#549: WestJet's Loyalty Transformation & Evolution

This episode is available in audio format on our Let’s Talk Loyalty podcast and in video format on www.Loyalty.TV.

Today’s episode features a fascinating conversation with WestJet, Canada’s second biggest airline, as they embark on a significant transformation journey.

WestJet took to the skies in 1996 with just over 200 employees and three aircraft operating service to five destinations. Today, they operate to more than 100 destinations worldwide, with a team of over 14,000 people and nearly 200 aircraft.

Leading the loyalty evolution is Steve McClelland, Vice President of Loyalty Commercial & Business Development, and we are delighted to have him join us to share his early thoughts on how he plans to grow WestJet Rewards.

With thanks to the Loyalty and Awards conference team for this introduction.

Show notes:

1) WestJet

2) WestJet Rewards

3) Steve McClelland

4) Watch the full interview episode at www.Loyalty.TV.com

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world. 

Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty at Loyalty TV. Today’s episode is back in the airline industry with a fascinating conversation with WestJet as Canada’s second biggest airline, at the start of their transformation journey. WestJet as an airline took to the skies in 1996 with just over 200 employees and three aircraft operating to five destinations.

Today, they operate to more than 100 destinations worldwide, with a team of over 14,000 people and nearly 200 aircraft. Leading the loyalty evolution with WestJet is Steve McClelland, who is Vice President, Loyalty, Commercial and Business Development. And we are delighted to have him join us today to share his early thoughts on how he plans to grow WestJet Rewards.

For anyone in the travel loyalty space, you can also hear Steve present in person at this year’s Loyalty and Awards Conference taking place in Bangkok on October 28th to 30th. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

So Steve McClelland, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Steve: Thank you very much. It’s wonderful to be here. 

Paula: Well, honestly, Canada just keeps getting better and better in my perspective in terms of the incredible loyalty industry and all of the incredible people like you who keep bringing us all of these really amazing stories, Steve.

So definitely I’m very excited about the opportunity to hear what you’ve done in the Canadian market in quite varied ways over the last couple of years and doing some amazing stuff now, even going forward. So lots to talk about today and very interesting story. I think we’re going to start to unfold, although I know there’s a lot that we can’t talk about just yet, but here we are.

So I am going to kick off our conversation of course, with our usual opening question, which our audience loves to hear from every loyalty professional on the show. So would you mind answering and telling me, please, what is your current favorite loyalty program? 

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. So my favorite loyalty program is the Marriott Bonvoy program. And I think it’s because they have well, I was originally part of the Starwood program, the SPG program a long time ago. And then when it folded into the Bonvoy program, I think everyone was a little bit nervous about where it was going to go, but they’ve done a really nice job. 

I think as a frequent traveler for both, for all of my jobs so far, I think it, it is kind of the sanctuary. It helps me have a great experience. It’s the, it provides comfort and just because when you’re on the road you’re constantly away from home and you’re nervous about what kind of place you’re going to sleep. And so the Marriott Bonvoy program puts me in a great property.

It’s dependable, I get early check in, late check out, I’m always recognized for my loyalty at the front desk. And all of the things that they do, the targets that they set to keep you motivated to continue engaging with the brand are very well tailored. And I just happened to click through Lifetime Platinum Elite status with Bonvoy, so they’ve really got me hooked.

Paula: Oh my goodness. Wow. Oh my God. I’m jealous now. I’m on Lifetime Gold status. And I’ve said a couple of times on the show as well, Steve, you know, I really wouldn’t have traveled, I suppose, enough to have enjoyed hotel loyalty programs probably until recently. So I came into Bonvoy from the co-brand angle here in Dubai. They have a very rich proposition. So again, our loyal audience probably heard me talking about that before, but the update on that is I got my first redemption booking with Bonvoy. 

So I’m off to a wonderful conference actually in Poland next week, and I’m extending my stay courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy. So I think we have a shared love of us and it’s certainly working its way up the rankings in terms of how many people are answering with that one, particularly Steve. So we’re off to a great start and congrats again on the platinum status. That’s amazing. 

