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Loyalty Leaders Podcast

 

Rick Ferguson (00:00):

The Loyalty Leaders Podcast is brought to you by Loyalty Summit CXM, coming up in Copenhagen in Denmark on April 17th and 18th 2024. Technical innovation meets customer devotion at Loyalty Summit CXM, your gateway to a new era of intelligent loyalty.

(00:16):

A summit in the classic sense, Loyalty Summit CXM offers two days of exciting keynotes, immersive panel discussions and deep-dive workshops in which our roster of retail loyalty executives explores cutting-edge strategies and visionary insights from [00:00:30] across Europe. Reserve your spot today and join the ranks of the Loyalty Intelligents here at loyaltysummitcxm.com.

(00:48):

In our next segment, Loyalty Summit America’s chairperson, David Feldman, sits down with Loyalty Status Co’s, Mark Ross-Smith, to dig deep into the business of elite frequent flyer status. The importance of [00:01:00] status to the airline’s bottom line. And now airlines can best leverage status to build strong relationships with elite frequent flyers.

David Feldman (01:09):

Hi, and welcome back to Loyalty Leaders Podcast. I’m David Feldman, chair of the Loyalty Summit. And with me today I’m joined by Mark Ross-Smith from Loyalty Status Co. You probably know them as Statusmatch.com and you may know Mark, regular attendees at Loyalty Summit will know Mark has been an attendee and a speaker for many years now and was formerly [00:01:30] the head of the program at Malaysia Airlines enriched frequent flyer program. So many people know him from that as well. Mark, let me bring you on the screen here. Hi and welcome.

Mark Ross-Smith (01:43):

Hey, David. You’re right, I think been going to the Loyalty Summit events about five, six years now.

David Feldman (01:50):

I want to say it’s about five or six years now. Yeah, it’s been a long time. So any of our regular attendees will certainly know you and we’ve talked and you’ve been on Loyalty Leaders Podcast before. We’ve talked [00:02:00] about loyalty, we’ve talked about status, we’ve talked about frequent flyer programs, pretty much everything available to talk about.

(02:07):

So your insights are deep and wide. But today I want to specifically talk about Loyalty Status Co, which you’re the CEO of. And most people probably know you as Statusmatch.com and you’ve been doing a lot of cool things and innovative things the last few years, been winning a lot of startup and loyalty awards.

(02:26):

So a lot of people, most people in the industry and certainly most [00:02:30] of the frequent flyer programs, if not all, are well aware of who you are, what you do. But in terms of our listeners, what I wanted to do today is not really talk about that. I’m fascinated to talk about the journey and the backstory behind Status Match and Loyalty Status Co and how it came to be and how you ended up to where you are today to basically status matching as a full-time business servicing and some of the [00:03:00] very innovative campaigns for world-leading global airlines that you’ve been running the last few years.

(03:06):

So can I probe, and tell me if anything’s off limits, but really, can you tell us a little bit about the backstory and the journey of how you got where you are today with StatusMatch and Loyalty Status Co?

Mark Ross-Smith (03:18):

Yeah, I like telling the story. Most people don’t realize that I am actually an entrepreneur, I’m not an airline guy. I just happened to be in the industry now for 10 or so years and got into it almost by accident because I was a frequent flyer for a long time myself, a legit business traveler going all around the world, status with airlines and hotels.

(03:43):

And it was about 10 years ago I’d moved to Hong Kong, I was living in Australia, moved to Hong Kong. And when I moved there I sent an email to the head guys at Cathay Pacific at the time and I said, “Hey look, I’m super top elite status with a competing airline. Can you give me a status match? I am moving to Hong Kong, I want to move my business to Cathay as well.”

(04:12):

And it took about three or four weeks to get a reply of that email. I was very polite. No, in fact, they offered me silver status. I was very much a top tier at another carrier and I thought, this is a bit odd. Why would they only offer me silver status? Status match, as a concept, is not a new idea. It’s been around since 1986.

(04:32):

So airlines, they understand what a status match is, what it’s supposed to achieve. And so in my mind, I’m like, I’m spending all this money on travel. Do you want some? They’re saying, “No.” I just didn’t get it. Didn’t compute my mind. So I hit up EVA Air, I sent an email to them as well. They said no. I sent one to Singapore Airlines, never got a reply.

