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Ontario recently passed Bill 47 to ban an expiry of loyalty program points in the province, sparked by backlash from consumers to an expiry deadline for members of Air Miles. The Air Miles reward program launched in 1992 and has more than eleven million Canadian active collector accounts. Saving their Miles for years, many had their hearts set on a luxury dream vacation one day that may otherwise not be possible.

One consumer, 38-year-old Edgar Governo saved up his Miles to go on a trip to Europe however was informed of changes to the program where all points five years or older would now expire at the end of 2016. While the notice was announced in 2011, some members felt they were provided with little or no reminders. Because it would have taken him about another year or two to collect the remaining points needed, Edgar would no longer be able to take the trip to Europe. He did not want to lose the value of his Miles so instead rushed to use approximately 10,000 points for two round-trip tickets and accommodations to Portland, OR just to later learn in November 2016 that the Air Miles program would in fact drop the expiry plan set for the end of the year. Many others like Edgar expressed their anger on social media, wishing that they had not scrambled to use up their Air Miles on items they didn’t really want just to meet the company’s deadline.

Some customers say it was not only the point expiry that left them feeling “duped” but many stated that they endured long wait times on the phone trying to get through to the call center to redeem points. Additionally, some collectors noticed that not all rewards were visible on the site or they seemed to be “blocked” from some rewards they actually had enough Miles to buy (an issue Air Miles said was a result of tailoring rewards to people’s preferences). Available merchandise was often overpriced or undesirable. A class action lawsuit was filed by a large number of people who expressed these issues. The rewards program was once regarded as one of the best for both merchants and consumers but the trust has now been lost.
 

What we can take away from this.

It’s a good idea to regularly re-evaluate your loyalty program structure and rewards to ensure it’s enticing for your customers and makes sense for your business. However, making changes to your program can have serious and irreversible effects if it appears you don’t have the customers best interest in mind. Here are some tips to ensure your program is a two-way street:
 

The customer experience is key

Your program should be easy to use and understand (customers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to redeem rewards). Ensure your sign up process is seamless and your program terms and conditions are transparent. Your website should be a comprehensive source for customers to learn more about your program, enroll, and check their balance – think customer convenience. Don’t create too many stipulations and rules because if your customer feels that it’s too difficult to earn points and achieve rewards, they’ll lose interest. 

Ask for feedback

Your loyalty program will allow you to track popular promotions and most desired rewards but if you’re not sure what appeals to your customers – ask them! A simple survey will allow you to gain important insight on products or services your customers value so you can offer rewards and VIP experiences that they want. Customers will appreciate the opportunity to be heard and feel like they’re contributing to a better program.
 

Communicate

Provide easy access to your program rules and be consistent in providing communication with members when there are program changes or promotions. Make it easy for members to reach your team with questions about their loyalty account. Respond quickly and pleasantly to any dissatisfied customer comments and own your mistakes.

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