Many companies think they are investing in the relationship with their clients, but in fact, they are only establishing a points program. Those are very different things, even though it doesn't seem that way.
Let's make it personal. I really doubt that anyone has ever heard sentences like:
- Ok, Mike. If you have another five happy hours with us, you will be promoted to the "good friend" category. But that has to be done until the end of the next month, or else your beer points will expire.
If the company's relationship with the client is summed up to mere points, this becomes a commodity. I have seen many people trade air line companies, not for their quality, but for their mileage points.
Another example: to every cell phone bill I pay, I can get thousands of points from my mobile carrier. Although they seem to be a lot, they will only be worth about 5 or 10 dollars, which can be used the next time I want to buy a new cell phone.
I would feel much happier if, instead (or as a plus), the company would call me and say: "Hey, as you haven't spent all your monthly program minutes, we will give you a 10 dollar discount in this month's bill".
And, with technology, it is a lot easier to identify your costumer's profile. So he wouldn't have to show you a little colorful fidelity card (do you even remember where all your mileage and discount cards are?).
And acknowledging your good clients, you can give them preferential treatment, tell them before hand what are your company's new releases --since they may be your brand's aficionados-- and offer them the better possible service. For example, if you have a virtual store, you may prioritize the deliveries for your best clients.
Points are measurable commodities. Relationship is beyond that, it is more subtle, more difficult to get and --thinking business-- a greater competitive advantage.
If your company knows how to work well with relationships, you will have more faithful customers. And then, you will be able to feel free to go to happy hours with your friends, even if it doesn't give you any points :).