Simple, straightforward answer to a reporters questions shows Costco management is thinking straight about value added customer service.
Most of us carry loyalty/membership cards because we feel we have too, not out of some personal connection with the retailer. For the most part that is due to how the cards are used. In exchange for a very large amount of personal data the store gives me discounts at point of sale or rewards for having shopped. (And penalizes me if I don’t join.)
The Center for Science in the Public Interest made the point that loyalty programs give retailers access to a list of customers who may have tainted peanut butter in their homes right now.
We expect automobile manufacturers and crib makers to let us know when a product we own is dangerous. The value of the product is high. But now, just as pharmacies are supposed to do, my grocer can let me know when I might own a killer $2 jar of peanut butter.
When faced with this idea Costco and others said sure we could do that and by the way we already are.
Safeway on the other hand feels it’s too much trouble, would touch too many people if it was a national issue. Not a very imaginative statement when email provides a virtually free method of contact and communication. How much nicer it would be to hear from my local Dominicks when my safety was at risk, versus just when they want me to pick up a jumbo pack of toilet paper.
Social Networking is a two way street. Retailers who have made the leap into membership and loyalty programs need to take seriously the obligation to communicate more than good news and discounts. This can be powerful stuff, especially if your the retailer who doesn’t implement. Where would you shop – the place that told you they sold something that will make you sick or the place that felt it was too much trouble?