If you’re looking to implement a loyalty program or strategy, you’ve probably considered whether you should run the program internally or use a loyalty software provider. There are many advantages to utilizing loyalty software and expertise. They all boil down to one all-encompassing benefit: it saves you time, money, and stress in the long-run to work with technology and experts that help set your loyalty program up for success right from the start.
But different loyalty software companies have different offerings, different approaches, and varying philosophies about how success is defined. Which of these companies are just offering oft-repeated marketing lip service and which ones actually have gotten loyalty program success down to a science? There are several questions you should ask to parse out the true loyalty experts:
“How do you go about understanding my business and its goals?”
Not every industry or organization is suited to the same loyalty tactics and technologies. Many loyalty software programs, for example, are modeled after traditional B2C programs. If you’re a B2B company that sells products through a distribution channel, for example, you should see if your software provider understands the challenges and needs of indirect selling. One of the biggest advantages of loyalty software is your ability to configure it to your unique goals, so make sure that you have this power and that your provider understands what you want to accomplish.
“What is your philosophy regarding loyalty programs, and why is that your approach?”
A loyalty software provider worth its salt will have a salient value proposition, both a succinct “elevator pitch” for busy C-suite decision-makers and an in-depth mission statement that supports their approach. To follow up on this question, you may also want to ask “How has your approached changed from when you first started?” and “How did you form this approach?” Answers here will provide big clues as to whether the loyalty company is attentive to their clients’ real-world needs or if they’re simply hoping to reshape your problem to fit their solution.
“What range of solutions will you consider as you assess my business situation?”
Your loyalty software provider should offer a variety of solutions to help you meet your goals. These solutions should be based on real-world needs, not sales/marketing fads and buzzwords. After some active listening and research, your loyalty software provider should have a solid idea of which solutions to offer you and why.
“Can you share examples of loyalty solutions you offered other clients, and what were the results?”
This is perhaps the most important question you can ask a potential loyalty software provider. They can talk a great game, show off slick designs, tout decades of years of experience. . . but this isn’t worth much if they can’t show you how their solutions helped real businesses reach real, documented success.
Keep in mind that many loyalty software providers might be unable to publish some of their greatest strategies and successes. Some loyalty program clients are protective of their strategies and don’t want their competition to sniff out their sales and marketing advantages. This is a good thing! If a client doesn’t want their competition discovering their “secret sauce,” that’s a sign that it’s working. Prodding your loyalty software provider for more info on their past success can give you greater understanding of strategies not detailed in public case studies and testimonials.
“Who will make up my loyalty program team and will I have any control over who is put on this team?”
A worthwhile loyalty software provider shouldn’t have any bad apples on their payroll, but it never hurts to have some agency when it comes to your success team. Did you speak with someone you really clicked with? Someone who is able to breakdown the intricacies of the program especially well? Do you want to work someone who has experience with companies similar to yours? Someone who shares your team’s values and/or communication style? All of these are valid things to ask!
Successful loyalty strategies are collaborative efforts. For best results, you should work with a provider team that feels like a part of your own.
“Which of your services are in-house and which are outsourced?"
The answer to this question will give you an idea of how self-sufficient your potential loyalty software provider is. Ask whether their software is produced by in-house programmers, if they have direct and/or long-term relationships with reward vendors, if they provide corporate event or incentive travel services, and if they have in-house reward fulfillment and full-time support to program participants.
You don’t want to run into issues down the road such as perturbed participants waiting on their reward deliver, unable to log into their program account, or experiencing technical difficulties without reliable, easy-to-reach experts to assist with these issues quickly.
The most important thing when choosing a loyalty software provider is working with experts you trust and technology that’s effective. You should feel like your business needs are heard and understood, and reaching your goals is your program provider’s top priority. At the same time, your program provider should feel they can be direct and transparent with you, letting you know when you’re heading down the wrong path. This kind of collaboration is where true, inimitable competitive advantage comes in!