(04:56):

And I thought, this is really odd. How can airlines not [00:05:00] want my business? I don’t know how much I spent on travel the last few years and keep in mind, I’d just turned 30 years old and I’d already hit lifetime status with an airline just at this point.

(05:10):

So there’s a lot of money to get there and that’s what really started the journey putting my entrepreneur hat on and thinking status match is not on new ideas, it’s been around since the 1980s. Airlines have clearly not cracked it, right? There’s no system, there’s no process out there. There’s no standard do this, do this, do this. Then you can get this. Every airline and hotel seem to be doing their own thing.

David Feldman (05:37):

And there’s a lot of friction in it too. You talked about the frustration with that experience just there. But when I think about… And you and I work in the industry, we’ve worked with a lot of airlines and a lot of programs over the years and often on the elite status program, and when we think about the status programs that have been in effect prior to you coming along, [00:06:00] the reality is there’s friction, there’s a lot of fraud, there’s delays, there’s unfriendly experiences, there’s unfriendly policies and there’s opaque policies as well, which often don’t make any sense.

(06:14):

A legitimate high value customer might be interested in moving their business across, and often it’s not because they’re shopping around or they’ve necessarily had a bad experience with the previous carrier, but perhaps their work location has changed. And especially if you think about, I’m based in the US for example, [00:06:30] which is very much the hub and spoke model. If you live in certain cities, one carrier or two carriers might be dominant. Your preferred carrier may not be outside of the US.

(06:40):

Literally, you may now be commuting regularly to a different country or a different city that’s not served by your preferred frequent flyer program. There’s plenty of legitimate reasons why you might be interested in trying out a new airline that aren’t necessarily, oh, I just want to shop around and try them all and I’m not particularly loyal.

(06:58):

That [00:07:00] doesn’t represent every potential status match acquisition member out there, but you’re looking at your potential new airline and you’re not even listed as a potential person to match in or they’re not matching to the top tier and yet they are, but it’s in the background. And if you didn’t know that, you wouldn’t know to apply or to reach out. And the only people that do know it are the people that are trying to game the system.

(07:24):

So it’s almost the inverse of what the brands are looking for. The wrong people know about how to game it and the right people don’t have an opportunity to come in through the front door. So it’s a very frustrating system, this legacy approach to status matching. I know you’re going to agree on that, but any additional comments on that background to that situation?

Mark Ross-Smith (07:48):

In my example, I sent emails to two airlines and one of them didn’t reply and I’d move countries, it’s a legitimate move thing. Looking for, again, I get a new phone number, I get a new bank account and you get a credit card, get a new airline. So obviously, didn’t get status with Cafe, which means they didn’t get a credit card there. I got something else. They miss out a lot, but thank you to them because it makes for a great story about how I started the business now. So thank you, Cafe.

(08:20):

You’re right. There are a lot of frustrations. If you’re like a gold platinum in the top of two tiers with an airline, presumably you’re spending anywhere from 10, 20, 30, 50, a hundred thousand dollars a year on flights and it’s just not a cool experience. When someone has the capability to spend that much on travel, they reach out to you and say, “Hey, I want to try you guys out for the first time. I’ve moved cities, I’ve changed jobs, something’s happened, something’s triggered, or I’m just annoyed with the other airline. I want to try you guys.” And then there’s no reply.

(08:57):

David, if you email me and say, “Hey, I want to pay you a hundred bucks.” I’m going to invoice you in the next five minutes and you’ve got airlines over here don’t care about a hundred thousand dollars. I don’t get it. So anyway, I thought someone’s got to create a standardized system around this. Someone’s got to put a process in place where everyone understands the landscape, people understand the rules.

(09:21):

And to your point, start to track the right type of people, not the people that know these quirks from the forums. And if you do this and do this and edit this, you get this. And so the mix of people that are doing status matches today versus 10 years ago, very different. Very different. The fundamentals of this, it’s like a car, right? It’s a car from the 1980s, still got four wheels, still gets you from A to B.

(09:52):

But the status match of today is like a Tesla under the hood is totally different, gets you a lot faster, does a lot more, makes a lot more money than it used to as well. So we’ve changed that whole landscape. And then we launched this in 2020, in the worst time in aviation to launch a startup, I will say. We launched it, three of us, Stu, Phil, and myself, we launched it end of 2020.