Steve: Thank you very much. Yeah, it is. In some ways that I’m not, in some ways it’s a, it is a great achievement, but also it means that I’ve been on the road a lot and been away from home a lot. But one of the things about Bonvoy, just to follow that up a little bit, is that is that I get to share some of the benefit with my family. That means a lot with this program because when we go on vacation, the first place I look is, can I redeem my points with Bonvoy? And a lot of times they have great properties and a lot of variety of properties. So, and the redemption accessibility is very strong. I think that’s another strong point about their program.

And I think the last thing, which is probably understated in the value it has for members and as a loyalty practitioner, this is really important, is that when I redeem my points in Bonvoy, most of the time, if not all the time, I don’t need to pay anything, no taxes and fees and extra out of pocket.

Paula: Yeah, you know, I think that is a critical point and it’s one that so many brands seem to feel is not the detail that they need to be concerned about. You know, there’s always the opportunity, I think, to find ways to charge fees if you want to. But it just spoils that whole redemption experience. I totally agree.

So I’ve had both actually, I also have a second Bonvoy redemption and I didn’t have enough points. And in that instance, of course, I was happy to top up to get the value that I needed to make the redemption you know, cash and points essentially, but you’re right. If you have enough points in order to get the booking through, then why would you have to pay any extras? A really important principle. 

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. 

Paula: Great. Great. So we’re here to talk about WestJet Rewards and really excited that you’re joining us at the start of this journey. And I know there is a long road ahead and obviously an awful lot achieved as well. 

But before we get into your current role, of course, Steve, I’d love, first of all, if you would just give us your background, because I’m always really proud when I feel like I’ve uncovered somebody who’s done amazing work. And honestly, I can say from what you told us in preparation for today, you’ve had an amazing loyalty career, and I really want our audience to have a full appreciation for your loyalty career. So would you mind taking us through the highs and lows? In fact, they all sound like highs. 

Steve: Yeah, yeah for sure.

Paula: So talk us through how you got into this space and what you’ve been doing. 

Steve: Yeah, well, I’m from Calgary, Alberta in Canada. I was fortunate enough to get a co-op job with a now defunct. Well, it was the airline was acquired by Air Canada. It was called Canadian Airlines, and that was in 1999 when I was a young, much younger guy than I am now.

And I was in the right place at the right time. I became, my first job in loyalty was a financial analyst. And I think that was a perfect start for me because it immediately put me into the part of the loyalty program where I had to understand how loyalty programs operate economically, the issuance of points, the redemption of points, the billing of points to third parties, the redemption cost, and it really kind of gave me the fundamentals really early on in my loyalty career.

And that was in Calgary. And then shortly after that Air Canada purchased Canadian Airlines. I was lucky enough to get this amazing life experience by moving from Calgary to Montreal, which is an incredible city to live in. And I also you know, with that financial analyst job, I transitioned into an analytics job very early on in the world of analytics.

So, my first job with Aeroplan in the year 2000 was both analytics and reward management. And at that time, reward inventory management and database analytics for loyalty programs was just an emerging field. We had, Aeroplanet in itself was a very innovative company at that point, being separated from Air Canada. That’s a story in and of itself. But what had to happen was, the Aeroplan was carved out of the airline, and with that, the Aeroplan had to agree to, with Air Canada about how many, inventory, how many reward seats they had access to what was the agreement and within that it needed to be measured and managed and that’s where I came in.

So I had the first role that was looking at inventory management for the rewards program. And that was a very new field and I loved it because I kind of got to see a kind of it’s just a natural extension or progression from financial analysts into this other world where we understood how many people are flying where and how many seats are we redeeming and not? And where the pressure is for the airline and getting to understand the intersection between reward inventory management and revenue management for the airline and the tension that can come up in that realm. So right place, right time, right profile. I made the best of that. I worked in Montreal for six years with Aeroplan.

