The application of CRM in addressing customer diversity and inclusion

When I saw Roy Gluckman (Diversity & Inclusions Specialist at Cohesion Collective) present on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at the Association of Association Executives congresses in Manchester in December 2017 it inspired me to consider how an organisation’s customer relationship strategy can encompass these important elements. And when I heard him again at the AAE World Congress in Antwerp in March 2018 it became clear that the techniques used in CRM, in data analytics and in data-driven processes can be directly applied to managing an organisation’s approach to EDI.

Gluckman says that “our thoughts, beliefs and opinions make up who we are and are central to our identities”. Hence “truth is just a perspective” – but it is our perspective and we carry on with our lives as though it is the only view that anyone can have, that it is “singular, universal and correct!”.

One of the main objectives for CRM that I encounter with the organisations I consult for is the need for all the data they hold about a customer to be available and reliable so that anyone in the organisation has a 360˚ single view of the truth.

In fact, in a survey run in preparation for the AAE World Congress in March 2018 showed that almost 55% of organisations said that their contacts will not receive the same answer to the same query however they communicate with the organisation and 61% did not have a single view of the contact. Hence no way to handle the contact in a way that relates to their expectation and their perspective of their relationship.

We all recognise that to turn the information into knowledge there must be a level of interpretation in the light of the user’s tacit knowledge – their personal experiences, local or topical facts and attitudes – that puts it into the context and setting on which to base the relationship management.

But, using the personal interpretation to build knowledge furthers the influence of that singular perspective that we believe is correct. However, the customer with whom we are trying to build a relationship may have a totally different set of attitudes, aspirations and views, especially regarding their relationship with the organisation, their view of the organisation and the relationship they envisage as existing between them.

There are three constituent parts to a CRM strategy: the Operational element concerned with process management, delivery and collection of information at touchpoints and strategic communications; the Interactive element concerned with tactical communications and social media to drive the relationship; and the Analytics element that aims to turn the information gained through the first into knowledge that can be used to drive the second. Only by analysing the operational and transactional data acquired through business processes and interpreting them with the benefit of psychographic data can a clearer view of the truth be achieved.

A great example comes from one of my clients in the events industry. As a major exhibition organiser, they knew who pre-registered for an event and if they attended or not. What they had not done was to fuse the data collected by the exhibitors through swiping a badge or using an electronic ID device to identify which exhibition booths the individuals visited.

When this was done, we identified an interesting contingent who had pre-registered and subsequently attended over several years but had visited virtually no booths in the exhibition. When their business profiles were examined it showed that they were all very small one- or two-man businesses and when a sample of these were contacted it transpired that they used the event as a market place to meet and network with other small businesses in the aisles, rest areas and café.

The organiser’s image of the show was the key forum for that sector, attracting the major names, whereas these visitors felt excluded as they were not able to do ‘big business’ but saw it just as the facilitator for their networking activity. So, the organiser was advised to establish a ‘small business forum’ in an empty part of the exhibition hall the following year, to consciously include these small businesses by especially inviting them to use it and benefited commercially with a lucrative sponsorship deal to support it.

This concept of data fusion is very important in adding the psychographic dimension to the customer’s profile so that one can gain a view of the attitudes and aspirations that drive their purchase decisions.

This will enable an organisation to pre-empt churn, identify opportunities for cross-selling as well as up-selling what they buy, understand why specific propositions are successful with certain types of customer, reveal preferences and increase the effectiveness of prospecting.

This is because the organisation will understand how to be inclusive in its messaging and in managing the relationships, leveraging the knowledge it has as to the beliefs and opinions of the individual customers to tailor proposition and communication.

This can be achieved through the fusing of the ongoing analysis of customer involvement derived across all the points of contact with the organisation along with targeted market research survey data to determine the true differentiators – to establish the individuals’ perspective through their viewpoints and beliefs.