(10:21):

We didn’t go out and raise money, we didn’t did the traditional startup route. We thought let’s bootstrap it. Let’s just see how this works. We launched with Frontier Airlines in the 2020 and the whole concept here was to help accelerate the airline recovery, airlines needed cash, funny enough. We thought, well, let’s start it. So we launched the world’s first paid status match. Well, you paid an application fee to apply to get a match and obviously, when this fees involved, the customer pays, suddenly that’s how we make money out of it.

(10:50):

And what that did is it started to bring a different type of customer. If you’re willing to pay a fee, you’re not just a tire kicker, you’re less likely to be a [00:11:00] tire kicker because you put something on the line, right? And since then we’ve, I’ll call it version three of status match now where there’s ancillaries and upsells all through the status match process. And so we’ve taken what used to be a really clunky or quite frankly, shitty experience for most people doing a status match into this really slick, beautiful UX experience.

(11:27):

It’s a really great brand experience for people that are now trying a new brand for the first time. They go through the process go, “Wow, this airline. It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, I put in a bunch of details, I got a tracking number, I could see everything on the process. I could see they tried to sell me some things in that to make it better.” And not shitty things like airlines sell you like insurance and seats and bags and stuff like that.

(11:52):

We sell people legitimate stuff like upgrades, things that people want to buy. And what it does, it creates a new [00:12:00] ancillary revenue stream for loyalty to the point where status match type back customer acquisition products now regularly feature in the top five revenue streams for most down on loyalty programs.

David Feldman (12:18):

It’s interesting you’ve got to talk about revenue stream. When I think about just you were talking there, I’m thinking about the evolution of frequent flyer programs and six, seven years ago, as you know, I did a lot of work on bringing to the mainstream conversation just how much money frequent flyer programs make, but specifically from COBRA and revenue agreements from banks and things like that.

(12:43):

Now of course, since the pandemic and a lot of that has been very publicly disclosed and securitization agreements to the market. Now that’s common knowledge and common understanding amongst average folk about how frequent flyer programs make money. But what’s interesting when I think about the design of programs is that there’s always been this reward aspect, which is about the points and the miles. You earn frequent flyer miles for traveling or from the credit card or from shopping with partners on the ground and then you redeem them for free flights.

(13:11):

And on the side there’s always been the elite status program or the recognition element. And that’s always really been about legitimate bum in seat frequent flyers, your business consultants and McKinsey consultants and things like that, that are flying every week of the year. And for those people to have the gold and the platinum, the diamond statuses and things like that. And there’s always been almost different, almost a silo.

(13:36):

The elite recognition program has almost been a silo off to the side, but it’s also been this case of hey, all the money comes through from the credit cards and the people accruing the miles because the frequent flyer program sells the points in the miles to the bank or to other retailers or to other programs. And that’s always been the direct revenue into an airline frequent flyer program.

(13:56):

Whereas the status program has always been about looking after and recognizing and retaining your valuable actual flyers. The person who spends 10, 20, 30, 40, $50,000 a year on actual airline fares, the status program has all been about them because at some point for a real frequent flyer who’s flying every week, you’ve got two, 3 million airline points or miles in your account just from flying, you don’t care about going to get a credit card to earn some more or shopping with a partner or through the dining program because that’s not what motivates you.

(14:32):

But it’s interesting now as we come out of the pandemic, and we saw a little bit of this before the pandemic, not so much in the US but internationally, we did. Some credit cards starting to come with things like some status credits or some status contribution. And all of a sudden now what we’re seeing, and now of course the US airlines, they play catch up, but then they lead the way. They’re a bit of an anomaly like that.

(14:57):

But around the world we’re seeing various aspects of the status program being monetized and whether that be that you could now earn status from spending on the credit card or from engaging with other partners on the ground, not just from flying. There’s this old philosophy school of thought in the figure flyer program world, and we know a lot of program managers that think like this where they really believe that status should only be for the people that actually earn it from flying.

(15:26):

But the new age school of thought is that actually there’s a lot of money to be made from the status program from allowing status points or status credits to be earned from channels that generate revenue. Obviously, credit cards and partners are the key aspect of that. But when we think about status matching and paid status matches, that brings in a whole other aspect of direct revenue specifically for the status portion of the frequent flyer program.