Through that period, Aeroplan became a publicly traded company, which I helped in that project. So I was you know, I had doors open and I tried my best to go through them and perform the best I could and it worked out very well. So that was my first six years in, in loyalty with Aeroplan. 

I then decided I wanted to go in and do some different things. So I moved to Toronto to work in the bank, international banking industry. That was excellent because I got to work in Latin America and Caribbean countries for Scotiabank. And co-brand cards were a big thing and travel cards were a big thing there. So, but credit cards and payment cards relate very closely to airline loyalty programs.

So that kind of naturally extended my scope of, kind of knowledge, my knowledge base are around loyalty programs, even though I wasn’t And then after that, I wanted to go into management consulting. So I was lucky enough to be able to get a job with the Boston Consulting Group. And that was an amazing place to work. I can’t say enough about how much I learned and how fast. And I think loyalty professionals and management consultants go very well together. Just the way that loyalty is very analytical, very data heavy, hypothesis driven. So we end up, you know, that toolkit that I was building at BCG really helped me prepare for my next stage of the, of my loyalty career.

And I had said through those five years that I was not in loyalty, that I wasn’t going to go back into loyalty, but the problem is it has a very strong draw. So I ended up going back to Aeroplan in 2011. And you know, for a variety of reasons, leaving consulting to go back into Aeroplan and work there for another five years.

So, that was a big transition. And when I got back into Aeroplan, I worked on the TDC IBC credit card transaction, which is, I think at the time, or perhaps still the largest ever credit card transaction in Canada, and it’s a huge portfolio as Aeroplan. Aeroplan now has the TBC, IBC, Amex portfolios. It was an incredible project for me, very proud of that with my colleagues at Aeroplan. 

And then from there, at that point, we were deciding whether we were going to stay in Toronto or move, and we ended up moving to Calgary. I didn’t end up thinking I was going to work for WestJet. I wasn’t, it wasn’t necessarily the plan. 

I ended up working at a company called Parkland, which is a gas station and convenience retailing company. And end up being the VP loyalty for them and starting a brand new loyalty program, which we’ll probably get into a little bit later. 

But the gas station convenience industry is an underappreciated industry for its level of service to, to it’s a role in the community. It’s level of service to the customer and the high frequency nature of service of how that operates and loyalty within that field is very different from airline loyalty. But I do think there’s a lot of lessons that can be drawn from that industry into the airline industry. And I’m lucky to be able to bring some of those lessons with me to WestJet.

And then when the phone rang a couple of years ago, right, probably right around now in 2022 it’s a bit of a dream job. There are only two jobs in Canada that really do what we do. There’s one at Air Canada And Scott O’Leary is the leader there and I’m the guy here at WestJet. I’m very fortunate to have this position. 

Paula: Oh my God, an incredible story. And we’re definitely, before I forget, definitely due to have Air Canada back on the show. It’s been a long time since we’ve caught up with the guys there. So that’s just a note to self and that we definitely need to get their story again.

But thank you for sharing all of that, Steve. I, as I said, the Canadian loyalty market, I feel, you know, has been through so much evolution and is going from strength to strength. But not without a lot of dramatic change along the way. You’ve mentioned IPO carving, obviously the Aeroplan program out, which in itself, I can only imagine the complexity and, you know, having a, you know, somewhat of a, of an airline background myself, not in loyalty, but I always you know, appreciated the power and the tension that you mentioned with revenue management. I think that’s always a critical point that all of the loyalty professionals in travel, certainly in airlines listening to this show will I’m sure be smiling. And we’ve certainly talked about it on the show before. 

