Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Giving your customers a head start.

I have a young daughter and being the competitive type she will sometimes challenge me to a race. There’s just one condition—I have to give her a head start. This is important, at least to her, because it increases her chances of winning—and seems to motivate her to run even faster than if we’re at the starting line together.

It’s something I thought about as I read a passage in Switch, the new book by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. They tell a story about a local car wash that ran a promotion featuring loyalty cards. Each time a customer bought a car wash, they got a stamp on their card. When the card was filled up with 8 stamps, the customer got a free wash – a concept known as punch card loyalty.

But at one point, the car wash tried something different. They gave customers a card that needed 10 stamps to qualify for a free car wash, instead of 8—except the card already had two stamps on it, effectively giving customers a “head start”.

According to the book: “The goal was the same for both sets of customers. Buy eight additional car washes, get a reward. But the psychology was different. In one case, you’re 20 percent of the way toward a goal, and in the other case, you’re starting from scratch.”

The result: those who got a head start were about twice as likely to stay in the program and redeem for a free car wash. As the book points out, it seems this group of customers was more motivated when they were partially finished with a longer journey than at the starting gate of a shorter one.

It’s something to consider in all loyalty endeavors: What if you gave new members a head-start? Would they be more motivated to stick with your loyalty program? It works with my daughter, it worked for the car wash in Switch, and it just might work for you.

This blog entry originally appeared on Loyalty Truth on April 15, 2010 and is by Tom Rapsas. Tom can be reached on Twitter @tomrapsas

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