Samantha M. Weeks, CFE
Financial institutions, retailers and the travel industry have made rewarding customers for brand loyalty a part of our everyday lives. From keychains to mobile apps, companies know their customers want to feel appreciated, and driving additional spend is a big bonus. According to a 2017 study performed by Colloquy, there are 3.8 billion individual loyalty memberships in the U.S. and 175 million verified loyalty memberships in Canada. We have even seen the value of these programs being priced above the core stream of revenue in both hotel and airline financial performance reviews.
As beneficial as these programs are to both organizations and customers, it’s important to understand the related fraud risks and establish continuous monitoring to ensure that your customers remain loyal. Not only is your customer lifetime value at stake, but breaking your customer’s confidence in your brand can make it difficult to gain new customers. The most common fraud perpetrated against loyalty programs is account takeover fraud. Designing effective monitoring helps reduce response times to customer alerts of fraud, and helps to identify and reverse theft before the customer contacts you. This will save you money and preserve the loyalty you’ve built with your membership.
Begin by quantifying the fraud in terms of customers impacted and the amount lost. If you make victim customers whole by replacing the stolen program currency (i.e. points or miles) be sure to include that in your valuations. Once velocity and impact can be communicated, the risk can be truly evaluated for priority and the need for further audit. Establish the pace in which these redemptions should be reviewed for fraud indicators and get ahead of the fulfillment of these redemptions. Create communications to educate your employees and customers on the need for unique passwords and make it clear that account takeover fraud is not a hack but a consequence of recycling passwords.
Continuous monitoring processes can be improved with tracking. Provide analytics to stakeholders regarding the fraud rate and impact to the company and customers. The largest value of this is in the information and the story that you can tell. If you are leaking revenue from your loyalty program and you don’t know how big the leak is, you could risk the very loyalty the program is building.
According to Accenture, 77% of loyalty program participants admit they will withdraw their loyalty more quickly than they would have three years ago and 43% of participants admitted to doing so because they lost trust in the company (e.g., weak personal data security). Also, customers will tell an average of 24 people, mainly through social media and review websites, about their negative experience. (Connexions Loyalty/lpsos survey data). By continuously monitoring your program and being proactive in fraud detection, you can ensure that your customers remain as loyal as you strive for them to be.