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When we moved to Long Island earlier this year I began to fly Southwest Airlines almost exclusively. I was the “Queen of the Sky” with United. 100K mile flyer three years in a row and only 40K shy of reaching the coveted “million mile flyer” mark. United doesn’t fly out of Islip Airport (US Scareways does, and they are code share partners but woah……).

In all those years and miles with United I’ve had a few kindnesses thrown my way. Once a pilot sent handwritten notes on the back of his business card to all First Class passengers. That was pretty cool. But for the most part, the perks I received were built into their frequent flyer program. Clearly displayed in their rules. Nice, but not “wow.” It’s what I expected for the amount of money I’ve spent on their tickets.

Last night I received a “wow” from Southwest. 

A very simple thank you in the form of a gorgeous luggage tag. 


They don’t know that I’ve flown United for 9 years faithfully – all they know is, I’m new to their world and I seem to be flying them more than the average passenger. So they thanked me.

It got me thinking about the way we onboard our new members. Southwest didn’t “bribe” me to fly with them. They never do – they have a good reputation and they were convenient to my new airport so I tried them out. 

When I signed up for their Rapid Rewards program, they didn’t send me a welcome letter trying to “push” their other products (routes). I flew more with them because I liked the inflight experience very much. The people are pleasant, they don’t charge you for sodas, pillows, aisle seats and luggage. And they give you as many peanuts as you want – for free. In today’s flying world – that is huge!

They already had my loyalty – this little luggage tag sealed the deal for me. 

What are you doing to track your most loyal members? Most credit unions know how many services per household, on average, they have across the board. But do you know the names of the members who have the highest services per household? Have you done anything special for them this year? 

I feel like we sometimes treat members like a sick little notch on the bedpost. Okay – got that one. Goal achieved. Now let’s see if we can get another one. 

Can you imagine standing in line to board a plane, you’ve paid for your ticket, you’re a very loyal customer and some marketing person is offering FREE tickets to passersby…….that’s what marketing bribes feel like to existing, loyal members. 

This year we have to see retention as the new acquisition. No more begging for business. Figure out how to make your current members feel special. Reward their loyalty and show them you love them. 

They will in turn, market – or blog – about you to their friends! That’s loyalty economics: 101.

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August 2009