Vandenberg Associate Helps MILITARY STAR® Program Put Power of QR Codes in Ambassadors’ Hands

Julia Carr featured image

Vandenberg Space Force Base Exchange Computer Operator Julia Carr was telling a shopper about the MILITARY STAR® card last year when she had an idea.

Vandenberg Space Force Base Exchange Computer Operator Julia Carr with her prototype QR code card (left) and the final product in lanyard card form.

“The thought splashed in my mind, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could whip out a little pocket-sized card with a QR code on it that they could scan to sign up for a new account?’” Carr said. “If I was in the process of helping them out on the sales floor, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t have to go to the register?”

Now, one year later, her idea has gone from a prototype and a pitch to a full-on global rollout, with about 3,000 lanyard cards printed with the QR codes shipped to PXs and BXs last month.

Carr is among roughly 140 MILITARY STAR card ambassadors worldwide who work with the headquarters Exchange Credit Program team to implement MILITARY STAR initiatives at their stores, promote the value and benefits of the MILITARY STAR card, educate shoppers and associates about the program, and provide feedback from the field.

The new lanyard cards, which can either be worn or simply carried, enable the ambassadors to sign up customers on the go with minimal fuss: Shoppers simply scan the code with their mobile device, after they can apply on the spot, with a screenshot of the approval screen allowing them to use their MILITARY STAR card immediately.

“This great idea perfectly ties in with our plan to continue to leverage mobile technology to enhance the customer experience,” said Exchange Credit Program Vice President of Credit Strategy Grant McCloud. “Along with adding features to the MILITARY STAR app and providing more digital forms of engagement, the QR code lanyards are a great way to incorporate technology to improve the application process.”

The innovative approach doesn’t replace traditional point-of-sale account application processing, but rather empowers ambassadors to sign up customers in situations where they normally wouldn’t have access to points of sale, said Exchange Credit Program Manager Albert Perez.

“The primary way to process applications is still through the POS, but the QR codes are a great tool for the tabling events that our ambassadors work,” Perez said. “Or, when the registers are full, someone can go through the line and sign customers up so they can use their new account by the time they get to the checkout. It could also be used to sign people up while they’re just shopping in the store or at the self-checkout area.”

Getting such an ambitious idea off the ground took time, effort and support. Using her IT experience and graphic design background, Carr devised a concept for a 2.5-inch business card with a working QR code in the middle. She then enlisted the help of Vandenberg Visual Merchandiser Ryan Vogel to create a prototype. This concept later evolved into a lanyard card.

“I told Ryan, ‘This is what I’m envisioning,’ and he executed it,” Carr said. “If I didn’t have Ryan, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with a prototype. Our boss at the time, Assistant Store Manager Adam Vargas, just went bananas—he thought it was just the greatest idea.”

Carr showed the mock-up to Exchange Credit Program Communication Specialist Stephanie Ferretti, who encouraged her to submit the idea through the Ideas Program on the Exchange portal. Carr and her general manager, Keon Boney, then brought the concept to Perez and Marketing Manager Lyn Lee. After some further redesign and refinements, such as printing the opposite side of the lanyard card with a list of MILITARY STAR benefits so it could be worn by non-ambassador associates when reversed, plans were underway to finalize and implement the idea worldwide.

“Ambassadors like Julia are on the front line, so they know what works,” Perez said. “They might have an idea and be thinking, ‘If we only had this, I could get more accounts.’ So we definitely want the ambassadors to continue to share their ideas so we can see what would make sense for us to roll out corporately.”

Carr said it has been tremendously fulfilling to see a concept she wasn’t initially sure would work be received so well and implemented worldwide.

“I thought of this idea last year, on Aug. 12,” Carr said. “Here we are almost exactly one year later, and we have our finished product. … It’s wonderful to have been part of this whole process. I’m really, really thankful to have been part of the Exchange Credit Program team and have their support.”

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  1. Jami Brians on August 19, 2022 at 8:27 am

    I just read the Exchange article about the new lanyards. I had a couple of questions, if you don’t mind.

    #1, Does each of the QR codes sent out differentiate between different stores? I know there’s a big competition between stores for MilStar approvals. Will this help or hinder that program if the customers sign up from their phones? Will the store get credit for the approved application?

    #2, Same question for the associates. How do the associates get credit for signing up customers? A lot of stores have competitions between cashiers and the cashier with the most approved applications generally get either a quarterly or annual award. Will this new QR code add to the associates’ application approval numbers?

    Very curious how this will work.

    • Conner Hammett on August 19, 2022 at 1:27 pm

      Hi Jami, thank you for the questions. Per the ECP team, both associates and the facility receive credit in payroll for new account signups using the QR code. Once the QR code is scanned, it pulls up a screen that allows the associate to input their facility number and LAN ID to ensure proper credit and their incentive is given.

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