(15:57):

So now you have these frequent flyer conglomerates that are earning a gazillion dollars from the traditional point, selling of points and miles, and now realizing that status itself can be monetized within that. Are you able to put a dimension on how big a pot are we talking about here for airlines?

Mark Ross-Smith (16:26):

It’s a lot of questions there.

David Feldman (16:30):

Let me phrase it simply. Let me phrase it more simply, Mark. We know how many zeros there are about how much money airlines make from selling points and miles specifically to banks around the world. We know that and then we’re talking in the billions. Well, across international airlines, tens of billions of dollars. When we’re talking about the potential value of the status monetization, how does that pale in comparison?

Mark Ross-Smith (16:54):

I’ll throw a couple of numbers at you. So in a typical airline, in top 5% of customers, your elite loyalty members, they buy about 30% of the seats. So think 30% of airline revenue, which is a lot of money, think about them, what they contribute.

(17:17):

So keep that and I’ll throw his other number here. Airlines have been very focused on points of miles, credit cards, banks, this kind of stuff for a long time and they’ve got hundreds of  people, teams, it’s got the attention of the CFO, it’s got attention of investors, the board, everyone’s like, “Let’s sell more miles, a lot of money in this stuff.”

(17:41):

And then you’ve got the elite status part of the loyalty program and generally, there’s a couple of people, mid-level managers just trolling along, just running its thing. So you’ve got this thing over here, the status which is responsible for indirectly about 30% of total airline revenue.  And then you’ve got over here, hundreds of people focused on selling points and miles.

(18:05):

Now 30% of revenue, I can tell you’s a lot more than selling points and miles in terms of cash coming in the door. And so what we recognized a while ago is status matches is the first step in this status monetization journey because people understood what status match was. People, airlines, consumers, everyone got it already. So we jazzed it up, put a bunch of fees around it, put some ancillaries around it.

(18:34):

Brought new value to everyone around the process there, but it’s more than just status match. And that’s why we have transitioned. We’ve known as the status match guys and not a bad thing, but now we’re the status guys because it’s all about status. To your point is, we are creating more stuff. Status match is one of four things we do around elite status monetization in new ways because quite frankly, people are demanding it. You’ve got these people that’ve got status.

(19:04):

Think about when you lose status every year or you’re about to drop down, you’ve got gold you’re about to lose. It might drop silver or to nothing. And at that point, people are willing to open their wallets and pay money. A bunch of airlines are already monetizing that, not in the best way, but they’re doing a not bad job at it.

(19:22):

And it is just basically free money to the airline because think about it, if you pay a fee to keep your status and make it up, you pay few hundred. Some airlines are charging thousands of dollars for this. You pay thousands of dollars to keep your platinum status. Guess which airline you’re going to fly next? It’s not competitor, it’s them. And so you lock yourself in, you pay to be loyal, it’s a win-win.

David Feldman (19:46):

Good deal with the airline.

Mark Ross-Smith (19:48):

There’s a heap of ways to monetize around that status area. So that’s what we’re focused on. We’re not doing points and miles, we’re doing everything around status. We see huge opportunity there. I call it the next a hundred billion dollars of ancillary revenue that this will create for airlines.

(20:05):

And looking in the media recently, it’s at least two airlines looking at Chapter 11 bankruptcy type stuff. So the more cash they can get at all, the better. And I think part of that journey is creating new revenue streams, high margin revenue streams similar to points and miles, but in different ways, things that add real value because some of these airlines live and die by ancillary revenue and they need this kind of stuff.

(20:32):

So the more they can get the better. And what that ultimately means is, if you’ve got what I call the right people paying the right amount of money, so your gold and platinum is paying a lot more, because they want to buy more because they want the extra whatevers. In some ways, it helps billions of other travelers who just want the cheap tickets to fly from A to B, it helps indirectly subsidize them because you make a lot of money over here, you don’t need to make-

David Feldman (20:59):

It’s always been a truism. Your top members are always subsidizing the base and the new members. But a question I have, you just sort of mentioned it, that they’re happy to pay. When we talk about say our gold platinum members, that they’re happy. Because you can imagine when you think about all of a sudden it’s like, well, status was a reward. It was recognition of me being loyal in the past to the airline.

