Today, younger generations are enticed by competitors with short term (or no) contracts, no switching costs, and free devices at signup. [Lauren Lee / Stocksy]
Over the last two years, Gen Zers and millennials changed mobile carriers or internet service providers (ISPs) nearly two times more than Gen Xers and baby boomers, according to a Salesforce Consumer Sentiment Survey. This spells trouble for traditional communications service providers (CSPs) still holding out hope for a committed-for-life customer base.
Today, younger generations are enticed by competitors with short-term (or no) contracts, no switching costs, and free devices at signup. Technology companies entering the space are also piquing their interest. In fact, one in three Gen Zers would be very likely to switch to a non-traditional provider like Apple, Google, Amazon, or Facebook if they offered connectivity services.
With subscriber retention on the line, many CSPs are responding by either launching or reviving their loyalty programs. But most loyalty programs today only engage subscribers at the point of signup or during the monthly statement - and offer perks that are, at best, of moderate interest to customers.
How can CSPs reimagine loyalty to incentivize subscribers throughout the relationship - and increase the likelihood that they stay loyal? Read on.
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The state of subscriber loyalty programs today
Loyalty programs not only prevent existing subscribers from switching, but attract new ones. The Salesforce Consumer Sentiment Survey revealed that more than half of Gen Zers and millennials say a loyalty program is influential in their decision to do business with a CSP.
More than half of Gen Zers and millennials say a loyalty program is influential in their decision to do business with a CSP.
Unfortunately, the current state of subscriber loyalty programs leave much to be desired. Three of the most common program missteps are:
Many subscribers are not aware that their provider offers a loyalty program. Or, they may have forgotten about it due to a lack of ongoing engagement with the program.
Everybody gets the same rewards, with little-to-no personalization based on their preferences. Typical loyalty perks - such as statement credits, gift cards to other brands, and complimentary add-ons like free streaming services - are based on a monthly statement balance, which rarely changes.
Subscribers typically find interacting with these programs difficult. There are too many steps to redeem rewards, for example. Complicated experiences cause frustration - and usually deter subscribers from trying again in the future.
Subscribers are less likely to stay engaged with the brand because of these challenges. When a competitor comes along and offers a tempting reason to use their service instead, there's a higher chance they may switch providers.
How to strengthen your subscriber loyalty program
In order to build loyalty that can withstand appealing options from competitors, CSPs must go beyond enrollment and transaction-based rewards. This is particularly true when it comes to younger generations who, of course, want discounts and great customer service like everyone else. But they also want more from their experience: access to unique content, first dibs on new devices, and ultra-fast speed to support data-rich activities like streaming and gaming, to name a few.
To meet these expectations, ground your loyalty program around simplicity, personalization, and consistency.
Sounds easy enough, right? In practice, it takes an integrated ecosystem and strong data strategy to keep customers engaged. Here's what that entails:
Collect first-party data
In order to make your program easier to interact with, you need to go back to basics. Start with your data.
Loyalty programs are a great way to gather first-party data to better understand what subscribers want. Connect loyalty with your front-office systems, including your CRM, to unify everything you know about your customer.
Not only will this data help you to identify the most enticing rewards - from VIP experiences for older generations to personalized content for younger subscribers - but it will ensure every customer-facing team knows the subscribers' loyalty status to provide the most relevant experience in every interaction. Or, if they're not a member of the program, any of your employees can enroll them.
Make your program easy for subscribers
More than three-quarters of customers expect consistent interactions across departments. When it comes to researching new products and services, subscribers of every age are more likely to use websites, but 30% of Gen Zers use social media, according to the Salesforce Consumer Sentiment Survey.
On the back end, using a single platform makes it easy to run your program and ensure everybody has access to the customer and loyalty data they need, no matter where or how customers engage with your brand. Make it easy for subscribers to access details about the loyalty program, too. From a subscriber portal, they can check their status and redeem rewards in just a few simple steps.
Diversify and personalize rewards
By gathering first-party data through your loyalty program, you are providing customers with a clear opportunity to opt-in to share their data in exchange for more relevant experiences. It's up to CSPs to show the tangible benefits of doing this to customers, especially when nearly half (47%) feel that companies don't use their personal information to their benefit.
Use your data to inform a diverse set of rewards across subscriber segments to ensure longevity. For older generations, that may mean offering the traditional incentives they value most, like discounts, removing hidden fees, and using your loyalty data to deliver better customer service. For example, allowing high-tier members to bypass a chatbot and interact directly with an agent when they reach out online.
Reward behaviors when subscribers provide more information, such as sharing more details about themselves and their preferences.
You can use your data to understand subscriber behaviors and preferences outside of the loyalty program, too. This will allow you to deliver highly targeted offers based on their preferences, from their favorite shows and websites to their most-loved games. So, while not all your customers might appreciate free access to a movie streaming service (as mentioned above), those who are movie buffs will.
Reward behaviors when subscribers provide more information, such as sharing more details about themselves and their preferences through a survey, too.
Proactively evolve your program
Adjust to changing subscriber expectations with real-time analytics. Break down program engagement and performance across regions and demographics. Stay proactive with predictive insights to understand your programs' impact on members at risk of disengagement and target them with more ways to earn relevant rewards, such as through a partner promotion.
Lastly, with a complete view of data and real-time analytics, you can glean important insights into the ways your loyalty program impacts retention and revenue in order to scale the approaches that work (and retool the ones that don't).
Take subscriber loyalty to the next level
Gen Zers and millennials may be taking up a larger share of the market, but don't forget about Gen X and baby boomers. The key is to make every subscriber feel valued wherever they engage - whether they are joining an Instagram Live to learn about your latest product release, purchasing a new device, upgrading their plan, or speaking with a service agent.
With the right infrastructure and a strong data strategy in place, you can take your program to the next level and keep subscribers loyal for life.
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