miles you earn, rather than the traditional approach of earning miles based on the length of the flight. It’s all about how much you spend.
Those are two examples, but there are plenty of others.
There are several practical arguments against focusing only on overall spend (like the fact that it ignores profitability), but those miss the point. There’s a bigger issue here.
If you decide who is important based solely on how much they spend with you, then you aren’t seeing your customers as people. You are seeing them as wallets. And wallets aren’t loyal.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have a loyalty program. Just the opposite. Maybe it’s time to rethink what loyalty programs are. If you want to build meaningful relationships with customers, challenge yourself to create and implement a loyalty program that encourages those relationships. Kroger mails customized coupons. Omaha Steaks sends birthday emails with special savings. Heck, one of our favorite local retailers sometimes gives us an extra punch on the punchcard, just because.
Take a minute to examine how you treat your top customers, and why they are your top customers. After all, you want them to feel special, and valued, and appreciatedâ€¦ in other words, you don’t want to make them feel like a girl in a country song.