(21:23):

So first as a member, I’m loyal and then what comes next is I get those published benefits and sometimes the soft unpublished benefits recognizing me, making me feel warm and fuzzy, looking after me when things go wrong, access to lounges, priority queues, things like that. And that’s a reward back to me in recognition of my past loyalty.

(21:45):

Now what we’re saying is, okay, well, let’s add another dimension to that of well, if I want to switch airlines, I’ve got to pay, or maybe I didn’t fly as much. I’ve got young kids maybe change jobs, something like that, move to locations and now I need to pay to keep it sometimes may be a significant amount of money to keep it. You could argue that, well that’s better than losing it if you value it, if you value the benefits and you value the status to the airline, okay, maybe you could, there’s a fine line, isn’t it?

(22:20):

I mean, you want this person to stay because this person was previously a valuable regular, legitimate frequent flyer. So you want to give them a path to retain, to use your retain status example. You want to give them a path to retain their status rather than losing them. You don’t mind monetizing that, but there’s a fine line between milking that customer and then upsetting them.

(22:44):

And so actually, then they get upset with you annoyed and they leave and defect anyway and go elsewhere. Or you just simply lose them and who knows what happens to them in the future? Versus monetizing them, keeping them happy, keeping them inside the tent and inside the family even though maybe their flying might have dropped off. There’s a balance there, right?

Mark Ross-Smith (23:05):

Let’s be clear, airlines are businesses, so they’re here to make money. So they’re not family, they’re here to make money. I’ll just put that out there. But to your point, sometimes in your example of people that are losing status and some airlines are trying to charge 2, 3000, this big money for it, sometimes it’s a deliberate intention. It’s kind of saying, “Look, it was worth this.” You didn’t fly enough. Just life stuff happens.

(23:35):

We can’t all keep super elite Diamond 1K whatever forever some can, most of us can’t. And so it’s pretty normal to drop down. But what’s happened is at that point you are now educated. You’re educated for life on how status works, the benefits of it. So the chances of you wanting that at some point in the future or some offer comes along, “Hey David, get this credit card.” Blah blah blah blah.

(24:00):

Or do this and get this, you are much more likely to be receptive to it because like you know what, “I remember back in the day I had gold status. I got to go on the lounge. I was first the board, I got an upgrade.” Everyone’s got this story about a story about when they had status and that is emotionally branded in their mind. So this is how status is very powerful and it’s powerful in ways that points of miles just simply can never achieve.

David Feldman (24:27):

And it’s interesting you say that because you’ve heard me talk about this before, but the academic research backs that up as well, is that those that have previously held status have a higher propensity to be open to doing the behavior to earn or re-earn status again in the future, even if they’ve lost it in the meantime, as you say, because they know what it means to have that priority, to have that lounge access, all the rest of it. So the academic theory and research actually backs that up.

Mark Ross-Smith (24:55):

But the trick is you’ve got to own it legitimately the first. It can’t just go giving out gold for the world for free because you give it for free. It’s never valued. They’ve got to do the hard yards to get there. To get there, but they have to do something and they can’t… Just selling it doesn’t really… I mean, you get money, but that doesn’t really work long term.

(25:15):

So there’s ways to what we call managing people on the way up and then managing on the way down. And so when you manage the up and the down flow, there’s a lot of points to make money in that frozen snap flow. And today we see most airlines, they’re just not that great at it. So that’s where we are sort of slotting in trying to… To be frank, we are just creating stuff that we wished existed is not rockets. So I’m afraid of flying myself.

(25:40):

I’ve got stats like four different airlines right now. I can’t possibly keep them all unless someone’s paying me to fly around the world or not. So now we’re looking at how do we create products that help me retain status. I’ve got my own problems to solve here. It’s funny enough, talked to the same thing, a couple of airlines about it, pitch some ideas, here’s how I want to retain status with you.

(26:06):

I’m sure you’ve got many other thousands of members in the same boat. Here’s how it could work. We go back and forth, come up with some idea and then create something that didn’t exist in the world before this. So I think-

David Feldman (26:22):

Talking about coming up with all these new ideas, a lot of people know you as Statusmatch.com, all the rest. You’ve recently rebranded to Loyalty  Status Co, which many people probably wouldn’t have heard of or have no idea what it’s about, but you’ve just sort of talked about all these other avenues and areas and products and just initiatives that either brands are looking for or frequent flyers are looking for. Can you talk about the rebrand and the new name and does that mean Status Match is no more or what’s the story there?

