Customer Loyalty and Playing Games

Oh the inalienable right to win!

Competition is a sure-fire way to up the ante on human interaction and drive people to passionate, even insane behavior.

In a recent post “For a Bit of Colored Ribbon , Jeff Atwood of Stack Exchange  talked about his manic efforts to lower his energy consumption to beat the average on his energy assment report from Pacific Gas and Electric.  Despite having taken many time and resource-intensive measures, his home remained at 33% above a “similar” home in the neighborhood.

He knows it’s all a game–and probably a fixed one at that–but he still can’t help but want to win.
Guy crossing finish line with no on behind him

Are there others racing, or is he competing against himself?

How do business use this competitive drive to their advantage?

The Easy Way

We can choose to exploit customers by selling hype and meaningless points. We can create loyalty programs that do very little for the customer. We can force competition, fake scarcity (hurry, supplies won’t last), and create hype.

And it will work, because that is the norm.

It will keep customers running on your hamster wheel, but what it will not do is turn them into your best salesperson. When was the last time a friend told you that you should sign up for a loyalty program?

Rat in a Hamster Wheel

Captive customers might pay up, but they don’t sing your praises.

The Winning Way

Use these same tactics, but adapted to customer-centered marketing. Create programs and systems that generously reward your customers–it doesn’t always have to be money. Discounts are great. They move the meter on the “purchase now versus later” scale. But in almost every case, competition on price alone is a race to the bottom winnable only by the largest company with the widest selection and the highest negotiation power.

Here’s How to Play the Game

You and your customer are on the same team–a win for them is a win for you

Make the game fun–known rewards gives something to work towards

Make the game dynamic–unexpected rewards are even better

Don’t make up rules as you go along–unless those rules are a benefit to the customer

Share what you’ve done to get clients on your team in the comments below. 
Photo Credits
Man Crossing Finish Line Flickr User
Rat in Hamster Wheel from MorgueFile