A great reward for loyal...
@jonnyjkyle We worked with the clubs in order to reward their most loyal fans Jonny. It will be available for all fixtures on our route. ^MS
— Virgin Trains EC (@Virgin_TrainsEC) August 4, 2015
So what's the issue? A new scheme (currently only for Newcastle and Sunderland supporters while in the pilot phase) that offers discounts and additional flexibility.
In theory I quite like the idea of the scheme, particularly the fact that you can change the tickets if the fixture is re-arranged for TV (and hopefully other reasons where the match is rescheduled), flexibility for extra time in cup matches too will help makes this more affordable for many. I know many people who avoid booking until the last minute and having to pay higher fares as they want to avoid the risk of having a fixture moved.
There's been a few on Twitter that are quite vocal about this and even a few emails to our team mailbox. What are the main concerns?
- Scheme is only for two football clubs, doesn't even include those supporters of opposing teams booking tickets to visit these clubs.
- We had a great loyalty scheme that rewarded everyone who booked through eastcoast.co.uk, now the scheme rewards loyal football supporters more than loyal rail travellers (just like the switch to Nectar rewarded Sainsbury's shoppers more than loyal travellers).
These are still relatively early days and we hope VTEC will be improving it's recognition of loyal travellers. They are engaging with us and although it's certainly not the news we wanted to hear they do recognise they need to do more in the future.
It's important that they understand how frustrations can run high. We had the best loyalty scheme in the country and it was replaced with a scheme that even among the supermarkets is considered poor. East Coast Rewards meant people felt valued, it also made people more forgiving of East Coast's flaws.
Problem is now everytime VTEC announce something, even something that would be looked upon favourably if any other TOC did it, they have to consider how it will be looked upon by their Rewards members particularly those who had high enough spend that they were also rewarded by GNER and National Express East Coast. As someone commented on Twitter earlier today:
— mick goodlip (@mickgoodie) August 4, 2015
Someone spending that amount was handsomely rewarded with free tickets not just with East Coast, but the previous private operators GNER and National Express too. Now they've earned a little over £20 in Nectar points which is extremely unlikely to be enough for a free ticket. We're hoping VTEC will be able to provide reassurances in the near future that their best customers aren't being ignored.