Loyalty Leader Elisse Jones – passionately powering up loyalty for Total Tools

An insightful interview with Elisse JonesNational Loyalty Manager: Total Tools

In the first of a series of articles I am writing in 2020 on ‘Loyalty Leaders’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elisse Jones – National Loyalty Manager of Total Tools.

Total Tools is Australia’s leading professional tool retailer with 82 stores nationwide and an online store with more than 20,000 products. Total Tools puts both the customer and brand experience at the centre of its operations.

After seeing Elisse present at the Australian Loyalty Association conference in 2019, I was so impressed with her simple and powerful presentation, I was keen to get to know more about this ‘Loyalty Leader’.

Elisse has an intense passion for loyalty and from what I understand has made a massive difference in powering up the Total Tools loyalty program – ‘Insider Rewards’.

1. So, who is Elisse Jones? (outside of work and career to-date)

I am an absolute Royalist (not loyalist, but that as well), yes… The Royals (think Queen, Prince Harry etc) – I love them! I am also a passionate Collingwood fan, love the races and all of the various social events. I’ve had a varied career both here and in London working in finance (CPA Australia), beauty (L’Oreal) as well as retail (Country Road and Myer).

I also enjoyed 3 amazing years at Cricket Australia where I experienced what true passionate fans are all about…no memberships, no payments, no perks, just passionate supporters. Now I’m in the tool industry and so far, this has been the best gig…

(I asked Elisse if there was one word to describe herself, what would it be. Her answer…’passionate’. As the interview went on, she revealed another word ‘perfectionist’. So. two words were combined - a ‘passionate perfectionist’!)

2. About your loyalty program - Insider Rewards

We have a really unique customer base. The loyalty program is supported by about 60% of all tradies in Australia to date and expected to have between 90% and 100% of all tradies on the database based on growth projections.

Two years ago, we reviewed our program. It had too many friction points in the experience, data was in silo’s, the value proposition was not engaging and we were not amplifying the data to benefit the member. It was a program failing to deliver.

We wanted to remove the barriers undermining our success to drive customer satisfaction and provide a seamless, personalised and connected customer experience. We had clear measures of success to drive yield, frequency of purchase and share of wallet.

Through removing the barriers and the structural change to the program, we’ve improved transparency and customer engagement, strengthening the program with double digit % growth in active membership and six times the participation rate.

3. How do you avoid going stale?

I watch what’s going on in the market, read articles and listen to the loyalty podcasts. I look out for programs being revamped and join programs here and overseas to keep on the pulse of the loyalty market. I am also part of the Australian Loyalty Association which are doing a terrific job for the industry with education and networking opportunities.

4. Where do you get your inspiration from?

I am a consumer and look for ideas from programs that add value to my life such as how I can bid for a business class seat (through my frequent flyer membership) and create a memorable experience. We conduct regular research and vox pops with our members.

We must keep optimising. If everyone is doing the same thing then how can we be different. I don’t want the program to be predictable. I want to inject life into the program whether through bonus points, surprise and delight, free shipping or more soft benefits that add value to our members. I want to shift the focus from loyalty program to customer loyalty…

5. What is ‘loyalty’?

I think loyalty is a two-way street. It is a value exchange. It’s about building trust and relationships. If we have no relationship with our members, we will not be their tool provider of choice.

6. What are the 3 biggest opportunities for your program?

We are in a great phase with a solid foundation and three areas we want to focus on are:

  1. Personalisation – using the data and AI to deliver 1:1 tailored communication
  2. Omnichannel delivery – bringing the offline and online together in real time
  3. Remaining relevant and agile with our program offering – make it sticky

Underpinning this is the need to “democratise data”, which means we are breaking down data sets from different channels, being transparent with it and making it accessible to all parts of the business.

7. What are your 3 biggest challenges?

Some of the areas we continue to review and improve are:

  1. Removing friction from all the different channels of engagement
  2. Education and awareness to our members and empowering the team so that the program is part of the company DNA, making it the natural part of everyone’s lingo (language).
  3. Data privacy and transparency of how we are handling data as custodians of our customers’ data. The ACCC review makes this even more paramount.

8. If you could start again, what would you do differently?

Look at everything holistically, not just the functional engine of the program. Rather, how we are adding to the life of the customer. Instead of rewards and points – what else is there outside the internal structure of the program.

9. What advice would you like to give brands starting new programs?

  • Be authentic
  • Make sure your programs proposition is relevant to your brand and your customer
  • You don’t need to be fancy to be successful
  • Get the tech right for your environment
  • Take your stakeholders on the journey – internally (key) and externally

10. What advice would you like to give brands with existing programs to keep them relevant?

I see programs are often left as set and forget. This will not help a program thrive. You must keep trying new ideas and they don’t need to be drastic or big or perfect. Sometimes good is good enough! (I loved this quote)

11. What do you think is creeping up on programs that could disrupt them for the better or for worse?

For me it’s the new tech - AI and machine learning. Customer expectations are changing and they expect more. We need to let the ‘new tech’ do the heavy lifting with data – let it be the “time giver” so that we have more opportunities for human and emotive connections


Elisse has so much passion for loyalty and in my view keeps everything super simple. It’s the power of simplicity I believe has been the key ingredient in making her loyalty program great again.

My key insights (in my words) were:

  1. Don’t sit still...keep pushing for change to test and learn and just do something! (“Sometimes good is good enough”)
  2. Take all members and internal team on the ongoing loyalty program journey (don’t ever forget how important the internal team is to the success of your program)
  3. Use the data you have. It’s a privilege to have it. Use it with respect and relevance.
  4. Keep it simple.

Have a happy loyalty day!