So, and the other piece I wanted to pick up on, we talked about it briefly off air is the convenience sector. Because I feel like, as you said, it’s underappreciated, it’s much less mature or certainly much younger, actually, is a better description. I do think it’s caught up incredibly quickly. And to your point about the role that sector contributes to. to just general society. I remember doing an episode very early on in COVID. And it was around the time that again, convenience stores were being given permission to continue trading when everything else was in lockdown. So that for me was absolutely an eye opener in terms of how much we all rely on our convenience stores and, you know, the power of loyalty to drive, particularly the C store sales. Of course, the gas is a whole other discussion and I’m sure we could do a separate podcast on that one, but that’s not for today. 

So, loads you’ve done already so far, and as you said, you’re very lucky to be in this WestJet role. So for our global audience, Steve, who may not know even the airline, nevermind the loyalty program, would you mind just giving us the elevator pitch in terms of, you know, the size and scale of the airline and I suppose the kind of focus and way of operating because obviously airlines come in lots of shapes and sizes. So tell us about WestJet. 

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. So, in very short form, WestJet is Canada’s second largest airline. Air Canada is our largest airline and flight carrier for the country, but we are the second largest airline. We also have the honor of the only, or one of the only startup carriers in Canada to grow to scale.

And so we were started in 1996 here in Calgary with three airplanes, all Boeing 737s. And over the course of the last 28 years we’ve grown to, I think what we’re up to now is about 200 aircraft or around there. So to put it in relative terms, Air Canada is about 350 aircraft. 

Paula: Wow.

Steve: And we’re about 200 aircraft. So we’re kind of half the size. We fly to over a hundred destinations. Canada, US and international and Air Canada flies to close to 200. So we’re kind of in that half size range and we are, we’re a little bit different positioned from Air Canada. We are a little bit more leisure focused.

We are a little bit, we skew to more the everyday traveler. We have a premium cabin and we have premium travelers. We have some of that segment, but we are not necessarily so we don’t stretch as premium as Air Canada. And we were a little bit more value conscious. So I’d say that’s where we’re more well positioned relative to Air Canada.

We operate our jet fleets, all Boeing 737s and we have a dash 8 fleet. So we are I’d say our closest comparables globally, or at least in North America, is that we’d compare most closely to JetBlue and Alaskan in terms of our competitive position and the way that we approach our network plan and how and who we serve.

So those are the, and we also, you know, to the folks who may be listening from JetBlue and Alaskan, we do look at them for inspiration and and try to come up with our own ideas as well. 

Paula: Of course, it’s all about the ideas. I think that’s the most fun part about loyalty. You used the words hypothesis driven earlier. I always like to pick up on words like that, because I feel like I can use them again. And I think you’re absolutely right. One thing I’ve learned from this show is that there’s no shortage of ideas in airline loyalty professionals minds because it’s just so much fun and so much we can do. So talk us through the history of loyalty there in WestJet and where you’re currently at in your journey.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. So, the WestJet Rewards program was started in 2010. So we’re very new relative to, let’s say, Aeroplan, which just started in 1984. So we we were you know, I think the principle by what, by which WestJet Rewards was started was, it was grounded in simplicity. And so the currency that we offer is a dollars based currency.

You get you earn a dollar, you can redeem a dollar. I think that is at the time when this was launched in Canada, that’s what Canadians wanted. I was at Aeroplan at the time when WestJet launched this program and we sat there and looked and they said they nailed it, you know, because what Canadians wanted in that world in that time was they wanted a program that was dependable and that was consistent. And they didn’t have the trickery. And I think loyalty programs over the course of time have straddled whether they are trying to be too complex and too cute with their offer and it actually takes a little bit of strength and intestinal fortitude to be able to say no, it’s going to be simple and this is what we’re going to do because that also has its own costs in the sense that you can’t tailor the program as much to the segments.

You may want to tailor it to so WestJet is a dollars based program. You can redeem for any flight. Our minimum redemption is 15 dollars. So 15 dollars balance in your account. You can apply to any flight that we offer on WestJet. com or on the app. So from an inventory and reward seat management perspective, we approach it completely different from a legacy carrier where our members are not having to fight and try to find that special reward seat.

And we make it very accessible. So our program, our principles are simple, accessible and value. And we try to everything we do orients around those three principles. 

