Fuel RewardsBrandon Logsdon, President and CEO of the Fuel Rewards Program, told Loyalty360 that listening to customers and customer engagement are two crucial factors for any company to gain success.

The Fuel Rewards Program’s latest campaign, “Winter’s 20s promotion,” is in response to customers seeking something easier to use. The Fuel Rewards Program, which has more than four million engaged members nationwide, is a national merchant program that rewards consumers with cents-per-gallon off for their everyday purchases made at thousands of retailers across the country.

Running through March 2015, Fuel Rewards has partnered with J.C. Penney, Olive Garden, Toys R Us, and MasterCard for the Winter’s 20s promotion to drive awareness, traffic, and sales to their stores.

Some of the retailer benefits include:

  • $8 million in OOH media support.
  • Site level POP at over 10,000 Shell stations.
  • Digital advertising and social media support from Shell and MasterCard.
  • Participating brands will be seen by 66 million people per month through foot traffic at Shell.

Loyalty360 caught up with Logsdon for a fascinating interview.

How important is listening to customers for your program?

Listening to customers is critical. One of things we have heard from customers is that they enjoy the great ways to save with the Fuel Rewards program, but it can be confusing at times. Some offers require members to link to a loyalty card, or link to a credit or debit card, or click through to the website for an online mall promotion–whatever it might be. The card-linked offer, like this program with J.C. Penney, Olive Garden, and Toys R Us, is in response to consumer requests for a program that’s easier to use. It’s as simple as linking a payment card, paying how you normally pay, Fuel Rewardsand letting us handle the administration of the reward for you. If consumers link a payment card, they get rewards, and we think that using payment cards also works fantastically for the merchants, because it removes all IT barriers and allows for easy trial of our program.

Can you talk a bit about what prompted this campaign, what makes it unique, and what your goals are for it?

The “Winter’s 20s” promotion is representative of the strategy and direction of our program, which involves tying the rewards-earning process to the linking of a credit or debit card. The promotion was about us coming together with two of our marquee partners−Shell as the fuel partner and MasterCard, our preferred payment card−for a cohesive promotion involving three merchants that made good sense for the holidays: Toys R Us, J.C. Penney, and Olive Garden. Members get a 20-cent-per-gallon bonus for signing up, another 20-cent-per-gallon bonus for linking any MasterCard, and another 20-cents-per-gallon for every $100 they spend across all three merchants. There is no limit to the savings potential; spend $200, and you get 40-cents-off-per-gallon, spend $300, and you get 60-cents-off-per-gallon.

What makes it unique is that it combines so many elements and the collaboration of so many major retailers and partners. Our linked payment card strategy eliminates friction for the merchants, making it easy for them to participate. They have no IT or technology commitments on their side because we track the transactions and rewards through our connection to the payment card networks. For the consumer, it’s also easy and convenient, with a message built on “link your payment card to your account, pay as you normally pay and we track your rewards and put them into your account.”

As for goals, “Winter’s 20s” is seeding where we’re headed in the market and new behaviors we’re trying to reinforce, and it’s doing better than we expected. We anticipate having many more of these card-linked offers with more merchants in 2015 and beyond, and we really wanted to get the message out there in a big way during Q4 2014 (the promotion runs through March of 2015).

What does CX mean to The Fuel Rewards Program?

Customer experience is very important to us. We’ve been very focused in 2014 on eliminating merchant and consumer friction for the reward earning process, and in 2015, you’ll see us zero in on consumer communication. We’re putting in a new back-end CRM system which will allow us to do more real-time messaging and targeting to consumers. We’ve done a partnership with a mobile messaging company called VIBES, a leader in the mobile messaging space that supports Apple Pay, Google Wallet, SMS-text messaging and other services. We’re working with leading app development firm Bottle Rocket to launch a new mobile app in March for both Android and iOS platforms. We want members to have a very solid, very substantial customer experience.

How can CX impact or modify customer behavior?

If customers have a really good experience–especially if it’s easy and fluid and uses the right CRM channels with targeted and relevant content for that consumer–they absolutely will shop more and spend more with your program. Data, both directional and empirical, suggests that. That’s why we listen to the customer, invest in technology and improvements based on those findings, and then monitor and study the work that we do to make sure the investment is paying a dividend. We get paid when we deliver value to our merchants, and to do that, we have to have satisfied and engaged consumers.

Who is the champion of CX for The Fuel Rewards Program?

Excentus is a team of 220+ associates and customer experience is a team effort, but our marketing department, business intelligence department, and a sales/business development/account management department lead our customer experience work. The confluence of those three key areas of the business, combined with our customer service group that takes calls and emails from consumers, are the four elements that keep us informed about what our merchants, our customers, our data and key partners such as Shell and MasterCard are telling us. We make sure we’re constantly refining the model to right-size it to the consumers and to merchants’ needs.

What is your definition of customer loyalty and has that definition changed at all in recent years?

Our definition of customer loyalty is a program or solution that demonstrably changes consumer behavior for the benefit of the merchant partner(s) and creates a lasting and meaningful relationship between the brand and its consumers/members. Great loyalty programs have a powerful underlying consumer reward and/or experience that drive the program. If consumers enjoy the program and are motivated by the reward, then they’ll be excited to be part of it–without consumer participation, there isn’t a program. That definition of customer loyalty does not change over time.

What’s changed, though, are the channels and mechanisms that support the program and deliver the value. Today’s smartphone is without a doubt a game-changer for loyalty. So are mobile payments and the convergence of payments with rewards. The merchant still has to offer something of value, and the consumer has to enjoy it, but what’s changing is the “how”–how you’re creating and delivering the rewards in the middle of all of these behavioral shifts and evolving technologies.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of our team and the relationships we’ve been able to create with world class companies such as Shell, MasterCard, Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo, and Caesars Entertainment–to name a few. We have a great management team with an average tenure of seven years. As a team of 220+, we’re no longer a small company but are more of a mid-sized firm, and as we’ve made that leap, it’s been fantastic to see so many of the faces stay and enjoy the ride. Those people have been influential in building a great product and strong relationships with our partners and are bringing value to our program. 

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