We’ve all been frustrated with spotty, inconsistent customer service that makes it feel like the merchant doesn’t quite “get” us. For example, you receive an offer from your cable company for a package that you already have. Or you call your credit card company, but they don’t realize that you have four other accounts with that bank, and they have to transfer you to different departments for each one. Or a retailer’s website doesn’t have a record of your in-store purchases.

Sharing your customer data

You know that these companies have plenty of data about what you buy and where, because you’ve signed up for a variety of loyalty rewards programs. Why can’t they share the important information about you so that everyone at the store, on the phone and online knows how important you are? Why do you have to repeat your information with each new contact? And why don’t the call center reps seem to know that you are a long-time customer who has spent thousands of dollars’ worth of transactions with the company?

Stores, credit card companies, hotels and airlines are using customer data for more than you might think—but that’s a good thing.

That may still be the reality at some companies, however, many organizations are making a shift towards providing a better and more beneficial experience for consumers. Stores, credit card companies, hotels and airlines are using customer data for more than you might think—but that’s a good thing. They are relying on their loyalty program information to help build the entire shopping and customer service experience around their most-valued shoppers. 

Goal-focused

This means that if you are a loyalty program member, you may soon be receiving a better experience at the merchants you visit most. For example, Bank of America recently announced its goal to physically refocus its locations on its highest-value customers. The bank plans to convert thousands of its branches into full-service centers that include home-loan specialists, small business bankers and financial advisers. The goal is to save time and hassle for customers, so if someone meeting with a financial adviser mentions that her goal is to start her own company, she can also meet with a loan specialist right then and there.

Some companies are already expert at using customer information to create a personalized experience for their best customers. At Caesars Entertainment, for example, the hotel associates recognize a top customer’s level of importance throughout the company—not just his history of stays at that particular hotel, but at any Caesars property, along with his gaming and dining preferences. Waiters, check-in clerks and other staff use that information to offer special perks designed for that customer. At BJ’s Restaurants, guests who make reservations via mobile app get priority seating, and servers can access the customer’s preferences and offer to bring her favorite drink, for example, or make notes about food allergies on the order.

Some specific examples of what merchants are offering their top customers

  • Preferred products and services, such as featuring a favorite brand or product on a web site home page.

  • Separate checkout or service in-store or phone lines. For example, airline frequent-flyer programs offer “elite level” check-in counters and TSA security lines.  

  • Special pricing on favorite products, such as when grocery stores offer their best customers discounts on products they buy often.   

  • Personalized offers targeted toward your preferences, such as sending an elderly pet owner coupons for dog food instead of coupons for baby diapers.

  • Universal knowledge of your shopping history online, in-store and on the phone, so that everyone you speak to knows your relationship with the merchant.

  • Extra staffing for sales and service at your peak shopping times, so that preferred customers are less likely to have to wait in lines.

If you’re not quite “there” yet with your favorite stores and service providers, then it’s time to ask them to step it up. Particularly with programs where you have top-tier status, share your frustrations and request for a more seamless, and personalized, shopping experience. After all, loyalty flows both ways.