Do random freebies create loyal customers?
While releasing record earnings last week, Pret A Manger also revealed its simplified loyalty program: Associates are allowed to randomly give out a select amount of free coffee and food to customers.
The news sparked a story in The Guardian exploring whether such a policy was "discrimination or a nice gesture."
In a blog post, Clive Schlee, CEO of the London-based sandwich chain, said the program is a response to the popularity of loyalty cards. He feels the cards "are mechanistic and what they really offer is a chance for companies to study and influence customer buying behavior."
Such schemes work against Pret, which "prides itself on being straightforward and simple," avoiding discounting, charging the same price across any region, and not encouraging upselling by associates.
A few years ago, Pret decided to shift the money it would have used supporting a traditional card-based program into a fund for each shop to reward customers.
Photo: Pret A Manger
"It was as simple as that," wrote Mr. Schlee. "We didn’t tell our team members whom they should favor. We let them decide. They could welcome a new customer, cheer up somebody having a bad day or recognize a regular. They could use it to solve a problem. Like everything in Pret, it’s just about lots of individual human relationships, day after day after day."
The giveaway fund, according to Mr. Schlee, has been "immensely empowering" to employees and "injects a random act of kindness into the day."
He estimated to the London Standard that 28 percent of customers in the U.K. have been received something free at some point.
Finally, Mr. Schlee particularly praised his U.K. associates, who saw a barrage of journalists last week trying to determine what it took to earn freebies.
"When put to the test by an army of different reporters they didn’t have a script, they responded with warmth and good humor as they do every day," wrote Mr. Schlee. "Above all, they were authentic, surely the most important attribute for any brand today."
- Pret A Manger – Random Acts Of Kindness – Pret A Manger CEO Blog
- Pret staff’s free coffee for people they like: discrimination or a nice gesture? – The Guardian
- Pret A Manger staff give free coffee to their favorite customers, sandwich chain boss reveals – The London Standard
- Why Pret A Manger gives away so much free food to customers – The Washington Post
How would you rate Pret A Manger’s random freebies as a way to drive customer loyalty and empower associates? How would such an initiative stack up against a card-based loyalty program for most retailers?