The outcome can then be used to create communication strategies to ensure that no opportunity is lost, and that the customer is always confident that the organisation knows them, and they can continue to feel part of the group.

Consider the scenario where the information that is acquired through tracking responses and behaviours is matched to the researched view of attitudes and aspirations to create complete customer profiles.

These can be used to determine how best to move the relationship forward as well as flag up any potential danger signs:

·        Does their most recent action (or inaction) indicate possible churn?

·        Has their most recent behaviour been exceptionally different to all that that came before?

·        Are they approaching a major milestone in their relationship with the organisation which has traditionally been a jump-off point for customers like them?

Having insight into what motivates their behaviour can be used to generate a relevant communication or even to direct that customer to the right web page or telephone agent as part of a strategy to retain them or to upgrade into a new level.

Equally as important is to be able to recognise good, profitable customers who, by their profile and viewpoint may never become your top customers, but who seek a relationship where they don’t feel discriminated against and can feel comfortable buying on an ad hoc basis whilst avoiding being bombarded with sales propositions. Consider my concept of the ‘spectrum of engagement’ which states that customers’ profiles fall along a line between two points – at the one extreme are those customers who want to receive every proposition available and, at the other, those who will only make contact when they need something. The most loyal customers can be at either extreme or anywhere in-between. It is this aspect of diversity that needs to be addressed and knowing where each customer is on the spectrum is the responsibility of the organisation to determine this position and to use the knowledge gained to drive the relationship as well as the regularity and content of communications and direct which propositions are offered. In this way each customer will feel included and that their relationship is on an equal footing with other customers.

Armed with this knowledge the organisation will be able to ensure that its marketing strategy addresses any such issues to drive the relationships most effectively thus offsetting the potential for decline.

©Michael Collins 2019

Personalising the customer experience

Personalisation is not a new thing. Forty years ago, the large direct marketers like Readers’ Digest and Damart were thrilling their customers and prospects by incorporating their names, their street or their town in the text of the multi-page letters they sent. This basic personalisation continues today, with marketing communications incorporating the same text variables.

However, these days no-one is particularly excited by the fact that direct marketers can reproduce their name on the page or the screen, irrespective of how large the font size is. Others go one stage further to annoy the recipients of their marketing collateral, by making either guesses or misguided assumptions about the recipients’ interests. Here are a couple of emails I received last year:

Both managed to get my name right but equally both were writing to me about issues in which I had no interest. Irrelevance is the antonym for personalisation and will contribute to the failure to engage. Using personal information isn’t enough to motivate action; 50% are likely to engage when they receive an interesting proposition and a study by Pure360 in 2018 found that only 8% react to marketing that addresses them by their first name and 7% with a personal themed message (e.g. birthday, work anniversary, new job, etc). What is Fundamental is relevance and intelligent use of personalisation.

The origins of this more intelligent or data driven personalisation go back further than one may think. Back in the late 1980’s there were two marketing tools that tended to prevail if a company had problems. One was a loyalty card and the second a customer magazine. If the company had real problems, then often they used both!

At that time, the UK motor industry had been using direct marketing for years and had tended to make that mistake demonstrated above of guessing about the customers’ intentions regarding buying a new car. The assumptions were that as the customer was approaching a significant anniversary since the purchase of the car (say 24 or 36 months), they would be in the market for replacing it with one of similar specification. Wrong. They had won the football pools or the premium bonds (this was before the days of the National Lottery) and so wanted a Rolls or a Ferrari or else the customer had married a divorcee with five children and a Mini was no longer appropriate. They did not know. One company, Austin Rover, recognised the need to maintain a relationship with their customers in that long period between buying a car and replacing it; after all, if someone has bought a car it is unlikely they will need another one next month. To personalise relevantly, you need to understand the context of your products and how this fits with the context of your customers, unlike this Amazon blunder exposed by a customer on Twitter:

Of the two prevailing marketing initiatives mentioned earlier Austin-Rover chose the customer magazine, but a customer magazine with a difference. This one was personalised to engage the reader. Not only did they get the customer’s name and address to show through the cover (to drive it through the mail)

but the reader could select the content that wanted to read about in forthcoming issues – subjects like travel, food, sports, etc. so that it became a personalised lifestyle magazine for the customer. There was a quid pro quo in that the reader was asked to complete a short form indicating when they were likely to replace their car and what kind of car was most likely to be their choice. This generated over 50,000 qualification updates to the database in each issue and meant that the customer would not receive any car marketing until they approached that ‘window of opportunity’ that they had indicated on the survey and would only receive information about an appropriate model and the content selection drove the type of incentive offered for test drives or purchase. This was in 1988, over thirty years ago and I am delighted to have been part of the team that conceived and delivered this strategy for the intelligent use of personalisation, winning awards in both the UK and USA for what award judges termed as ‘direct marketing as it should be’.

So, such intelligent use of personalisation should be a business priority. Research over the last three or four years has determined that you can increase conversion rates as such relevant marketing messages make it more likely that people will engage, it can increase the efficiency of marketing spend and will help improve customer lifetime value.

Considering the context of your products and services must be matched to the context of your customers – their actions, transactions and engagement and combinations of how long they have been a customer, complaints, referrals or advocacy and RFV score. You must also match to their personal profile or persona. Rather than targeting just based on demographics, consider how people behave and what this tells you about what might engage them. Demographics are largely static and may not always influence how or why people buy, but psychographic and behavioural personas can give insight into who does what, and why based on aspirations, attitudes, self-view, price sensitivity, journey stage, satisfaction and sentiment; create strategies that target each behaviour-based profile.

Try to introduce personalisation in real time – driving dynamics in the customer experience. It has been suggested that not personalising in real-time is not personalising. We didn’t have the channels for communication or the technology for driving real time dynamics when we did the Austin-Rover magazine, but such tools are available today. Personalisation should enable immediate reaction – like face to face, and so you need personalisation technology that can understand, react to, and optimise customer journeys in real-time by applying data analytics to deliver the right message or experience to the right person at the right time – an adage that we worked to 30 years ago!

Dynamic content presented to customers can be achieved using machine learning that decides what the best content for each customer is, based on such parameters as purchase history, preferences, persona and browsing and buying behaviour along with the customer lifecycle. But don’t just consider what to personalise, but how to personalise it; use the data-driven personalisation to drive the creative presentation in copy, images, format, offer and the response channel. Make personalisation an integral part of the experience but don’t go out of your way to push it in the face of your customers.

Don’t do something just because you can, like the meaningless incorporation of the customers’ names and towns discussed at the beginning of this article. Similarly, don’t flaunt to customers how they are tracked or the data you hold – I have seen this just unnerve them and so it has a detrimental effect on the experience. It has been suggested that your tactics should go unnoticed and create an effortless experience.

The best personalisation is that which enhances the customer experience without them querying how or why, but also demonstrates an understanding of the customer and reflects the truth about them; poor data is the single most quoted reason for failure of such communication strategies. Ask yourself:

  • Do I have a data strategy?
  • Can I rely on my data?
  • Have I undertaken a gap analysis?
  • Am I maximising the touchpoints?

If the answer to any of these is ‘no’ then this is your start point.

So, in summary

  1. Basic personalisation tactics are no longer enough to engage customers
  2. Using personalisation intelligently is the best way to predict and shape behaviour
  3. Following the elements of data-driven personalisation help you develop your strategy
    • Embrace predictive analytics
    • Use data to drive dynamics in segmentation, offer, creative and channel
    • Establish measures that will feed the intelligence behind your personalisation
  4. Ensure your goal is based on improving customer experience and you’ll see increased engagement, retention, commercial success
  5. Ensure everyone has a single view of the truth through sound data management and governance

©Michael Collins 2019