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Dear Uber: Reward Your Loyal Customers I love the ride-sharing company, but it doesn't seem to love me back. So, don't be like Uber; acknowledge and reward your loyal customers.

By Elliot Tomaeno Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Dear Uber:

I use your ride-sharing service. A lot. More than anyone you know. I'd go so far as to literally claim I am your top customer.

And, what's more, this Uber addiction of mine dates back a long way. It began when I was living in a neighborhood of San Francisco that wasn't very cab-friendly. I had gotten to the point where I had to call a cab an hour in advance to make sure I arrived at my destination on time. This was far from ideal, especially when spontaneous professional engagements popped up that I needed to attend.

Once you came on to the scene, Uber, your ride-sharing service seemed the perfect solution. I became hooked after my first ride. The car showed up in my neighborhood within five minutes, and even better, it was a sleek SUV. I arrived at my event looking like a million bucks -- and, since I'm a PR guy, that matters.

Related: Designing a Customer Strategy Focused on Genuine Loyalty

Uber, I subsequently moved to New York City, where I've continued to use you religiously. Even now that cheaper, trendier competitors have emerged, I've stuck with your service. And now, I find myself perched atop the leader board, having taken -- I believe! -- more rides in an Uber than anyone else on Earth.

Has your company once thanked me for my undying loyalty? Not even once.

Incentivizing loyalty

Don't get me wrong; I still love you, Uber. Yours is a great service, and I'll continue to use it. But I think the company is missing the boat, when it comes to fostering great relationships with its customers.

Uber, your faithful clients are your biggest potential evangelists; they have so much to tell the world about your service. Treating them with a special touch would turn them into brand advocates who would spread good cheer about your company on their social networks. This could make all the difference in a competitive landscape (such as that of ride-sharing).

Related: 'Starbucks Rewards' and the Failure of Today's Loyalty Programs

Beyond that, Uber, your most loyal clients know your business inside and out. Engaging with them will unveil key improvements you could make to your product. Opening an authentic two-way conversation, listening to what customers have to say and adjusting accordingly would be smart ways to set your company up for future success.

And, on top of that, when loyal customers see that you have actually taken their advice to heart, they'll feel an even deeper devotion to your brand.

Here are three ways to incentivize loyalty and encourage customers who already love you to spread the love further:

1. Personalize your programs.

When crafting an effective loyalty program, don't underestimate the power of personalization. According to a study by L2 research, 90 percent of loyalty program participants say they want to receive regular communication from the brand, and studies show that programs which feature relevant, personalized messages lead to much higher levels of satisfaction.

A great starting point would be to simply show your best customers that you know their names. Greeting them with a "Hello, Mr. Jones" or a "Hello, Mrs. Walker" whenever they reach out is an easy way to show respect for their loyal patronage. This is something that I've really been missing with Uber: personalized touchpoints that show the company is aware of (and appreciates) my existence. What I've actually received? No emails, no postcards. Nothing.

2. Allow exclusive access.

Your best customers are your VIPs, so treat them that way. Invite them to focus groups, give them early access to new products and ask them to share their thoughts. This will show them they play a vital role in your brand's journey; it will incentivize them to talk about you to their friends. And, simultaneously, it will provide you with vital feedback to improve upon.

Follow this example by QuizUp, a brand my company works with. When developing a Windows version of its app, the company invited a handful of its top-paying customers to be beta testers, allowing them to be the first people to try out the brand-new product. Who doesn't appreciate exclusive VIP access?

3. Give thoughtful gifts.

When my friends and colleagues learn that I'm Uber's top customer, the first thing they ask is what perks I've received in return. They assume I have a cache of free rides at my disposal and that my loyal status shoots my ride requests to the front of the line during busy times. But in reality, I don't have any of these perks -- nor am I really interested in them.

Any ol' customer can earn a free ride from Uber by referring new clients to the app. Properly incentivizing loyalty, on the other hand, requires thoughtfulness.

Clothing retailer MR PORTER knows the importance of surprising its clientele; the company even delivers special gifts to its loyal customers during the holidays. So, follow its example. Or, consider gifting your loyal customers with a higher tier of service, similar to the way this retailer offers personal shopping and styling services to its best clients.

Loyalty programs are less about what you offer and more about going out of your way to recognize your best customers in a personalized fashion. Engaging with them and expressing your appreciation will show them that they're distinct from the crowd, instill deeper loyalty and encourage them to send more clients your way.

Are you listening, Uber? Make your customers feel special, and turn their loyalty into super-loyalty.

Related: Why Small Businesses Should Be Utilizing Customer-Loyalty Programs

Elliot Tomaeno

Founder of ASTRSK

Elliot Tomaeno is the founder of Astrsk, a New York PR firm that works with both emerging and established technology companies. Tomaeno has worked with companies such as Squarespace, Frank & Oak, Trello, QuizUp, ClassPass, PHHHOTO, Zola and many more. Since launching in 2012, Astrsk has helped launch more than 150 startups and tech products and has been part of seven exits.

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