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

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