Mark Ross-Smith (26:50):

Status Match is still the hero product. It’s what people know us for. It’s very successful, does very well. We still launch a bunch of new brands on side effects all the time,  more than a dozen now. And the rebranding to Loyalty Status Co is more reflective of the other products that we already have in market. These are not like, oh, let’s do. This stuff exists today with big airlines.

(27:16):

We first launched this big thing with Frontier about almost a year ago now, to help and find new credit card customers is basically the idea. If you had a travel or credit card in the USA, pay a fee, Frontier would just give you Status Strat. It wasn’t a status match. You didn’t have to have status anywhere else, you just had the right to have a credit card.

(27:33):

And that was a quasi credit card co-brand acquisition play there, obviously cash as well. We done a bunch of that stuff. We’ve launched the world’s first elite status subscription product that people actually want to buy. Ultra successful launched at Royal Air Morocco in, I think it was October. September, October last year. Really doing amazing. I’ve got other brands about to jump on that too.

(28:03):

And I’ve got a couple other things that are super, super exciting. And so the rebrand is really just to be more reflective of what we’re doing, which is more than just status match and monetizing status in different ways, commercializing it in. We just see opportunities everywhere. I think the industry has done very well in points and miles monetization over the last 20 years. 20, 25 years. They’ve done extremely well, hat off to the industry, done a good job.

(28:34):

Status is the next thing, is the next points and miles type scenario. And we riding that wave, there’s a little bit of an education piece to show airlines, hey, actually all the stuff of it. There’s a bit of that it and a bit of just trying to make travelers lives a little easy with products that they actually want.

(28:58):

Because I can tell you, as a gold  member, I don’t need to be sold seats and bags in the booking flow. I’ve never once purchased one of these. I’ve probably purchased 2000 flights in my life, I think, maybe bit less. Never once have I ever I want excess baggage. Never once have I ever wanted insurance. You know what I do?

David Feldman (29:20):

You and I have mailed off this on these topics a lot over the years. But for all the talk of personalization in the industry, the reality is most airlines absolutely hopeless at delivering it in the booking final and hotels for that matter, absolutely hopeless. And yet, I would think that there are things that I am prepared to pay for, that I might be interested in doing.

(29:49):

But even if you offered it to me at this point, because you’ve bombarded me with stuff that’s not even relevant, I already get free access to the lounge. I already get free bags, so why are you trying to sell me that stuff? I already have travel insurance. Why are you selling me that? And you know all this and this is not just like, well, you didn’t know I had a travel insurance policy so you didn’t know I had lounge access.

(30:08):

You have my status, you know that it gives me lounge access or free bags. And you know where I’m going by the way, the destination I’ve just booked for how many people I’ve just booked for. Make the upsell relevant. And this really just goes, we could probably back that out and say that goes to all communications to members, doesn’t it?

(30:29):

If it’s relevant, [00:30:30] there’s no limit to what you can offer and whether it’s communications or upsells or whatever else. But relevancy is something that’s still sorely lacking. So clearly, I think your point is right, that there’s a lot of room for improvement. And let’s be honest, airlines have shown that they really can’t do this themselves.

Mark Ross-Smith (30:49):

To be fair, I come back to an innovation angle, I think, and this is somewhere we’ve seen a lot of success in. I was talking to an airline just the other day, there’s a lot to go, actually on WhatsApp and he’s like, “Mark, we could do this ourselves. We could do the status manager, we could do this. Why should we work with you guys?” I said, “Mate, can you get it up in a week?”

(31:13):

He laughs. He goes, “Maybe a year I could do it.” I said, “Right, okay, so basically you’re just going to lose out on a year of revenue, lose out on all the expertise, build it as a cost obviously to do it as well. It could be silly to try and do it yourself.” And I think a lot of big brands need to leverage the amazing talent technology and partners that exist in the ecosystem a lot more. We are famously known for getting brand new innovative products that don’t exist up in a week. This is just what we do. A week, two weeks, less than a month is really normal for us.

(31:55):

When you get these big legacy technology say roadmap this is a six-month project. Like guys, we’ve launched six things at that time. It is just too slow and the world is moving faster than ever before. There’s so much opportunity, especially in the status space. We just see it every, I talk to brands all the time and they’re like, “I wish we could do this. Wish we could do this. We’re held back by this technology, we can’t do this.”