Paula: Well, simplicity is certainly my favorite, Steve. You’re absolutely right. I think members sometimes feel that we’re, you know, tying them up in knots and, you know, dancing around in a circle, you know, just for them to keep up.

So, I was obviously on the WestJet site looking at the rewards you know, the whole way you’ve laid out your table of benefits by tier, the redemption benefits, crystal clear. I think honestly, a school child could understand it. So I really admire that. 

And I know it’s something that you’re holding very dear through this journey because you said to us in preparation for today, you are obviously looking to like any, you know, program, I suppose, look at what’s next. You’re looking to evolve. You’re at the start of a transformation journey. So I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about. I know you can’t go into a lot of detail. Of course it would be commercially sensitive, but what can you say in terms of, you know, I suppose almost having a blank sheet of paper, not quite, but I’m pretty sure you could start over if you wanted to. So how are you thinking about the evolution of the program? 

Steve: Yeah. So I think that, I think the, I bet you if you asked all of the loyalty the leaders who are listening to this call, are they doing a transformation? I’m sure most of them would have to say yes, because, loyalty is such a powerful force within airlines, hotels, car rental, you name it.

It’s such a powerful engagement tool for members and for customers that almost every company is investing into loyalty. And so I guess if you don’t invest into loyalty, you’re likely to fall behind because this is the way to engage your best customers. And the returns are quite provable. So, we are embarking on a transformation journey. And I think the so what we’re trying to do is really stay true to who we are in this program, we’re trying to, you know, we ground ourselves in the principles of simplicity, accessibility and value.

But also I’d say the main thing we’re trying to do is make this program work harder for our members for to have it do more jobs. I think we were so prior to my arrival, the company was embarking, you know, on this path and COVID got in the way of that like it did, I’m sure for many companies. And so now that we’re through that, we can restart and it’s really, it’s really about providing our members with more tools to enjoy their travel experience better.

So we, we are a leisure focused carrier. We are more so than business. We have our platinum, gold and silver members and we want to make sure that they have a great experience. And so I’d say the way the tagline that I use internally would, I want to connect my members with memories. So, I want to help them get to the beach vacation. I want to help them sit in a better seat. I want to help them have a better meal on board. I want to do all of those things that the program currently doesn’t do. And so we need to provide them with the tools to do that. 

Paula: Beautiful. Yeah. I wrote those words down as well, Steve, after we spoke the last time, connecting members to memories.

Honestly, I think every airline loyalty professional listening can really relate to that. Because as you said, you know, particularly frequent travelers, you know, there’s a big downside to that from a personal perspective in terms of being away from family and those memories that you can offer them as the redemption value really, you know, compensates for so much of the workload. So, it’s a beautiful intention. 

And my favorite word though of everything you just said is provable. Because one of the reasons I started this podcast Steve was because, you know, in the telecommunications sector, which is where I started in loyalty, I always found the provability was the part that I was struggling with. Now it’s totally different, of course, as a business in the airline side, but I’d love to hear just in terms of maybe when you started and you know, now as you know, the maturity grows for WestJet Rewards, how is loyalty seen as at the C suite level in the airline? 

Steve: I think that, I think that loyalty is seen as a major strategic pillar of performance for the airline. And I think that what’s great about loyalty, and this is this is not new, but, if you take all the revenue in the company and disaggregate it into the different customer segments, then the loyalty provides an outsized level of value for the airline and for most companies.

I think you did that for other airlines and for hotels and you do that. The loyalty members are typically they’ll pay a little bit higher price. They’ll have a higher stickiness they’ll provide, they’ll have more touch points. So, an example for us would be a co brand cardholder and a tier member.

They’re much more engaged with us. And if you did the brand health scores, that they’re much happier with the brand, and they’re more resilient if something goes wrong. So, so there’s you know, there’s this provable amount of financial value. Obviously there’s a PNL that’s sort of associated with the loyalty program that has margin associated to it and a very healthy annuity stream to the owners, but also the additional value that those members represent to the airline. So their yield, their amount of segments, and then and all the additional sources of value that they bring to the table. 

