Citi innovation leader talks customer interaction, building customer loyalty

| by Will Hernandez
Citi innovation leader talks customer interaction, building customer loyalty

Mary Hines, managing director of customer engagement and innovation at Citi, gave the opening keynote speech Monday at the annual CONNECT: The Mobile CX Summit in Chicago.

If you need proof of the rising interaction between consumers and their mobile devices, look no further than Citi's wildly popular ThankYou Rewards program. 

In 2016, some 25 percent of ThankYou Rewards website visits came from a  mobile device. That figured jumped to 33 percent in 2017. Citi estimates that percentage will sit in the mid-40s by the end of this year.

That kind of increased mobile interaction has prepared Citi to assure its members can redeem rewards "anytime, anywhere," which has become an increasingly vital characteristic to any loyalty program to help drive engagement. 

"When you think about rewards programs, while they have relatively the same structure, they've become more important today [for consumers] when making purchase decisions," Mary Hines, managing director of customer engagement and innovation at Citi, said in her opening keynote session at Networld Media Group's CONNECT: The Mobile CX Summit in Chicago. 

Networld Media Group publishes Mobile Payments Today.

Hines mentioned the strength of Citi's merchant partners as a significant reason why ThankYou Rewards has remained popular over the years. 

Some of the top partnerships include Amazon, Best Buy and 1-800-Flowers. 

"When you're able to partner with key merchants, you're able to deliver a level of personalization [to consumers]," Hines said. "The level of first-time redeemers we get through these [partnerships] is significantly high."

Hines mentioned a PayPal partnership also is on the way, which would give ThankYou Rewards users the ability to redeem rewards at check out when using PayPal. 

Another key to Citi's success with rewards is helping consumers see the value of such programs. Hines addressed this briefly in Monday's keynote, but discussed this in length in a recent episode of the Mobile Payments Today podcast.

"That's where mobile has created such great opportunities for us, to make it easier for consumers to discover [the benefits of the program]," Hines said during the podcast. "When they're on the [mobile banking] app and paying their bill, right there they see they have points and can cover their charges. Or if they're checking out at Best Buy and they enter their banking card number, it pops up to say you can use points to cover the purchase."

Citi, over the years, has added ancillary benefits to ThankYou Rewards in a way that gives users "something to talk about on mobile," Hines said during her keynote. 

For example, Hines mentioned various Citi ThankYou Rewards promotions involving concerts to music acts such as the Billy Joel series at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and the ongoing Beyoncé and Jay-Z tour.

"When you give that experience to people, it helps people reflect back and helps to give your brand and identity," Hines said. "We give our consumers a way to interact with us on mobile and share on mobile."

While mobile is top-of-mind with brands and consumers these days, Hines reminded the audience to make sure other channels are just as fruitful for their brand. 

"We want to make sure that as much as we want to drive digital adoption, we don't take our eye off the offline experience," she said in response to an audience question.

Hines pointed to Citi's call centers as an example when rewards members dial up customer service to ask questions about the rewards program. 

"It's important as a marketer that you deliver that omnichannel experience," she said. 


Topics: Customer Experience, Customer Service, Loyalty Programs, Mobile Retail, Technology



Will Hernandez

Will Hernandez has 14 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of MobilePaymentsToday.com, he spent two years as the content manager for PaymentsJournal.com, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. Will spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia's Payments Group based in Chicago.

View Will Hernandez's profile on LinkedIn

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