(32:20):

And I feel that we’re on the cusp of something really big here and sometimes I feel some of these brands [00:32:30] just need to just chill a bit and go, “You know what? We can’t do everything. We shouldn’t try and do everything. We don’t build our own airplanes. We go to Airbus and Boeing and buy it from them. We fly the damn things. So let’s go to the equivalent of Boeing and Airbus for technology stuff. Let’s go to the experts.”

(32:51):

And that’s in each individual area. So we are really good at status stuff. So we say anything status, come to us. You know point and mile stuff, go to Points.com, [00:33:00] go to Plusgrade, go to all these other companies around that are really good at what they do.

David Feldman (33:04):

And that makes a lot of sense. We’re coming to time, but I’ve got a final question too, but I also just want to mention that Loyalty Status Co, you guys have been big supporters of the Loyalty Summit. You guys are going to be attending and speaking this year and both Chicago and London, for those that don’t know, loyaltysummit.com London, it’s up on the website now.

(33:23):

And I actually think that the new agenda is going up very, very, very soon. The fifth to 6th of June in London is going to be our first Loyalty Summit event this year. And then in Chicago on September 11th, 12th, which is the agenda is not published as yet, but we’re busy putting something very exciting together for you for both of those events.

(33:42):

So stay tuned, subscribe to the newsletter. Obviously, if you want to learn more, Loyalty Status Co, I will definitely be there and be speaking. Thank you for your support. But I want to ask you just as we go, it’s 2024, we’re starting the new year, strong predictions,  big trend travel loyalty for 2024. What do you think?

Mark Ross-Smith (34:04):

If you look at the last 20 years, try and predict the next 20 years. I don’t think much is going to happen.

David Feldman (34:11):

Forget the next 20 years. Let’s just think about what can we think about short term for this year.

Mark Ross-Smith (34:15):

However, if I look at the last year of our business and try and predict the next one year of our business, I see significant change. On that change, improvements. There are baby steps for airlines but big steps for consumers. I think when airlines and brands start aligning with their customers more, really listen to customers like what do you want? Okay, Dave, I’m not going to sell you travel insurance. I’m going to sell you something you actually want.

(34:41):

Personalization is being talked about for God knows how long now, bit too long. I think it’s time for less talk and more action. And it’s not necessarily about big data and machine learning, it’s not necessarily about that. It’s about what’s the thing that Dave wants. And you know what, Dave probably wants more status credits when he flies. Let’s just sell him that. It’s not difficult. We know he’s had status for the last 20 years. Let’s give him more of it.

(35:04):

And that’s section of the audience taken care of. Let’s just do that first. Start there because people with status spend more, fly more, the right type of money. They’re typically in business class or high yield economy or coach fair. They’ve got the capacity to pay more. So let’s start selling stuff they want. Let’s start selling them stuff that we can. Let’s dream up new products.

(35:28):

And if we have to go to external parties, let’s do that. If we can do it internally, great as well. I think we are going to see more of that because new stuff aligns with being consumer centric. It aligns with stuff that they want. And at the end of the day, if you make your customers happy, you run a good business, you’re making even more money.

David Feldman (35:49):

Thank you, Mark. Thank you, Mark. Mark Ross-Smith from Loyalty Status Co, Statusmatch.com for those who know him. Thank you very much for joining. Obviously, we could talk about this for hours, but we’ve got plenty of other opportunities to talk this year. I’m sure we’re going to talk a lot more. Thanks for coming along.

(36:04):

For those that are not on our newsletter or whatever else, Loyaltysummit.com and Mark, your new calendar for London, 5th to 6th of June, Chicago 11, 12th September. Our theme for this year is beyond Loyalty. We’re going to be talking about innovative strategies, insights, visions, to propel your Loyalty programs into the future.

(36:25):

So it’s going to be an exciting year of discussions. Loyaltysummit.com, make sure you sign up there. You [00:36:30] can check out our other Loyalty Leader Podcast episode and we’ll see you next time. Thanks again, Mark.

Mark Ross-Smith (36:35):

Thank you.

Rick Ferguson (36:38):

And that’s it for today’s episode of the Loyalty Leaders Podcast. I’m Rick Ferguson and I’ll see you here next time. Until then, do good work and stay in touch.