I am an advocate of generating repeat business by building relationships with people, not with a piece of plastic. Too many companies create loyalty programs for their customers which don’t create a true bond. Reward points can be the icing on the cake to demonstrate customer appreciation, but companies should not depend on these programs to build customer relationships.
I have found that in the majority of cases, people re-visit specific establishments because of the connections they have made with the servers or sales associates. They go to the same coffee shop each day because John, the server, gives them a big smile when they enter. He knows their name, their typical order and when he tells them to have a great day, he really means it. John at the coffee shop is eager to see his customers and his customers are happy to see him too.
If you want to create loyal customers, ones who will only visit your business instead of your competitor’s, make sure you hire folks who are welcoming and who let the customer know they are looking forward to seeing them again. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a coffee shop, service station, food-mart or an apparel store; hire people who innately understand how to build relationships. Instead of rewarding your customers with points, provide them with the best prize of all; people who really care about them as a person first, and a customer second.