Be unAmerican?

Posted via iMedia Connection

Brand loyalty is a funny thing. Most people think of Amex or CVS as standard bearers. They are. But for me, the definitive case study is the dynamic between fictional Boston watering-hole Cheers and number-one raving fan Norm. In exchange for loyal patronage Norm got a seat reserved at the corner of the bar, an enthusiastic hello, and an ear to bend. The bar got a recurring revenue stream and incredible word-of-mouth referral business. Win-win.

Contrast that with American Airlines. I flew American wherever possible for years. Consequently I racked up a lot of frequent flier miles. This culminated with me being able to take my entire family on vacation last year with airfare covered by American. Pretty good so far, right? It was.

Here's where the beer goes flat. As a result of exhausting my miles rewards American also "demoted" my status to that of a first-time flier. No preferred lines. No bag allowance. No corner seat or friendly "hello." Lotta nada. Functionally, I became anonymous after we got on famously for many years, tossed aside like so many tiny peanut packets. To me, it almost feels they're upset that I actually used the reward they provided-- like it was a token offer and I ruined everything by accepting.

How much would it cost them to continue to let me board early? Nothing. To recognize how much business I have given them over many years? Nothing. To thank me for my continued business? Nothing. Just recognize my patronage. That's all I ask.

Loyalty is not about rewards. That's a component. A tactic. It's about respect and making people feel valued. Whatever your line of work, make sure your customer feels yours is a place where "everybody knows your name", not just your "status."

This missive was written from seat 12A on a Virgin America flight.