The Language of Loyalty: Personalization, Not Points

By: Guest Blogger

June 10, 2016

Customer Engagement
Voice of the Customer

By Misia Tramp, VP Customer Experience Strategy & Insights, Metia Group

The “collect points and earn rewards” style of loyalty program is no longer working for brands or customers. Brands need to start readjusting the way they think about loyalty, how they define it, how they reward customers, and, most importantly, what customers should expect from them as brand.

However you measure it– as affinity, fandom, recommendation, or delight– the goal of any loyalty program is fundamentally the same: to drive mutually beneficial outcomes for a customer and an organization.

Loyalty from the Customer Perspective

At Metia Group, a global marketing agency focused on creating exceptional customer experiences, we recently conducted a study to understand how customers define loyalty and customer-centricity in both B2B and B2C contexts. We wanted to see the difference between the customer view of loyalty and how brands define it. The study researched drivers of loyalty and the strengths and weaknesses of different loyalty approaches.

Our research shows that brands are constantly asking their customers what it will take for a customer to be loyal to the brand. Endless surveys are sent asking questions such as: How likely are you to recommend us? How likely are you to shop with us again? Are you likely to buy more in the next 12 months? These are all important KPIs, and executives are often measured against them, so it’s critical to understand them. However, many important loyalty-based questions get overlooked in the process. These include: How can we (the brand) show that we are loyal to our customers? What do we need to do to earn a customer’s loyalty?

When we launched our study, some of the questions that customers were asked included: How is your experience different when you are interacting with a business that you think is customer-centric? How does it feel for a brand to be loyal to you? Do you think of yourself as loyal to any brand? How do you behave differently with brands you’re loyal to? We found that customers in general are quite critical about loyalty efforts and programs. They don’t resonate with the idea of a brand doing or managing loyalty. Loyalty isn’t something you do; it’s something you earn.

So, how can a brand exhibit loyalty and, by extension, earn its customers’ loyalty?

Some of the Drivers of Loyalty

There are many ways that brands can drive loyalty. These include:

  • Treating customers fairly.
  • Behaving in a way that customers admire.
  • Personalizing the customer experience.
  • Creating emotional moments.

Let’s look more closely at the last example: creating emotional moments. We’ve always known that emotion matters, but brands need to think about how to create real emotional moments, rather than just hoping they happen as a happy accident.

One brand that does this very well is Virgin. Customers who cited the Virgin example didn’t do so because of the brand loyalty program per se. Rather, the customer identified with Virgin from an emotional perspective, based specifically on the impression of leadership the brand embodies.

Virgin customers feel that Richard Branson is a fair and equitable leader; his visibility, humility, and leadership suggest that Virgin is a great place to work. All the activities that the Virgin brand gets involved with create a strong emotional connection, and Virgin has done a good job of personifying its culture. Humor is another driver of loyalty here: the Virgin brand doesn’t take itself too seriously, and, as a result, customers feel like they can relate to it. Millennials in particular cite Virgin as a brand they’d love to work for.

When brands connect with customers emotionally, they create a level of loyalty that’s greater than any points system could ever achieve.

To read about the other levers of loyalty and how you can apply them to your own loyalty program, download the joint Metia and Clarabridge eBook, “Understanding the Language of Loyalty.” This eBook will help you re-evaluate your loyalty program in a new way—from your customers’ perspective.


About Misia Tramp
Misia Tramp serves as VP of Customer Experience Strategy & Insights at Metia Group. Misia has been in the business of understanding human behavior for over 20 years, working at the intersection of data, insight, design, and technology to help enable world-class customer experiences and customer-centered programs. She has a proven track record in combining traditional research, analytics, linguistic, and visual data to help drive insight and innovation across all aspects of the customer journey. A pioneer in her field, she is the lead inventor on 12 patents, primarily focused on structuring social data to predict customer behavior. Successful entrepreneur, team builder, and inventor of metrics, she is a firm believer that “you get the behavior you measure” and loves finding new ways to help organizations to become data-driven as a tool to drive success.


Clarabridge’s blog, Sentiments, helps businesses incorporate customer sentiment and feedback into their business strategy. Published by Clarabridge, Sentiments speaks to customer experience professionals, marketers, customer care leaders and anyone who wants to make informed, strategic decisions that delight customers. Follow Sentiments on Twitter @Clarabridge.