And that’s all known through the data that we have and that’s one of the beauties of loyalty is that we have all the tools we need to be able to understand where we are winning and where we’re not and then we can tailor the program to our marketing efforts to do what we needed to do.

Paula: Amazing. Amazing. I’m pretty sure there’s you know, just a lot of both relief and respect internally to have, again, you know, the kind of expertise you’ve got, the analytical understanding, which I’ve often said on the show is not my strong point. I love to be on the design side. But that very critical financial and economic analysis is something that I definitely personally struggled with.

So I love that they’ve brought you in and are, you know, obviously all systems go in terms of like leveraging all of that expertise to build the next phase of evolution. So given that we can’t, you know, get into any of the detail of what’s coming again, recognize you’ve already got a great program, keen to make it work harder.

So I guess the main question I wanted to ask you today then was just about, I suppose, KPIs in general. What do you think are important considerations for loyalty professionals and not necessarily WestJet specific KPIs, of course, but what do you think about in terms of how to measure them? That incremental value that you’re delivering both to obviously the owners, as you said, and to the members as well.

Steve: Yeah. A hundred percent. So I would say that I’d separate, separate the KPIs into two, two groups. I’d say there’s the drivers of of performance, which would be things like brand health scores for by segment. So looking at your segments and saying, well, what’s their sentiment? Is it up? Is it down? Is it healthy or unhealthy? So where are we at with those segments? I think the other. So that’s sort of the kind of the member sentiment view. 

And then I think there’s the engagement stats. So things like the attachment rate on the aircraft, um, the fare but packet the fare bundles that they’re purchasing. So all those kind of non-financial drivers that we can understand in great detail. 

And then I would say on the other side, the KPIs are around the loyalty portfolio. How many members do we have? How many active members? How many active in the last 12, I’d like to say last 12 active is probably the most common metric that we would use in the airline industry because of the cycle.

I think last 12, last 24 is pretty common. That’s actually quite different from convenience retailing, which is more last 30. So just the level of frequency kind of dictates how you manage, how you look at your engagement or your kind of active membership pool. So, last 12 and last 24 is key.

Our top tier membership roll rates. So rolling in, rolling out, where are they at in the tier? How many people are progressing up? How many team members that we had last year are rolling off because they didn’t re engage some of those things. And then, of course, at the end of the day, the outcome, the financial outcomes.

What’s the the gross billings for the program from third parties, the amount of the currency that we’re issuing to our top tier members, and the net contribution to the airline, I’d say, is what we would look at. 

Paula: Incredible. Wow. Very comprehensive. And you made one contrast there with your convenience retailing and gas expertise.

Is there anything else that comes to mind in terms of learnings either that you have taken from the airline industry back in your Air Canada days into the gas space or vice versa. Is there anything else that kind of struck you other than, as you said, the frequency piece, which is obviously a fundamentally different, but anything else that you felt helped, you know, with those, you know, contrasting roles to bring to either side?

Steve: Yeah, I think I was very lucky to be able to get a job with Parkland in Canada. I think they have a very strong retailing culture. And I think the lessons that I’m drawing are both from retail loyalty, but also just the retail industry in general and the convenience retail industry, it is very rapid, very high frequency customer base.

We had Members who would transact more than twice or three times a day. Think of the Uber driver who’s driving five or six hundred kilometers in a day. They would fill up at least once or twice. Car wash is incredibly important. So just the level of intensity of how many customers are coming through the system on a daily basis and how many repeat purchase behaviors. I think that that kind of gave me a higher level of intensity of the drive to continue innovating within the program. 

And I think retail in general has a very high demand for. Progress and I contrast that with the airline loyalty where we kind of operate in them in a longer planning arc and a lot of longer planning cycle. So we have our annual rollover where we roll our tier. Remember, we have a tier program that typically goes in a year cycle, and then we have a core program, which kind of goes in the longer cycle, a redemption product that might change every couple of years or fundamentally change every couple of years.

