Monday, 7 April, 2008

Why do we need swipe machines for loyalty programmes?

Companies spend large amounts marrying loyalty software with centralised billing systems, so that points may be properly awarded and redeemed (though I have been told that such bridging software is easy to write and inexpensive to buy, I have no evidence of either being true). Why don't they hire a small staff of tele-executives instead?

All that sales clerks will have to do is call these back-end executives and read out the bills and membership numbers. The latter will make entries into the loyalty accounts.

Admittedly, this introduces chances of human error at both ends: the sales clerks can read wrong, and the tele-executives may hear or type incorrectly. Also, the system can be programmed to send SMSs and emails to the members, so that details can be confirmed. The proposed system should be at least as dependable as the electronic ones used now, and more flexible.

Moreover, moderately well-trained executives will be able to suggest on-the-spot offers and promotions, even hints for cross-selling, by looking at the members' profiles and shops' inventory (I assume inventory will be centrally accessible).

Of course, this will not work for shops with many customers, where sales clerks are pressed for time. But how many shops are like that? Most shops should be be able to tackle their loyalty programmes with remote executives.

Let's not forget, millions (ok, tens of thousands) of transactions are made over the phone every day, and quite a few of these are complicated.

At any rate, one can and should have some executives online to back up electronic systems.

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