CEO Blog

How to treat Russian members?

Written by Ravindra Bhagwanani on . Posted in CEO Blog

26 February 2022

Usually, businesses are well advised to stay out of politics. But as things can’t be called usual anymore right now, the picture might be different this time. So, what to do with the members based in Russia we all have in our loyalty programs?

At the time of writing, less than three days after Russia started its war against Ukraine, it is unclear how things will unfold from here. But almost the entire world has turned against Russia, one of the largest markets in the world, within hours, forcing each business to ask itself how to deal with that situation, independently of any restrictions potentially imposed by international sanctions. And this question extends to loyalty programs in their role as customer-facing tool as well.

Russian members: a burden or an opportunity?

Each program is likely to have a certain number of Russian-based members, obviously depending on how important the market is for your company. As Russians are now considered the “bad guys”, should you simply ignore them? Or keep on sending them the normal sales messages they won’t be able to give suit to anyway? Or are there any other options?

While no individual business can change the course of history on its own, it is though the responsibility for each business to stand up and show its position, what seems required from a pure ethic perspective, too. Imagine the problems you’d get if ever you were supposed, due to a lack of clearly expressing yourself, to be too close/friendly with the current Russian regime in place…

And you can actually achieve that by turning towards the enemy – the Russian members. Let’s safely enough assume that Russians participating in international loyalty programs are rather open-minded people, used to travel abroad. They are likely to be part of that silent and oppressed (large) part of the civil society not standing behind their regime at all. And your loyalty program can be a perfect tool for them to show their attitude, without a fear to end up in prison as a result.

How to do it?

Excluding the option to collect 10 million miles/points and offer them to Putin if he leaves the office (with all respect towards your program, he has sufficient funds of more interesting currencies than yours!), we see basically two options how to do it, whereby both measures should be accompanied by an orchestrated international marketing communication from your side.

The first option is simply to identify charity organisations helping people in Ukraine and/or Ukrainian refugees and invite your Russian members to donate their points to them. Ideally, you’d match such donations from your end.

Secondly, invite each of your Russian members (of all tier levels) to name one Ukrainian member to whom you attribute top tier level in your program.

Of course, there can be other similar initiatives aiming at strengthening the ties between both countries at that civil level, as a preparation for a peaceful life after.

Making the difference

Admittedly, these are small signs, but they send out the right signal – and support the civil Russian society, which suffers from the situation as much as anybody else. And many small signs can and will make the difference. Customer engagement should not be a theoretic concept, but brought to life in exactly such situations. I am pretty sure that you’d be surprised by the results.

Such initiatives should be taken quickly in order to be effective, in a pragmatic and courageous manner. Help the Russians to build up their resistance. Your short-term motivation should obviously stop at that moral level – but there is no doubt that this will have a tremendously positive impact on your business on the day when this nightmare will be over, on both sides of the border.

If ever you need any help to get such messages out in Russian language, contact us and we will be happy to assist (free of charge).