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Loyalty programs during a crisis: 13 ways to keep your customers safe and engaged

Given the current coronavirus crisis, companies have to keep a close eye on developments and adapt accordingly, not only to minimize the impact on their business, but also — and most importantly — to ensure the health and safety of their customers. If your company is currently running a loyalty program at this moment, it may be clear that it is unworkable to maintain the status quo. Here are a few tips and ideas for how you can adapt your program to maintain customers — both during the crisis and after it diminishes — by keeping levels of loyalty and satisfaction high.

Incentivize your customers to make online purchases. As customers remain in their homes for social distancing, give them extra points for every online dollar spent — encouraging participation while helping to make their money go farther.

To promote good community practices while select goods are in short supply, reward customers with more points for purchasing limited quantities of high-demand items. Conversely, if customers buy multiple units, you might consider giving them reduced or no points.

Create valuable content on both how to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the actions your company is taking to keep its customers safe. Incentivize the consumption of this content by rewarding extra points to program members who access and/or share it.

Incentivize referrals by giving extra points to customers who refer new members and get them to start using your e-commerce/app to make purchases online.

Adopt services or programs that help people stay entertained and safe while they increasingly work from home. Examples: museums offering virtual tours; educational channels providing parents with at-home entertainment tips for their kids; gyms offering at-home workout ideas and virtual classes; TV networks making all of their channels available, and the like. Then incentivize and reward the usage of those services with your loyalty program.

Award points to customers who share ideas and feedback for how your company can better contribute to crisis relief efforts and make your customers’ lives easier during this moment of crisis.

Postpone point expiration dates, with the understanding that, in these times, it may not be possible for customers to engage as frequently with your brand. Empathy for your customers is the highest priority.

Postpone voucher expiry dates (both for existing vouchers and for those about to be issued). For a variety of reasons, customers may not be able to engage as quickly or frequently with your company as they would like. Give them the time they need to redeem the vouchers they’ve earned.

Postpone tier downgrades. Similarly, there is no reason to penalize customers if they can’t keep up with their previous engagement levels during moments of crisis. Make no mistake: customers will remember that you took their side during trying times.

Do not conduct marketing campaigns that encourage the purchase of products or services that put your customers at risk. For example, do not offer promotions for taking a trip abroad or reward people for going to your store or taking a live course. Your customers’ health must be your top priority.

Similarly, in your reward catalog, put a hold on the ability to redeem points for services that encourage large gatherings — music festivals, shows, live courses and the like — which put customers at risk.

Open direct lines of communications between your customers and your business, giving people the opportunity to get in touch and provide feedback and/or make complaints. Make sure these channels are agile and well-staffed, ensuring that your company can quickly and efficiently respond to customers’ concerns.

Your company must issue an immediate announcement containing each measure it plans to take to keep customers safe during the coronavirus crisis. It is best that this announcement comes from a leading figure in your organization, and that it is delivered across your most visible channels — ensuring your customers receive the message and clearly understand your company’s position.

The changes you choose to take up will, of course, depend on the needs of your business and your customers. It may not be possible to implement all the changes mentioned above. But implementing even a few will not only help you to keep your customers safe; it will maintain critical business during this difficult time and foster the continued loyalty of your trusted customers over the long term.

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