Channel Incentive Programs: Are You Implementing Soft Benefits?

Hotel and airline rewards programs undoubtedly have their issues. For one, their currency is so diluted these days that it takes over a year to earn a single reward. With that being said, there are certain things that they are doing well. For starters, they do a terrific job of offering “soft benefits” to their customers. These are the little extra bonuses that keep us talking and always keep us coming back.

fisrt class

These soft benefits come in the form of First-Class upgrades, complementary luggage allowances, priority boarding privileges, free access to their VIP lounge, or maybe even a chance to fly the plane! Okay, so they aren’t exactly letting us fly the plane…yet, but you get my point.

I mean think about it–what keeps you engaged with your preferred airline carrier or hotel chain of choice? Great prices, sure, but what else? It’s the soft benefits! We are always encouraging our clients to

incorporate these soft benefits into their channel incentive programs, and the strategy is continuing to pay gigantic dividends.

So what are some examples of these benefits as they pertain to channel incentives? Let’s take a look at a few that can have a huge perceived value to your potential program participants:

  • Platinum Customer Service
  • Invitation to a Leadership Roundtable
  • Participation in Beta product builds & testing
  • Partner locator privileges
  • Hotline to the CEO or CTO
  • Penthouse Upgrade at a Partner Conference
  • Dinner with the CEO
  • Priority-status for low availability Rewards like a Rolling Stones concert in London!

fine diningBy integrating soft benefits into your channel incentive program you can distinguish your business from the competition and deliver a personal touch that leads to deeper, stronger relationships with your partners. Not all soft benefits are published or explicit, but even these can still act as qualifiers for which partner deserves the reward. One way to ensure this is to create Partner Tiers (Platinum, Gold, Silver) for your program, which can help you easily determine which partners qualify for which soft benefits. Regardless of the method, it’s important to have a system in place that selects the partners who especially deserve the high-value rewards. By establishing this system as a prime component of your channel incentive program, you will be able to acknowledge these exceptional partners with minimum hassle.


Here is a good tool or checklist to compare your current soft benefits:

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