What not to do in a loyalty program

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If you're looking for one of the worst examples of customer relationship management, look toward Columbia, SC.

WISTV.com posted a story on August 25 about the University of South Carolina's loyalty program for student sports tickets. The program allows students to earn points to be used toward tickets for popular sports such as football and men's basketball games. In other words, the more games you attended, the more points you earned, the better games you earned access to.

The problem arises when a student receives a ticket and does not show up for a game without canceling. He or she is then barred from attending that sport's games for the rest of the season. 

Could you imagine if RiteAid locked its loyalty club members out of its stores for not shopping there at least once a month?

Of course, in all fairness, that isn't an apples-to-apples comparison. The demand for South Carolina tickets is much greater than the demand to shop at RiteAid.

And that's exactly why this penalty system was implemented.

About 1,000 students per game were no-shows for each Gamecocks football games last year, preventing other students from attending.

From that standpoint, USC's policy makes sense. But a season-long ban seems extreme when plenty of reasonable last-minute circumstances could have prevented them from attending.

Are student fans not customers? Do they not purchase concessions, hats, jerseys and large foam fingers?

Aren't loyalty programs supposed to foster a relationship between the customer and the business?

South Carolina's program actually has the potential to create a divide with its customers.

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