Using VIP Treatment to Deliver Unexpected Results

By Brett Bair

May 6, 2014

It might sound a little strange to state something so obvious, but marketers are customers. So when we talk about putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes, or looking at something from the customer’s point of view, it shouldn’t really be all that difficult. But it can be. In fact, most of the time, it is.VIP Treatment

A few weeks ago, while thinking about this, I reached out to some of our customers through our Monetate Customer Champions program and posed this question: Have you had any “winning” experiences as a customer?

Eric Lamy, a project manager at Competitive Computing, sent me this:

Flying, at least the kind that involves long lines and poor quality food, is rarely a rewarding experience.
So when a company’s customer service actually rewards the customer, that’s something to take note of. On a flight to Las Vegas from Boston’s Logan International Airport, I was given the opportunity by the airline I was flying to join a list of individuals willing to be bumped to a later flight. I did so, knowing I had some time to kill in Vegas either way, and was glad to see that my ticket went instead to a mother who was returning early to her family.
The airline went above and beyond in rewarding me, however. Not only was I provided with a $750 travel voucher (my original ticket price was $179), I was surprised when I got on the next flight, and the cabin staff upgraded me to First Class for the first time in my life.
I was given the same perk on my return flight to Boston, and couldn’t have been happier with the service.

This, I think, more than qualifies as “winning.” (I mean, come on, how do you top a paid, first class flight to Vegas?) But what I really like about Eric’s experience (and answer) was the fact that all of this was simple for the airline to do.

Sure, the airline gave Eric close to $600 in flight credits (no small deal), but the part that pleased him the most was simply moving him to a seat that was vacant. Twice.

The VIP Experience

And that’s the takeaway here. If your customer is willing to help you (whether that’s a flight bump, a B2B referral or sales reference, or as a retail brand ambassador), give them the VIP treatment. Airlines, obviously, have been providing flight credits to bump volunteers for some time. But other industries have similar VIP-like treatment that increases customer loyalty.

A few examples:

  • Zappos, famous for its customer service, now offers free return shipping for 365 days. Why? Because its customer loyalty went up each time the company increased the time window for returns.
  • Banana Republic, J Crew and other apparel retailers offer free tailoring and alterations to its credit card holders. It may seem like a small perk, but it eliminates a trip to the tailor and saves time.
  • Amazon Prime, perhaps the most notable example, integrates the VIP experience across several different aspects of a customer’s life (and further pulls that person into Amazon’s ecosystem): free two-day shipping, a Kindle lending library, free access to video content and exclusive access to the retailer’s burgeoning grocery, household item and pet-care market.

Consistent Delivery

If you can consistently deliver these types of experiences to your customers, you’d increase your returning customer base and your customer lifetime value.

In Eric’s experience, the airline could be doing this by triggering a smaller VIP treatment for Eric when he goes to use his voucher (maybe a waived baggage fee or access to his preferred seat?). These types of small touches would not only increase Eric’s likelihood of flying that airline again, it also makes him more likely to continue telling the story of how the airline offers him great service every time he flies. And that’s pretty valuable.

If you’re looking to boost your customer service, think about Eric’s experience. Better yet, think about your own: What’s pleasing to you as a customer? And what’s pleasing to you as a marketer? More often than you think, the two can be intertwined.

VIP Access image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Brett Bair is an author and ecommerce strategist with over 20 years of experience. As Monetate’s Sr. Director of Digital Marketing Insights, he helps leading ecommerce brands leverage technology to drive growth.

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