FIS Executive Discusses Loyalty: How to Meet Today’s Changing Customer Expectations: Part One

FIS has been building and implementing modern loyalty and rewards programs for retailers and financial institutions across the nation for over two decades. Loyalty360 recently caught up with FIS General Manager of Loyalty Services, Mladen Vladic, to discuss loyalty programs, how customer expectations have evolved and how FIS has responded to these changes.
What is Loyalty?
FIS approaches loyalty as an engagement tool - one with many different flavors. That’s the beauty of the space we are in. Loyalty is a tool to change a behavior or to drive a desired behavior – which is very different from brand to brand. You can precisely pinpoint your most engaged and lucrative customers and learn about their tastes and preferences while giving them the memorable customer experience they want. And while the actual touch and feel the consumer experiences is going to have a bank brand or a retail brand, behind the scenes, it’s the FIS loyalty engine supporting all of that.
How have consumer expectations changed?
What we have observed, especially in the financial institution loyalty space, is the traditional loyalty model is being challenged in a big way. Look at Amazon Prime. It has changed what customers expect. A traditional loyalty offering four or five years ago let customers earn loyalty points to redeem for merchandise, travel, gift cards, you name it. Then, it would take a week to ship it. Now, this is not acceptable.
Today, immediacy and instant gratification have a completely new meaning. Consumer expectations are pushing brands to engage consumers in a completely new way – more immediate, more in real time.
It also used to take two to five years of swiping a card to get enough points to get an award. No one wants to wait this long. There must be a shorter engagement cycle – and all brands are being pressed to respond to this change.  
What is the biggest challenge in addressing these changes?
We need to stay relevant. If you look across both the financial institution and retail space, both of those segments are being challenged like never before. Financial institutions are challenged by non-financial institutions that provide many of the same services traditional banks used to provide. While retailers face increased store closings and consolidations – especially now with the devastation of COVID-19. The retail space is trying to stay relevant in terms of getting foot traffic in the store – then, through that experience, transition shoppers to a combination of e-commerce, e-store experience and the concept of smaller stores.
In the financial institution space, the services the banks offer today are very commoditized. It’s difficult to differentiate a brand. Loyalty is more relevant than ever before in this space. Call it loyalty, call it rewards, I call it an engagement tool. It’s not just that I’m giving you points; it's how I give you points. How many points do I give you if you go through that journey of earning and burning the loyalty currency I'm giving to you? This is how successful, forward-thinking organizations are adjusting to build ongoing brand engagement.
How do you address the future?
FIS continually creates new programs to adjust to consumer expectations as fast as they are changing. Our teams are agile and creative – working with our financial and retail customers to deliver programs that meet our evolving consumer demands. 
Part Two of Loyalty360’s discussion with Mladen Vladic, the General Manager of Loyalty Services for FIS, can be read here.

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