So I think what really inspired me from Parkland and the Parkland loyalty environment was just the drive to continue innovating on a rapid pace. And I think that airline loyalty and I think we can do that at WestJet is to bring more things to the table faster and that level of intensity to bring that to bear and take that lesson from retail and apply it into loyalty. And it’s not always going to work, but I think bring the spirit and see what we can do. 

Paula: I absolutely love that innovation and intensity, Steve. So you guys heard it here first. That’s what airline loyalty programs need or probably want. 

So, my final question then for you today is I suppose quite a general one in terms of, I suppose, future trends in loyalty.

When I think about my days, you know, looking at convenience retail loyalty, particularly things like car washes, you mentioned were things that I hadn’t really thought about before. But there was a move towards subscription loyalty, for example, again with certain key products like that, with, you know, drinks, for example, all of those kinds of things where there was the opportunity for daily engagement, I guess.

So yeah, I guess just as a closing comment, are there any kind of major trends that do particularly fascinate you that you think as professionals in any sector we should be thinking about? 

Steve: It’s a great question. I would say that I think what’s really great about the airline industry, I think, is just the continued aspirational nature of the awards that we can provide to our membership.

And one of the, one of the things that we can depend on as human beings are always going to want to travel and discover new places and the loyalty program within WestJet and the same thing with other airlines is that loyalty program can be the connection between that person’s aspiration to go somewhere and the reality of it actually happening.

And we can make it both better from like a more of a comfort angle where you sit in a better seat, all the other creature comforts, or for example, we can get you there sooner. So over the life of someone’s membership in a program, we can get them an incremental two or three trips that they may not have had.

And if they engage with the program, they can have, you can, they can do more things in their life, or they can see more places that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen if they hadn’t been a part of this program, and I think for me as a loyalty program leader I love the fact that I can help members do that, and so that provides inspiration to us, and it’s not necessarily a trend but it’s something that will always be there for loyalty, and we need to work hard to help our members do that.

So the things we bring to the table need to always serve that purpose in my view. So when we think about new features, it’s like, does it check the boxes, help them get there sooner or does it help them have a better journey? And if it doesn’t do that, then we need to question whether we’re actually serious about bringing that to bear.

Paula: Yeah. And that is exactly the reason that I fell in love with loyalty, Steve, way back in, you know, my telecommunications days, which is clearly a much less sexy product than the one that you’re working in. So absolutely. It was the idea that we want to have help anybody help people as customers have better lives. And no better place to do it than in an airline. So again, I miss my airline days now every time I have a conversation like this. 

So listen, with that said, Steve, I know your time is precious. So, I don’t have any more questions for you. Was there anything else that you wanted to share with our audience before we wrap up?

Steve: No, I think it’s been a pleasure being a part of this program and I look forward to the next time when we can talk. 

Paula: Amazing. Yes. And I want to give a big shout out to Ravindra and his team from the Loyalty and Awards Conference, which we’ll make sure to link to in the show notes for this one, because I know you are speaking in Bangkok at the end of October and giving everybody there, I suppose, the latest news and insights in terms of WestJet Rewards. So, wish I could be there. I want to wish you every success. 

So Steve McClelland, VP of loyalty, commercial and business development with WestJet. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Steve: Thank you very much. 

Paula: This show is sponsored by Wise Marketer Group, publisher of the Wise Marketer, the premier digital customer loyalty marketing resource for industry relevant news, insights, and research. Wise Marketer Group also offers loyalty, education and training globally through its Loyalty Academy, which has certified nearly 900 marketers and executives in 49 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals.

For global coverage of customer engagement and loyalty, check out thewisemarketer.com and become a wiser marketer or subscriber. Learn more about global loyalty education for individuals or corporate training programs at loyaltyacademy.org. 

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