Can Loyalty Programs Be Too Exclusive?

In Customer Experience, Featured on App, Loyalty & CRM by Kevin Kelly

airport,, Loaylty World USA, loyalty campaign, loyalty card, loyalty cards, loyalty in retail, loyalty leaders, loyalty marketing strategy

Loyalty and rewards programs can really run the gamut from a smile on the receipt with a 10% discount to, apparently, free rides in Mercedes across tarmacs to catch a connecting flight.

The Wall Street Journal posted an insightful article about United Airline's secretive premier loyalty program, Global Services, for the elitist fliers. It's a pretty sweet deal: rush across the tarmac for connections before everyone else gets to deplane, no security lines, no fees, and top-notch concierge service.

But not everyone is jumping up and down about the program, however. It's a great rewards program with luxury perks with one big problem: it's unclear how one gains membership into the program. This leaves many other frequent fliers of United's premier 1k service confused. They thought they were already in the elite class of frequent fliers.

United won't divulge how these kings and queens of air travel gain access to top notch and exclusive service. The WSJ found: "There is only one published way to get an invitation: Accrue at least four million lifetime miles for a lifetime membership."

Wow…well surely not all members have accomplished that. This brings up an important question: when is there too much exclusivity in a rewards program? When do loyalty perks start to irk other loyal customers? Where is the line drawn between an extremely loyal flier and a very loyal flier?

I think United Airlines should tread carefully and publish exactly how membership for Global Services is achieved. After all, there's a new favorite pastime for Americans: scoffing the 1%.

Big Data and Loyalty unite at the 2013 Customer Festival this October where top marketers and c-levels will be discussing solutions to these kinds of issues.

[Photo – flickr OliverN5]