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UKROP'S CUTS LOADING TIME FOR LOYALTY DATA SYSTEM

RICHMOND, Va. -- Ukrop's Super Markets here has installed an improved interactive voice-response system through which customers can call to find their current loyalty-program totals. The new system has drastically cut the time needed for Ukrop's to load data into the system, from 14 hours to 10 minutes.The system contains data from Ukrop's Valued Customer Program, a group of marketing programs with

RICHMOND, Va. -- Ukrop's Super Markets here has installed an improved interactive voice-response system through which customers can call to find their current loyalty-program totals. The new system has drastically cut the time needed for Ukrop's to load data into the system, from 14 hours to 10 minutes.

The system contains data from Ukrop's Valued Customer Program, a group of marketing programs with an active database of 280,000 shoppers.

Ukrop's had previously offered a voice-response telephone system, but loading times for updating customer data and program changes were lengthy, according to Coleen Butler Rodriguez, senior marketing manager at Ukrop's.

"Customers can call up and find out information about the programs we're running, as well as their point totals if it's that sort of a program," said Butler Rodriguez. Ukrop's is making consumers aware of the new system, which went live Sept. 25, through its newsletter.

"This system helps customers check along the way, and we feel it gives the customers a little incentive to shop more, particularly if they're close to reaching the next threshold of a reward program," she added.

Ukrop's currently has both a free turkey program and an American Greetings Rewards program under way. Customers can call in to see how close they are to reaching the $500 and $850 spending levels for free turkeys, or to check their status with the American Greetings program, which offers gift certificates or American Greetings merchandise when customers reach a certain spending level.

"We've only had the system in place a short time but we know from our stores that customers are already using it," said Butler Rodriguez. "It's been a great source of information for them."

The system also helps customers find out about all of Ukrop's loyalty programs. Those being highlighted currently include its Life-Long Customer Program, for people over 60; its Baby Club; and Golden Gift, which donates money to charities and communities.

"Customers may be listening for their free turkey totals and find out that Ukrop's also has a baby club," Butler Rodriguez explained. "So they can push a button about the baby club or about our program for customers over 60."

The interactive voice-response system is provided by Synectics, Raleigh, N.C. Synectics also handles all recordings on the service, which ensures they are "smooth and professional," said Butler Rodriguez. Previously, Ukrop's handled this task.