The Disloyalty Card
By David Dorf on Apr 01, 2010
Let's take a break from technology for a second; please indulge me. (That's for you Erick.)
His card lists eight nearby cafes in London that the cardholder must visit and try a coffee. After sampling all eight and collecting the required stamps, Gwilym provides a free coffee from his shop. His idea sends customers to his competitors.
What does this say about Gwilym? First, it tells me he's confident in his abilities to make a mean cup of java. Second, it tells me he's truly passionate about his his trade. But was this a sound business endeavor?
Obviously the risk is that one of his loyal customers might just find a better product at a competitor and not return. But the goal isn't really to strengthen his customer base -- its to strengthen the market, which will in turn provide more customers over the long run.
This idea seems great for frequently purchased products like restaurants, bars, bakeries, music, and of course, cafes. Its probably not a good idea for high priced merchandise or infrequently purchased items like shoes, electronics, and housewares.
Nevertheless, its a great example of thinking in reverse. Try this: Instead of telling your staff how you want customers treated, list out the ways you don't want customers treated. Why should you limit people's imagination and freedom to engage customers? Instead, give them guidelines to avoid the bad behavior, and leave them open to be creative with the positive behavior.
Instead of asking the question, "how can we get more people in our stores?" try asking the inverse: "why aren't people visiting our stores?" Innovation doesn't only come from asking "why?" Often it comes from asking "why not?" (Wow, I just went Jack Handey on you.)