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Top 10 Patient Loyalty Program “Don’ts.”

Pinpoint explores some of the most common pitfalls in loyalty program design so you can plot a course toward a successful customer loyalty initiative in your practice.

Follow these simple guidelines to sidestep landmines and ensure you start out on the right foot from the very beginning.

1) Don’t forget to do your research.
As you’re structuring your loyalty program, invest the time to really get to know your target audience—the top 20 – 30% of your customers who already love you the most. Take the time to discover what rewards they would find to be truly valuable. You may be surprised to find that some of them have nothing to do with discounts! Learn what actions they are willing to complete in order to receive the rewards they want. Find out how often, and in which ways they’d like to engage with your program and staff regarding benefits, education, social interaction with other members, etc. This insight will ensure your program strategy and design is already “pre-built” with your biggest fans in mind. Your program rewards will be more effective and overall engagement will be higher with members if you don’t overlook this step!

2) Don’t ignore existing gaps in customer service.
The sexiest loyalty program in the world will not “cover up” a lapse in customer service. Get this side of your house in order FIRST, before launching a loyalty initiative for your practice. Exceptional customer service is the underlying foundation for your loyalty program, because customers aren’t just loyal to your program—they’re loyal to the “entire experience” they receive when they engage with your brand.

As sited by Forbes, 71% of customers who ended their relationship with a business did so because of a bad customer service experience. You certainly don’t want to invest the time and money it takes to build and launch a loyalty program without first ensuring you have a buttoned-down approach to serving your high value members with an exceptional, “extra-mile” experience. Train, role play, incentivize, and invest time here! When you pay attention to this step, your loyalty program will attract new customers and your superior service will reinforce their retention for life.

3) Don’t make your program too complicated, difficult, or rigid.
Your patients want to interact with a simple, hassle-free program. If they have a tough time understanding benefits, feel it’s too difficult to achieve rewards, find the redemption process too complex, or feel overly restricted by program terms and conditions, they are going to be less likely to join or engage with your program.

One of the best ways to simplify program benefits and make your “earn & burn” rules more understandable, is to highlight them in a highly visual way. Make sure your explainer materials and loyalty landing page are easy to follow, uncomplicated, and filled with visual cues.

In addition, in our world of “instant gratification,” tips for encouraging and motivating members in between reward milestones might include “surprise and delight” moments with smaller perks, value-added education, special events, and insider insights.

Loyalty Program Engagement Emails

4) Don’t wait to involve your technology solution provider(s).
Do it upfront when you’re planning your program. There are a lot of loyalty technology partners jumping into the aesthetic space. Choose your partner wisely, with the insights you gained from your target market research in mind. Involving your technology team early allows you to understand technical capabilities and/or limitations to overcome in program design. Make sure your provider has flexible program parameters so you can set up your program to match with what’s important to your future members with ease and simplicity. (i.e.: a monthly subscription program vs. a milestone/points-based program vs. a pre-paid membership program vs. a hybrid VIP program).

One of our favorite loyalty technology platforms is patientNOW’s new subscription, membership, and loyalty module. patientNOW’s integration points allow data to flow seamlessly between your loyalty program, practice management tools, and EMR so you can place a focus on the entire patient journey while eliminating human error and/or double entry. In addition, their enhanced Patient PathwaysTM allow for the type of personalization and customization today’s loyalty members expect.

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5) Don’t blend in. Stand out from the competition with your loyalty program.
Today, the average household belongs to approximately 18 programs, but actively participates in only about half of these programs. With so many programs competing for attention, customers will remember and use only the programs they find most valuable. The more unique, well branded, and experiential your program is, the better in helping you stand out against competitive programs. The closer your program mirrors that of a competitors, the less customers will differentiate between the two, causing them to turn more to a price-driven relationship vs. a loyalty one.

Show customers value, life style “fit,” and advantages over the competition to ensure greater adoption and use of your program.

6) Don’t overlook human-to-human connections.
There is certainly a rush to digitize all elements of a loyalty program for the significant advantages of efficiencies, scalability, tracking, and intelligence. However, relying solely on an all-digital experience can result in an anonymous and insincere brand-customer relationship. Plan out and retain human-to-human connections and build these special touches into your member journey road map. When your front line is engaged with members on a very human, personal level—as part of your loyalty strategy—this builds differentiation for your program as well as authenticity.

Remember, experience drivers like digital personalization AND human touch comprise 64% of what drives overall member satisfaction and are more important that monetary rewards today! And, research shows there is much room for improvement here. Only 22% of all loyalty program members agree that the “human” side of the programs they belong to consistently create a positive member experience.

7) Don’t reward or treat everyone the same.
Loyalty programs are “elitist” by nature. Use reward psychology to your advantage! Everyone wants to feel like they’re part of a prestigious group. In fact, only 22% of loyalty members feel they are recognized as special or “different” than any other customer. This is a problem! Designing VIP reward tiers and recognizing various status levels can create a strong sense of community between your customers and your brand. They can also create perceived “status” through social comparison theory. Achieving the highest tier and being treated like “royalty,” can be highly motivating for members. Making status visible and publicly rewarded through events and exclusive access can be a great way to show appreciation for your top-tier customers. Starbucks and Nordstrom play this to this hilt in their loyalty programs, knowing that this type of reward structure strengthens their relationship with customers AND heightens their brand value at the same time.

8) Don’t cut corners in marketing, promotion, or resources.
All your efforts in planning, structuring, and setting up your program will be wasted if you don’t properly promote your program and sustain it with the attention and resources it deserves—through your frontline staff evangelists, marketing materials, digital footprint, and most importantly, social networks. In our Loyalty program “Do’s” Tip Sheet, we published the 10 places you must promote your program. Download now to review. This “Don’t” seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many times a practice loyalty program is buried really deep. Don’t make patients have to search to discover you have one!

9) Don’t launch and leave your program.
Just like your brand continues to innovate and evolve, so must your loyalty program. Programs that stay stagnant over time become forgettable in the mind of your customer and susceptible to competitive programs. Always be on the lookout for ways to create value for members, increase engagement, build community, and create new and exciting ways to interact with the program on a personal level—especially as new technology emerges to enhance the customer experience.

10) Don’t be impatient for immediate results.
Like all good things, loyalty programs can take some time to gain traction. If you aren’t seeing statistical increases in your program goals and milestones within the first quarter or two following your launch, don’t abandon. Stick to the steady and well-planned course you set out, as long as feedback has been great and you are keeping a close pulse on input from frontline staff and patients. Loyalty is a long-term practice strategy. Don’t be tempted to change program parameters too quickly (especially by lowering prices or point requirements that could cut into your overall profit). Be patient, and positive results should come if you’ve done your homework!

Loyalty Program Do's Tip Sheet CoverIn June, Pinpoint published a “QUICK TIPS” article outlining our “Top 10 Loyalty Program “Do’s” to help practices launch loyalty programs to attract the love and adoration of their biggest fans. If you missed it, click to download now.

As one of the leading creative agency’s for marketing patient loyalty programs, we would love to partner with your practice and technology provider(s) to help you bring a beautifully branded an authentic patient loyalty program to life. Check out our gallery for inspiration, or contact us to learn more about our attractive loyalty marketing packages.

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