The Leaders Club, a chain of luxury hotels, recently sent me an email that I had to “renew my membership,” which is free. The email did not have any links in the text version. The link in the HTML one sent me to a page with multiple upsells and a small “renew membership” button. Clicking the renew button sent me to the Leading Hotels of the World home page without a confirmation or thank-you page.
Snapfish sent me three warnings in December that they were disabling my account–not because of inactivity, but because I hadn’t made a purchase. I could have logged in, emailed a request, posted new photos, sung the site’s praises on this blog. But because I hadn’t completed a paying transaction in a year, they turned off my account and wiped out my photos.
These organizations share the same shortcoming: in an attempt to cleanse their database of inactivity, they purge much of the loyalty and positive experience that was once part of the relationship. Both companies have a service that I once found compelling enough to join and, in both cases, spend money on. But somewhere along the line, an administrator set a renew-or-kill point in the database.
Consider how the competition handles this. Unlike Leaders Club’s renewal request, Starwood has had my Preferred Guest account for years. I use it once a year, give or take, just like Leaders Club. They have twice upgraded me to Gold status after a period of inactivity, to encourage me to interact again. Marriott and Intercontinental send me monthly reminders to pay them a visit, despite the fact that I’ve not used either account in more than a year. Meanwhile, Leaders Club suggested I’d lose my privileges if I didn’t go through the renewal process. Which one is more likely to get my business the next time I book a hotel?
The Snapfish situation is even worse. I have photos on Kodak Gallery that date back to the Ofoto years, and I’ve never had trouble with my account (although people have lost images due to inactivity in the past). My Flickr account is free and accessible in perpetuity. What makes Snapfish so inscrutable is their hypocricy: I logged in today, several weeks after not taking action on their last “You’re going to lose your account” warning, and my photo album from December 2006 is still there.
Maintaining links to opted-in consumers is the prime objective of today’s marketplace. Doing it right leads to better word of mouth, retention, and revenue. Do it wrong, and, well….