There are many views of loyalty but one of the most prevalent and compelling is the idea that large, multi-national, multi-channel organizations must generate the same feelings as local stores, local branches do. The sense that the people with whom you deal know you, value your business, tailor their response to you. Jim Berkowitz in Customer Loyalty and Profitability said “To grow truly loyal customers … what’s needed is the ‘Mom & Pop Store’ factor”. Richard Hackathorn wrote a great article on the same topic called Forward to the Past in which he said “As we fast forward into our global economy, realize that we often direct our technology to achieve the common things of the past”. One way to do this is to try and give your customers personal contacts, named staff, who become familiar faces and voices and, by virtue of dealing with the same customers over and over again, knowledgeable about their needs. This might work, and EDM can certainly help you with it, but what happens if that employee leaves? Especially if that employee leaves and joins a competitor? Will you find that your customer is loyal not to your brand or your products but to your employee? Instead of trying to build loyalty to individuals you need to create loyalty to the store or bank or brand. To do this, to have an ongoing process of building and sustaining loyalty without transferring it to a specific employee, requires EDM without a shadow of a doubt.
Think about what makes someone loyal to a small store or branch, or to a specific employee. Perhaps that person got something done for them or perhaps the local store made them a really compelling offer based on what they have bought in the past. Perhaps that person knew the customer well and so dealt with them appropriately. Maybe the rewards being offered were just what the customer valued. Certainly there was not a lot of referring to management or generic scripting of responses going on. What these situations have in common is a focus on the decisions that customers want made (pricing, refunds, shipping prices and times, offers, loyalty rewards) as well as those you want to make about them (cross-sell, up-sell, retention). Because EDM focuses on and automates and improves these decisions, EDM can deliver on organizational loyalty. Think about it:
- By automating decisions you can ensure that customers are not referred around the organization unnecessarily. The first person they speak to can act immediately because the system can deliver the answer without having to get a supervisor on the line. They won’t become loyal to the individual who can “work the system” if the system empowers everyone.
- By embedding best practices rules in a decision, every call center representative can respond like the most successful. The difference between the best and the worst customer service representative will be smaller making it less likely that one particular representative will become a customer’s favorite.
- Using predictive analytics and statistically significant segmentation rules, customers can be treated more appropriately and in a more targeted fashion – you can align your treatment with their behavior. Their wants and likes can be more accurately included in decisions made about how to treat them. Automation of this means that everyone can see the trends in the behavior and value of a customer and know what action to take. Trying to use dashboards and reports means that only the most analytically sophisticated representatives can do this, risking the transference of loyalty to them not the company.
- Automation means that the same decision can be delivered through any channel – at the store, on the web, in the call center. Consistency of treatment builds loyalty (assuming the treatment is not obnoxious) and knowing that you can get the same treatment from anyone keeps that loyalty linked to the company not to an individual. Instead of always coming to the branch to see a particular person they will know that they can use any channel and still get great service.
- By targeting loyalty program offers you can use those loyalty program dollars more effectively – not just to reward but also to change behavior. Making a proactive offer to those who are on the cusp of becoming loyal customers, for instance, might be more effective than rewarding those who become loyal.
An EDM approach is not going to help with friendliness or surprising customers from time to time but I do believe that higher volume, more self-serve oriented businesses must adopt this approach to really deliver customer loyalty. Using business rules management systems to implement a decisioning backbone for consistency while retaining the agility to respond to changes and injecting insight using predictive analytics let’s you recreate the corner store feel and benefits while still delivering the transaction throughput and response times a modern business often needs.
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