Loyalty programs are great for retaining customers, but they also offer great opportunities for building customer relationships.

A recent study shows that 87 percent of consumers want relationships with brands, but only 17 percent believe brands make an effort to do so, according to the Edelman Brandshare report.

It’s time to connect with your customers and build relationships that stimulate profits. To help, here are four ways you can use your loyalty program to build meaningful relationships with your

1. Treat your VIPs

Take the time to reward and thank your most loyal customers. Your VIP customers are in your store on a regular basis, but how much do you know about them? They represent a lucrative segment of your customer base, so it’s important to keep customer satisfaction high.

Consider hosting VIP events throughout the year. For example, invite your “regulars” to an exclusive after-hours sale. Be sure to have additional staff at the event so owners and managers can focus exclusively on customer interactions. Take the time to introduce yourself, learn your customers’ names, ask about their families and talk about what they like and dislike about your store.

This type of personalized treatment will not only add a few dollars to the register; it will also increase satisfaction with your loyalty program. Program satisfaction is 2.7 times higher for members who feel recognized by the program, according to research from the 2016 Bonus Loyalty Report.

2. Diversify your rewards

What does your rewards structure look like? Do you offer products to customers based on how much they spend? That’s how most brands set up their program. However, research shows that a growing number of customers are interested in events or experiences.

Only 21 percent are satisfied with access to events and experiences provided through loyalty programs, according to a recent report.

Consider diversifying your rewards to satisfy this desire. You can offer tickets to a local soccer game, concert, movie, or vacation.

It’s another opportunity to customize your program as well. When customers spend a certain amount, rewards can be delivered at the event of their choice. You can give the customer a choice between three different events that are all (approximately) the same monetary value. To claim these rewards, they must come to the store, select the event they want and pick up their tickets.

By rewarding customers with local experiences, you are making a connection with them. You’re not only encouraging customers to spend money to get more of your products, but you’re providing the opportunity to do something fun in the community. That’s the kind of effort that builds relationships.

3. Solicit feedback from customers

It’s good to take the pulse of your customer base from time to time. Many companies assume they understand their customers and know exactly what to do to make them happy. Why make assumptions when you can get answers directly from them?

Create a survey to gather customer feedback. Focus the survey on an aspect you want to improve, such as customer service or traffic flow. Or, use the survey to identify things that annoy your customers.

Send the survey to your loyalty program members. You can also send your members a text message asking them to fill out the survey the next time they are in the store. As an added incentive, give survey participants 5-10 percent off their purchase for that day.

By taking an active interest in what your customers want, show them that their opinion matters. It’s an important step in building a relationship.

4. Create a newsletter

To build a relationship with customers, you have to communicate with them. It’s no different than building a relationship with a friend. You’d like to text, chat on the phone and make plans to hang out, right? Well, you should do the same with your customers.

You may not have time to text every customer, but you can create a newsletter that keeps all your customers up to date on your store news.

Every month or every quarter, depending on how much time you have, create a one-page newsletter that focuses on your business. You can write about employees, remodeling projects, upcoming events, changes in your industry or customer trends. You can even include a coupon.

In the newsletter, you can also encourage customers to reach out with any questions, comments or concerns. You want to encourage a two-way flow of communication.

You can promote your newsletter through your loyalty program. Create a “newsletter promotion.” Send your members a text message letting them know that your newsletter is available. Encourage them to come and pick it up to redeem a special coupon that’s inside.

If you’ve collected your customers’ email addresses, you can also send it to their inboxes.

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