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Is Corporate Loyalty Dead?

December 4, 2013

Nope, but it is a former version of itself.  It doesn’t look the way it looked 30 years ago…gone are the days (for most) of working at a company for 25 to 30+ years and retiring with the gold watch.  So if loyalty from employees is different…what is it, how do you define it, and most importantly…how do you capitalize on it?  Consider this example…

In my local December 1st paper there was an article on airline frequent flier miles and transferable policies.  It compared the largest U.S.-based airlines on clear and published polices vs. vague, unpublished and inconsistently applied policies.  It also compared on specific policies like if the accumulated points were transferable and if a fee was charged, or not, on transferring the points.  Another policy compared was whether there were limits to whom you could give your points too, especially after death.  (In case you are wondering, US Airways was the clear winner on providing clear guidelines and in my opinion had the best consumer policies.)  And the last sentence of the article packed the biggest punch…”the average American is a member of 22 loyalty programs.”  Twenty-two!  A quick look in my wallet had me as a member of 16 loyalty programs.  I was kinda surprised…who knew I could be so loyal?  The research firm in the article – Colloquy – estimates that “memberships in such programs increased more than 26% in the past 2 years, and all those miles, points and rewards are worth some $50 billion.”

Clearly Americans love loyalty programs.  Why?  While the programs provide repeat customers to the company, in the consumer’s eye they benefit greatly, and in some cases in really big ways. (Think lots of free flights.)  A loyalty program puts me at the center…I get sneak peeks on new items, first notification of big sales, free products and some special treatment.  Loyalty programs put ME first (or for the most part I have agreed to believe they do)!

But companies are different with their employees…they expect loyalty before giving you big rewards. Consider that for the most part all I have to do is sign up for a consumer-based loyalty program and I’m accepted.  So what if companies flipped the idea of “loyalty”.   What if loyalty was no longer equated with job stability or employment for life, as it is defined today.  But what if it was defined as how a company invests in you – from day one.  Put the employee at the center, support them in their development, provide clear, published expectations and throw in some fun rewards!  And remember to remind me of why I am loyal…a consumer-based loyalty program reminds me every time I check out and get a discount with my card or redeem my miles/points for free stuff.  Companies need to do the same too.

Final thought:  To all the companies…It’s true, I may not be employed with you for the next 20 years but we could have a good 3-to 5-to 7-year run in which I do right by you and you do right by me.  Loyalty, redefined.

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