Do you know me or do you just know my name?


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Most companies spend a significant proportion of their budgets on programs and initiatives aimed at growing the knowledge base of their customers. As we all know, driving customer engagement, trust and loyalty are fundamental pillars in building successful customer-oriented businesses. In fact, recent NPS analysis undertaken by my own company on client data, shows that happier customers most definitely stay longer and spend more at the checkout. However, in the quest to know more about customers and use this knowledge to drive deeper engagement, how many businesses can say that it has been money well spent?

My experience tells me that some companies have got this right and are reaping the benefit and rewards of their investments. Others however, for a number of different reasons, are either not investing at all or worse are wasting money and driving customers away due to poor management and execution. We know that deep data and its effective ‘manipulation’ can drive a greater competitive edge, and ultimately a greater share of consumers’ wallets…here are a couple of contrasting examples I have experienced over the past 12 months.

Doing it right

Like many people, I am a member of a frequent flyer program, and this one in particular has really impressed me. It’s a big middle-eastern based airline, and yes, it has the usual earn and burn air miles scheme with additional treats such as the express check-in, lounge access benefits and so on. But actually, what makes this particular program stand out from other similar loyalty schemes I have been a member of, is the depth of data and insight they collate and the resulting ‘execution’ using that understanding every time I engage with them. Sure, they know my name, but they also know the last time I flew, where I travelled, what I like to eat and drink, if I usually read a paper before going to sleep, what movies I might like to watch, which promotions I am most likely to respond to and which offers suit me best. The insight and understanding is then delivered through a number of online and offline channels in a consistent and creative customer value management approach. Whether it’s via email, SMS, in the lounge, on the website or the app and not least on the plane itself – the communication is symbiotic, personal, creative and timely. The icing on the cake is the smiley flight attendants who always appear genuinely pleased to see you back on board when they hand you a glass of champagne…especially when in economy class.

It’s this level of personalisation and consistency that creates a service that really makes you feel valued. The consistency is delivered at every touchpoint on the customer journey, and it is these great service aspects, products, propositions and offers that are, of course, driven by the insight and data they manage. The airline regularly seeks to update, refine and enhance their customer data, deepening the qualitative aspects in particular to enable them to develop effective channel strategies. These range from personalised and highly targeted offers on the latest flights and upgrade deals to exclusive partner and product promotions via their loyalty program. They clearly employ analytics and decisioning in their use of the data to drive meaningful interactions and moments of surprise and delight. My experience is that they not only know their customers, but they understand their needs and wants, and the proof is certainly in the pudding as I have been flying with them for over 10 years…

As a customer, being greeted with your name when signing into a website became a hygiene factor long ago – businesses are trying to forge increasing loyalty and emotional engagement by showing that they know you or at least who you are. But what does it mean to know? Well, we are no longer impressed when greeted with a “Hello John” or “Good Morning, John” when we log-in to our bank or grocery store website or app. The expectation now is to be understood, which means we’ll be better informed and be treated as an individual and not as an age group, social type or value segment…as per the airline example cited above – We expect more.

Getting understanding right, gives you the mandate to knock on the customer’s door. It’s not that you only need to know who your customer is and how best and when to contact them (preferences), but you also need to know what they expect, and fundamentally, how to anticipate their needs – what they like, what they don’t like, how they live, what they care about, who they care for, what gets them up in the morning, what they do in their leisure time and where they travel to…

Not doing it right

I recently signed-up with a large online retailer in Thailand, primarily for the purpose of buying a pair of shoes. All worked as it should have, the shoes were bought and paid for online and are now with me after a relatively painless purchase exercise. Tick in the box.

However, the retailer then endeavored to drive a repeat visit, (increase my purchase frequency and drive my deeper engagement), through a post-sale program of customer value management activity – pretty standard stuff, but this is where they have toppled at the first “LVM hurdle”.

    My name > spelled incorrectly…
    My gender > seemingly unknown as I get offers from men’s jackets to ladies underwear…
    My preferred language > it seems I am bi-lingual, although I registered and purchased entirely in English…
    My “offers” > random at best, chaotic in reality
    My contact preferences > no, I did not opt to receive 3 emails at precisely 11.04am every day…all at once…
    Overall comment on use of my data > forget it…

Basic data management, analytics, decisioning and understanding are clearly absent, and yes things can happen, but the basics are missing here entirely….and it really annoys me. Having given a ream of information when I transacted online, I now feel completely underwhelmed and frankly, let down.

What’s more worrying for them is that they’re wasting money. My lack of response to anything thus far has not seemingly rung any CRM alarm bells. The volume, frequency and complete irrelevance of the emails continues. I’m pretty sure I will never purchase anything from them again and spend my baht elsewhere in the hope that a competitor can understand that I don’t really go for beige, chiffon, backless blouses…

Acquiring, understanding and using data is key to cultivating a sustainable and ultimately, value adding customer relationship. But how do we ensure that CRM and marketing teams are getting things right?

The company I work for, Digital Alchemy, is focused on creating and cultivating the right types of transactional relationships. Through data analysis, modelling and the utilisation of market leading tools and platforms, we can engage, learn and iterate to produce markedly better results for customer marketing campaigns and other strategic and tactical customer management activities. The tools and products we offer enable the collection and analysis of a range of quantitative and qualitative data, all undertaken in an intelligent and non-intrusive way. It’s a continual learning and iterative design process that develops this deep understanding of customers’ needs and wants…on a personalised and individual basis. Whether businesses talk to customers online and/or offline, our products help drive understanding on what customers like, don’t like and critically what they don’t yet know they want – all achieved through analytics, decisioning, self-learning and customised communications which build customer profiles to optimise and maximise engagement.

And again, the proof is in the pudding…

We recently implemented our proprietary data decisioning engine product (named uDecide) into a large, well-known, home furnishings business. The aim was to optimise the match between offers and customers through their campaigns and the results were amazing! We more than doubled the incremental revenue for the first campaign, which made a return on the investment at the first time of asking…the outcome was primarily driven through the expertise and experience we have within Digital Alchemy. We have consistently delivered robust returns on our client’s investment.

We know that many businesses are moving forward and improving efforts in bridging the gap between knowing the names of, to actually knowing and understanding their customers. Clearly, creating competitive advantage is key, and with the right execution and interaction strategies – goals are achieved more easily and with higher returns. Sadly though, many businesses are still struggling with getting the basics right, and gaining that incremental value from customers is still some way down the line…

Sean Barton
With over 15 years' experience in e-commerce, digital operations and channel strategy, Sean knows how to read minds when it comes to database marketing. His extensive professional portfolios include developing, building and leading digital teams in a number of European blue chip companies, including first direct, HSBC and Centrica.


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